Repeat after me: All your faves are problematic. Now, repeat after me again: Never tweet. Those are the two sentiments I’m feeling today after I saw a screenshotted (screenshat?) errant thought that author and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich deemed good enough to publicly record on Twitter:
— Kenny Coble コーブル健 (@KennyCoble) February 4, 2019
Ehrenreich, for those who don’t know, is an award-winning investigative journalist and author of the book Nickel and Dimed, in which she investigated firsthand the conditions of low-wage workers in America. She’s long been considered an advocate for people without a dominant voice in the national dialogue–and yet race seems to be a big blind spot. Today, she is being criticized for tweeting out that Marie Kondo, the popular organizing consultant, should learn to “speak English.”
To make matters worse, after deleting her first tweet, Ehrenreich posted a new one that she likely considers to be an apology, although that’s not quite what it is.
Let’s try and unpack this a little. (Why? I don’t know … I suppose because we’re here already.) Ehrenreich felt obligated to write about a woman who’s seen rising popularity because she helps people tidy their houses. (It should be said that there is something beautifully unproblematic about how Marie Kondo makes people want to de-clutter their lives.) The author noticed that a lot of people like Kondo–likely because she’s a best-selling author and has a new Netflix show. And then Ehrenreich decided to graft this to the fact that Kondo speaks Japanese. She somehow made Kondo’s mother tongue into something simultaneously pejorative and indicative of a hidden hegemonic shift.
Of course, there isn’t a logical connection between Kondo’s rising celebrity, the fact that she doesn’t speak perfect English, and that America is in decline, unless you work really hard to make one and you’re also racist.
In the follow-up, Ehrenreich admits that she herself isn’t a tidy person, in an attempt to explain away her distaste for Kondo. This, of course, doesn’t change anything about the framing of either tweet. She digs her heels in even further with the whole American superpower thing, which just doesn’t make sense. It’s all very odd!
Overall, we’re faced with yet another milkshake duck situation–where the people we thought to be good and pure end up showing an ugly side. This is especially sad for me because Ehrenreich is an alum of my alma mater, Reed College, and I always proudly proclaimed that fact. Now I’ll have to find a new graduate’s coattails to ride.