As we type this, we’re expecting commenters who’ll complain about how the following story is “no big deal,” how singer Bette Midler has been a proven LGBTQ ally for over 40 years and how we’re being “oversensitive” and “part of the problem” by “tearing down allies.” But a recent Bette Midler homophobic comment shows that LGBTQ allies can still say problematic things from time to time, and that it’s totally okay to call them on it while also respecting their contributions to our community.
In a now deleted tweet posted yesterday, Midler wrote, “Trump and Putin are meeting in Finland next month. That’s a long way to travel for a blowjob, but hey — Putin’s got the money.”
When her Twitter followers started calling out her comment’s homophobia, she eventually deleted the tweet and replaced it with the following tweet:
Yup. Trump and Putin are meeting in Finland next month. Which is more appropriate than you’d think, since if these two keep up their romance, we are all finnish.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) June 30, 2018
The original “joke” here of course is that Trump is way gay for Putin, so gay that he literally sucks his penis, which is gay and submissive and a show of how weak Trump is.
Trying to insult two straight men by calling them gay is homophobic, and equating cocksucking to submission and weakness is a form of “bottom-shaming.” This is true even if the person who says these things is a longtime ally and even if their targets are horrible people.
It’s okay to point out that such comments are problematic. It doesn’t mean you’re “tearing down” an ally, that she’s “cancelled” or that you should “focus on who the real enemy is.” It just means that you’re holding everyone to the same standard.
People disagree on how to see the Bette Midler homophobic comment
For an alternate point of view, consider what happened when American comedian Stephan Colbert uttered a similar jab in May 2017. In his opening monologue, he told Trump, “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock-holster.”
At the time, Hornet writer Matt Keeley wrote, “Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are both virulently homophobic. So what better way to get under their skin — and we know Trump, at least, watches a lot of TV — than hinting they’ve got something going on. The humor isn’t that Trump and Putin are really gay. The joke … is that such an accusation really bugs the target. Sure, it’s a classic bullying tactic — but Trump and Putin are both fundamentally bullies. It’s totally a good-for-the-goose situation.”
And then, he added, “Admittedly, the joke depends on who is telling the joke.”
Midler is undoubtedly an LGBTQ ally, but she can still make mistakes
Better Midler is undeniably an LGBTQ ally. She started her career by singing in New York City’s now-defunct Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse. She has always openly embraced her gay fans, has participated in fundraisers for LGBTQ rights and called out other anti-LGBTQ celebs on Twitter.
Nevertheless, she has made problematic comments in the past too. She once asked if Caitlyn Jenner would go back to identifying as male after Jenner’s reality TV show was cancelled, a comment that some people found transphobic.