The war metaphor and the bloodsport of hating Gwyneth Paltrow

The war metaphor and the bloodsport of hating Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow in 2001's "The Royal Tenenbaums"

We use war metaphors every day. We say that we’ve declared war on cancer. When someone is angry at work, we hear, “This is war.” It is woven throughout our language. “You may win the battle, but lose the war.” “Choose your battles.” “It’s a war of words.”

We fight and struggle, campaign and crusade.

And we compare our own struggles and pain to war, “It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it. My hope is, as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience.”

These are Gwyneth Paltrow’s words describing how she feels about internet trolls. If you blog or have a website or are on Facebook, you know what trolls are. They arrive at your post with one mission (another war metaphor), to attack (and another).

On this blog, about cancer no less, I’ve been called a “f***ing moron” by a commenter. Paltrow’s trolls, however, are a little bit bigger and a little nastier than mine.

The online journal Recode reports

In February, the newly hired editor of anonymous image-sharing site Whisper promoted one of his company’s user-submitted posts that included a picture of Paltrow’s face overlaid with text alleging that she was having an affair, an image that then went viral.

The internet erupted in response to Paltrow’s use of the war metaphor, in part because Cindy McCain tweet-shamed her and called her “a joke.” The internet is hosting a bloodsport of hating Gwyneth Paltrow.

It seems to me that it is misplaced outrage. For whatever reason, this particular woman unites folks across the political spectrum in passionate snarking. It is a symptom, in my opinion, of the price women pay in a misogynistic culture.

Famous men say stupid things every single day. But Paltrow’s stupid remarks draw the ire of no less than Cindy McCain. Paltrow’s use of a war metaphor for her life was ill-considered, no doubt. She is often described as “tone deaf.” She needs to acquire and succumb to a handler.

Our rage, however, is misplaced. Paltrow is a celebrity doing relatively unremarkable celebrity sorts of things. But she strikes that nerve, that insecurity, the feeling of inadequacy, the sense that many of us as women have that we aren’t taken seriously enough. She says it very well herself:

“I see myself as a chalkboard or a whiteboard or a screen, and someone is just putting up their own projection on it,” she said.

She holds up her cooking, her child rearing, her domestic philosophies for the world to see and then turns them into consumables, books, websites, and so on. In the process she is beautiful and rich and powerful.

But that beauty, wealth and power are hers alone. They aren’t shared across the vast numbers of middle class women who choose to stay home and raise their children or to work 40 hours a week outside the home and raise their children, who make 77% of what men make and raise their children.

I wonder if the rage is generated because of the unfairness of it all. Why does this woman who has nannies and oodles of money, who can escape to an island paradise to escape her trolls, why does she get to complain? Why does she have success and work so much less than the 40-hour a week workers?

Still, I don’t think that nannies and money are much consolation when you’re hurting and under attack. Hate is hate for Paltrow as it is for you.

Even more importantly, in the midst of hating Gwyneth Paltrow I think we forget about the millions of people much worse off than we are, the women who spend very little time with their children because they’re working two or three jobs to keep them fed, the women who have no power in this culture and are invisible to most of us. If these women had time and could afford the hardware, they might be our trolls.

This uproar is ridiculous. Let’s go back to being outraged for worthwhile causes. Let’s remember the hate spewed in this world, the guns fired, the education left unfunded, the veterans abandoned, the research not being done about childhood cancers.

I don’t very often play the cancer card, but I’m going to play it today. People died today and they suffered before they died. Women lost husbands of 45 years. Children lost fathers. Mothers lost daughters.

I urge the “haters” out there to re-focus and to get some perspective. Use that energy to change this world we inhabit. Invest that snark in something that matters to you and to your children.

Please just stop with the outrage about this woman.

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