The Mother of Dragons Could Probably Use a Lesson on Intersectionality
Emilia Clarke is on the cover of Rolling Stone, looking all ethereal and un-blonde, saying some things about sexism and racism for which she is rightfully catching some heat.
Speaking to writer Alex Morris about how her worldview has changed given the current political climate, Clarke revealed that after Brexit, she started paying more attention to the various injustices of the world around her. Clarke was initially speaking about the pervasive sexism in the film industry, but dragged racism into the conversation as a means of comparison.
“I feel so naive for saying it, but it’s like dealing with racism,” she says. “You’re aware of it, and you’re aware of it, but one day, you go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s everywhere!’ Like you suddenly wake up to it and you go, ‘Wait a fucking second, are you . . . are you treating me different because I’ve got a pair of tits? Is that actually happening?’ It took me a really long time to see that I do get treated differently. But I look around, and that’s my daily life.”
It’s puzzling that Clarke realized that sexism exists in the industry just now, after six years of being on an extremely successful television show on a network that prides itself on creating prestige TV. Is this statement dumb? Yes, unequivocally so. Realizing that sexism is all around you is a real mindfuck, but not as much as taking that train of thought to the next logical conclusion and realizing that women who are not successful white actresses have to contend with both in equal measure on an everyday basis. Clarke’s statement is evocative of a 2014 BuzzFeed post that used poisoned water and a submarine as a metaphor to explain systemic racism, as if one were speaking to an alien or perhaps a very small child—dim, clumsily executed but hopefully well-intentioned.
There’s no blueprint for how a celebrity should handle their wokening, but the public performance of that process is usually rough. Consider Katy Perry’s interminable livestream that saw her wrestling with a variety of demons in a very public setting, including a heartfelt discussion about cultural appropriation with activist DeRay Mckesson, as a means of atoning and attempting to understand her privilege. While the effort is appreciated, the process itself should perhaps remain behind closed doors.