Have you all seen this Heineken ad? It takes six people who don’t know anything about each other and pairs them up. On one side, a black woman feminist; a man who accepts the science of climate change; and a transgender woman. In the prelude, each makes a brief statement about their positive beliefs. On the other side, three men: one skinheadish fellow declares that feminism is about man-hating, that women are needed to have children; another rather indignant twit who announces that all those people who believe in climate change need to get off their high horse and get a job; a middle-aged guy who flatly declares that you’re either a man or a woman. Then they’re put together to assemble a bar, and afterwards drink a beer with each other.
If you must, here it is.
I’m seeing people going all goo-goo over it. Aww, isn’t that sweet? One-on-one, people can see each other’s basic humanity and get along.
Except…there’s a striking asymmetry here. Two of those people rejected the basic identity and humanity of the others. The three left-leaning people did not go into this denying the existence of the others, while two of the righties did (and the third was just an ignorant asshat). We’re supposed to feel good about it because they’re able to drink beer together, but there’s no evidence that those three men recognized their own failures, while the three on the other side just had to take it and tolerate the intolerable.
Here’s a good take on it from Mirah Curzer.
This is the danger of the feel-good “let’s just talk to each other” approach. It’s just a more cuddly version of that horrible bothsidesism that equates being called a racist with actual racism as reasons for hurt and anger. Both sides are not the same. The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing. She, on the other hand, is giving up a certain amount of dignity by breaking bread with someone who thinks she shouldn’t have the right to exist. She’s risking her mental and physical safety, volunteering for the hard emotional labor of arguing for her right to be a person. And with ads like this, that labor is being demanded of her with no consideration of how much it may cost. Worse, it’s heavily implied that if she were to walk away, it would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.
Not all viewpoints are equal. Not all olive branches are earned. And it is not in the service of justice to demand emotional labor of marginalized people while praising bigots for doing the bare minimum to act like humans on a single occasion.
Isn’t that the way it always is? And now we’re supposed to tolerate assholes so Heineken can sell beer, too.