WRITING WRONGS: Mackle-no-more


By Bella Levaggi

Writing Wrongs
Graphic by: Cassie Jeong

I spend a lot of time on Tumblr, where hoaxes and satire run rampant and are often confused with fact. Therefore, I am skeptical when scrolling down the homepage, lest I join the league of Internet fools by falling for an unsubstantiated rumor. When I saw blogs linking to a promotional video of Macklemore speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), I thought it was satirical.

It’s actually just a rebranding of the longstanding ACLU membership card. In the video, Macklemore promises that the purchase of a $35 “Ally Card” guarantees the holder civil liberties like marriage equality, the right to rag on Obama, and unimpeded access to abortion clinics and contraceptives.

I thought this was a joke at first, because such a claim is grossly inaccurate; if I could get all my rights by paying a small fee to a nongovernmental agency, I’d have done it by now. But one quick Google search later, I was groaning audibly; the video is just as real as it is problematic.

Spending $35 for “The Ally Card” doesn’t truly facilitate the change that Macklemore and the ACLU claim it does. I get that it’s supposed to be humorous (I hope), but I don’t think that the material or Macklemore’s delivery are effective.

Whatever its intentions, the video just didn’t work, especially for someone like me who trusts the ACLU to be on my side. Triumph over socially ingrained problems can’t happen in the blink of an eye. Nobody, not even the ACLU, can do that.

Marriage equality and abortion rights are surface issues, in that women and LGBTQ+ individuals will still face de facto enemies like internalized sexism and/or homophobia, pitiful media and political representation, and climbing rates of sexual assault, even after these more obvious pillars of de jure oppression have been toppled. Change takes time and comprehension of the multifaceted nature of intersectionality, and Macklemore and the ACLU’s decision to ignore all that inappropriately waters that down.

By trivializing the struggles of the marginalized, it becomes too easy to forget others’ second-class citizenship.

For a long time I couldn’t really be bothered to care about problems unless some larger entity told me it was important. East Asian typhoon? Annual Halloween UNICEF? It’s easy to pay a small contribution and feel good about yourself, call yourself an ally to the cause in question, and not really give another thought as to how the challenge can be solved.

It’s great that Macklemore publicly supports LGBTQ+ rights , but for a wide majority of his fans–of which I’m aware many Tam students are–it’s just a reaffirmation of our liberal, generally inclusive values by a guy who faces zero oppression but has appointed himself to be the voice of the oppressed.

I understand that the ACLU needs funding to wage court battles, fight infringements on voting rights and advocate for victims of discrimination, but a better inclusion of the organization’s mission statement–rather than trivializing it for humor’s sake–would have made the promo stronger.

What we, The Downtrodden, need is support–not somebody to grab our microphone to rap about his uncles and friends when we’d like to talk about our own experiences and proposed solutions. Macklemore, I appreciate the sentiment and I’m going to let you finish, but your “Same Love” collaborator, Mary Lambert, would’ve been the best ACLU spokesperson of all time. Lambert is directly affected by the curtailment of her civil liberties and letting her speak up in more than your song’s chorus would give actual LGBTQ+ identifying people a high-profile place in media’s portrayal of the movement.

Having to listen to Macklemore talk up “the only card that lets my gay friends marry the hell out of each other” and say, “‘Hey, girl, it’s your vagina and you should be able to do what you want with it,” feels like the ACLU is giving Macklemore cookies just for being a decent human being. Celebrate the guy for donating proceeds of “Same Love” to Washington’s R-74 (the state’s proposition to protect same-sex marriage), but at the end of the day, let other people take the stage.

When Macklemore says “If you like being free, like me,” I don’t hear him talking about the card’s benefits. All I hear is the privilege he was born with– privilege that he certainly didn’t pay $35 for.