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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Column: Rachel Maddow, role model

Originally, I wanted to use this week’s column to better clarify my personal politics. As a feminist who discovered herself on the Internet, I don’t think the mainstream media (read: print media) represents feminist issues accurately, or as often as they should. My plan was to cap off last week’s column with something a little closer to home, to give a better idea of how I see the world.

Like I said, that was my plan. Then I got distracted watching Rachel Maddow calmly prove that Fox News does not qualify as “news.” Whose eyes wouldn’t glaze over listening to this woman talk? Really, it’s not as if it’s uncommon for people to crush on TV’s talking heads and personalities.

Putting political affiliation aside, who’s never lusted after Anderson Cooper’s beautiful profile, or Glenn Beck’s baby blues? You understand then, why I have to gush about Rachel Maddow – who is not only crush-worthy, but also the kind of feminist I would love to be.

Maddow’s rise to fame is as overwhelming as she is herself. After earning her degree in public policy from Stanford University, she traveled to the University of Oxford as the first openly gay Rhodes Scholar; her thesis was about health care reform in prisons.

Maddow began her quick ascent to national relevance in 2004 as a mere local radio personality. By last year, she had worked up to her own eponymous show on MSCNBC, peaking at almost 2 million viewers per episode during the election. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Maddow also just happens to be a stunning intellect, ferociously compassionate, queer and proud, funny and – of course – super hot. If her appearance in Vogue and her sex symbol status aren’t enough to convince you that you need to watch her show, then you just can’t be helped.

To hear Maddow tell it, she’s nothing special. In a recent interview with Ariel Levy, she said, “I’m not very pretty. I am what I am. I look like a dude. I wear boring jackets. I have a big nose. I have short hair. No one is going to mix me up with a Fox business anchor.”

Awww. She’s humble, too. As a self-described “big dyke,” it’s a good thing she (mostly) rejected MSNBC’s efforts to make her look more traditionally “feminine.”

As you can probably guess, it’s easy to come up with positive things about Maddow. It’s even easier to just go on about how amazing and beautiful she is.

But the world is full of accomplished and beautiful people. It’s her modus operandi in a world of racist Rushes and overwrought Olbermanns that makes her special. In a medium where it’s the norm for political discussion to amount to screaming and personal insults, Maddow does not need to sacrifice her poise or logic to win an argument. Although the importance of behavior normally amounts to about nil on cable TV (as the immortal Bill O’ Reilly said, “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!”), Maddow is distinguished by her class. She is capable of engaging in debate without resorting to fallacious personal attacks or dishonesty, and people respond to that. More importantly, the political dialogue is the better for it.

From her political individuality (although definitely a liberal, she heavily criticized Obama for his failure to repeal ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) to her rhetorical acumen (just ask Tom Ridge and Pat Buchanan), Maddow is one of a kind. But she is also an encouragement to people who want to improve the world.

This is why Maddow is such an excellent feminist role model. Her gender, appearance, and sexual orientation makes her a target in her profession. Her ability speaks for itself, though. The best her naysayers can come up with is, “What a dyke.” I say, “What a dyke!”

HALEY DAVIS wants to talk with you about Rachel Maddow. She can be reached at hrdavis@ucdavis.edu.


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