Lied and need your reputation laundered? Just go on a reality TV show | Arwa Mahdawi

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The inanity of evil

Actions have consequences. Unless, of course, you’re rich and powerful, in which case it seems you can just go ahead and do whatever you like. Lie, cheat, stick your hand down your trousers when you find yourself in a hotel room with a woman young enough to be your granddaughter. Knock yourself out! The chances you’ll face any meaningful repercussions are low. The chances you’ll be asked on a reality TV show and have your reputation laundered, on the other hand, are high.

Exhibit no 476, Rudy Giuliani: the guy who was once considered “America’s mayor” and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination but then proceeded to set his reputation on fire and stomp on the ashes. Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer. The guy who helped Trump with all his unhinged and very undemocratic attempts to overturn the 2020 election. That guy. Well that guy has managed to thrust his way into the headlines once again – in one of the most inane ways possible – after he was unmasked as a contestant during a taping of the Fox show The Masked Singer.

Unfamiliar with The Masked Singer? It’s a ridiculously popular competition in which celebrities sign and dance in costumes that hide their identities; at the end of each episode the losing celebrity’s identity is revealed and everyone is stunned. This season’s panel of celebrity judges were certainly stunned when Giuliani revealed himself: two of the judges, Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke, walked off the stage in protest. (Thicke, by the way, is not exactly a social justice warrior. He’s a singer whose most famous song, Blurred Lines, has been described as “kinda rapey”. The model Emily Ratajkowski, who appeared in the video for Blurred Lines, has also accused Thicke of sexually assaulting her while the video was being filmed. As a number of people have observed, you know you’ve messed up when you’ve offended Thicke’s moral sensibilities.)

Thicke and Jeong aren’t the only ones outraged over Giuliani’s musical number. It has attracted the ire of a few late-night TV hosts. “The guy who’s trying to destroy our country? He’s singing on a show!” Jimmy Kimmel scoffed on his own show. “No headline has captured the national zeitgeist of existential dread combined with ridicu-stupo-lousiness better than this,” said Stephen Colbert of Giuliani’s Masked Singer appearance.

Getting an overwhelming sense of deja vu? I certainly am. From Sarah Palin to Sean Spicer to Anne Widdecombe, a wide variety of odious figures have gone on the reality TV show circuit to reinvent themselves. If they don’t get a gig on reality TV, they get a gig on Fox News, which is essentially the same thing. There’s a little bit of outrage but it quickly dies down. The reputation laundering works. Just look at George W Bush, for example. He may not have gone on reality TV but he hung out with Ellen DeGeneres and painted a few terrible portraits. Now an embarrassing number of liberals have forgotten all about that nasty Iraq business and think of Bush fondly. He’s morphed from man-accused-of-war-crimes into cuddly grandpa in a scarily short period of time.

I’m all for giving people second chances. I’m all for giving people the chance to rehabilitate themselves. But that doesn’t mean forgetting and forgiving just like that; accountability is important. When you reward liars and cheats with TV appearances then you send a message that lying and cheating is fine (hilarious even!) as long as the right sort of person is doing it. You give the worst sort of people carte blanche. You help pave the way for monsters. This isn’t a complicated issue: the lines are by no means blurred.

The Black woman sentenced to six years in prison over a voting error

Giuliani, under Trump’s orders, tried to get the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines in an attempt to overthrow the 2020 election. We all know what happened to him next. Now compare his case with Pamela Moses, an activist in Memphis. Last November Moses was convicted for trying to register to vote while she was ineligible. On Monday she was sentenced to six years and one day in prison. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Tennessee officials have conceded that they had made a series of mistakes concerning Moses’ voting eligibility. Everyone’s equal under the eyes of the law, eh?

Eating poppy seed cake got a pregnant woman reported to child services

“[H]ospitals disproportionately [drug] test and report pregnant and postpartum patients of color,” a representative from National Advocates for Pregnant Women told ReWire News Group. One study found that despite similar rates of substance use among Black patients and white patients, Black women were reported to social services at about 10 times the rate of white women.

Uncontrollable Women: history’s secret heroines

The Guardian reviews Nan Sloane’s new book, which profiles the working-class female radicals overlooked by history. One reason why these women have been “hidden from history”, Sloane suggests, is that a lot of feminist history is focused on voting rights. These women were more concerned about feeding their families than the right to vote: they marched for bread and smashed machinery in protest at unregulated capitalism. “The vote, for them, is a luxury that [would] have to wait.”

The US reckons Amnesty International isn’t worth listening to

In certain instances anyway. During a recent press briefing Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked the Biden administration to explain its rejection of Amnesty International’s new report on Israel, which explicitly said its US-backed policies amount to apartheid. “Why is it that all criticism of Israel from these [human rights] groups is almost always rejected by the United States and yet accepted, welcomed and endorsed when the criticism is of other countries?” Lee asked. It’s an essential question: if you undermine human rights groups when it comes to their work on Israel-Palestine, you undermine all of their work.

Your regular reminder that being a woman on the internet is exhausting as hell

I barely go on social media any more because the amount of online harassment I get. My experience, of course, isn’t unusual. If you’re a woman, particularly a woman of colour, with any sort of platform you are expected to deal with grotesque levels of harassment – it’s part of the job description! Aubrey Hirsch covers the exhaustion of existing as a woman online beautifully in this essay, That’s How It Works When You’re a Woman on the Internet.

Why are you a spinster?

A British weekly magazine asked women that question in 1889 and got some very witty answers.

The week in pawtriarchy

Years of domesticity has done a number on cats’ brains, according to a new study. A bunch of researchers measured cats’ heads (which one imagines was no easy feat) and concluded that the brain size of domestic cats is smaller than their African ancestors. Size isn’t everything, of course. They may have tiny little heads but you should never underestimate a cat.