The Hirschberg Profile of M.I.A: Some Thoughts on Authenticity, Politics, and Truffle Oil

30mia-homepage-articleLarge Sady at Tiger Beatdown:

[T]he Lynn Hirschberg profile of M.I.A...: It got under my skin. It disturbed me, in many visceral and icky ways. It seemed, to me, exemplary of the ways and means by which women who use their voices politically are knocked down, knocked over, and fucked up for the public’s entertainment. And people liked it. People I like, people I admire, at least one person I’m particularly close to: They responded, joined in the group-kick, were eager to denounce M.I.A. as a liar and a fake and a fraud and a bitch and a bad activist. And over what? Over passages like this:

Unity holds no allure for Maya — she thrives on conflict, real or imagined. “I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry.

The fact is, valuable things were uncovered in that piece. M.I.A. has been inconsistent, and misleading, about her father’s involvement with the Tamil Tigers. And I appreciated that voices other than M.I.A.’s were given the chance to speak out, in a widely read forum, about Sri Lankan politics and the Tigers; the allegation that she’s being overly and dangerously simplistic, in her unconditional support of the Tigers, is probably true. What I don’t appreciate, however, is the fact that these things were only brought up as a means of destroying M.I.A.’s political credibility — shortly before attacking her credibility on more or less every other front.

M.I.A. is a fake, the article more or less says; no matter what she says or writes or records about global capitalism being a bad thing, no matter how fiercely she would seem to defend marginalized people, she’s just a shallow, narcissistic, bossy, stupid woman who only wants your attention, only wants to be famous, only wants to be a star. And did you hear that she was having contractions when she sang “Paper Planes” at the Grammys? Shocking! Provocative! Fame-whorey! Regular-whorey! Unfeminine! Selfish! Bad mother!

Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait. The combination of being nearly naked, hugely pregnant, singing incendiary lyrics and having the eyes of the world upon her was too much to resist.

Granted, there are a few common-sense things to be pointed out here: That it’s not unusual for women to work throughout their pregnancies, that lots of women go to work on the day that they’re scheduled to go into labor, that labor itself is a long process (the profile even notes that M.I.A.’s son wasn’t born until three days after the performance) and so many women often continue to work throughout the early stages of labor, especially if they’re doing something important or time-sensitive that can’t be re-scheduled — like, say, performing at the Grammys.

[H/t: Amanda Marcotte]