(AP/Timothy D. Easley)

Stop mocking how Kim Davis looks: Criticize her actions, not her weight, hair or clothes

The embattled clerk has given her critics plenty of material -- but her style is irrelevant

Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 8, 2015 11:49PM (UTC)

Go ahead and laugh at the irony of a woman who's been wed four times taking a stand on marriage. Be enraged at her steadfast refusals to do her job of upholding the Constitution, by turning away gay couples who came to her Rowan County clerk's office for marriage licenses. But don't deride Kim Davis for her hair. Don't make fun of her looks. It's cruel and pointless.

It's true that if your only notion of what people from Kentucky look like comes from Jennifer Lawrence or Ashley Judd, Davis must be a bit of surprise. Her hair is long and unstyled. She wears glasses and plain clothing. She does not have an Instagram-worthy bikini body. She is a 49 year-old small town office worker, a middle-aged mom. And sure, you could, like Rowan Farrow, crack, "Judge who jailed Kim Davis: "We live in a society of laws. And hair conditioner, FYI," but what would be the point? Do her looks have any bearing on her behavior? Then no.


As writer Saeed Jones puts it, "My queenz, surely it’s possible for us to mock Kim Davis without making fun of fat people. Our shade is so much more artful than that." Exactly. Shade should be a force of good in the world, not bullying.

The temptation to take an easy potshot is perhaps understandable. It doesn't take effort to look at person — especially a person who has already distinguished him or herself for unlikeable behavior — and just start aiming at the obvious physical shortcomings. Isn't that, after all, part of the draw of so much reality television — the chance to watch people like Phil Robertson or Mama June or Michelle Duggar and judge their weight, their hair, their clothes? Ha ha, look at those rubes. Let's make a joke about how they obviously don't have any gay friends.

I have in my day certainly observed with relish Donald's Trump's hair style choices and Paul Ryan's workout gear. I'd like to think they have been fairer game, as powerful public figures, than an otherwise obscure woman pushing papers at her office, but then again, is that much better than mocking Chris Christie for his struggles with his weight, instead of, oh I don't know, his entire political career?


But our culture makes it too easy to stoop to mocking people for their looks, to post an unflattering picture on Facebook and run with it. We mock even beautiful, successful, well-loved people — that's half the allure of red carpet watching and pretty much the raison d'etre for the Daily Mail. But when legitimately unpleasant people get mocked for superficial reasons, it drains attention from the real reason they merit condemnation, and it chips away at the credibility of their critics.

And while less sympathetic to Kim Davis I could not be, I also don't care about her looks. They they reflect her class and age and gender and are, in fact, pretty normal for a person of her circumstances. To bring them into the conversation is just snotty. She's given us plenty of reasons to take fair aim at her. But her hair is her own damn business.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Chris Christie Kim Davis Michelle Duggar

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