What's more powerful than saying "no"?

Welcome back to yet another Friday of Kill Marry Fuck with Kylie—a recap of weekly news in feminism, politics and pop culture in the form of a friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) game of KMF. 

To those eagle-eyed subscribers who noticed there wasn’t a newsletter last week—all two of you!—I apologize! The last two weeks have been quite busy, between starting in a new role as a culture writer at Salon, and eventually winning back my Twitter account by convincing the platform I’m not, in fact, a serial killer—all of this has seriously disrupted my nap schedule, but things are good, and I’m hanging in there. I hope you all are too!

Between the NBA Playoffs and the return of California temperatures so hot you could fry an egg on pavement, it’s finally starting to feel like summer again. And there’s nothing more summer-y than a good game of KMF!

🗡 KILL: Exploitative athletic institutions and grind culture

Naomi Osaka was right to ditch the French Open after officials so grossly proved how little her mental health and safety mean to them—100%. And to be clear, her decision wasn’t just an important statement for mental health; it also held up a middle finger to the toxicity of grind culture, which has taught people to be willing to give up everything and anything for their jobs. Because at the end of the day, tennis is her job, and prestige and a job aren’t worth your wellness and sanity. There is so much power in refusal, in saying no to a vulturous work culture that wants to use you until there’s nothing left. Osaka’s decision is inseparable from the greater struggle for labor justice and fairer labor conditions—for her, for all athletes, and for all workers.

I wrote a bit about this in Salon this past week:

The same holiday weekend Osaka announced her withdrawal, several Black NBA players were physically attacked by disgruntled fans. In the case of Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving, the young white man who threw a water bottle at Irving on Sunday night was arrested and charged with assault by the Boston Police Department. In Philadelphia, where Washington Wizards player Russell Westbrook and his team faced the Seventy-Sixers, another fan threw popcorn at Westbrook, days after another fan spit on Atlanta Hawks player Trae Young. There's also a long history of NBA players being subjected to racist verbal assaults from fans. 

This mistreatment of basketball players by fans may seem separate from the French Open rules that pushed Osaka out of the tournament, but it's not. Rather, it's an extension of the same, dehumanizing sports culture that often treats disproportionately Black athletes as objects of entertainment that owe media and racist fans unlimited access to their performances. …

All too often, conversations about labor exploitation in sports are shut down when it's pointed out how much high-profile professional athletes are paid. But this ignores how much predominantly white-led institutions make from mostly Black athletes' labor, not to mention the fact that young, college athletes aren't even paid, all while the NCAA is a billion-dollar enterprise. And it ignores another truth: Labor exploitation isn't just about pay — it's about the conditions to which athletes are subjected that harm their mental and physical health, that dehumanize and even endanger them. By withdrawing from the tournament, Osaka didn't just prioritize her mental health. She refused to be used, and stood up for all athletes in the process. 

Honorable mentions: This week, I’d also like to kill…

  • Um, how about shitty, counterproductive nonconsensual porn laws? In April, a California judge threw out former Congresswoman Katie Hill’s lawsuit against the media outlets that nonconsensually published private, nude photos of Hill. This week, the same judge is ordering Hill pay more than $200,000 in legal fees to the outlet, setting a dangerous precedent that it’s OK to grossly violate someone’s consent—and make them pay for it—if they’re in any way famous, and it’s therefore a matter of “public interest.” I wrote a lot on this, and the prevalence of “revenge porn,” and why calling it “revenge porn” itself is kind of shitty, but right now, all I have to say is fuck that.

💍 MARRY: Lady GaGa refusing to name her rapist

If you haven’t yet heard of the new Apple TV+ show from Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry (or whatever you call him now), The Me You Can’t See, that’s fine—just make sure you watch the first episode, which features Lady GaGa speaking at length on how being raped at 19 continues to affect her mental health to this day. It’s not an easy interview to watch, but it’s certainly an important one that reminds us the violence and impacts of a sexual assault extend long beyond the act itself is over, and what happens next, as well as processing all of that, looks different for each survivor.

For some people, including the many celebrities who named Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men as their abusers, that was what they needed. For GaGa, and the majority of survivors who never come forward but are just as brave as those who do, not naming her abuser is what she needed.

GaGa’s firm refusal to name her rapist and keep other details to herself is a crucial reminder of the importance of boundary-setting, and respecting boundaries, in an increasingly nosy society. Heck, I am a very nosy person, and I would frankly love to—as the kids say—”cancel” whoever harmed GaGa. But that is not what she wants, and we’ve got to respect that. We’ve got to respect all survivors!

And, not to self-plug again, but I wrote about this, too, in Salon:

In the era of #MeToo, the spectacle of watching celebrity survivors rise up, speak their truth, name their abuser, and at times, win some sort of accountability, has been thrilling, inspiring, empowering. But just as these famous women and survivors have the right to name and bring their abusers to justice, and share as much or as little detail as they'd like, Gaga has the right not to do so. After all, the #MeToo movement isn't about creating spectacle for onlookers — it's about naming the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse of power as the crisis it is, and empowering and supporting survivors on their path to healing, whatever that may look like for them.

As a survivor, Lady Gaga is powerful, like all survivors who come forward, or choose not to. And while naming, publicly facing and taking down your abuser is certainly powerful, it isn't what makes a survivor powerful. What makes a survivor powerful is doing what they need to do for themselves, whatever that may be, and which is frankly no one's business but their own — no matter how famous they are.

Honorable mentions: This week, I’d also like to marry…

  • This brilliant speech by a high school valedictorian at her graduation ceremony in Texas, on just how repulsive the state’s recently signed six-week abortion ban is. Paxton Smith reportedly went off-script from her pre-approved speech, dropping brilliant pearls of truth that included:

    • "I have dreams, hopes and ambitions.Every girl here does. We have spent our whole lives working towards our futures, and without our consent or input, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us. I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail me, that if I'm raped, then my hopes and efforts and dreams for myself will no longer be relevant. I hope you can feel how gut-wrenching it is, how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you."

    • Not to sound like I’m 50 years old, but young people seriously fill me with hope! <3

🍆 FUCK: Bucks vs. Nets and the perfect opportunity for revenge

I am a bit of a James Harden fan—you caught me!

This weekend, James and Co. will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in what promises to be a pretty exciting matchup since the Bucks are the only team not just in the East but the entire league with a chance of beating the Brooklyn super team. But it’s also an exciting matchup because it presents the perfect opportunity for James to avenge himself from possibly the most embarrassing moment in NBA history that was inflicted on him by the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019:

Honorable mentions: This week, I’d also like to f*ck…

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