Pope Francis and Me, A Feminist Kill-Joy

Dykelets, it’s been a while since you heard from us here on WordPress. As it happens, tweeting and posting reaction gifs on Tumblr are better suited to our impulsive and self-indulgent communication style. But sometimes a queer Catholic lady with opinions needs more than 140 characters and a clip from Golden Girls. Especially a queer Catholic lady with feminist kill-joy opinions on Pope Francis.

Am I really going to be a kill-joy about Pope Francis, you ask? Yes, dykes, I’m afraid I am. Let me begin, for etiquette’s sake, with certain qualifiers: I do like him. I like the foot washing, the cold calls, the ’84 Renault. I like his black shoes and his grandpa glasses. I like seeing progressive Catholics a little less miserable and right-wing Catholics a little moreso. (Petty, of course, and childish, but I’ve never claimed to be above such things.)

For these reasons, the reformist part of me feels some of the temptation I see in many other progressive Catholics: the temptation to celebrate changes in style as though they corresponded to changes in substance. But the more radical queer dyke part of me just won’t permit me to succumb to Francis Fever.*

That can be hard, because the joy over Francis is powerful and often seductive. People love the guy so damn muchJon Stewart loves him. Chris Hayes loves him. James Martin loves him. The Catholic boys in my Facebook newsfeed love him. Gay male friends of mine have told me Francis makes them feel welcome in the Catholic church again, makes them proud to be Catholic.

(Are we seeing the pattern, dykes? I hope we are all seeing the pattern.)

So I’ve felt…kinda bad, actually, about both my inability to share in this joy and my persistent attempts to kill this joy in others. Because I don’t deny Francis is likable. Or that he’s a significant improvement over Pope Benedict in terms of his tone, priorities, simplicity of life, and pastoral sensitivity. I don’t think such improvements are entirely without real-world consequences (could I qualify that statement any further?).

But with sympathetic eye contact and understanding nods, with my hand placed lovingly on my gay male friends’ collective forearm, I must ask: is that all we wanted? Someone more pastorally sensitive than Joseph Ratzinger? Have we really just been holding out for somebody who can discuss gay men without recourse to the language of objective disorder?

Well, depends on who “we” are. Progressive Catholic women like Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women’s Ordination Conference, Jamie L. Manson of NCR, and Mary Hunt of WATER, for example, have not shared the unequivocal joy of their male peers. They have not, in the analyses linked above, allowed the pope’s Better-Than-Ratzinger moment on gay men to overshadow his familiar dismissal of women’s ordination.

Similarly, Katie Grimes at Women in Theology, in contradistinction to many a well-meaning male liberal blogger, did not leap for joy at the prospect of a “theology of women.” And over at Feminism and Religion, Linn Marie Tonstad pointed out the shared “grounding theological logic” of official teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood–logic which Francis’ widely applauded “who am I to judge?” did not at all disrupt.

So. With these points in mind, I have to ask: what is the benefit of having a pope who de-emphasizes heterosexist teachings without ever challenging their substance? A pope who moves the needle ever-so-slightly on the subject of gay men, but who leaves the “grounding theological logic” of Catholic heterosexism untroubled, both in what he says about women’s ordination and in what he leaves unsaid about homosexuality? Why is it cause for joy?

These questions ain’t offered up as rhetorical snark, by the way. I’m honestly asking: what is the benefit? What precisely does it accomplish for the church? For whom is it good news, and why? Answers to these questions might help explain the gendered reactions to Francis, and they might tell us something about whose interests take priority in many progressive circles, Catholic and otherwise.

Answers to these questions might also kill our joy, or at least deflate it a bit, and I think they should. Because as far as I can tell, shifts in tone and emphasis are good news for people with enough social privilege that their problems with the church have stayed mostly on the level of tone and emphasis.

Good news for liberal straight cis men, who don’t have to feel quite as embarrassed by the illiberal rhetoric of their church’s hierarchy.

Good news for gay cis men, who may no longer be barred from seminary, who may look forward to enjoying sermons, pastoral letters, and encyclicals without hearing overt condemnation.

Good news for cautiously pro-gay priests who can feel more comfortable sharing their meticulously worded, painstakingly Catechism-friendly sermons in support of “LGBT” (read: usually gay, sometimes lesbian, always cis) people in the church.

That is, Francis’ approach is good news for people who want to feel better about the church they love, and who finally can.

And look, hope is important. Finding energy and support in your religious tradition is important. I don’t want to dismiss straight or gay cis men who have been horrified by Vatican rhetoric in recent years, even when that rhetoric was most damaging for people other than them.

I also don’t want to conflate the experiences of straight and gay men, because while both have access to positions of ecclesial power and authority which are denied to me, gay men have struggles in the Catholic church that straight men don’t share. Moreover, I have privilege a-plenty myself, and I don’t want to suggest that because a cis man does not experience the same level of exclusion that I do, his problems with the Vatican haven’t actually been problems.

But friends. If one’s problems are on the level of rhetoric, then perhaps so are one’s solutions. The disproportionate joy of Francis fanboys is convincing me, more and more, that many progressive Catholic men, gay and straight, might be pretty well satisfied for the church to retain its fundamentally patriarchal character, so long as its leaders expand the longstanding Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy to include gay laypeople as well as gay clergy.

For women and for queers with less social privilege, such solutions will not do. By all means, let’s welcome changes in tone; such changes are meaningful. But they are partial. They should not make us so grateful that we forget that changes in style, however refreshing, mostly benefit those of us with the most privilege. They should not make us so joyful that we lose interest in the deep theological and structural changes still needed in the Catholic church.

Unless our prophetic calls for church justice have really been reformist calls for a More Civil Discourse. For a shift in magisterial emphasis from The Sanctity of Marriage to those aspects of Catholic Social Teaching progressives can feel better about. Unless that’s what we wanted, after all. Not to change, but to feel better.

* The “more radical queer dyke part of me,” in case you’re interested, usually takes the form of a voice in my head who sings Peggy Lee and shames me for supporting marriage equality.


Chick-fil-A and the Five Habits of Highly Vexing People

Many of us who grew up in the South (Yes, I am a Southern dyke! Hence my grace and sophistication!) grew up eating Chick-fil-A. And if you grew up with it, you probably already knew at least one of the following facts: it’s a family-owned business founded by devout Southern Baptist S. Truett Cathy; it’s closed on Sundays; and its statement of corporate purpose begins, “To glorify God…” Knowing this, you may not have been shocked to hear Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s fundamentalist Christian views on marriage equality.

The really important thing about the controversy, of course, is how much it has irritated me. The Chick-fil-A discussions have thus far included five of my least favorite elements of national conversations. They are, in no particular order:

1. Wealthy white dudes saying smug things.

via walkenvnorris.wordpress.com

Honest to God, it feels like this happens every single time there’s a national controversy.

Here’s the thing, Mr. Cathy: When a Baptist Press reporter asks if you support the “traditional family,” don’t give a cute answer like “guilty as charged.” Sure, you’re among friends. But that glib, unoriginal phrase will be published online, and it will be quoted, blogged about, tweeted, and mocked all across the internet because you’re president of an iconic, multi-million dollar corporation in 2012.

Similarly, unless you have unmediated access to the mind of God, please don’t say this:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him [sic] and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Seriously, Dan. To anyone outside your very specific social circle, this sounds whackadoo.

2. [Group of People] seizing opportunity to turn this conversation into conversation about [Thing Group of People Doesn’t Like].

via imagemacros.wordpress.com

In college, there was usually one person per course who sought to turn every class discussion to his or her own area of interest or expertise. The conservation biology student who always brought New Testament discussions back to climate change. The Amnesty International president who always brought Social Psychology classes back to the U.S. government’s human rights abuses in Latin America. It got reallll specific, dykes! And old. It’s a pet peeve of mine: I like people to stay on topic.

The topic, in this case: Chick-fil-A, a major fast food restaurant chain, has made donations to anti-gay organizations, including an actual hate group and the major ex-gay operation, and its president has made anti-marriage equality statements couched in doomsday biblical terms. This has struck a nerve because marriage equality is a huge deal right now. And marriage equality is a huge deal right now largely because it resonates with a lot of different kinds of people with a wide range of positions on other issues.

For example, it is possible to ascribe to a worldview according to which opposition to marriage equality is intrinsically linked with all forms of domination and exploitation, including the farming, frying, sandwiching, and eating of chickens. From this standpoint, it makes sense to say gay activists in particular shouldn’t home in on a handful of offensive remarks or donations, but should condemn the vast array of sins endemic to the fast food industry. It is indeed possible to make a smart and thoughtful argument for this position. But it’s a mistake to assume all gays or allies will see the web of connections so obvious from your perspective.

More than that, though, it’s a mistake to insult those who don’t share your perspective. This, unfortunately, seems to be happening even in otherwise thoughtful and interesting arguments. You may object to cruel factory farm conditions. You may object to eating meat, period. You may object to fast food, greasy food, fried food, not-local food, or unhealthy food. You may object to styrofoam cups and plastic utensils. You may object to religious business models, conservative evangelical Christianity, or capitalism. These are legitimate concerns shared by lots of people. And if they’re your concerns, probably you weren’t eating at Chick-fil-A, anyway.

But some gays are Republicans, moderates, evangelicals, businesspeople, fast food restaurant employees, Southerners, and chicken-eaters. It is a nice thing, I think, that different kinds of people agree Cathy’s comments were homophobic and Chick-fil-A’s donations troubling. And it’s classier not to insult people who are taking a stand to support you.

3. False equivalences from the Mushy Middle.

Familiar with the term, “false equivalence?” It’s sort of like “two sides to every story” taken to an extreme: not only are there “two sides” to consider, but those sides are assumed to be about equally right or wrong. False equivalence is everywhere, dykes. Goes like this:

“Political Party A says the sky is red. Political Party B says the sky is blue. Therefore, since they must both be equally wrong, and the truth must be somewhere in the middle, the sky must be purple.”

This is a logical fallacy. It is especially common on Op-Ed pages (looking at you, David Brooks!) but, as Paul Krugman has observed before, is all too prevalent in journalism, generally.

And it seems to be all over Facebook these days. Over at State of Formation, Mary Ann Kaiser addresses one false equivalence common to pro-Chick-fil-A Facebook comments–the idea that LGBT folks are “bullying” Chick-fil-A in response to being bullied. She writes:

“A lot of the support comes from the notion that Chick-fil-A is being bullied by the LGBT community. There is a feeling that they are being attacked for holding ‘Christian values’ and that the queer response to Chick-fil-A’s ‘opinion’ is limiting free speech.”

As Kaiser points out, though, it’s not just about Cathy’s opinion. Chick-fil-A is “actively supporting groups which are working against the civil rights and emotional well-being of queer people.” And the multi-million dollar corporation isn’t being bullied, either, as that would be “like David trying to bully Goliath.” Finally, Kaiser notes, the LGBT backlash does not infringe on Dan Cathy’s freedom of speech. “Chick-fil-A can keep their values. They can say whatever they like and no one can legally do a thing about it. But as citizens, we can also choose to boycott, to protest, and to criticize their financial support of organizations which are dangerous to us.”

Personally, I haven’t read much strong support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook. But nearly every wall conversation I’ve seen on the subject has included some expression of soft support, like, “Well, I don’t like what he said, but all these anti-Chick-fil-A people are just as bad.” Or, “Okay, but judging Cathy for his religious beliefs is just as bad as judging gay people for being gay.”

This is bad logic masquerading as fair-mindedness. Being fair-minded requires us to listen in good faith to people who disagree with us, and to address thoughtful criticisms and concerns; it does not require us to treat all arguments as equivalent.

4. Liberals grandstanding about “values.”

via chicagotribune.com

Sometimes liberals–eager to challenge that flag-burning libertine stereotype–get too excited about using “values” language. And when they do, there’s often a not-so-subtle undercurrent of, “See, Republicans! We’re using your stuff for our liberal purposes! ZING.”

For example, Rahm Emanuel’s statement that, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.” Alderman Joe Moreno’s unconstitutional attempt to keep Chick-fil-A out of his Northwest Side ward. Mayor Menino’s now softened/retracted assertion that he “will do everything [he] can” to keep Chick-fil-A out of Boston.

Makes me cringe, yall.

First, it’s grandstanding for political points, plain and simple, and there’s no substance to it. An elected official can’t deny someone a business license just because that person expresses an offensive opinion or donates to odious organizations.

Second, the “values” language is too self-conscious and triumphal. As Sarah Posner put it: “Can I say that I hate…when Democrats try to throw that ‘values’ language back in face of conservatives? Conservatives don’t own the ‘values’ conversation–we know, we know!”

Finally, it feeds into the victim narrative of groups like the National Organization for Marriage. The idea that, if gay people get equal rights and social acceptance, the conservative Christians who don’t like gay people and don’t accept same-sex marriage will be silenced and oppressed. It’s a ridiculous claim based on the idea that anyone who questions your privilege is oppressing you. I think it’s better not to indulge Maggie Gallagher’s martyrdom fantasies, don’t you?

This brings us to:

5. Conservatives whining about “tolerance.”

via autostraddle

This, actually, is worse than liberals grandstanding about “values,” because (a) it happens more often, and (b) I have a liberal gay bias! Yep! But it’s similar in that it throws “tolerance” language back at liberals. Here’s the argument:

“Liberals are always talking about tolerance, but they’re intolerant of people who oppose same-sex marriage.”

There are some problems with this claim. First, there’s an element of false equivalence, no? The suggestion seems to be that if you demand tolerance of same-sex relationships, you should also demand tolerance of the intolerance of same-sex relationships. That if you are a tolerant person, you ought to tolerate members of an oppressed minority group as well as that group’s most active oppressors. Because…being gay is about as right or wrong as being anti-gay? It’s a false equivalence. And it conflates tolerance with total moral relativism.

Second, it suggests that tolerance is the defining feature of liberalism. That liberals advocate for LGBT equality because we believe in tolerating absolutely anything. Wow, I bet we could unpack that assumption all the day long, don’t you think? But I shan’t.

Because the point, really, is that the LGBT rights movement is not only, or even primarily, about tolerance. Maybe it used to be. I mean, when homosexuality was considered a mental illness; when people commonly claimed AIDS was divine punishment for being gay; even when state level anti-sodomy laws were in effect; then, sure, tolerance probably sounded good. But tolerance really is the bare minimum. And in 2012, thanks to previous generations who fought for tolerance and basic dignity, we can work for something more. A major piece of that “something more” is marriage equality.

Marriage equality is not about tolerating something icky because tolerance is the supreme liberal virtue. It’s about social justice, compassion, and equality. Liberal “intolerance”–that is, criticism–of anti-gay comments and contributions is not the damning evidence of left-wing hypocrisy the Christian right would have you think it is.

Over to you, dykes! Thoughts?

Vatican Condemns Jesus’ Silence On Abortion, Homosexuality

Following a rigorous historical investigation of Jesus Christ and a careful analysis of the Gospel narratives, the Vatican has released a report criticizing Jesus for focusing on poverty and social justice while remaining silent on abortion and homosexuality, calling his silence on these issues “grave and a matter of serious concern.”

The report, released on Wednesday, acknowledges that Jesus never explicitly contradicted Church teaching on either issue. Nonetheless, officials argue, the Son of God’s failure to address these questions at all “seriously undermines our attempts to present opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage as central to the Gospel.”

“We have been trying, for several years now, to make vociferous, blood-spitting opposition to gay marriage a litmus test for Catholicism,” Vatican officials write. “While we of course admire Jesus’ ministry to the poor and marginalized, his teachings on sexual ethics are almost totally limited to his sayings against adultery and his qualified opposition to divorce and remarriage.”

A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which released the Vatican report on its website, conceded that Jesus’ silence on abortion, like his silence on homosexuality, does not necessarily mean Christ supported it. “But,” he said, “it’s not really clear that Christ opposed it, either. On an issue this difficult and complicated, it would be really nice to have a pat answer–no doubts, no nuance, no exceptions. Would it have killed him to give us one? Would it?”

Jesus could not be reached for comment.

So You’re Surrounded By Right-Wing Catholics

Happy Easter!

How was your holiday? I for one am still recovering from my Easter brunch food hangover–ah, the joy of bingeing on things I only half-way gave up for Lent.

My Triduum was good, mostly business as usual–stomach rumblings, Stations of the Cross, cringing through several of the Good Friday prayers, and staying up late to see new Catholics welcomed at the Easter Vigil.

There were also unpleasant reminders of the Catholic Right. Multiple anti-abortion posters in the church hall. Hyperbole about “attacks on religious liberty” in the church bulletin. A priest who waxed patriarchal about motherhood as women’s special lady vocation.

To be a progressive or moderate Catholic surrounded by traditionalists, Opus Dei members, Santorum supporters, Planned Parenthood protesters, or American Papist followers can be a bizarre experience–something like being the only person wearing jeans in a group of Colonial Williamsburg actors who refuse to break character, or the only participant in the smoke-filled room study. That is, what is obviously bizarre to you seems completely normal to everyone around you.

When you find yourself in a Catholic environment dominated by right-wing folks with an anti-gay bent, it ain’t the most pleasant of circumstances. So what is a Good Catholic Dyke to do? Why, make it into a game!

1. The “Gonzo Journalist” Game

In which you pretend you are Hunter S. Thompson, or the kid in Almost Famous, or Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed, immersing yourself in a strange subculture and reporting back.

via jakewilton.com
This plan can backfire.

2. The “Colbert Report” Game

In which you pretend offensive remarks are actually satire. This is particularly helpful when you hear people comparing abortion rights to genocide, or homosexuality to “man-on-dog” sex, or Obama to a totalitarian dictator.

3. The “Showing Patience and Sympathy to Probable Closet Cases” Game

In which you recognize that at least some of the anti-gay people around you are probably struggling with doubts about their own sexuality.

via glee.wikia.com

4. The “Remove Yourself from the Situation” Game

In which you distance yourself, or cut yourself off completely, from the situation or group of people crushing your soul.

5. The “Episcopalian” Game

In which you go to an Episcopal church until you find a healthier Catholic environment.

via simpsonswiki.net

6. The “Foxhole” Game

In which you find other moderate, progressive, queer, and queer-friendly Catholics and build community with them. They are definitely out there, dykes. We must always remember that most Catholics are not anti-gay. If you are lucky enough to live near a DignityUSA chapter, that is worth looking into.

via dignityusa.org

What do y’all think? How do you deal with less-than-welcoming Catholic environments?

The Conservative Sermon That Went Viral: Why “Hate Religion, Love Jesus” Ain’t What It Sounds Like

Jeff Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” is visually striking, heartfelt, and wildly popular. So why don’t I like it?

Friends of mine–progressives, seminarians, and iconoclasts among them–posted it on Facebook with comments like, “Wow!” and “Amen!” and “Exactly!” So I watched it. And I did not get it. Or rather, I think I did get it, and I found it unsettling and uncomfortable, apparently for none of the same reasons as its other detractors: the pastors who faulted Bethke for lambasting the institutional church and misrepresenting Jesus’s attitudes toward religion, or David Brooks, who found it impassioned but “ultimately vague and ineffectual.” Brooks, employing his usual broad strokes and sweeping generalizations, noted that, “The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself” but should draw on the thought of other countercultural figures, of authorities who came before you.

Both criticisms, in my view, mostly miss the point. Bethke’s video is problematic not because it criticizes the institutional church, or because it fails to draw on other “countercultural” authorities, but because it does neither of those things. “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” is not an anthem of the hippy-dippy, anti-church, “spiritual-but-not-religious” folk so often derided in theological circles, though it has been widely misinterpreted through that lens. Bethke’s message is best understood in the context of what could be (glibly) characterized as “Mars Hill Christianity”: an approach to religion that is stylish, tech-savvy, plain-spoken, and deeply conservative.

In fact, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, was the first person I thought of when I watched it. That’s because, after the New York Times ran an article on Driscoll’s severe, hyper-masculine approach to Christianity in 2009, I watched a few of the pastor’s sermons on YouTube, including one called, “Why I Hate Religion.”

Driscoll and Bethke do not use the term “religion” to denote church. The contrast between “religion” and “redemption” in Driscoll’s sermon, or between “religion” and “Jesus” in Bethke’s poem, expounds St. Paul’s distinction between law and Gospel, and is in continuity with the traditional Protestant interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans: that it is not through observance of the religious law, but only through faith in Christ that human beings are saved.

When St. Paul argued against the law, he was arguing against the so-called “Judaizing Christians.” When Luther argued against works, he was arguing against the legalism of the sixteenth-century Roman Catholic Church. When Driscoll and Bethke argue against religion, they are arguing against the legalism present within the Christian community today, and not against the church itself.

Bethke was not caving or backtracking, as David Brooks has suggested, when he said he “agreed 100 percent” with one of his theological critics, Kevin DeYoung. Bethke already agreed. He never rejected the institutional church. He is, as it turns out, a member of Mars Hill.

That is, Bethke doesn’t hate the church, he hates legalism and hypocrisy. He’s not alone there. According to a study done by The Barna Group a few years ago, 91% of young people see Christianity as anti-gay, 87% see it as judgmental, and 85% view it as hypocritical. Anecdotally, I find that most young people who are put off by Christianity reject it, in large part, because of its perceived homophobia, moral hypocrisy, and antagonism toward science. Bethke is onto something, and it makes some sense that he has struck a nerve.

Nonetheless, I find it odd that Bethke avoids any mention of the specific controversies that so often drive young people from the church, the most obvious example being Christianity’s reputation for homophobia. Naturally, we’re a little biased here at GCD, and I can’t fault you for considering the source when you read my criticism. But am I wrong to expect a man in his early twenties, who rails against the judgmentalism, hypocrisy, and legalism within the church, to make some passing reference to an issue as pressing, as topical, as obvious as Christian homophobia? And am I wrong to be surprised when no one seems to notice?

This omission, paired with the striking conservatism of Bethke’s personal confessions of religious hypocrisy–that he attended church on Sundays, but also watched porn, got drunk, and had sex–lead me to conclude that there is something happening in “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” and it is not something progressive.

Rather, Bethke is articulating, for a twenty-first century audience and from an essentially conservative perspective, the classic Protestant distinction between faith and works. Along the way, he alludes to Romans and Second Corinthians, proclaims his love for the Bible and the church, and argues for such traditional Protestant doctrines as sola fide, sola gratia, and penal substitution. If we are going to criticize “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” we should criticize it with these facts in mind.

The video is–from its doctrines, to its confessions, to its male language–thoroughly conservative. It addresses religious hypocrisy, generally, but fails to address particular issues beyond the least controversial possible (e.g., Christians should help the poor). It presents itself as a critique of organized religion, whereas, in fact, it is very much in continuity with institutional Protestantism. These, I think, are the reasons I don’t like it.

In the video and in interviews, Bethke comes across personable, kind, and genuine, and I should add that, however much I’ve compared his theology to that of Mark Driscoll, I prefer Bethke’s personality, temperament, character, and general attitude by far. Bethke’s is a kinder, gentler Christianity. Still, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” is best understood in its proper context: conservative evangelical Calvinism of the Mars Hill variety.

What do y’all think of Jeff Bethke’s video? Do you agree with his critics? Am I full of shit?

Bring Your Dyke to Mass, Part III: How to Shine Your Shoes

Being an old man and a congenital know-it-all, I have decided to share the basics of shoe shining. Men’s websites have pretty good information on shining shoes, but ladysites are rather lacking in this category. And why shouldn’t our feet look shiny? Why shouldn’t they?

What You’ll Need

Pre-assembled shoe polishing kits are available at most grocery and drug stores, but you can just as easily put one together on your own. To quote the dad from That Thing You Do, “Shoe polisher kit. People can’t even get a brush and a rag out and shine their shoes anymore. They’ve gotta have a shoe polisher kit. Man oh man.”

It takes a little more than a brush and a rag–but not much more. The basics you’ll need are:


-Horsehair shine brush

-Polish that matches shoe color

-Rag (an old sock or t-shirt works very well). You can also use a toothbrush or a horsehair applicator brush.

-Chammy cloth


1. Spread newspaper on the floor. Shoe polish is not easy to get out of carpet (or clothing, for that matter).

2. Remove laces. This way, you’ll be able to apply polish to the whole shoe, including the tongue.

3. Using horse hair shine brush, brush dirt off of the shoes. Or, if that’s not doing it, wipe them down with a damp cloth and allow them to dry completely.

4. Open tin of shoe polish by twisting the small metal piece on the side. It’ll pop the top right off. Science!

5. Wrap sock/rag/old t-shirt around two fingers and get a good dab of polish on it.

6. Apply polish evenly to leather surface of the first shoe, using small circular motions. A toothbrush can help you get polish in harder-to-reach places (along seams, for example, or next to the sole). Pay extra attention to the toe and heel of the shoe.

7. Wait at least 15 minutes for the polish to dry. This lets the polish soak into the leather. While the first shoe is drying, apply polish to the second shoe.

8. Once the polish has dried, buff all over with the horsehair shine brush. The point is to remove excess polish. Do this a little longer than you think is necessary.

9. Finally, buff with a chammy cloth. This removes remaining polish from the surface of the shoe–which is important, because any excess polish is going to end up on the cuffs of your pants–and it makes shoes nice and shiny.

10. You can repeat the process as much as you want for extra shine. For a spit shine, spray a little water on the shoe (or, if you’re less squeamish than I am, put a little spit on your polishing rag) when you’re buffing, or when you apply a second coat of polish.


1. Make sure your polish and shoe color match. In particular, make sure your polish is not darker than your shoes. Try it on a small area first. In terms of brands, Kiwi shoe polish is good.

2. It’s better to use different brushes for different polish colors. Even though you can’t see the polish on the shine brush, it’s still there. Over time, using the same brush for different polishes can discolor your shoes.

3. A tin of polish lasts a long time, brushes last even longer, and good, regular care will prolong the life of your shoe. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a bad investment.

4. These instructions apply to shining leather shoes. I don’t know nothing about no vegan footwear.

5. It’s better to shine shoes in a well-ventilated place. It also better not to get shoe polish all over your skin. Basically, don’t huff it in a paper bag or smear it under your eyes for a flag football game.

For those of you who are hesitant to use artificial chemicals–shoe polish is toxic, after all–some folks on the internet claim you can shine your shoes with the inside of a banana peel. I think this sounds weird, so I haven’t tried it, and I can’t vouch for it. But it is, apparently, a thing.

6. For shoes you wear regularly, it’s recommended that you shine them weekly or every other week.

7. If you keep a tin of polish for a long time, you may find that it dries up. Some people recommend softening it with a hair dryer. Others suggest more extreme remedies. The best thing, I think, is to buy a new tin. The stuff is cheap, and you can find it anywhere. It’s not worth risking your health or safety just to save two bucks on shoe polish. Really it isn’t.

What do y’all think? Any additions, corrections, alternatives?

The Dykes Likes: Shit Queer Grrrls Say

I know this “shit (insert a group of people) say” is definitely over, but could I share this, please? I think it’s the best one about queer women that I’ve seen thus far. Feel free to share your favorite videos (or opinions on how these videos have been problematic) in the comments!

“Why are straight dudes so ugly?”


Update: Shout out to Pink Smoke Over the Vatican in this video:

i’ve definitely said at least 80% of the things in this video. guilty as charged.