In Defense of the Ellen Swag Thief

So, currently the internet is all abuzz about this woman who appeared in the audience of Ellen and was caught on hidden camera stealing a bunch of swag. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video here:

During the taping of the premiere episode of Season 14, DeGeneres (who I ADORE, by the way) laid out a spread of swag with a sign instructing everyone just to take ONE item. And most of the audience did just that. But THIS woman, unaware of the presence of hidden cameras, decided she’d help herself to lots more than just one item, and later her friend was also caught helping her. She thought she was in the clear, until Ellen ended up calling her out on an episode of her show from last week. How embarrassing! And people’s reactions seem to be pretty mixed on this issue. And of course, since this is the internet, everyone has an opinion on the whole situation.

Here’s my take on the whole thing. First, let me say that of course we all know that stealing is wrong. I personally don’t steal, but the thing is, we don’t know this woman. We don’t know her situation. Maybe she and/or her family is really poor and can’t afford the basic things, and getting tickets to Ellen was a luxury splurge item or a gift from someone, and she just seized the opportunity to help herself once she got there. I mean, I highly doubt she went to the show with the intention of stealing; it just presented itself and was too good to pass up. Maybe she or someone in her family needed clothes, and the t-shirts were just too irresistible. Maybe she had a favorite mug and a well-meaning but clumsy colleague dropped and broke it at work. Who knows? We can’t for sure. Any number of things could have led to her situation. And that’s why I don’t feel comfortable just judging her and writing her off as a terrible person. For her part, the woman in question (her name is Nancy) defended her actions on the show by saying that her sister couldn’t come and she wanted to give her something. She was a good sport about it, even after Ellen teased her and made her sit in her special “jail.” I know if it were me in that situation that I’d have held it together as well as she did. Of course, if that HAD been me up there, I’d have to hear all the racist white men talking about another black criminal getting what she deserved, which I definitely don’t need.

Also, as a feminist, I found myself a little irritated at Ellen herself. As I said, I’m a huge fan of hers, way back to the days when she had her own sitcom (I’m really dating myself there), and was the first woman off my chair applauding her when she came out on national TV. I’ve always felt a connection to her, as her millions of fans also feel. In fact-I see all of us, as she says in the above video, as part of a “relationship.” As in, we women are part of a sisterhood. And though I love her dearly, I feel like by calling out this woman on national television, Ellen is violating the sisterhood a bit. If she had a problem with Nancy, she could have dealt with it in a much better way that didn’t involve her being called out on a national level. Women shouldn’t be doing that to each other! We have enough crap to deal with, like old white men trying to take away our reproductive rights and arts funding-you know, REAL problems that affect every woman! And besides, girlfriend is loaded-it’s not like she couldn’t spare the money or the swag-it’s no skin off her nose. We’ve seen her give away millions and millions of dollars over the past 14 years on her show to various worthy causes-are you telling me that she’s really going to suffer from having an extra mug or hat being taken? Please. You can do better, Ellen-like it or not, you have serious white privilege that you need to check. 

Basically, I’m not saying that the girl wasn’t wrong to steal. And of course she could have handled the situation a lot better too. But I think we all need to calm down and realize that far worse violations are being committed every day (like the aggressive jerk who was manspreading in the lobby of my doctor’s appointment yesterday), and chill out about Nancy.

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