Thursday, March 08, 2012

Partisan Misogyny

I don't go out of my way to condemn foul language. I use a bit of it myself. It's probably mostly beneath me, a weakness, but it often makes a point to use an expletive in order to drive a point home. And, call me small minded, but sometimes I just get a giggle out of using a cuss word. The crudity just sums up certain absurdities too well.

I certainly don't get too worked up about entertainers who use salty language in the political arena. Rush Limbaugh infamously called Sandra Fluke a 'slut'. In fairly swift response, Limbaugh's defenders have been reminding the world that Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a 'dumb twat' and a 'cunt', many to say, "See! Your guy is worse!"

I don't go for partisan shading on this. Both Limbaugh and Maher did exactly the same thing. They used misogynist language regarding a particular woman.

I don't go for condemnations of them, because I don't play the, "I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!" card on language. I'm too big a fan of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and free expression to do so. Sure, it's guttural. Sure, it's offensive to some. The individuals who were targeted perhaps have a slander case. That's up to them.

But some people do go for condemnations. That's fine. I'll take you at your word if you're saying that you are in favor of a more civil discourse.

So, if you are, kindly be consistent. Please don't make moral equivalencies that say, "Well! Limbaugh is a political pundit, but Maher is a comedian!" Sorry, they're both entertainers at the end of the day, and contributors to the public discourse. Please don't say, "Sandra Fluke is a private citizen, but Sarah Palin is a public figure!" Really! Do public figures cease to be women? I had no idea.

And, if you're a member of Congress, the cognitive dissonance should be this visible, and it should hurt to be so transparently partisan.

I know it's all a political football, but really. If you want to be taken seriously about your outrage on Limbaugh (or Maher, for that matter), or your claims in favor of the civil discourse, you have to be consistent. Read Congresswoman Schakowsky's strong statement against Limbaugh's comments and see if you can find anything that would suggest excusing what Maher said.

The country is so absurdly partisan at this point. I have marveled recently at the ability of the left to turn a blind eye to so many of the things they complained about with Bush (eroding civil liberties, foreign wars, indefinite detention, borrow & spend). Before that (well, and after too), I was marveling at the ability of the right to ignore the things they complained about the left while backing those on the right doing those very things (bailouts, borrow & spend, growing the size & scope of government). There's more to politics than team. My party right or wrong is the sure path to wrong.

We need people to hold their own side to the high road. It doesn't happen fast by shaming the other side. That only breeds defensiveness and short term apologies designed more as damage control than introspection.

Update: Reason had already written something similar.

I just keep thinking about the 'public figure' argument. Yeah, right. As though it would be a-ok to call Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton these things, you know, because they are public figures. I can't get over the lame. I'd love it if we were as intent on consistency within our own camps as we are on the gotchas for the other camps.


Doug said...

I think the equivalency happens to be false in this case. Maher's a misogynist, so he should be generally condemned on that score.

The distinction to be made here, though, is that Limbaugh's wasn't just a one off use of an epithet. Rather, he spent three days piling lie upon lie, viciously discussing how this woman's sexuality was objectionable to him.

It's not what you're up to, but mostly the effort to drag Bill Maher or Ed Schultz into this thing is to create an "everybody's responsible so nobody is" dynamic.

Left or right, I think the folks who engage in casual name calling are probably in for some rebuke; but what Limbaugh did is at least an order of magnitude worse. The other guys fouled while they were going for the ball. Limbaugh just punched a player after the whistle.

Mike Kole said...

Either way, both premeditated the use of their language. I still see it as even. Maher's wasn't an isolated incident. And the things he said weren't off-the-cuff. If Limbaugh punched a player after the whistle, so did Maher. Maybe Limbaugh punched 50 times, while Maher punched 3. They still did it.

Agree that Maher & Schultz are being dragged in as you say. I thought I conveyed that as I wrote, alas.