Rush and Bill and the Media Boys’ Club of Misogyny

Happy International Women’s Day! Boy, we’ve come a long way, baby! It’s the 21st Century, and we are still caught up in the arguments of ineffectual white men who seek to have a say in our reproductive lives, control our health issues and deny us the right to choose, amongst other things.

That isn’t enough.

High-profiled media political pundits are openly reviling women now as well. By now, we all know the utterly distasteful story of Rush Limbaugh’s scurvy lambast of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who was denied the right to testify in front of Darrell Issa’s Congressional panel regarding women’s healthcare measures. Instead, she was allowed to testify in front of a Democratic panel.

We know how Limbaugh reacted. There was a three-day doubled-down character assassination of Ms Fluke on his part, broadcast to his millions of listeners, wherein he referred to Ms Fluke as, variously, a “slut” and a “prostitute,” referring to the taxpayers as her “johns” or her “pimps” and imploring her to post her sexual sessions on YouTube so the public could view her work. All this because the law student was advocating the coverage of contraception in healthcare plans.

For three days this outburst continued, and several of Limbaugh’s sponsors began to withdraw their support from his show. Last Friday night, on Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher delivered a monologue, which featured (for the most part) Limbaugh’s despicable behaviour, and what he said was absolutely spot on.

I’ve found Maher hard to take for the better part of three years, but I couldn’t fault this delivery. You can watch it here below:-

It was concise, it was to-the-point, it was bitingly satirical, and, furthermore, every bit of it was true. Most insightful was the point Maher raised toward the end, where he referenced that Rush Limbaugh was trying to involve Maher in the fracas, which seemed – at the time – to be distasteful to Maher, and he seemed to want to distance himself from this situation.

The next day, however, it seemed that the sponsor situation, ever worsening, had been apprised by Limbaugh, and what was tantamount to an “official non-apology” appeared on his website, ending with the insincere and condescending statement:-

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Fluke, herself, saw through the gesture and dismissed the non-apology for what it was: a gesture made under pressure from Limbaugh’s dwindling and uncomfortable bevy of sponsors.

So, imagine, this week, the Twitterfest that erupted when Bill Maher tweeted this:-

Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologised, liberals looking bad by not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout.

I am not at all surprised by this … shall we call it cave-in. In fact, I feel singularly vindicated. First of all, I know exactly why Bill has jumped to Rush’s defence immediately after handing El Rushbo his ample ass last Friday night. The answer lies in the video clip below, almost three years ago to the day, and featuring the late Andrew Breitbart in his first (of three) appearances on Bill’s program. The answer lies within the first few minutes of the clip:-

If you missed this, Bill remarks that the racism in the Republican party derives from Rush Limbaugh, and an argument ensues, during the course of which, Breitbart is quick to remind Bill that back in 2001, when Bill’s ass was on the fryer for making his infamous comment in the wake of 911, the only media person who stepped up to defend Bill’s First Amendment right in saying what he said was none other than Rush Limbaugh, for which he received a very nice note of thanks from Bill.

So, maybe Bill was returning the favour for Rush … but this vindicates me in yet another way.

I’ve been particularly annoyed in recent years, not only by Bill’s obvious misogyny, but by the way, especially in the last three or four years, it’s engendered openly misogynistic remarks by other Left-leaning pundits, whom people on the Left, and that includes women, choose to ignore.

For example, I’ve been regularly taken to task by various women who purport to be liberal for saying that I thought it wrong that Bill Maher should refer to Sarah Palin either as a “dumb twat” (as he has done on Real Time) or even by the worst of all conotations (“cunt”), a term by which he referred to her no less than seven times in stand-up of recent years.

There are women in Bill’s audiences. I wonder how they feel hearing him refer to another women by such a term. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I was always brought up to believe that “cunt” was the ugliest word in the English language, and that anyone who used it as a pejorative reference to female genitalia in denigrating another person, be that person male or female, had absolutely no respect at all for women in general.

I am certainly no fan of Sarah Palin or her policies. I think she’s probably the meanest of mean girls, Queen of the Heathers and everything which goes with that title, but I wouldn’t deign to approve of anyone calling her a “cunt,” just as I would think poorly of any man referring to any woman generically as a “slut.”

We deride Rush Limbaugh for referring to a private citizen as a “slut” or a “prostitute.” We react with horror at the tale of John McCain, perhaps, referring to his wife, years ago, by the c-word … but we laugh at Bill Maher?

Well, with his latest plea for clemency toward Rush, in light of the fact that he’s recently crossed the Rubicon from comedian to bona fide political pundit with a cool million donated to the President’s SuperPAC, I’m pleased to see several other women from my side of the political fence stepping up to the plate and cracking one home to Maher.

I don’t generally frequent Salon.com, but staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams has written a tellingly blunt piece this week where she remarks:-

Maher, of course, is a professional provocateur, a guy who views himself as an equal opportunity fly in everyone’s ointment. But he’s also the man who recently gave a cool million dollars to Obama’s super PAC and once suggested “don’t ask, don’t tell” be overturned purely “because it will make Rush Limbaugh explode like a bag full of meat dropped from a helicopter.” As such, he no doubt felt uniquely qualified to appeal to the left’s sense of justice. And no doubt there are plenty of talking heads – the ones who erroneously keep insisting that liberals and feminists have no problem with Maher’s track record of offensive remarks – who’d go along with him.

But as a matter of fact, lots of us were revolted when Maher called Sarah Palin a “cunt” and a “dumb twat,” and were grossed out by his ill-timed assessment of Lara Logan’s “intrepid hotness” last year. We actually don’t find sexism adorable just because someone lets Marc Maron on his show.

Maher has, quite rightly, said that “When you are a public figure you’re out there and you’re fodder for comedians to make comments on you.” And when you’re a comic and a genuinely smart guy, you can probably do it without reducing a woman to her genitals. Women can take criticism and satire just fine. It’s the misogyny that gets old.

Apparently, Bill Maher appeared on the second segment of Wednesday’s Hardball, where stand-in host (up)Chuck Todd asked him about the backlash he was receiving. Maher replied:-

There’s a lot of people in America who have, of course, nothing to do except look for something to get mad at. And I’ve been a frequent target, and I’m happy to provide that service. I always say, as I’ve said many times in these kind of situations, if I hurt somebody’s feelings – I’m always sorry about that, I’m not trying to hurt somebody’s feelings. But if you want me to say, “I’m sorry what I said was wrong” – no, sorry, I can’t go there.

Unbridled arrogance much? The Progressive writer Melissa McEwan, who also writes for The Guardian responded to this assertion in her Shakesville blog in a brilliant takedown.

If you want to understand the grim state of women’s equality in the United States, here it is: One of the great liberal heroes of the left is approximately as sophisticated in his thinking regarding women as your average troll at a feminist blog.

Quite genuinely, it is laughable that anyone could suggest that women have reached some semblance of parity when we still cannot criticize the use of cunt, twat, and bimbo as casual slurs against a former vice presidential candidate without being accused of looking for things to get mad about.

Perhaps—just perhaps—it’s not that feminists who object to the substitution of misogynist slurs for substantive criticism are too sensitive, but that Bill Maher is not sensitive enough.

Because if demeaning women with misogynist slurs isn’t worthy of criticism, despite the fact that it is such “little things,” such pervasive, ubiquitous, inescapable “little things,” that create the foundation of a sexist culture on which the “big stuff” is dependent for its survival, I wonder what would meet Maher’s threshold for our attention.

Not that I really give a shit, since I’m (shockingly) not of the belief that a straight, white, cis, able-bodied, wealthy, Western, undilutedly privileged man should be the arbiter of to what issues feminists and womanists should direct their attentions.

Particularly when, despite his claims to objectivity, he has a vested interest in having us direct our attentions elsewhere. Ahem.

In any case, I don’t want an apology from Bill Maher. I don’t care if he feels bad, and I don’t care if he admits he was wrong, and I don’t care if he says he’s sorry or feels sorry or whatthefuckever. I just want him to stop using misogynist slurs.

It doesn’t matter one tiny, infinitesimal speck to me whether he apologizes or not, and the fact that he evidently believes that this is all a big game of “Gotcha!” in which pretend-aggrieved people fake-complain in order to rack up some insincere apology on a scorecard, is further evidence of his utter lack of respect for women. And, yeah, I realize there are some conservatives who are playing that game, but there are also feminist and womanist women (and men) who are asking him, in good faith, to please knock it the fuck off because that shit doesn’t exist in a goddamned void.

Of course, convincing himself that there’s no such thing as good faith criticism, just people looking for things to get mad about, is a pretty neat justification to avoid listening to criticism altogether.

Doesn’t change the fact he’s contributing to a culture of sexism he purports to disdain.

And not only that, he’s obliging other liberals to twist themselves into knots to defend his misogynist shit, thus more deeply entrenching the increasingly cavernous divides on the left between those who consider women’s equality to be a centerpiece of progressivism and those who consider it a negotiable item.

New Rule: If you’re not helping, shut the fuck up.

Oh, and by the way, Maher: Just for the record, I’m not offended; I’m contemptuous.

I’m contemptuous too, and I don’t have half the audience McEwan commands; but I’ve recognised from the getgo the overt misogyny prevalent amongst some so-called Progressive talking heads, the sort of language which is casually ignored or uneasily excused by those of us for whom they purport to speak. For example, it wasn’t long before that eternal manchild Michael Moore weighed in with a bevy of Tweets aimed at Limbaugh, during which, at one point, Moore exclaims, “Who’s the prostitute now, bitch?” A remark, which, in one fell swoop, returns Moore to the same sort of equivalency level which Mother Jones writer Adam Serwer assigned him, along with Maher and Limbaugh, coincidentally as regards their racism.

And, as Bill is so averse to defending Limbaugh, I am averse to giving anyone credit from Fox News, but Kirsten Powers, writing in The Daily Beast offers a litany of Leftwing talking heads from Keith Olbermann (who, famously referred to Paris Hilton as “A Slut and Battery) to Ed Schultz (calling Laura Ingraham a “slut”) right down to Matt Taibbi, Chris Matthews and, yes – again – Maher, who’ve been caught in the web of making overtly misogynist remarks. For good measure, and to keep things “fair and balanced,” I would have mentioned Bill O’Reilly’s numerous sexual harassment cases, but, hey … I’m a pleb.

I am just pleased and relieved that more and more women on the Left are recognising that these intellectual scions of Progressive thought, on a given day and hour, are really no better than the mouths on the Right whom they criticize. They nudge and wink at one another across the political divide, secure in the knowledge that, in America, at least, it’s still pretty much a man’s world.

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