Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Lipstick, Sexism, and the False Equivalency in "Double Standards"

Runners Up, Beck and Orly Tates Limbaugh. Gretchen Carlson has just complained, "If you're a conservative woman, you get more attacks than if you have a liberal's point of view". Well, Beckerhead and Limbaugh have evened that out in a hurry. Each speaking of Senator Mary Landrieu, and each called her a whore.
Beck - "We're with a high class prostitute, that's what we're with".
Limbaugh - "That may be, folks, may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution. And she's bragging about it. Mary Landrieu."
Well, he's an expert.
So the next time I say something about Michelle Malkin being a bag of mashed up meat with lipstick on it and I'm called sexist by conservatives because I used the word "lipstick", even though every week on the football show I use the exact same phrase about men, only I don't say "lipstick", and "lipstick" was the one word punchline to a joke by Sister Sarah Palin, just remember, Beck and Limbaugh call a sitting US woman Senator a, quote, "prostitute", and not a single conservative woman has as much as disagreed with them. Ms. Carlson, where's your umbrage now, ya fraud?
I'd love to spend this time, here in this space, unpacking Glenn Beck's statement about Senator Landrieu. But instead, I'm compelled to use it to unpack Keith Olbermann's, because if I don't, when I want my umbrage I may be called a fraud (quelle horreur!).

Lesson the First: This isn't grammar school. Little Johnny punching Mark and getting away with it doesn't negate the fact that you pushed Rob down.

Or, your sexist statement stands alone.

So, for instance, if you compare a woman to a mashed up bag of meat with lipstick, that is still a problematic statement even if some other assholes call a different woman a prostitute. Both statements are bad. Okay? There is no, "Well, he said something worse and no one from that side called him out on it, so I'm totes in the clear!!!" Dude, you're so not in the clear. What you are is a bit of a dunderhead if you are figuring your sexism by the standards of the other side. Do they have political reasons to call you a sexist, and to not call out the sexist actions of the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world? YES! Does that automatically make them wrong? NO! And to absolve yourself of any wrongs based on the fact that Gretchen Carlson of Fox-freakin'-News (and who, incidentally, has "legs" pop up as a popular Google search when you start typing in her name, which kind of sums up a lot) hasn't called some other anchor on her own network out on his sexist bullshit doesn't make your sexist bullshit any less bullshitty or sexist! It just doesn't. And to justify your own sexist remark because the other side is hypocritical is ridiculous.

Lesson the Second: When friends agree with antagonists, the antagonists may have a point. I understand why someone might not want to take the Right's cries of "Sexist" seriously. These are the people who complained that Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin was sexist, and who had problems with Newsweek not photoshopping a Palin cover. Frankly, the Right calling "sexist" is about as believable as that boy who kept crying "wolf".

Gretchen Carlson wasn't the only one saying the sack of meat comment was sexist; Megan Carpentier called it misogynistic. On the Air America blog. You know, that beacon of conservatism. Alternet got in on the action, which is, as you know, one of the havens for those on the Right. Shakesville also got down to business. Which is practically the National Review! Oh, and me. I'm a regular Barry Goldwater.

So, yes, when the Right cries 'sexist', we all have the right to be skeptical. But when the people who are generally pretty good on feminism and calling out sexism expressed by all sides are saying that a comment made was not only sexist but also misogynistic, then the appropriate response is to actually think about it. To mull it over. To ponder. And to maybe use the next time a conservative or Republican or Fox News Anchor says something sexist as an opportunity to own up to your own fuck up and to challenge those on the Right to call out all sexism when they see/hear it and not just when it happens to the conservatives. Challenge them to not be hypocrites.

Lesson the Third: There is no double standard here. Other places, maybe. But not here.

This one may be hard to wrap the mind around, I know. It kind of seems to fly in the face of "fair is fair". And, frankly, it probably deserves its very own post. But here we go.

Men and women face some different obstacles in society. Not totally different obstacles, obviously. But there is a false equivalency going down if you think you can just automatically say the same thing about a woman you have about a man, if you gender it up with a bit of lipstick.

Note, here, that comparing a football player, a man who has been tackled and in some cases pummeled in the pursuit of his sport, to a mashed up bag of meat could very well be a valid, if grossly insensitive, statement of fact. However, the difference between a football player who has been out on the field of play and a woman who writes and talks for a living (two things that very rarely lead to constant physical interactions) is not a little one. And that's not even taking into consideration Megan Carpentier's point about the rate of domestic violence against women in this country.

So, I'd rather be unpacking Glenn Beck's statement about Mary Landrieu, about how he called her a prostitute, how he called this prostitute "what" instead of "who", about how bad that is. How that is bad because prostitutes, as one of the more marginalized groups, are often stripped of their humanity. I'd rather be talking about how Mary Landrieu securing aid for a state ravaged by a storm whose destructive force was at least partially the fault of the Army Corp of Engineers and whose people were left pretty much high and dry by the federal government being called a prostitute is (a) deliberately fostering ignorance about how the Senate (and politics in general) works, and (b) obstinately refusing to recognize that she wouldn't have needed that kind of aid if we'd taken care of her state in the first place. I'd rather talk about how when men broker deals for plane parts to be made in most of the 50 states, it is good politics (until it isn't), but when a Democrat - not even a liberal - works to make the system work for her constituents she's just a whore for the money.

But no. Because liberals I'm aware of keep saying self-righteously assholish things. Liberals I like. Liberals I generally agree with. And then I have to spend my ride into work fuming. And then when I get home, I have to write these long-winded posts in order to not be seen as a liberal equivalent of Gretchen Carlson.


John said...

I think I might have to start calling you "a regular Barry Goldwater," just to watch our mutual friends burst into laughter at the idea.

I would say that while Keith Olbermann's comment about Michelle Malkin was more bizarre than anything else, but in the context I suppose it was both sexist and misogynistic. I don't really understand the point he was trying to make there, I guess. Personally, the only epithet I've ever tied to Michelle Malkin was "Looney Toon," which is relatively gender-neutral.

petpluto said...

I think I might have to start calling you "a regular Barry Goldwater," just to watch our mutual friends burst into laughter at the idea.

Hee! I actually have a soft spot for good ole Barry.