Misogyny without apology

Doubtless Rush Limbaugh will address the topic of his apology for using the words “slut” and “prostitute” during the course of discussing professional activist Sandra Fluke’s demand for a thousand dollars per year of free birth control from Georgetown University during his next couple of radio shows.  I wouldn’t want to steal any of his thunder, but I thought we should look at a few remaining cases of misogyny that need clearing up.

For those who arrived at the controversy late, or were misled by media reports saying Limbaugh “called Fluke a slut,” here is what he actually said on the air last Wednesday:

What does it say about the college co-ed Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex?  What does that make her?  It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.  She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.  She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.

Here is the statement Limbaugh released on Saturday:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

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.

Several sponsors declared they would pull their ads from Limbaugh’s show as a result of these “insulting word choices.”  One of them is Carbonite, an online data backup service.  As noted at The Right Sphere, Carbonite remains a sponsor of liberal radio host Ed Schultz, who directly called conservative personality Laura Ingraham a slut on the air, after she criticized President Obama for his response to tornadoes in Missouri.  Here is what Schultz actually said:

Rain, thunderstorms, winds getting whipped into tornadoes of horrific proportions. Hot weather, all of this stuff. And what are the Republicans thinking about? They’re not thinking about their next-door neighbor. They’re just thinking about how much this is going to cost. President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday. But you know what they’re talking about? Like this right-wing slut, what’s her name, Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut. You see, she was, back in the day, praising President Reagan when he was drinking a beer overseas. But now that Obama’s doing it, they’re working him over.

Note the difference: unlike Limbaugh, who said Fluke’s demand for massive contraception subsidies amounted to her asking to be treated like a slut, Schultz actually called Ingraham one, without ambiguity, repeating the insult twice.  Furthermore, there was nothing at all sexual about the topic that prompted Schultz’s outburst.  He was in no sense trying to “illustrate absurdity by being absurd.”  It was pure, aggressive misogyny, and Carbonite is apparently fine with it.

The Right Sphere hypothesizes this might be because Carbonite’s CEO is an Obama donor.  To put it another way, it would appear that use of the word “slut” is a matter of highly variable concern, depending on the politics of the person using the word, and the politics of the target. 

In a similar vein, “comedian” Bill Maher, who recently made a very high-profile million-dollar donation to Barack Obama’s Super PAC, is trying to squirm out of the entirely logical and easily documented assertion that he is far more of a remorseless misogynist than Limbaugh ever could be.  Maher has used the “c-word” to refer to Sarah Palin (“there’s just no other word for her,” he insisted) and called her “a dumb twat,” both on his show.  Unlike Limbaugh’s supposedly intolerable comment, Maher’s vastly more offensive locutions cannot be reproduced in a family magazine, but here’s the “dumb twat joke,” as transcribed by the Daily Caller:

“Did you hear this – Sarah Palin finally heard what happened in Japan and she’s demanding that we invade ‘Tsunami,’” Maher said. “I mean she said, ‘These ‘Tsunamians’ will not get away with this.’ Oh speaking of dumb twats, did you –”

Note that not only did Maher deliver a far worse insult than anything Limbaugh implied, but he’s “responding” to something Palin never actually said.  He made up an imaginary “quote” that supposedly justified calling her a “dumb twat.”  How can that be interpreted as anything but the most rank misogyny?  And yet, Barack Obama, his Super PAC, and Home Box Office are apparently fine with it.

Maher’s entire defense against criticism boils down to asserting that he’s an edgy comedian on a cable network, and that makes it okay for him to refer to women he dislikes with extremely derogatory language:

“OK, this analogy breaks down in so many places I can’t even begin,” he continued. “Except, let’s just start with this — Rush, I don’t have sponsors. I’m on HBO. See, that’s the great thing about being on HBO, whereas Rush Limbaugh has already lost a lot of sponsors. The first one to pull out : mattress companies, Sleep Train Mattresses. They said they support Rush’s right to free speech, but you know, sluts use a lot of mattresses. They got to go with the sluts. They use like 10 mattress a week. They wear them out. They’re sluts.”

Which does nothing more than affirm the simple reality that private companies are free to do business with whoever they like.  The pro-Obama Super PAC called HBO can keep running Maher’s show, and produce multi-million dollar propaganda films insulting Sarah Palin, just in case she turned out to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012.  Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers are free to do business with him, or not.  Limbaugh’s fans are free to do business with Sleep Train and Carbonite, or not.

None of which addresses the core issue at hand.  Limbaugh was assailed by sitting Democrat members of Congress, who demanded the Speaker of the House formally rebuke him.  Does anyone imagine his comments would have been accepted without such criticism if he made them from the safe perch of a cable-TV show?

Is misogyny acceptable, or not?  The rule appears to be that merely using a word like “slut” or “prostitute” in close proximity to a female liberal activist is entirely unacceptable, but directly calling a conservative woman a slut – or using even more vile language – is perfectly all right, since the Left has formally renounced their female-ness.  And these are the same people that call Limbaugh hateful!  I guess it’s not “hate” anymore, once your political masters have officially designated the target as less than fully human.

This all has nothing to do with good manners, or proper respect for women.  It’s all about pure political and cultural power.  In an increasingly politicized society, where demands for subsidized and mandated birth control are made in public before congressional committees – and we are told we must accept these demands without dissent – political and cultural power are one and the same.