Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do Liberals Need to be More Careful With Our Language When We Talk About Women We Do Not Like? Probably.

When the whole Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke issue popped up a couple of weeks ago, the media pattern was pretty predictable. Conservatives said that it didn't matter what Rush Limbaugh said, because he was an entertainer. Liberals, correctly, said that was a load of crap, and that Rush Limbaugh has way too much sway in the Republican party to just call him an entertainer. Conservatives then pointed to Bill Maher, who has called Sarah Palin a c***. Liberals drew two distinctions: (1) Maher is a comedian, and we've typically given comedians more leeway with their acts than other entertainers; and (2) Maher does not have anywhere near as much sway among liberals as Limbaugh has among conservatives.

The most interesting defense I saw of Maher was from Michael Ian Black, who correctly noted that Rush Limbaugh's statements about Sandra Fluke were in fact not a personal attack on Ms. Fluke, but instead a general attack on women's rights. Maher's statements, on the other hand, were personal attacks. Maher didn't say that all conservative women were c***s, but instead solely that Sarah Palin was.

But is that enough that we should be defending Maher's language referring to Ms. Palin, no matter how abhorrent we find her viewpoints? Here is my problem with the defenses of Maher: there are certain words that, when used to describe a woman, are inherently degrading towards women: c***, bitch, slut and whore come to mind immediately. And it really does not matter if I am making a personal attack on an individual or degrading a greater population. If I called a black man the n-word, would it be better because I just really disliked that individual, and wasn't referring to a general population? I somehow doubt the answer to that question would be yes.

The words that are specifically designated towards women are specifically designed to be degrading towards women. There are plenty of gender neutral terms we can use to describe people we think are just not good human beings: Asshole. Douche bag. Sack of shit. Try it with me: Sarah Palin is an asshole. Michele Bachmann is a douche bag. Ann Coulter is a sack of shit. Ah. Doesn't that feel nice?

19 comments:

  1. Good post. However, Cunt is oftentimes used as a slur against men, too (especially in UK). And it's just such a perfect word for the Ex-Gov, regardless of gender.

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    1. Thanks much! Unfortunately, in the US the term is pretty solely used for women. Which is a shame, because it would be a fun one to be able to use more.

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    2. It being used against men isn't actually making it any better. Because then it is used to imply that the man it is being used against is bad *because he is like a female, which is bad*.

      Gender-linked insults just contribute to the general perception that such degrading of people because of their gender is OK. And it's really not.

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    3. Feels degrading to hear ANY female term, even non-vulgarities, being used to insult a man. It very clearly says we are inferior to men. I'd rather be called a cunt than overhear a man being called that.

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    4. You're all pretty much missing the point completely.

      "cunt" (in British usage, at least) has more than one meaning.

      If you call a person a cunt, you are NOT making a reference to female genitalia.

      Seriously, people. It's like someone watching athletics getting upset at the commentator for using the word "race".

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  2. But, isn't the point to degrade the person, by insulting them? Regardless of what the word is supposed to be for, as with any, I think it's more about what kind of person is saying it and why, that is important. If he was calling her a cunt simply because she's a female, that'd be bad, but he was just calling her a cunt. I'd have to definitely say, as a woman, I like the word "cunt" and it's used against women and men. It's not exactly meant to be towards or used for a woman, it's supposed to be a word that means vagina. It's just another way to call someone a vagina, when they are being one, but the word is much more velvety and rich. (I like Louis C.K.'s whole thing on this, especially about the word "cunt".)

    I use offensive words all the time, ones people get all worked up about, but I pretty much use them because they are offensive and ridiculous. I don't discriminate, it doesn't matter who I'm talking about or to, most of the time it's just in good fun, while joking, and even when it's not, to me it's just another word for "piece of shit" or "fucker", no matter what it is. Also kind of like Lisa Lampanelli, it's usually more of a joke about racism or ridiculous stereotypes, rather than just being a racist or sexist douchebag.

    I do think a lot of people ruin the word "cunt" by using it discriminately or towards a woman specifically because she's a woman, instead of just using it to call ANYONE a cunt when they are just simply being one. Still though, I'd have to disagree with the thought that it is supposed to imply that someone is like a female which is bad, it is just supposed to imply that someone is a vagina, or rather, pussy. Calling someone a cunt is just like calling someone a dick. Why is cunt so much worse to say than dick to people? I don't hear people complaining about that one....

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    1. Also, what Rush Limbaugh did was different in a lot of ways. He was attacking women in general and that itself is not comedy or entertainment. It's the difference between saying something like "Oh, Bob is stupid" when he's poor, and calling all poor people stupid. He also wasn't just using a basic curse word, he was saying that he should get to see all women who use birth control should have to make videos of them having sex, so he could watch it. Aside from the obvious, that not only creeps me out, disgusts me and annoys me, but seriously... how do people listen to and believe someone that sounds that creepy, voyeuristic and sexually disgusting? Like someone who sits in their basement all day, in the dark, searching the deep dark holes of the internet to find the most disgusting porn anyone has ever seen....

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  3. Hey, this isn't anything to do with this specific article, but I just want to ask; I do not want this guy to end up as president, but I'm in England so I can't vote against him. Is there anything I actually can do from here?

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    1. yup!!! Move to America and vote.... YOU could be the deciding vote for either freedom or the slavery that is know as political correctness. If not just love the fact that your next religion will be the loving religion of the radical muslums.... YOU have a choice as do many others that just want freedom to live as a free person.... not as a slave to political correctness..... Example of PCness:
      "African American" in place of "Black," "Negro" and other terms. (However, "Black" is used in English-speaking countries other than the U.S.)...
      "Native American" in place of "Indian"...
      "Caucasian" in place of "White".....
      "Gender-neutral" terms such as "firefighter" in place of "fireman"...
      Terms relating to disability, such as "visually challenged" or "hearing impaired" in place of "blind" or "deaf"...
      "Persons of color" in place of "ethnic minorities" or "non-whites" in countries populated predominantly by people who are white.....
      "Holiday", "winter" or "festive" in place of "Christmas"....
      "arab spring" in place of "muslum takeover"
      "Persian Constitutional Revolution" in place of "muslum takeover"
      "White Revolution" in place of "muslum takeover"
      "Iranian election protests" in place of "muslum takeover"
      "occupy protesters" in place of "terrorist"
      "teens" in place of "young black criminals" (in 90% of cases)................
      Good luck!!!!

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    2. And by the same token, "PCness" compels us to refer to you, 'Artic Slayer', as "educationally disadvantaged" instead of "some nitwit who can't spell and has apparently never read a newspaper."

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  4. First of all, cunt is not a word that is solely reserved for women in America. It is not an insult I reserve for one gender or the other. You have to ask yourself when someone uses the word "cunt" what do they really define it as, does it really have a particular set in stone meaning that makes it a suitable insult in only particular cases? Or is it more of a general term or meaningless intensifier along the lines of douche bag, cock, dick, etc? Can you honestly say that bill maher used that word because its meaning was so peculiar that only it would accurately describe palin, or do you think he used it in much the way I described? an intensifier with a fluid definition. of course all words have an origin, but you must admit that their meaning and usage evolves over time. i highly doubt that when bill maher uttered the word he meant it as a gendered statement, or thought it would be interpreted as such. I also got a good LOL out of you comparing the n-word to the word cunt. It's just a dumb comparison, you are not going to find a single reasonable person on this planet that thinks those two words are equally offensive. On the other hand the words "slut" and "whore" have very specific, universally agreed upon meanings. They are words used to describe women known for promiscuity, and that is it. Sandra Fluke was baselessly attacked as a slut by the de facto head of the republican party for doing the same thing that 99/100 women in this country do. Sarah Palin has proven time and again through public statements and actions as an elected official that she is in fact a cunt. I know you would like to pretend it has a unique definition like slut or whore, but i've heard it said by both men and women to describe both men and women. It really is little more than one of an interchangeable repertoire of insults use with little, if any, particularity. Really all you are doing with this article is giving into this fake "both sides do it" bull shit that conservatives like to use when someone on their side says something offensive. There really is more nuance to the word bill maher used and when and how he used it. judging from the above article, you have chosen to completely ignore this, and instead opt to act like a quivering PC liberal cunt. It is people like you that give liberals a bad name.

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  5. Please, don't get rid of bitch too. Many women even deem it a compliment.

    Let's not get rid of any words -- to rid the language of gender-specific insults is limiting free expression with too much pc and even makes for less nuance (yes, even with the c-word.)

    What we need to do is to create equivalent words for men and, though these words won't have validity at first-- if ever-- because there is no historical meaning tied to them, just proclaim enough that this word is meant to be just as bad as its feminine correlative from now on and just see what happens. Why not just expand on the meaning of santorum so that now it also means a "male c***"? (Or call it gingrich.) Maybe we can even proclaim that "cracker" is a worse insult than the n-word, despite the latter's vile history. Not that it will work, but worth a try.

    Better to help neutralize certain words by adding to the lexicon rather than reducing it. Because the fact is santorums and c***s have actually existed in the world!(Hitler? Anita Bryant?) If these people didn't actually exist, the words would not be insulting. And somehow "sack of shit" does not do the trick.

    Yes, sometimes only the worst insult will do and hell if I'm going to be told that I'm a misogynist or what not if I ever did come face-to-face with Anne Coulter. Nothing but the VERY WORST insult can do with someone like her. Please, liberals, stop neutering yourselves! Ann Coulter isn't going to change, unless maybe she heard the c-word too much.

    Now please know, I NEVER utter the word c***. Just for the record. But I sure might want to some day. If I meet Anne Coulter, that is.

    And the n-word is disgusting and untrue, but is here to stay, it's shelf life extended thanks mostly to African-Americans themselves. They co-opted it much like gays co-opted the other f-word, a word I quite like as a gay man myself for the way it rolls off the tongue.

    Anyway, the words exist and describe SOMEONE, right or wrong. We can't erase the word for "cow", "hat", "jerk", "Saint", "hipster", "monster", "martinet", "lout" etc, etc. All these things exist in reality or concept or... if the word fits, it needs to stay.

    Even Hervé Villechaize preferred being called "midget" to "little person". And I respect his individual right to maintain that word for his identity than have to adapt to whatever the larger pool of little persons might deem offensive or not. So for Hervé Villechaize's memory, let the word stand. Subjectivity is, I beg your pardon, a bitch sometimes.

    One other point-- if I meet a stranger who uses the other f-word or n-word or what not, I get information so I know who I'm dealing with. As someone who has been seriously kicked in the head repeatedly by four thugs after responding affirmatively when they asked if I was gay, I don't want the company I'm in hidden from me because we've standardized language to the point of being white noise. If they had asked if I was a f** or f******, I might have known how to answer and not been kicked repeatedly in the head. The word f** is not what perpetuates their hate, it is merely a symptom. And symptoms help one spot disease.

    Fact is, there are certain people I know of where their awful essences are somehow tied in some part to their genders and only santorum or c*** will do. Let's not disguise feeling or expression or even truth with a ban on words.

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  6. I'll stop using the word cunt when you pry it from my cold dead mouth.

    I think there is a HUGE distinction between a person using these words as part of a highly organized 4 decades long political campaign against women's rights and gender equality and a person using these words to diminish individual women who work to enable that political fights success. Intent is 90% of how I judge any action.

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  7. As people who support freedom, Liberals should put no worry into this "issue". We have something called a First Amendment, which guarantees our right to free speech. If a Conservagoon asks why you called Sarah Palin a cunt, tell them because she is one.

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  8. I actually think its the opposite in some ways when talking about why its more acceptable for Maher than it is for Limbaugh.

    Maher was commenting on a public figure, someone who was running for an office and voluntarily put herself in the spotlight and was ready and willing to accept all kinds of words both positive and negative. Palin knew by running for office there would be bad things said against her by political pundits on the left side.

    Limbaugh attacked a private citizen for wanting to testify at a, not private, but less-public-than-election-related-events hearing. She was sharing a private story in order to sway specific people to allow medical help for people who need it regardless if the medicine in question is also used for something some religions consider immoral in some situations.

    In other words: Maher said what he said about Palin BECAUSE she was a public figure who was prepared and ready for the kind of verbal abuse public figures are used to.

    Limbaugh said what he said because he was angry at a private citizen for standing up for women as a whole. So Limbaugh was attacking women as a whole, and doing it through a private citizen. This is why what Limbaugh said is considered so much worse than what Maher said.

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  9. You are all tools. Limbaugh called her a slut for wanting someone else to pay for her sex life, that is the clear definition you all are using. By the way Sandra made herself a public figure.
    Calling Palin a cunt by Mahe, I agree was not because she was a woman, it was because she is conservative. Maher uses those words for any conservative.

    So my opinion is that people shouldn't be so thin skinned who cares what someone calls someone else, PC has gone to far, I get called names and I don't care, people need to nut up.

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  10. You all just want double standards.

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  11. Hrm. Ms. Fluke claims, on national television, that her contraception costs $1000/year. Given that the no-insurance price for the pill and an annual gynecological exam is about half that, one can only assume she backs it up with another form of contraception. Since condoms are the only contraception that helps protect against STD's, they are a logical choice. The other $500 of her $1000/year contraception bill will buy about 1200 condoms. That adds up to about 3 per day, every day. If she actually studies law during the week, and only engages her vagina on the weekends, that's 23 per weekend. Ms. Fluke must be very busy. But still, at this point, there isn't necessarily anything slut-like about the situation. After all, maybe she's in a monogamous relationship with a very active young man who can perform that prodigiously.

    Then she demanded that the government require someone to pay her expenses for having sex. That is the point at which she became, in the most literal sense of the word, a whore. Only her - not "women" in any general sense, not even "all unmarried, sexually-active women who use contraception." Just that one woman.

    I'm all for women having sex when they want, with whomever they want, so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. If a woman wants to be sexually active but does not want children at the moment, by all means, use contraception. Use more than one method. Just don't demand that I pay for contraception that's used in a sexual act in which I am not a participant.

    The "she's a private citizen" bullshit is just that - bullshit. She *was* a private citizen up until the moment she gave nationally-televised testimony before CongressCritters in an attempt to get them to force private entities to pay for something for her. At that moment, she became a public figure - which is exactly what she, a professional activist, wanted.

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