Saturday, October 09, 2010

Whores, sluts, cunts, and bitches

On Thursday, The Times reported that the Los Angeles Police Protective League provided an audio recording of Brown calling the union to discuss an endorsement. Brown apparently failed to hang up, and then had a conversation with his aides discussing strategy in response to potential police endorsements for Whitman. Whitman had earlier exempted public safety officials from key parts of her pension reform plan — at the same time she said Brown would bend to labor's desires on the issue.

An unidentified voice can be heard saying, "What about saying she's a whore?"

"Democrats urge Brown to apologize over remark about Whitman" - LA Times

I guess my surprise over this remark is that anyone is surprised. The article above tries to minimize the problem by placing it within the context of tough political infighting. The problem, however, is that this is an automatic response to obstreperous women as such and is not a result of tempers running high in an electoral contest.

The use of sexual slurs against women who refuse to behave the way their opponents or competitors want them to behave is normal behavior. It is a culturally acceptable standard for maintaining power relationships between the sexes - women who fail to comply are sexual misfits who deserve to be disciplined for their transgressions. The discipline ranges from name calling and public shaming to rape and murder.

Was Jerry Brown the person who said this? Irrelevant. What matters is that the political left is just as comfortable throwing this around as anyone on the right. Misogyny is an equal opportunity tool of power.

Can you imagine someone in the Brown campaign casually tossing out "What about saying she's a spic/nigger/coon/wop/chink?" (assuming the female opponent is a person of color)? Nope, not even in a private conversation. Yet using comparably derogatory gender-specific language is done without hesitation, and all-too-easily defended with a heated "But she is one!" as justification for the slur. Really? "Whore"? Why not hypocrite, panderer, liar, fraud or any other term that would have been applied to a male opponent? Terminology that is both more accurate and more politically appropriate.

The problem is the unproblematic acceptance of using of women's sexuality as a method to invalidate their participation in the public realm. No matter who the woman is, no matter her political affiliation, no matter her actual behavior, it is perfectly acceptable to casually refer to her as a cunt or a bitch in conversations in a way that calling someone a dago or a yid wouldn't fly and where fag or fairy is raising eyebrows. To describe a woman engaging in any kind of deals or agreements that her opponent dislikes (whether because they are objectionable transactions or merely that they gain her some perceived advantage) as a whore or slut - someone bargaining her sexual favors - is likewise acceptable. Using the term "whore" with regards to a man is not really intended to call his morals into question; it is to feminize and delegitimize him as someone ready to be penetrated.

Which starts to point back to the foundations for the derogation of women in the first place, of course, but that's a bigger topic. The tagline for this blog (You say I'm a bitch as if that were a bad thing...) points directly at the way my gender is used to deny my humanity - that I'm not just a dog, but I'm a female dog - normalizing male as fully human and female as something apart, ontologically distinct as it were. It's my starting point into my political thinking because it is the irreducible fact of my life - that I must provide arguments to demonstrate that I deserve to be treated as fully human.

Back to the gubernatorial campaign. An apology for calling a woman a whore for having engaged in ordinary campaign bargaining misses the mark. An apology is simply "Ooops, our bad. We'll hang up the phone next time. Sorry you feel offended. (snicker)". It is words. The only reassuring action would have been to hear, as the next element in the phone conversation, a roar of disgust that someone attached to the campaign would dare utter that suggestion.

It didn't happen. Sorry, Jerry. I'll be writing in your sister's name in November.

Anglachel

5 comments:

Joyce said...

Great to read your thoughts again.

The missing "roar of disgust" is one of the first things I remember recognizing, many years ago, as a indication of how women are (de)valued. Noticing how often the labels are used, it is also telling to see how often they still raise a smile or snicker. Still "funny," after all these centuries.

Robert Stanley Martin said...

Glad to see new work from you. Hope everything's going well on the home front.

May I suggest enabling linkage to Facebook and other social media apps. Blogger offers that now.

As for the post itself, my reaction to the tape is a bit more sanguine. An election is a high-stakes, high-pressure environment, and things get said behind the scenes that no one involved with the campaigns would think of saying in public. I have no doubt Brown has been called a dick, a cocksucker, or a motherfucker at various times in Whitman's offices, and probably even by Whitman herself.

Marsha said...

I love your write-in solution!

I have been facing a subtle but disturbing form of the same thing - issues upon which my husband and I both strongly agree are being laid at my doorstep with sniggers of "she's emotional/hyper"/she'll get over it" - he is even being appealed to to calm me down, all the while his support for our joint opinion is being brushed aside.

I spit nails (no - not my fingernails!) and keep track of every nasty comment. Goddess will not be denied!

Welcome back.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

They probably didn't hang up the phone on purpose.

billy pilgrim said...

if the shoe fits....