Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Right on cue, The Incomparable One, serves up another excellent take down of the so-called-progressive media by focusing on the casual acceptance of sexism by the audience as a legitimate and progressive mode of political rhetoric.

Susie Madrak, in her review of Boehlert's new book, cuts to the chase more crisply than I did the other day:

Perhaps it will help matters if I point out the only blog reviews to date have been written by the bloggers who also protested the treatment of Hilary Clinton in last year’s primary. Which raises an interesting question: Is discussing even the possibility of sexism in the liberal blogosphere the third rail? Looks like it. ...

But the book does have a few flaws. Boehlert takes great pains to list the charges of sexism in the primary without really investigating them; for instance, I can’t imagine why he let it pass when a male blogger claims there was no sexism on his site because he didn’t allow his commenters to call Clinton a "cunt" or a "bitch." (Because, of course, we all know there’s simply no other language that could possibly demean women.)

My point - that the A-List and A-List-wanna-be bloggers were on message with the major media, not in opposition to them - is most clearly demonstrated by the way in which sexism was not simply tolerated, but deliberately and aggressively deployed, first in the primaries and again in the general campaign. I also think that we have to focus on class and liberal disdain for "low culture" as something that amplified the misogyny.

Somerby has always been clued in to this mix, though he often overwhelms the fundamental argument with his exhortative style. Today, though, he sets aside his usual arch delivery and delivers a sharp, uncompromising critique of the fauxgressive media celebrities and the pseudo-liberals who love them.

Bob starts with an insightful, critical, yet also sympathetic report on Marion Barry casting the sole dissent from the D.C . city council's bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Bob makes clear his own disagreement with Barry, and his hope that Barry's assessment of the effect of the vote on D.C.'s black community is wrong. He then asks why there is little attention being given to Barry's opposition and arguments outside of the D.C. Metro area, specifically among the "progressive" media. Indeed, why not? This is a significant political figure making a strong argument about a possibly violent rejection of a cause near and dear to liberal hearts, an argument that has resonance in California where Proposition 8, enshrining anti-gay bigotry in the state constitution, was strongly supported by African American voters. This is a serious point of contention among traditional constituents of the Democratic Party and needs to be understood and dealt with.

What do we get instead? The trivialization of the issue compounded by blatent misogyny, courtesy of Keith Olbermann. A long but excellent excerpt, all emphasis mine:

But it’s funny, ain’t it? You haven’t heard squat about Barry’s “ugly words” on your “progressive” cable news channel! But last night, The Dumbest Person in the World devoted another lengthy segment to ridicule of Carrie Prejean, an insignificant 21-year-old who recently made the mistake of saying something about same-sex marriage which Olbermann has never even bothered describing.(For the record, her view on the matter seems to resemble that of Barack Obama. And that of Hillary Clinton. And John Kerry and Al Gore.) The big nut went on for almost seven minutes mocking Prejean—and her breast implants. But it’s funny, ain’t it? You’ve never heard a word on this program about the things Marion Barry said.

Of course, the reasons for that are obvious:

Olbermann doesn’t have videotape of Barry walking around in a two-piece swim suit. And Barry is an older man, not a younger woman. As Olbermann has made dumb-foundingly clear, he seems to live for the opportunity to ridicule young women. He never says boo about older man—perhaps understanding they could come to his studio and engage in conduct which might require him to obtain a sphincter implant.

Olbermann’s a woman-trasher—a genuine nut on this matter. And no, we hate to break the news: He doesn’t do “progressive” television. He seems to do work designed to capture the eyeballs of well-meaning young liberals. And for some ungodly reason, he does television which has long been devoted to the ridicule of women’s brains and bodies. Marion Barry doesn’t count. An insignificant creation of Donald Trump quite incessantly does. ...

For sheer stupidity, we strongly recommend last night’s buffoonish segment, devoted to the eternal dumbness of Miss California. (To watch the segment, click this.) Olbermann plays you every way but blue, citing those breast implants two separate times (including in his opening paragraph) and failing to tell you why Prejean might be upset about the way she’s been treated. (He always forgets to explain this.) You see, in the world of “progressive cable,” calling a young woman a “c*nt” and a b*itch” isn’t worthy of comment —if she fails to hold pseudo-progressive views, that is. “Where are the feminists?” Laura Ingraham inquired. We would broaden her limited framework: Where are the progressives?

Oh, we forgot! They’re dragging their knuckles and sucking their thumbs, watching a 50-year-old nutcase get his eternal jollies. And drive his rating among the demo, putting millions of bucks in his pants.

Where are the "progessives" indeed.

The Incomparable One turns the criticism of the media around to those who eagerly consume it and who are proud to count Olbermann as one of their tribe. Bob asks what Eric Boehlert danced around but couldn't quite bring himself to ask, what Susie and BTD (among others) have asked, which is why are liberals so comfortable with Olbermann's and others' use of liberal politics to engage in crude misogyny?

With Prejean, as with Gov. Palin and in an oblique way with Hillary, the mysogyny is twisted together with a culture critique that tries to have its cheesecake and spit on it, too. The high-minded disdain evinced by (mostly but not always) men like Olbermann allows both the critic and the audience to manhandle stereotypes of "low" women, simultaneously creating what is low and implanting those reviled qualities into a disposable other, inviting each other to ogle, manipulate, possess and indulge in those despicable (yet deeply desired) aspects under the guise of rejecting them. We can't just talk about Prejean's opinions - we also have to stare at her (false, deceitful, whorish) breasts which serve as proof of her shallow character, her vanity, and her desire to be fucked over. She's just asking for it!

We lose sight of the real political challenge, the deep division within the Democratic coalition about our commitment as a party to equal rights, and we are assaulted by yet another misogynistic T&A drool session masquerading as political commentary. In the end, Somerby is less criticizing Olbermann than he is those who watch him with admiration, thinking that this is somehow progressive.

To think you can engage in this kind of misogyny and be progressive is simply false.



Anonymous said...

Dead on, as usual, and welcome back. One of the other really interesting parts of Somerby's piece on Olbermann is his take on Rachel Maddow and her forced participation in this sophomoric, misogynist clowning. I think he's right to detect some unease and constraint in Rachel Maddow as KO hands off his show to RM. But I think he's also right to speculate that she swallows hard and grins and bears it in the interest of her own career. It's just sad to see something like this happen on so many levels. Where ARE the progressives (hate that word - dammit, we're liberals!), indeed?

Shainzona said...

I wanted to scream yesterday when I checked out an AP article about an ivory sculpture that has been found in Germany. Here’s the really important stuff about what is probably the world’s oldest sculpture (emphasis is mine):

“Ivory sculpture in Germany could be world's oldest

BERLIN (AP) — A 35,000-year-old ivory carving of a BUSTY woman found in a German cave was unveiled Wednesday by archaeologists who believe it is the oldest known sculpture of the human form. The carving found in six fragments in Germany's Hohle Fels cave depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and LARGE, PROTRUDING BREASTS.”

Yup, protruding breasts, wide-set thighs, swollen belly, and busty. Really really important stuff. I, of course, figured that civilization has not advanced very much in the past 35,000 years.

But I wanted to learn more and did.

Forget the boobs and breasts. This is a venus figurine and it’s not even necessary to mention the boobs or breasts to convey what this thing is really all about.

“Oldest Venus Figurine Discovered

Wednesday May 13, 2009

The oldest yet discovered venus figurine has been recovered from the archaeological cave site of Hohle Fels, Germany, and reported in the May 14, 2009, issue of Nature.

Venus figurines are sexy (sorry, there is no other word for it) small carvings of women with exaggerated features, found in Upper Paleolithic sites between about 31,000 and 9,000 years ago in Europe. There are venus figurines of men and asexual humans, but that's a side issue best dealt with elsewhere.”

See. We can talk about things that are interesting and sometimes even important without ever mentioning boobs or breasts.

Excuse me for a moment…..ARGHHHHHHHHH!

Elise said...

Oh my goddess in heaven, I can't begin to tell you how glad I am you're back posting again.

You see, in the world of “progressive cable,” calling a young woman a “c*nt” and a b*itch” isn’t worthy of comment —if she fails to hold pseudo-progressive views, that is.Yup. On another blog where the blog-holder posted about the failure of feminists to object to the trashing of Prejean, I wrote:

It’s ironic, in a nauseating sort of way. Feminists - real feminists - fought long and hard to do away with the idea that women could be divided into Madonnas and sluts, into good girls and bad girls, with the former owed respect and the latter designated as fair game. Now Institutional Feminists have re-established those same two categories: women who think like they do are on pedestals while women who think differently are fit only for the gutter.Did I mention I'm really glad you're posting again?

Koshem Bos said...

Regrettably, I know very little about misogyny. At my work place women are treated equally to men. On the contrary, some women take advantage of being females to achieve political exploits.

American progressives are progressive in a narrow sense only. Equal rights don't figure, i.e. misogyny, and blue color people are ignored dismissively. The only way a progressive could have voted for Obama in the primaries was to be progressive in the narrow sense just mentioned.

This behavior is not preordained. The European left recognizes the avant guard as intellectuals who lead the movement for the lowers classes. What we have now in the US is a large group of what this blog insightfully termed as the Whole Food Nation. All this nation wants is a grocery store even more expensive and more exclusive than Whole Food. They believe that Obama is the best manager of such a store.

rcm said...

Glad you are back. Please do whatever reaffirms your inner strength so you will not get too bowled over by what you see and what others ignore - in regards to misogyny.
This is particularly crazy-making since it is ingrained into the culture. All the more pressure to shut up already.
I have to confess that I limit reading blogs which acknowledge this reality, since it is so painful. On the other hand, it is good to see that others perceive this, too.
I would have felt so isolated if you and others had not spoken up about the misogyny of some "progressives" during the primaries and after. It was a real shock to me.
It was a great discovery to find your writing and others who called out the 'progressives' on this.
Thank you, and please take care and pay attention to all those things which bring you joy and/or are just plain fun. And stay mad.

Becki Jayne said...

So glad to read your blog again, Anglachel. Indeed, your closing statement hits the mark perfectly.

A quibble on the vote for Prop 8 that "was strongly supported by African American voters." The caveat here is religion as analysis from Lavender Newswire explained:

"Since the passage of Proposition 8, much has been said about the supposed dramatic opposition to marriage equality among African Americans, fueled by National Election Pool (NEP) figures based on sampling in only a few precincts that erroneously indicated 70 percent of California’s African Americans supported Proposition 8. The study found that when religious service attendance was factored out, however, there was no significant difference between African Americans and other groups.

In other words, people of all races and ethnicities who worship at least once a week overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8, with support among white, Asian and Latino frequent churchgoers actually being greater than among African Americans."

More stats at the link.

To my thinking, Rev. Irene Monroe, an African-American, social justice advocate, and out lesbian, gets the issue about right (and you would, I'm guessing, agree). From her column that ran in The Advocate (Emphasis added):

"But assigning the blame for the passing of Proposition 8, so rightly dubbed 'Proposition Hate,' ought not to be about how any subgroup voted, but rather about how our government failed to protect the inalienable rights of all its citizens.

A government is ethically bankrupt when it legally frames a minority group’s civil rights as a ballot question. And one would think African-Americans would know the immorality of such an egregious act best given our long and tenacious struggle to not only have the right to vote and to marry in this country, but also to have the right to be free.

While it is true that African-Americans came out in record numbers to vote for Obama, black Californians are only 6.2% of the state’s population. And while it is true that the white LGBTQ community needs to work on its racism, white privilege, and single-issue platform that thwart all efforts for coalition-building with both straight and queer communities of color, the African-American community needs to work on its homophobia."

Can't argue with Monroe's last statement. A lot of work yet to do!

Anglachel said...

Hi Becki Jayne,

Thanks for bringing up religiosity and the Prop 8 vote.

First, let me be clear on what I'm *not* saying. I am not claiming AAs caused the measure to pass. Socially conservative voters are the reason the measure passed, and they come in all colors. And, yes, Rev. Monroe framed it correctly when she decried the govenment being willing to put up civil rights for a vote. THAT is the fundamental issue that is being buried under the arguments over race and religion.

However, what is also being ignored is that AA voters are a larger portion of the Democratic Party than they are a portion of the general population. They are the most loyal voting block in our party, and the one with the highest proportion of voter turn out. Finally, the party poohbahs have been taking this voting block for granted since, well, forever.

What Somerby was getting at was the way in which a true political issue - the strongly held views of a significant part of the liberal coalition are in conflict with the larger party commitment to gay and lesbian rights - is being swept under the rug and ignored in favor of "safe" sneering at the white trash babes.

Prejean is not part of the Democratic coalition. It is irrelevant what her individual opinions are on gay marriage. When Marion Barry, backed by religious leaders *within* our party say "This is something we feel so strongly about we may take it to the streets," this is a major wake up call to stop taking this voting block for granted, and stop assuming that the party is united behind this goal. It is also a warning that demonization, as we see done to people like Prejean, is not an option if you want to retain this constituency.

They don't have to defect to the other party. They just have to stop turning out to vote for Democratic candidates and selectively vote for conservative ballot measures.

A significant political issue is being ignored in favor of white guys feeling superior while they masturbate to their fantasies of doing Miss California.


Marsha said...

AS a former immigration attorney I have long noted that the Hispanic vote - which Dems suggest they represent - are also against pro-choice and gay rights.

This is the next "voting block" to be recognized as anti-gay - Gasp! How could that be?

Oh, and while we're at it, did anyone notice the switch in poll numbers who now say they are pro-live versus pro-choice?

Anglachel said...


All of which says that voting patterns are mutable. Constituencies change over time, usually because the leadership cadre of the previous party either stopped delivering the desired goods or could no longer provide the mix of goods to make the contituent's vote worth while.

If a party does not deliver tangible benefits then symbolic political goods will be substituted. If you don't want a constituency to value a symbolic good in conflict with the stated direction of the agenda (and we'll set aside for a minute the question of whether the Democrats can rightly claim to have an agenda any more), then you have to deliver on real benefits. Like health care. That won't make anti-[whatever] sentiment go away, but it gives you something else to offer when you do things like change the anti-gay rules in the military or grant spousal rights to same-sex partners in the civil service.