In my first blog post for MORE Magazine, I explore the (thin) legacy of women moderating presidential debates — including in this election:
During the October 16 face-off, Crowley will get to ask follow-up questions. But Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer, the men moderating the other two presidential debates, get to steer the debates by asking whatever questions they want. In a scenario that will feel familiar to women all across America, Crowley is tasked with running around and helping the audience while the male moderators have some real power.
You’ll want to read the entire essay and learn about the appalling record of women and people of color in debate moderator roles since 1988, when the Commission on Presidential Debates took over running debates from the League of Women Voters. Read the entire post here — and please spread it around!
As you now know, comedian Daniel Tosh thinks it’s funny to joke about rape. And apparently, lots of other male comedians and their fans think it’s okay too. And, since Comedy Central hasn’t canceled Tosh’s show as of this writing, I’m guessing that the network thinks rape is fair game, too. We’ve already heard too much about the insulting notion that men are inherently funnier than women. Now, it appears, women can be funny too — as long as their the victims in rape jokes. Seriously, America, is this really happening?
It’s possible to chock up rape “humor” and the fact that there are more rich and famous male comedians than women to inherent differences between the genders and the superior male grasp of what is funny. Or, here’s a wacky idea: We could blame institutional and societal sexism. Funny men are heroes in our culture — the only way to possibly explain men with such aesthetics as Woody Allen and Will Ferrell getting to play romantic leads while funny women like Rosanne Barr struggle to even be on the sidelines. And if you believe that TV comedy shows by and large feature white men because they happen to be superior, there’s a job opening at running a gas chamber that has your name on it. Then when one male comic makes an over-the-line sexist, racist or homophobic joke, all the other male comics, their male producers and their male audiences laugh and defend him. Boys will be boys, right? They ignore the hostile climate that their “humor” creates, that they are throwing gasolene on the hatred that fuels rapes and young gay kids killing themselves and all sorts of sadness and evil.
But the comics and their defenders get all huffy about free speech and insist you can’t be funny without being insulting. First of all, no one is stopping you from joking about women being physically and sexually brutalized. We’re just suggesting you’re irresponsible pond scum for doing so. And second, if you’re such great comics, you’d think you could find another way to be funny.
With that, here are five women who are incredibly funny and (as far as I know) have never suggested rape is funny.
Lizz Winstead @lizzwinstead
The founder of the Daily Show and author of Lizz Free Or Die even tweets about abortions, for crying out loud, but still does so with more dignity in her little pinky than Tosh could ever dream of
What’s the definition of madness again? Repealing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?
— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) July 12, 2012
Katie Halper @kthalps
This progressive comic and writer actually stands up to sexism in her stand up routines.
Guys, Daniel Tosh was heckled. And that’s the real crime.
— katiehalper (@kthalps) July 12, 2012
Wanda Sykes @iamwandasykes
As a black gay woman, if she went the route of Tosh, she’d just be insulting herself. Fortunately, Sykes humor is infatuating, not inflammatory.
Watching the results of the French presidential elections with my wife…pretending like I give a shit.
— Official Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) May 6, 2012
Kate Clinton @KateClinton
The doyenne of the lesbian comedy scene makes jokes about women-on-women action that manage to respect BOTH of the women involved.
For Old Times Sake:“Some women can’t say the word lesbian… even when their mouth is full of one.”
— Kate Clinton (@KateClinton) July 7, 2012
Loni Love @LoniLove
Loni brilliant insights about race and weight and gender norms and love open our minds to the world around us (and ourselves) as opposed to turning us on each other.
Shout out to Mitt Romney speaking to the NAACP right now looking like a high school principal…
— Loni Love (@LoniLove) July 11, 2012
Plus I’d love to give some honorary “men who are awesome enough to be women” praise to some male comics, holdin’ down the humor without holding down the opposite sex: Baratunde Thurston, John Fugelsang and Elon James White. Your “Feminist Dude” membership cards are in the mail, including some great manscaping discounts at a salon near you.
I know this isn’t everyone. Who’s missing from my list? Add your ideas in the comments section.
This morning, I was planning to write an aggressive defense of conservative political commentator S.E. Cupp, who was recently viciously maligned by the porn rag Hustler which Photoshopped a picture of Cupp with a penis in her mouth (please don’t Google said picture, it only feeds the beast).
I still plan to defend S.E. and express my horror that Hustler or anyone for that matter would attack any woman, of any political stripe, simply for expressing her view points.
But now, I have to express dismay that after simply tweeting my support for S.E. yesterday and my outrage at Hustler, I was hit with a barrage of tweets from conservatives. In addition to bizarrely accusing me of trying to “co-opt” the situation, many of those who tweeted at me resented my assertion that sexist attacks come from both the right and the left. Just a few highlights:
— Adam Baldwin (@adamsbaldwin) May 24, 2012
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) May 24, 2012
— Edwin F. Buckley (@OHenrysStepchld) May 24, 2012
First of all, it’s worth noting that S.E. has I think appropriately and graciously embraced the defenses of her from the left as evidenced by her Twitter feed. The attacks on my original statement had definitively more of a Michelle Malkin-esque tone to them. After all, Michelle has long tried to make the case that racist and sexist smears come more from the left than the right. This is, of course, to anyone who has studied history around the periods of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, a hysterical assertion. Moreover its incongruous with other conservative smears against liberals, including the assertion that liberals are the politically correct thought police. Pick a characterization and stick with it, won’t you?
But no matter. I have said on air to Michelle and will say here again that I don’t think it matters who gets worse hate mail or who gets called nastier names by radio talk show hosts. Sexism is sexism, whatever side it’s aimed at. Racism is racism. Period. Anyone who doesn’t believe conservatives vociferously and voluminously sling the same sorts of slanderous mud at progressives should check out my inbox — or, probably much worse, the inboxes of Soledad O’Brien and Rachel Maddow. Heck, folks, I’ve been called racist slurs in hate mail and I’m as white as they come. The fact of the matter is that people on both sides of the political aisle all-too-easily resort to fanning the flames of bias and hate in attempting to try and shut down their opponents — but especially women, people of color and gay folks — from speaking up. It’s shameful and we should all condemn it.
Women are under attack from all sides and no matter what political party you are in, I’m going to defend you from sexist attacks. I will not stand by in silence when a woman, any woman, is attacked in this way and belittled as nothing more than a sexual object. It’s about disagreement over ideas; smearing and demeaning women should not part of the equation.
Exactly. Which brings me to feminism. Feminism is based on the simple premise that women and men should be treated equally. Any female political commentator, whether on the left or the right, receives daily reminders of how far we are from that goal. The attack against S.E. is only the latest, particularly egregious example. At the same time, the fact that we even have prominent women leaders like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann who use their prominence to attack the feminist movement is a sign of how much feminism has transformed America for the better. Yet the ways in which those women — and Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz – are treated also shows us how far we have yet to go.
So perhaps the next time Michelle Malkin professes to be defending the interests of women from “feminazis” and “femagogues”, she and others would be wise to remember that not only have feminists long been the ones to stand up against these sorts of hateful attacks but that we wouldn’t even have female political voices and leaders were it not for the advances of feminism. It’s understandable that some conservative women want to try and rewrite history to pretend conservatives were the heroes for women’s equality more often than the villains they actually were, but the fact that Michelle Malkin and others like her even have a platform at all is in no small part because of feminism. It’s a shame that in the wake of a sexist attack that undermines all women, some conservative men and women want to turn around and attack progressive women. But I guess solidarity just sounds too socialist….
Anyway, ideology be damned, I know S.E. Cupp to be a kind and intelligent opponent. #IStandWithSECupp against any vicious attack against a woman for speaking her mind. Sign the Women’s Media Center petition against Hustler here (which includes a great statement from Gloria Steinem in defense of S.E.) and let’s all work to put a modicum of civility back in our politics and discourse.
On the dust up between Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen, I wrote for Politico’s Arena:
Hilary Rosen chose her words very poorly, but her point was spot on: Mitt Romney’s millionaire wife makes a lousy “economic adviser”.
And why, in the same piece, did I also go after Tim Geithner? Read it here.
In my latest essay for Fox’s opinion page, I detail the (very long!) list of things Republicans have done in the last year to undermine women’s health and welfare and conclude:
While women voters might rather focus on jobs and the economy, watching Republicans jeopardize women’s health and reproductive freedom while slandering those who try and stand in their way is enough to make women demand not only good jobs and fair pay but political leaders who respect the liberty and rights of women in America.
President Obama’s campaign may be paying for fliers and advertisements to attract women voters, but in this regard, Republicans are giving him the kind of help that money can’t buy.
Lately, I’ve found myself having to explain why Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” is dramatically different from women themselves using the term in so-called “Slut Walks”. Somewhere between the complex answer of a dissertation on Critical Race Theory and the overly simple response of a one-fingered salute is the following:
You can download this PDF here.
Regardless of the truth of their claims, we owe women who make any claims of sexual violence or abuse basic respect — not only because their accusations may be true but because doing so creates an environment in which other women feel safe to speak out. And that’s what we want for our daughters and sisters and wives and friends, right?
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