Just what a panting world needs: one more screed on the Rush Limbaugh Fluke-gate scandal. Researching this article meant wading through dozens of them, and I hate to add to the cyberpile , but since nearly every bloviator on all sides of this issue is obviously full of crap, I feel compelled to chime in with my groatsworth of sense.
A few premises: I believe, like Gore Vidal, that Sex IS Politics--and all too regrettably, Politics often becomes Sex. I believe in Freedom of Speech. I dislike intimidation through the marketplace, but boycotts remain one of the few political weapons available to the general populace against an elite. I believe in the existence of Good and Evil, but recognize that even those extremes come in degrees. I believe that between Black and White lie a billion shades of Gray; there are shades of racism, misogyny, homophobia and other evils; not finding black people sexually attractive (or ONLY finding blacks attractive) is NOT the same as refusing to hire them or sell them your house. Calling your wife a bitch is NOT the same as raping a coed. Drag queens tend to bore me, but I'm not stalking Greenwich Village at 4 A.M. with a nail-studded baseball bat . (Actually, two dear friends of mine are part-time drag queens--I just find them a lot more enchanting in pants and a shirt!) There Are no mitigating circumstances for murder, rape or civil rights violations, but many for our tastes in entertainment, sexual partners and rhetorical lapses--labeling these dichotomies as equivalents is absurd. (And who knows, maybe your wife IS a bitch.) Stereotypes are lamentable, but positive ones (Asians ace Math, Jews know Finance, All Blacks Got Rhythm, Irish guys are lovable alcoholic poets) aren't empirically inaccurate, while negative ones (Blacks are inferior, Asians are Evil , Jews eat babies, Irishmen are drunken impotent wife beaters) are demonstrably false--except that one about the Irish. And I believe the issues that sparked this clusterfuck---is health care a basic right or an earned privilege? Can private companies be forced by government mandate to deny coverage for services they consider "immoral? --have been forgotten in the rage-filled paroxysm that Limbaugh launched by attacking Sandra Fluke; indeed, they've waxed irrelevant. Let us grant then that misogyny is a bad thing, and misogynists often behave badly, but I ask again: how bad a thing? How badly behaved are misogynists? And what IS misogyny? Put simply, hatred of women; what isn't misogyny? Lusting after them, being mean to the ones who piss you off, hiring them to pose naked for your sex magazine--as long as you pay them a fair market rate. Does Rush Limbaugh hate women? I believe so. Does Bill Maher? Probably, but nearly as much or as vehemently. Have Bill's past lapses been equally misogynistic? Do they merit equal condemnation? I think not.
It's all sociobiology. Women are attracted to good looking guys, but they also love to laugh. Men deficient in looks use humor to compensate. So do their female counterparts, but it often backfires on them, since men tend to be threatened by intelligence, of which wit and humor are signs; they want girls who laugh at THEIR jokes, not tell jokes of their own; that's the REAL reason there used to be so few women in comedy, and someone as witty and brilliant as Chris Hitchens could write "Why Woman Aren't Funny" and not be joking. Guys who get into professional comedy often so lack looks or athletic prowess that even being funny doesn't get them laid; rejection makes a guy mean, and the smarter he is the meaner he'll get. Watch the live footage of Limbaugh's three-day, 9-hour anti-fluke diatribe. Recent publicity photos show a comparatively lean, bright-eyed. tan and healthy Rush in a snappy blue suit; that's not the Rush you'll see on video. This Rush is bloated, tired, bleary, pasty; he squints(a tell that he's bullshitting you); spittle flies from his lips to the microphone as he screams and bellows; his head shakes with rage. Visible man-tits swell doughily beneath his hideous teal polo shirt; he keeps re-adjusting the belt on his wide-load jeans as he squirms in his chair(Is it that old "anal cyst" -- i.e., the WART ON YOUR ASS that won you 4-F status during 'Nam--acting up again, Rush? It bears repeating, folks: someone came home from Southeast Asia in a body bag because Rush Limbaugh beat the draft. I hate chicken-hawks). He calls Fluke a slut for being sexually active(i.e. NOT celibate); he erroneously believes that birth control costs rise on a curve with the patient's promiscuity(Limbaugh's been detained by Customs for contraband Viagra, but let that pass). Fluke's requesting Georgetown pay her birth control costs makes her a "prostitute." (Surely SUBSIDIZING someone's birth control isn't the same as hiring her to shoot a stag reel?) After calling her a prostitute, he then DEMANDS she act like one--to produce and post online pornographic videos to compensate aggrieved "taxpayers"(technically, Georgetown is owned and run by the Society Of Jesus, but let THAT slide. We can decide later who exactly masturbates to Fluke's bachelorette party). When people reacted, he continued doubling down on this "Feminazi": How dare Fluke presume to testify before Congress? What's next, turning Jews into lampshades? Only after a long weekend of bleeding sponsors did he "apologize"--not for his attacking a private citizen's temerity in speaking out, merely his vocabulary in doing so.[ And please don't equate Fluke with Sarah Palin, Michelles Palin and Malkin, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingrahm--all professional celebrities; Fluke has yet to make a dime from her fame, which Congress and Rush stupidly granted her). This is NOT a political commentator, since his remarks lack all sense or logic. This isn't a journalist, since his facts are wrong or at least grossly distorted. . This isn't a comedian, since nothing he said was remotely funny. This is a sad little boy seeking revenge on all the girls who wouldn't play Spin the Bottle with Tubby Rusty, all the cheerleaders who rejected him in high school, all the Honor Society babes who made fun of him, all the wives who left him...all the women who STILL wouldn't fuck him no matter how rich, famous and powerful he is. Fluke, with her Ivy League Pedigree and elegant looks, embodies all these cruel dismissive females. Here's is a man at the top of his chosen profession, worth in excess of $100 Million, who makes presidents carry his luggage, visibly miserable. Suddenly the anger, the macho posturing, the mixture of prudishness and vulgarity, the four marriages, the oxycontin, the morbid obesity all make sense. How sad. How pathetic. How dangerous. Because this is a man who tells his legion of listeners that they don't need to research the issues, or even think for themselves: HE'LL DO IT FOR THEM. His followers, with idiotic pride call themselves "ditto-heads," proudly demonstrating their idiocy. NPR and the NY TIMES don't tell people Rush and Fox are evil; they encourage their audiences to go to the source and make up their own minds; Rush and Fox, on the other hand, tell their audiences to shun these news outlets, that their poison. In a sense they are right; medicine is poison for a disease. Antibiotics are poison to syphilis. Open Minds and Free Thought are deadly to propagandists. Republican friends of mine, all devoted Fox fans, refuse to listen to NPR--even its arts and music programs!--because "those people are Communists."
I ask them: "How do you know they're Communists if you've NEVER listened to their programs?" The unspoken answer: They He heard so on Fox. Fair and Balanced my ass. (MY ass is both, but that's for another day!) So yes, Rush hates women. He fits the definition. It's a blight on his career and his life.
Now Bill Maher is NOT a conventionally attractive man either. Through high school and Cornell, he was a self-described pariah. He has never married and publicly professes to be glad of it. But he has clearly cultivated his body along with his wit(the inside joke in the Comedy World is that the ultimate Funny Stud would be Jon Stewart's head grafted onto Maher's torso!), and dresses with considerable style. He has been "romantically" linked with several nude models and is a frequent "guest" at the Playboy Mansion. In short, Maher comes across as a man living out the no-commitment fantasies of middle-aged Joe Six-pack--which makes all the more ironic Joe's identifying with Limbaugh instead. His language is often as crude as his sociopolitical opinions are complex: he uses dismissive, gender-specific epithets against women in public life. But is calling woman "cunts" any different from labeling men "dicks," "pricks," "schmucks," or "putzes"? I don't think so. One feminist writer has quoted this Maher riff as proof of his misogyny: "Don't women invariably scream they want equality, but fall back on their sexuality when fighting fair doesn't work?"(I paraphrase.)
This may well be a misogynist statement(at least that "invariably"); but is it UNTRUE? One look at any recent Sarah Palin appearance would tell you otherwise:
First the Mama Grizzly act, then the fake tears because her family is under attacked. ( But "attacking families" is okay when it's Karl Rove labeling John McCain's daughter a Trick baby, or Limbaugh referring to 14-year-old Chelsea Clinton as "the White House dog." ) I recall right wing attack dogs like David Brock calling Anita Hill
"a little slutty." In any case: Laura Ingraham, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Michelles Malkin and Bachman, are in the lucrative public eye BECAUSE of their looks, so I fail to see why attacking them in sexually specific ways is unfair. I don't defend Maher's language, but equating his misogyny with Limbaugh's is absurd. Besides, Bill's actually funny, while Rush has always flopped in front of live audiences. People laugh at his jokes and sometimes think he makes sense; nobody mistakes him for a prophet.
A personal note. I am not a handsome man. (One sweet young thing recently told me I resemble Louis CK. Gee, thanks honey!) This once caused me a great deal of pain. Now I don't give a shit. Despite my lack of pulchritude, I've managed to do okay for myself. Unlike many of my married peers, I get laid. Never as often as I'd like (where's MY invite to the Mansion, Hef?), but who does? Sometimes, I've hated women. Other times, I've hated myself. I'd naturally prefer to hate neither, but of the two self-hatred is the less attractive option. Maher has chosen the former. I'd like to think I've chosen neither. Limbaugh, alas, has chosen BOTH.