critical thinking class assignment: Left tolerant of misogyny?

(Thanks to EM for alerting us to the Slate blog post.)

Evaluate the following argument from a slate blog:

Conclusion:  the left is showing that it’s just fine with misogyny and violence against women as long as the women in question aren’t card-carrying liberal feminists.

Premise One: Donna Dewitt, the outgoing president of AFL-CIO South Carolina, bashed a piñata bearing a photograph of Gov. Nikki Haley, while men and women in the crowd shouted “Whack her harder” and “hit her again.” Dewitt continues to smack the piñata long after it’s knocked down, which is a nice touch.

(See the video below for a idea of the size of the crowd urging Dewill on.)

Premise Two: Elsewhere, Hustler has published an image—“a composite fantasy” in the magazine’s description—of conservative commentator S.E. Cupp with a phallus in her mouth.

Premise 3: … incidents like this happen with such frequency and casualness that it’s clear people think there won’t be any pushback if they attack a conservative woman.

With regard to the first premise, note Dewitt and the crowd:

With regard to the third premise, consider this from The Nation:

Feminists: Time to Stand With S.E. Cupp
Katha Pollitt on May 25, 2012 – 10:34 AM ET
Earlier this spring, Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” for arguing that contraception should be covered by health insurance. This week, Larry Flynt PhotoShopped a picture of conservative pundit S.E. Cupp to look like she had a penis in her mouth and published it in Hustler as “satire’—Cupp wants to defund Planned Parenthood, you see. No? I didn’t either. This degrading image has nothing to do with political satire and everything to do with wanting to put an outspoken woman in her place—on her knees with a dick in her mouth to shut her up. It’s a pornographic version of “Iron my shirt” and “Make me a sammich.”

Hustler may not be a beacon of the liberal media, as conservatives are gleefully claiming—but it’s all too maddeningly true that misogyny can be found all over the political spectrum, and needs to be denounced, by both men and women, wherever it appears. When it comes to women exercising their right to participate in public debate, we are all Sandra Fluke, and we are all S.E. Cupp as well.

What you can do:

Sign The Women’s Media Center statement of solidarity with Cupp, e-mail it to your friends, and post it on your Facebook page.

Tweet your support at #IStandWithSECupp.

Let the media—left, right, center—know that the crude sexualization of women who voice their opinions in public is not “satire.” It’s misogyny.

17 thoughts on “critical thinking class assignment: Left tolerant of misogyny?

  1. And the idea in the blog that ‘the left” got it with regard to sexism targeting Clinton, I’m reminded of Keith Olbermann’s finding Katie Couric the worst person in the world in part for talking about such sexism:

    On Wednesday night’s “Coundtown,” Keith Olbermann blasted Couric for her comments on the sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton and her remark that NBC News’ Lee Cowan should “find another line of work” if he couldn’t remain objective about Barack Obama.

    Olbermann called Couric’s allegations of sexism “a bit Kool Aid-ish,” charged Couric with misunderstanding Cowan’s comment, and praised Cowan’s objective reporting and his ability to separate the hype from the news.

    “It is sad that Ms. Couric could not have emulated [Cowan] and separated the hype from the news in her own promulgation of the nonsense that Senator Clinton was a victim of pronounced sexism.”


  2. Does anyone have any theories or has anyone ever studied why misogyny is such a strong force, much stronger than racism or xenophobia or even homophobia?

  3. To summarize the LGM thread, many manly menfolk didn’t want to denounce Hustler because they (wrongly) felt that calls to do so came from the right wing and were a form of trap. I (none too politely as the thread wore on) reminded them that the important, interesting, intelligent, and convincing calls to do so came from leftie feminists like Katha Pollitt and Lindsay Beyerstein (who contributed to the thread).

  4. John, the LGM post and comments are interesting and instructive. One comment got early on what I’d hope a critical thinking class would spot (but might not): “Yes, but the entire left has not denounced it publicly, therefore, they approve.”

  5. That is, that statement (following “Yes”) seems to be a hidden premise needed to make the argument work, but it is far from clearly true.

  6. Hello Anne, yes, that sort of thing is standard fare coming from the right, especially early in a new cycle: “why it’s been over 4 hours and the silence from The Left has been deafening. What hypocrites….”

  7. SW, i think you’re asking a question that really covers many different dimensions. Back in the final days of the clinton-obama campaign some feminists were claiming, particularly in the NY Times as I remember, that sexism was now politically much more acceptable than racism. I think we decided, for once in very considerable agreement, that this was a potentially divisive and destructive issue, but I think we also said that the difference, if there is any at all, might just be between what is overt and what is more subtle.

    Of course, misogyny covers much more than the political arena. One’s tempted to locate some of its power in other areas of life where men have considerable interest in controlling women. And perhaps vice versa.

  8. @JohnProtevi thank you for the link. I subscribe to a popular lefty newsletter that often mentions pornography as “liberating”, etc. I think you put things in perspective.

    Thanks all, for your interesting comments.

  9. It seems that the need to control women, to see them as objects (and to “other”) them is built into standard male identity, while racism is more accidental or contingent.

  10. Racism is “accidental or contingent.” I hope you are trolling. You certainly have not read any critical race theory nor any black feminists.

  11. James:

    If someone disagrees with you, they must be trolling. That’s not a nice way to begin a conversation, is it?

  12. I’m all in favor of condemning a culture of misogyny and violence, but I’m less sure about the specific target here. The thing about Flynt is that he’s not going to “learn” from condemning him and I’m not convinced Flynt and Hustler are central enough to the culture for condemnation to be very useful. Olbermann’s a better target. He actually has influence on people. Flynt pops up with stunts every now and again, but his cultural influence is gone.

    Flynt has been doing things like this for decades. He has been going out of his way to anger anti-porn feminists for years and years and years. He loves doing it. In condemning him, you’re condemning someone who knows you’re condemning him, wants you to condemn him, and loves to see himself being condemned. He does it for attention, and because he likes angering feminists. That’s his shtick. His media “empire” is an anachronism and has been in decline for years.

  13. while i understand the analytic desire to separate out these terms, racism is neither accidental nor contingent to/for women of color; racism and misogyny (and colonialism, and nationalism) produce different results for different women. i mention this mainly as a way to remember the false choice? double bind? that many women of color, black women in particular, were put into during the 2008 election season – see, in particular, the exchange between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Perry (then Harris-Lacewell) on Democracy Now from 2008 (annejjacobson, Steinem’s piece is the piece you remember from the NYTimes, I’m pretty sure). Moreover, as Nikki Haley is the child of Punjabi Sikh immigrants, it would be too quick to separate race and gender in this case, I think.

    as far as I remember, there were plenty of left feminists in 2008 who were just as critical of the misogynistic treatment of Sarah Palin as they were of Hillary Clinton, just as there are feminists who are just as critical of, for instance, Ed Schultz (who referred to Laura Ingraham as a “right wing slut”) as of Rush Limbaugh. if the critiques are not instrumental to party politics, they are for the most part ignored – which is why feminism doesn’t belong to any political party in particular, though it is a left movement. i am nonetheless compelled to point out that this is not to say that both sides are equally at fault, or that both sides equally resort to misogynist rhetoric or employ misogynist policies. we can defend sarah palin (or in this case, nikki haley or s.e. cupp) from misogynistic attacks and condemn her policies at the same time. feminists are ruthless like that.

  14. Sk, I thought you might not want your email address out there. I can put it back.

    I think SW was saying that racism seems less essental to male identity than sexism. That may or maynot be true, but it isn’t how he’s getting interpreted.

    Sw is certainly not a troll!

  15. That video is very disturbing indeed but I can’t see any obvious reason to think it is gendered. It seems to me that we are witnessing violent, aggressive morons, but I don’t know why we would think they wouldn’t bash the sh*t out of an icon of a male they hated.

    The S. E. Cupp story is quite another matter.

Comments are closed.