Dept. of False Equivalences: Left-Wing Misogyny

So, with Rush Limbaugh insisting that any woman who would like to see her health insurance include contraceptive coverage is a prostitute, the state of Virginia legislating forcible sodomy for any woman who would seek an abortion, and GOP candidates seeking to ban contraception altogether, conservative bloggers have been working harder than ever to do what they do best: draw false equivalences to argue that “the other side does it, too… and they’re just as bad.”

And yet, like a student who read the Cliff notes version of women’s lib rather than the actual text, right-wing bloggers continue to show that they just don’t get it. The latest pathetic example of false equivalence comes from Slate managing editor, conservative columnist Rachel Larimore. In a rather lame attempt to draw parallels between Limbaugh, Santorum, the state of Virginia, et al and the Left, Larimore draws our attention to two incidents that supposedly prove that Liberals are just as prone to misogyny as Conservatives:

With two incidents that were reported yesterday, 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. As David Weigel mentioned on his Slate blog, 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.

Yes, in a nation as enamoured of violence and firearms and prone to murdering its politicians as we are, whacking a pinata bearing the likeness of a political opponent betrays an alarming paucity of judgment and a clear lack of good taste. How this equates to misogyny, on the other hand, is less than clear. Nor does Larimore attempt to justify the assessment through argument. It is simply assumed that an implicit threat of violence directed at a female politician is perforce misogynistic, whether or not there was anything gender-specific in the threat. So, not a very convincing example, to say the least.

Larimore’s second example is a more appropriate one, to the extent that the incident in question is indubitably misogynistic in both tone and intent. More troubling, as far as her argument goes, is the identity of the “left-wing” misogynist Larimore singles out and the venue in which his misogynistic attack was published:

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. Hustler’s reasoning? “Cupp … is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood.” So let’s shut her up. And, even better, use a penis to do it.

The problem with this example makes itself abundantly clear within the first four words of the paragraph: “Elsewhere, Hustler has published…” Hustler? Really? As in Hustler Magazine? These are the depths Larimore must dredge to conjure up an example of Left Wing misogyny? Larry Flynt as Liberal spokesperson? Hustler Magazine as journal of leftist political opinion? Since when has Hustler or its writers ever been embraced by the Left as ideological brethren and fellow travellers? –The answer, of course, is never– And pointing to a cartoon photomontage in Hustler as evidence of Left Wing misogyny is as disingenuous as holding up the reverend Fred Phelps as an example of Conservatives’ disdain for the families of fallen soldiers.

Furthermore, while Larimore’s second example is absurd, to be sure, to grasp just how unbelievably stupid her argument is, we’ve got to take a step back, for a moment, and spend a little more time considering the venue. Hustler magazine is a pornographic publication that monthly features pictures of naked women, spread eagle or crawling on all-fours, with more vegetables stuffed into their privates than are likely to be found at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s. It is a publication that delights in bringing its readers images and stories depicting rape, incest and all manner of objectification, abuse and degradation of women. And yet, with all this, Larimore wants us to accept that the Left’s failure to protest loudly enough against a Photoshopped photomontage of a Conservative commentator with a penis in her mouth is evidence that the Left is OK with misogyny as long as it is directed at conservative women: Last month’s pictorial of a young woman being actually sodomized by three men was bad enough, but this photomontage of a conservative commentator with a Photoshopped penis in her mouth… well that’s just taking things a bit too far!

The suggestion that this constitutes Left-wing misogyny is not just absurd, it is quite frankly, insulting and, yes, even obscene.


In further “clueless wingnuts say the STOOPIDEST things news”, Roy “I got yer Ten Commandments right here” Moore decided to go on record whining about how ignoring the “sovereignty of God” leads to Sharia law…

It’s more pathetic actually.

The GOP wants to have both a “war on vagina” and women voters.

The one thing that is lost on these defenders of Conservative “virtue” is that they’re arguing against women’s rights. No one likes a sellout.

Before I head off to my Cell meeting with Larry, I should note that the first example is fair game, under the principle of Imagine the Parties Reversed.

(I should also note that finding a name-brand woman governor to use as the counter-example is difficult. Yes, I know, Washington state, but I said name-brand.)

This doesn’t undermine the, um, broader point: Is that the best they can do? But no need to defend Piñatagate to make it.

@nojo: What’s sadder is there isn’t a single name-brand Vagina-American guv-nuh to jump to mind. Well, Jan Brewer jumps to mind, but that’s more like a nightmare. The Wikipedias has a list of Vagina-American governors. Gotta say, the GOPers are doing a better job than the Dems here.

All six of them:

Christine Gregoire
Washington 2005, Democratic
Prior to her election to the Governorship, she was Washington’s first female attorney general.

Beverly Perdue
North Carolina 2009
First woman (and only to date) to serve as Governor of North Carolina. Prior to her election to the governorship, she was North Carolina’s first female Lieutenant Governor.

Jan Brewer
Arizona 2009
As Secretary of State, she succeeded to the office when Governor Janet Napolitano resigned. Third consecutive woman to serve as Governor of Arizona.

Susana Martinez
New Mexico 2011
First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of New Mexico. First female Hispanic American Governor outside Puerto Rico.

Mary Fallin
Oklahoma 2011
First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Oklahoma. Prior to her election to the governorship, she was Oklahoma’s first female Lieutenant Governor.

Nikki Haley
South Carolina 2011
First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of South Carolina. First female Indian American (and Asian American) Governor. Also (as of September 2011), the youngest current Governor.

@SanFranLefty: Nikki and Jan are the Name Brands, and I looked at the same page in search of a suitable counter-example. Say what you will about the quality, but I would be running with that 4-2 factoid if I were a Repug.

@nojo:Eggzactly. It’s sad . That’s about all you gotta say. Until New York or California have a Vagina-American guv-nuh, it’s kind of sad. (Yes, Texas, the #2 population and size state had Ann Richards, my heroine, but she was so fucking unique I don’t know if we can count her).

Friend of mine works for one of those “let’s elect more chicks” outlets — I admire the sentiment, but she freely admits their biggest barrier is finding women egotistical/idiotic enough to run for office. She keeps bugging me to run for a school board seat, but I won’t do it since I’m (a) not a breeder, (b) sentient, (c) not insane, as (i) I can’t suffer fools, (ii) I hate small talk, (iii) I enjoy Jane Austen, weed, and vodka. Not that any of that is a bad thing.

@SanFranLefty: Until New York or California have a Vagina-American guv-nuh, it’s kind of sad.

So you voted for Meg?

@nojo: I was referring to the Democratic party’s 2 to 4 record specifically as “sad”.

@nojo: See, I disagree. Imagine that it’s circa 2003 and I’m blowing off steam by throwing darts at a picture of George Bush. A-ok, right? I decide to spread the love around, since he’s not the only asshole running the country into the ground, and swap in a picture of Condoleezza Rice. Now I’m suddenly sexist and racist instead of just angry? Come on. The whole exercise was childish, of course, but Nikki Haley is the chief executive of the state and a perfectly appropriate target of such abuse.


Agreed. It’s inappropriate and in bad taste, but… misogynystic? I’m not seeing it.


(Yes, Texas, the #2 population and size state had Ann Richards, my heroine, but she was so fucking unique I don’t know if we can count her).

Knowing Ann Richards, if they’d Photoshopped her like that, she would have totally went with the sentiment, saying something along the lines of “You couldn’t find a bigger one than that?”

@matador1015: Or, still relevant would be her famous statement, qualified: “well, George Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

ADD: Oh hey, the Beeb just ran a 30 second piece on “Amercia”, which I only just read about here. You Amercians are crazy, you know?

[T]he first example is fair game, under the principle of Imagine the Parties Reversed.

I agree. Some people would be screaming holly holy hell if the parties were reversed.

ADD: Yes, I’m Mitt’s copy editor.

@mellbell: @Serolf Divad: True, not misogynistic — that’s a Debater’s Stretch. But the event itself is fair game for some kind of ginned-up outrage.

@I’m passing for white: I really like Neil Diamond’s version of Holly Holy Hell.

@nojo: Got it. I just wish that being a meany-pants weren’t such a BFD. There’s no crying in baseball politics.

@nojo: To quote Bene, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” All I know about Neil Diamond I learned while serving his roadies Wild Turkey in the ’90s. And it [SEE‽] my comment read, “Wholly hell.” So sad.

Question for youse guys: Over time, I’ve heard from various people that newspapers are written on an X-grade reading level. Any truth to this? What grade(s)? Has it always been this way?

I’m about to submit an op-ed because I’m not okay with the press treating people like they’re stupid. My editor and I have a small difference of opinion on this matter. He has the experience, and he lets me slip some 50¢ words in, but he yanks a few. I’m okay with him yanking a few, and we negotiate sometimes, but I want to write about why the press has a duty to not only be accurate and clear but to also educate beyond what happens to the North, East, West and South. Part of imparting knowledge of current events (local and national) is using language that means what you mean and maybe sends someone to the dictionary once in a while.

You guys send me, that’s for sure.

@I’m passing for white: Write your op-ed like you. This is what we call style. Style is the linguistic approximation of the youness of you. Mind you, I have no idea about The Press.

@I’m passing for white: I’m not aware of any enforced newspaper reading level — it was all we could do to bang out stories on deadline.

But the apparent reading level may be a consequence of other things. As a reporter, you write short paragraphs and short, declarative sentences. Part of this is mere clarity, but part is also the conditions of printing: If a story runs long, you cut from the bottom. (“All the News That Fits” is a literally true gag.)

As far as fiddy-cent language, I tended to avoid it. You’re after clarity, and if you can state the fact for a dime, no point wasting your money. Also, I had it drilled into my soul to Avoid Jargon, which often as not obfuscates (ka-ching!) a point more than reveals it.

Good training, it was. But a major bitch when philosophy profs asked for five-page papers and I had everything down in one…

@nojo: Right. But sometimes a 50¢ word enhances clarity and conveys more meaning, and I guess that’s the difference between reporting and opinion. I’m not doing the Who, What, When, Where so much as the “Here’s my take on what’s happening here and how it affects me/you/us/no one and Why.” I’m usually limited to 750 words, and sometimes I run long–it depends on the subject. I guess opinion is a different animal?

@Benedick: Once I tried to sneak “city-cum-town” in there. The editor thought I didn’t understand how “cum” could be misunderstood…

@I’m passing for white: As it happens, I wrote a 750-word monthly geek column for the alt-weekly back in the Nineties. I learned very quickly that 750 words was just enough to express three thoughts.

In terms of columnist language (distinct from reporter language), sure, you’re allowed to spend more metaphorical money. But if you’re writing for a general-interest rag, it helps to have a sense of general-interest words. Or, in old-fashioned terms, consider your audience.

@nojo: Yes. I get to distill big time. Great exercise and an excuse to use them fancy-ass words. People are not as stupid as some think. Is it elitist to throw in that almost perfect word without obfuscation, or is it elitist to assume the reader is a moron and incapable of comprehension or using tools?

Assume (universal) you know your audience?

@I’m passing for white: False dichotomy. If you’re writing for the Chronicle of Higher Ed or the Christian Science Monitor, you can presume a more literate audience than the local rag, but not necessarily more intellegent.

Would I use “dichotomy” in the local alt-weekly? Not sure.

@nojo: Yes. Still gotta do me until my editor shoots me down. ;-) Plus, he lets me get into word play, allows me to give shit to the casinos and their destruction of this community despite their promises to save it, and some Af-Am and other inside jokes slip in. It’s fun, and it’s nice to have a mentor who allows a bit of latitude and gently reins me in when necessary. Black sheep meets black sheep.

@I’m passing for white: Yay! While we love your opining and way with words, it’s very cool to hear it’s going to a broader audience. (no insult intended to our lovely Nojo and Stinque’s circulation numbers).

@I’m passing for white: Have they erected a statue to the real-life Nucky Thompson yet? I want that guy’s spats.

@SanFranLefty: :-* (It’d be nice if they paid me, but hey…)

@flypaper: Haha! This guy was the real dude behind the scenes. There’s another family that runs this joint, but Imma shut up now.

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