March 11, 2012 / Safety, Sexism

The Spring of Sexism


The following article was also featured on the Front Page of The Huffington Post.

You can thank Rush Limbaugh for the sexism revolution this spring.

His diatribe last week was the watershed.   Insipid slurs meant to diminish and demean a Georgetown Law Student for this offense:  being a woman.  More loathsome drivel on the airwaves – a veritable war of words waged against women in our country.  Yet, were his words novel or unique?  Absolutely not!

Poor Rush (well, not really) and his inopportune timing.  He was just being his outrageous, obtuse self; oblivious to the  fault lines created by a series of cataclysmic events for women.  Congressman Issa’s all-male panel discussing women’s reproductive rights, which, the next day was analyzed and sanctimoniously criticized for excluding women by – you guessed it – an all-male panel on MSNBC‘s Morning Joe.  We got to ponder whether aspirin between the knees was an effective form of birth control, before observing the three-ringed circus in Virginia, where, as the legislature mulled ultrasound probes,  Del. Albo bemoaned that the discussions were hurting his sex life.

Egad, all this left women to wonder:  are we back in the 1950s?   Women felt under siege – as if standing on tenuous ground.  So when Rush uttered another in his long string of sexist slurs –  ‘slut‘ – this time, it become a battle cry for activism.  Ironically, when the bombastic Ed Schultz used the same word on MSNBC  just nine months prior, our country could barely muster a yawn.

Something has changed.  Women, and like-minded men, have finally had it.  And it’s not only Rush feeling the tremors – a myriad of misogynistic rats including Bill Maher and Louis C.K. are being forced out of the darkness to face the light of humanity.  As President Obama said in a press conference this week:  “All decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.”  And we all, in the end, want to be decent.  Don’t we?

President Obama gets it by the way.  For the first time in his presidency, he boldly spoke out about the war of words on women.  Am I thrilled that it took three years for Obama to address sexism, not really.  But am I grateful that he did it, absolutely!

Obama’s message goes straight to the heart of the matter:  the other victims in the war of words are our daughters.  The media and popular culture have a direct impact on our girls’ hopes, dreams, ambitions and even safety.   Every vitriolic word, every sexualized and violent image, gets mixed into a caustic brew which shapes the ever present messaging in our girls’ lives.  The war of words scares our daughters away from running for office – tells them not to lead or seem over-zealous. The war of words frames our girls as sexual objects, valued by their appearance.  The war of words decries women and girls deserving of controlling behaviors and violence.  Do we wonder why women are moving backward in leadership measures, and increasingly becoming victims at ever younger ages?  It’s the messaging.

Take for example, Bill Maher who smugly thumbed his nose at us last Friday night:   ‘I don’t have sponsors’ like Rush.  We weren’t amused.  By Tuesday, Maher changed course to defend Rush and move onward.  We aren’t willing to.   For all those saying Rush’s comments are different because Sandra Fluke is not a public figure, you haven’t been watching Maher very closely.   His war on words extends not only to women of both parties, but also to private citizens.   And while Maher gleefully demeans women with words like ‘c*nt,’ ‘twat’ and ‘bimbo’, these words are hardly his most heinous offense.  He also employs violent imagery like ‘choked this b*tch’ and ‘splayed out on the hood of a car.’   Is this the decency President Obama was referring to?

President Obama spoke out and did his part.  Now we must demand a national conversation about the war of words and it’s impact on women and girls.   It’s not the President’s responsibility to police the airwaves – that’s our job.  And as I’ve read over the President’s remarks,  I still can’t find the section where he gives a free pass for sexism to liberal men.  Nor can I find a section where he says it’s okay to target conservative women.

In 2009, when I first wrote here at HuffPost that Sexism Against Conservative Women is Still Sexism, it was a groundbreaking notion.  Not any longer.  Last night, Louis C.K.  who tweeted sexist obscenities about a conservative woman, dropped out of hosting the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner.  Thank you Greta Van Susteren for standing up for women and girls.

It’s time we the people finally hold our media accountable for the war of words.  Men like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher should be taken off the air.  Argue free speech, fine.  Let them foam at the mouth with misogynistic drivel in their lives as private citizens.  But not on the airwaves!

Finally, there’s an old adage:  when you roll with dogs, you get fleas.  David Axelrod may consider taking his boss’ lead before going on Maher’s Real Time.  This spring, finally, enough is enough.

Join Our Email List

Be the first to know the latest initiatives from The New Agenda to improve the lives of women and girls.

Thank you for joining our list! Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

  • samsmom

    The response at Huffington is about what I expected.

  • ryan

    About time!

  • Kali

    It’s so heartening to finally see women standing up for women. Thank you TNA and thank you Greta.

  • Bes

    Lewis CK quit the Whitehouse gig, he shouldn’t have ever been hired but since he was he should have been unhired with the comment that misogyny is not entertaining. Quietly sweeping him under the rug is not sufficient. Obama should not take Mahers donation and Axelrod should not go on Mahers show. Democrats don’t have the will to recognize their own misogynists and take them on.

  • Susan

    Well said, Amy!

  • Juliette

    You go Amy!

    Greta Van Sustren did the right thing and called for a boycott of this event when Louis C.K was still going to “perform.” I would like to hear any of these liberal cowards spew their hatred of Sarah Palon and her beautiful child Trig while Tod Palin is in the room. Obama and the democrats have capitolized on this in fasion hip hop misogyny too long and it must be called out. Unfortunately we are living in a time and a culture that has been made callous and tolerant of irrational hatred of good decent women.

  • Juliette

    Respectfully Amy, I don’t think Obama gets it and his responce only comes in the shadow of the Rus Linbaugh controversy. Lets not forget that it was a young large brested woman in a wet t-shirt (Obama Girl) that first gor the American voters to pay attention to Barack Obama who was only a state senator 5 years before he became our president. HAving people like rapper Jay-Z a frequent guest in the situation room of the white house, a room traditionally reserved for destinguished high level government officials just allows me to believe that Obama likes the hip hop misogyny and how it helped his candidac. Remember that he took the stage at his Iowa victory over Hillary Clinton to Jay-Z’s rap “song” -“I’ve Got 99 Problems and a Bitch Ain’t One.” He even mimicked a jesture from the very popular Jay-Z video to this song. Greta gets it – not Obama.

  • Susan

    For the once and, probably, only time, I agree with Juliette. Obama doesn’t get it. He saw a political opportunity and took advantage of it, imo. He’s going have to do a lot more than make a phone call before I will forgive him for his many acts of sexism that have harmed women. Then, again, I will probably never forgive him for what he did to Hillary and her supporters in 2008.

  • BevWKY

    A combination of being slightly under the weather and busy with a project has kept me otherwise occupied so I haven’t commented on this one until now, but I also have to candidly admit that when I first read it, I got to this line-

    “President Obama gets it by the way.”

    -quite literally rolled my eyes and knew I honestly didn’t have time for the bull that followed. To be fair, I also realized that it was a post intended for the audience at HuffPo, so I was willing to cut you some slack, Amy.

    The thing is, you’re not posting it at HuffPo. You’re posting it here where you’re attempting to blend both sides ideologically speaking into a cohesive force to help women go forward regardless of their politics. So we have to able to call you on the bull and that, my friend, is bull. I’ll believe Obama and company get it when either he or someone very high in his administration actually do or say something that isn’t politically motivated that’s also actively pro-woman from both sides of the aisle. Not just one, mind you.

    And please do not bring up Hillary Clinton and her record. Does anyone really and truly believe she is included in Obama in company? Seriously?

    Because if you do, I have a bridge to sell you.

  • KendallJ

    If Obama gets it, why won’t he name it? He deliberately avoids calling sexism and misogyny what it is. He refuses to call it out. If he gets it, he would name it and call it out for what it is.

  • BevWKY

    Oh, yeah, Obama gets it. Not.

    “Obama Invites Trig Palin Birther Andrew Sullivan For Dinner”

    I’m not even sure how many different constituencies this is a slap at, actually.

  • Kathy Fitzgerald

    Has anyone read the “latest” excuse from Bill Maher that his sexist remarks are OK because he uses them on women who are public figures????

  • Bes

    Kathy, The BS excuse that Maher only degrades public women is just ridiculous. The reason both he and Limbaugh are bigots is because they try to degrade women who are trying to participate in the political process when women are severely underrepresented in politics to the detriment of both women and the country. I am sick of this BS that they used “unfortunate word choices” Yes, but what was offensive was the bigoted thoughts they represent and other word choices wouldn’t have changed those thoughts. And no I am not the thought police but I don’t choose to do business with any company who makes their bigotry possible. Limbaugh and Maher are pathetic excuses for humans. Also their excesses are insulting, as Mothers women spend all day listening to excuses and I find those offered by Limbaugh and Maher uninspired. So Limbaugh/Maher, I’m not as stupid as I must look to you and you know what they say about excuses, they are like assholes, we all have them, they all stink and I’m not interested in yours. Get out of my face pigs and take your sponsors with you.

  • Juliette

    I’d like to mention one man who most consider to be a liberal, whom I adored when I was a democrat (and voted for him instead of Al Gore) and still hold in high esteem. That man is Ralph Nader. He called Bill Maher sexist right to his face while being interviewed on his show. I would have preferred the word misogynist to sexist but in any case Ralph Nader remains the real deal on the environment and on human rights as a whole.