Saturday, February 9, 2008

Misogyny in America

As night follows day, any rise in homophobia is paralleled by a rise in woman-hating. So it shouldn’t surprise anybody that, after two decades of virulent gay-hating from the Right, we are seeing a proud and public form of misogyny in America we haven’t seen since, oh, George Gobel.

I’m not suggesting a cause-effect relationship here. I’m saying that homophobia is fundamentally also an expression of misogyny. When a gay man is bashed, he’s being savaged because he isn’t conforming to his assigned male supremacist role. He is stepping OUT of that role defiantly because—regardless of the actual acrobatics—he is perceived to be willfully assuming the role of a woman. He is being punished for breaking ranks but despised for (symbolically) behaving like a girl.

Hillary Clinton is just the most obvious lightening rod for the woman-hating tribes. She, too, is stepping OUT of the assigned role and defiantly competing with men as an equal.

The symbolism is inescapable and the consequences predictable and the punishment swift and ceaseless. She can’t easily be attacked physically. (Oh, it could happen and it might still happen, but it can’t be done easily. She has Secret Service protection.)

But she can be subjected to incessant ridicule and subversion from the mainstream corporate media. It is a given that she would be. The corporation, that playpen of male domination into which frustrated gladiatorial violence is sublimated in glass ceilings and the myth of masculine commentatorial “gravitas.” The media, the collective mouthpiece of male-supremacist culture which speaks, as misogyny always does, out of the mouths of both men and women; otherwise the game would be too, too obvious.

After Fox, the most visible (but by no means the only) culprit from our vantage lately, anyway, is MSNBC: Chris Matthews, Tucker Carlson, David Shuster. I’ve already commented on Matthews and Carlson. Their buy-in to male supremacy is as deep and unexamined as the color of their eyes. Carlson, especially, exudes contempt for women and people of color unless they know their proper places: cheerleaders for the Right. It’s just as incessant but more subtle, oily and oblique, the gentleman's country-club idiom. The "vaginal-American" exchange comes to mind, a coinage that somehow managed to demean everybody all at once. While Carlson didn't utter it, he didn't rebuke it either. He used it for all the yukkety-yuk value he could get.

Matthews’ misogyny is much more obvious. He’s a brawler, like McCain. (Remember when McCain joked--joked, please--"that the reason Chelsea is so ugly is that Janet Reno is her father"? There's something core frightening about any adult male who will attack any girl, let alone publically and by means of a classically misogynistic/homophobic formula. It's of a piece with McCain's violent, racist joke "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," and it makes me wonder what goes on behind his closed doors.)

What else would we expect? Matthews' fixation with Hillary Clinton is legendary, and the depths of his misogyny as expressed in his incessant trivializing commentary about her is profoundly shocking as much for what he says as for his utter cluelessness about it. He breathes misogyny in and out, in and out, like oxygen, and is no less oblivious to it. It’s his natural element, taken for granted.

And that is what tripped up Shuster. Apart from the stunning contrast between how goons like McCain and Matthews ignore the Bush twins and pillory Chelsea, and the nastiness of the whore metaphor, I was offended because it never even once occurred to Shuster NOT to use that metaphor for someone's daughter. It was just so natural because it is just so natural. Just so Don Imus.

Women in America are waking up. Hillary and Chelsea are all of us, and we are seeing a play we don't like very much. In fact, we are enraged.

More on this subject anon.


Cathy said...

I have a thing to add for macho men.
(please excuse my English, as I am a French speaker):

If you won’t share the world, just get OUT
If you won’t share the world with women, do not forget that we ARE the world.
Never forget that if the world could carry on without you, without us, no more human being.
We ARE the world; we are the future

See what happens in France! Please do not repeat this error!

Anonymous said...

I am actually hurt to the core over misogyny in the United States. I have been offended deeply on personal levels, and I can see it in a bigger picture as well. Women are treated as objects, an it is to the point where they don't seem to understand that there is something wrong with it.

One small -recent example- of how this mentality trickles through daily life. I work a job in which the majority of the people are younger than me. One day, I was asked my age. I am not ashamed of my age at all, so I just said it- 32. (I think of it as very young, actually) They made such a big deal about it, almost as if it was a crime. After I thought about it though, I bet they wouldn't bother to care to ask how old the man in the room is. A few days later, someone made a comment that I was like a "mother" figure for the women who are younger than me at work. Excuse me, but one was 22, one was 19, and one was 28. I don't think so, and I didn't hesitate to point out their mathematical stupidity. In their own heads, 32 is matronly. The gig is up. You are out to pasture. I found it quite rude, and deeply offensive. They had a complex about my age- not me. They didn't even consider -that in making such a big deal about my age and what my worth must be because of it- was exceedingly disgusting.

Anyway, there have been plenty of issues with doctors, employers not paying me as much as the guy I was hired before, being called "girls" in the workplace by male coworkers,having an unsolicited suggestion that I lose a bit of weight so I could regain some of my "youthful" appearance, and more. We have become so saturated with everyday misogyny, that women even use it on one another.

It is depressing.