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March 10, 2012

Slut Bitch Whore

Everybody is outraged – OUTRAGED! – over language hurled against women these last few weeks. First it was Rush Limbaugh. Then Bill Maher. Now Louis C.K. has resigned from hosting the Radio and TV Correspondent’s Dinner after Greta Van Susteren threatened a boycott because during the last election Louis called Sarah Palin a cunt.

From Greta Van Susteren’s blog: “he changed his mind less than 24 hours after I called for a boycott.  I assume many others jumped on the call for the boycott and thus he made the right decision.  We did it together.”

Sincere congratulations to Ms. Van Susteren. You asked for his removal and you got it. The lesson: words have consequences. His words, your words, everybody’s words. Mr. Rogers would be thrilled.

No word yet on Ms. Van Susteren success in her boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s show because no such boycott exists. Why the selective outrage? Because, as always, these things have far less to do with what was said and more to do with who said them. Like the words themselves, they have to be viewed in context.

The difference between what Louis said, and what Rush said is this: in his apology, Rush made a point of saying that his personal attacks on Ms. Fluke, were not intended “as a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”  

In other words, when he specifically called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” “a prostitute,” and encouraged her to post sex videos of herself online so he could watch, it was not personal. It was, therefore, general. Which I, for one, believe because it fits perfectly within the larger context of Rush Limbaugh’s twenty-plus years of ad hominem attacks on “feminazis” and gratuitous comments about all female journalists as “news babes.”

With Louis, his insult was actually the opposite: it was a highly personal attack. The target of his insult, Sarah Palin, so infuriated him that he felt the need to call her the very worst name he could think of. His insult referred to a specific woman at a specific time and place.

Did Louis cross the line? Yeah. Did Bill Maher? Yeah. Have I at times? Yeah. Has Greta Van Susteren ever crossed the line? Have you, in your personal conversations? Yeah. We all have. The difference is context. Do a Google search of the horrible shit Rush Limbaugh has said about women. Then do a search on Louis C.K.  See if it’s comparable.

Louis did use those words, and opted to drop out of an incestuous Washington dinner party rather than make himself the focus of this recurring debate on language. But the reason more people don’t give a shit about what Louis C.K. said is not because of a liberal bias – does anybody even know what Louis C.K.’s politics are, aside from hating Sarah Palin (a sentiment shared by many Republicans)? – but because the charge of misogyny just doesn’t hold a lot of water with Louis. 

With Rush it does. Regular listeners to Rush Limbaugh’s program, as I have been for years, are not surprised when he finds himself lambasted for his petulance, name-calling, and race baiting. It’s what he does. He’s kind of a cunt that way.

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lingin

IOKIYAR - Otherwise known as It's Okay if You are a Republican.

Actually, people did call for a boycott of Limbaugh's show. He has lost his mainstream sponsors.

Lhyzz

lingin: I think he's referring to Van Susteren's selective outrage, not the media's in general.

In the grand scale of misogynist dicks (let's let the word for male genitalia be even more scathing than the c-word), Rush Limbaugh is right there at the top, and Bill Maher is somewhere in the middle; I'm not sure if Louis C.K. even places. I hate the c-word, but even I agree that Palin is a cunt. I'd rather call her a dick, though. Such a better fit for someone who's always popping up at inopportune times, and poking its head where it isn't wanted!

I can't imagine why you'd subject yourself to Rush on a regular basis, I can only surmise you're a masochist. Which is ok.

Scargosun

Actually...Rush's comment was personal. I am not exactly sure how you came up with the thought that it wasn't...her name...suggested she have sex on the internet...called her a slut and a prostitute. How is that different from Louis CK calling Palin a c u next tuesday?

Brett

I don't think Scargosun got it...

Julia

Scargosun: Rush was saying that any woman who uses birth control is a slut, and any woman who wants birth control covered by insurance is a prostitute. I'm a huge slut and prostitute because I become anemic if I don't use birth control hormones to regulate my period. THAT is how what he said was general, not personal.

Amanda

Scargosun: Rush himself said that he didn't mean to personally attack Sandra Fluke, and if he didn't mean to personally attack the person he named, he must mean it as a general comment of women who use birth control. Of course Rush meant to attack Fluke and probably all women who use birth control. He just got surprised that someone called him on it.

Alex

The difference is that Louis CK is a flippin' stand up comedian, and calling political figures names is pretty much par for the course. Rush is a political commentator and said, dead seriously, that Sandra was a slut and prostitute for using birth control/wanting insurance to cover it. I call bullshit that the attack wasn't personal, that's just him backpedaling...but it not being personal doesn't make it any better, like MIB said.

Also: "Cunt" comments on a persons personality. It's like dick, douchebag, asshole. Example: Rush Limbaugh is a cunteriffic asshole.

"Slut" is a highly loaded accusation about a person's sexual "purity" that hearkens back to the days when a girl wasn't worth the pot she shits in if she wasn't a virgin.

Plus... Sarah Palin IS kind of a cunt. Everyone who uses BC is not a prostitute.

Michelle

Fans of Louis CK know he's a big fan of the word "cunt." To quote the man himself, "It's all chocolatey and round at the edges." He does a whole bit on loving the word. Does that mean he secretly loves Sarah Palin?

Okay, probably not.

But to be fair, there is an enormous difference between a stand up comedian doing a bit (and by bit, let's bear in mind the quick nature of the comment in question) on HBO or some other venue, and Fatboy Slimbaugh-the ad hoc leader of the Republican party-calling a woman with no podium, no public forum in which to defend herself, a slut and a prostitute in a tirade that lasted three days on nationally syndicated radio.

Big. Difference.

Emma G.

How about ANYONE who relies on calling someone a "bitch," "cunt," "whore," "prostitute," "slut," or any other gender-based slur is lazy, unimaginative, and sexist. I can't believe the number of people in the comments here who are at least implying they think that Rush Limbaugh's actions were inappropriate or they dislike the word "cunt," are turning around and agreeing that, well, Sarah Palin is kind of a cunt. By calling someone that word, all you're implying is that the person A) has a vagina and you want to belittle her or B) does not have a vagina but you want to belittle him by implying that he does, because apparently there's nothing worse to be in this society than a woman. If you want to make remarks about someone's character or actions, try using some descriptive words instead.

And by the way, Mr. Black, the outrage -- or "OUTRAGE!" as you mockingly put it -- regarding the words used to belittle and dehumanize women on a daily basis has been there for decades, not weeks. It's just actually getting some attention recently.

Jennifer R.

Well put, Emma G.

I agree that context is crucial, and of course there's no comparison between Limbaugh and Louis CK. But WTF is up with admitting that "cunt" is a sexist slur and then turning around and using said slur to conclude the post? Trying to be clever FAIL

I look forward to the day when "cunt," "slut," and "bitch" are no more acceptable than the n-word.

Jerome

Who is Louis C.K. and why should I care about what he has said? And why am I getting my news from my MIB RSS feed?

In all honesty, the president could call my mother a shitmunching cockmongler - to her face - and it would bring a tear of patriotic pride to my eye. My ancestors fought and often died eventually due to the cruel ravages of time in order to preserve our freedom to shout horrific, infuriating, and borderline libelous words at one another.

If Louis C.K. does not reverse his decision to withdraw as host and issue an apology for quickly caving, I refuse to go to the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner.

Julia L.

"With Louis, his insult was actually the opposite: it was a highly personal attack. The target of his insult, Sarah Palin, so infuriated him that he felt the need to call her the very worst name he could think of. His insult referred to a specific woman at a specific time and place."

You know, Will.i.am used this same excuse for calling Perez Hilton a "faggot." If it wasn't acceptable then, why should it be acceptable now?

lisa j

I agree that the key is context, but I would say that it's never ok to use that word to silence a woman you don't agree with.

Use it to refer to things that are not women all you want. That's not misogyny. But a misogynist word used by a man towards a woman is indefensible. There is no context in which I would say it's ok.

Louie seems to understand that, he has said that he tries not to use that word about women, and as long as he took responsibility for what he said about Palin and acknowledged it was wrong, I personally wouldn't accuse him of misogyny.

But I hope you don't think it's ever ok to call a woman that word. It's like a knife. Don't don't don't.

Renee'

I agree with many of the commentators thus far.

Very nicely written, Michael. Thanks.

You know Louis is intelligent enough to come up with a more sufficient adjective to describe Sarah Palin. If he looked up the word "dumb" in his thesaurus, he'd have his pick. But, in his defense, he's a comedian. So he may be inclined to go for the "I can't believe he just said that!" laugh out of habit. I guess.

Limbaugh, on the other hand, is a buffoon, and can only summon the types of adjectives that flow freely from teenaged boys. Because that's where his maturity level is. Like you wrote, he does this on a regular basis. It's who he really is, and how he actually thinks.

Men have been dehumanizing women since the beginning of time. And, unfortunately, many women (usually struggling with low self esteem and/or mental illness) have succumbed to the notion that their very existence is simply to cater to men. (See Pinks song "Stupid Girls"). Can only hope time will continue to empower women and enlighten men.

Less bullshit all around would be nice.

Karen

Well said, lisa j. I'm trying to stop using the c-word, but man, it's hard to come up with something else with that same punch. My current substitute is "fuckface", but I'm not sure I like the implication that there's anything wrong with performing oral sex. Maybe it has a connotation of not being very good at it?

Greta Van Susteren makes me sad. Not because she's right-wing; I know a few Republicans who aren't fuckfaces. It's because she got plastic surgery for the show on that shitbox network of hers. Internalizing woman-hate to the extent that you'd let someone cut up your face to get a job is just depressing.

Jorge Flores

I just think its funny that people are shocked. Did they suddenly forget that he has a not so reputable past (rush),particularly when it comes to women. Its juts the next publicity stunt in the political reality show we call american politics, yet i digress.

I have no reason anymore to check my e-mail other than to read about what Michael Ian Black is up to (or thinking about). I find it increasingly funny as time goes on because now its almost asif we were friends. I get contact messages from you as if you were an old high school friend that's only willing to communicate with me via pc for fear of getting kidnapped and locked in a cellar for weeks having to sustain yourself on dead mice, insects, and complements:

"Yes Michael, 'you'r not doing it right' was a very good book!"

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Andre

Not that this should be considered a defense for what Louis C.K., but I don't think it was a need to go for the shock factor that drove him to call Sarah Palin the c-word. He did admit during that barrage of tweets that was really drunk.

Andre

err, *he* was really drunk.

Andre

err, for what Louis C.K. *said*. You know, forget the whole thing. I'm reading this GQ piece about him and he does admit he goes for the shock: "...I don't regret that. It's comedy. I have said many indefensible things onstage. It's fucking comedy."

Even still, I'm a pretty big admirer of Louis C.K. as well, and I don't believe he is a misogynist. Should he have found another word for Sarah Palin? Yes. Should he have stayed away from Twitter while drunk on an airplane? Yeah, maybe he should have brought a book instead.

While we can all agree on that, let's not shift the focus here. What Rush Limbaugh and Greta Van Susteren are saying is far more important than what Louis C.K. said on a drunken Twitter binge, and that they've managed to misdirect so many people into thinking otherwise is marvelously Machiavellian and really quite horrifying.

The GOP is waging a war against women over their right to do what they want with their own bodies, and there are actually women who are going along with this. There are WOMEN on the right who agree with Rush, or defend him because he's on their side of the aisle. What Rush said was not a personal attack on one person and shouldn't be seen as such--it was an attack on all women who use birth control. He used his platform and his poisonous words, as he often does, to shame someone and persuade listeners towards his perspective. And then Greta Van Susteren came and threw the focus off of him, as it is her job to do at Fox News. That deserves our full attention and our "OUTRAGE."

Dave

Limbaugh's comments are of course WORSE to the extent they weren't personal. He insinuated that every woman using birth control is a slut. He suggested Sandra Fluke make her sexual life available for public enjoyment, the idea being that sexually active women are public property.

Louis CK, or Bill Maher for that matter, didn't say anything remotely comparable. They attacked a particular public figure with bad language, which, you know, is maybe born of ideology, but isn't ideological.

Limbaugh was playing in a different and much darker ballpark.

Dave

Also, why profess to be a long-time listener of Limbaugh's? Is it by way of explaining that you're kind of an idiot?

Michael

Dave-

Adding a little perspective is never a bad thing. Whether you are from the right or left, you should always pay attention to both sides of the argument.

Dave

One side: sexually active women are public property and sluts.

Other side: Sarah Palin is a cunt.

There is no "argument" being had here. There is no "perspective." There is nothing to be gained from paying attention to "both sides." If you really believe those things, I'm sorry, but you have no judgment.

Trisha

I just looked up Rush Limbaugh and the things he said. Is the guy a lunatic or what? Disrespecting women comes natural to him, it seems. One can only wonder what the condition of the women at his house are like. Seems they must be ashamed to be seen with him too.

Disrespecting women can never be part of any political or religious ideology, if it is; then one needs to look up whether it is purposeful at all.

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