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October 29, 2004


Speaking as a genuine, certified female, I also take exception to the following part of the exchange:

"At the Elizabethtown stop, Tori, the state Senate majority whip, said "I served with Dr. Dan -- let me tell you he is not a gentleman. I'm not even sure the word 'man' applies to him." The comment drew laughter and applause.

In a telephone interview last night, Tori repeated her comment and volunteered, "The remark is a little ambiguous, isn't it?"

Tori said that she doesn't consider Mongiardo "a man" because he "has never taken one step to help us on a major issue" in the state Senate. "All he does is whine."

She said that to many people, being a "man" means "being in control, being a leader.""

Also: meow indeed. Do we insult your genitalia by using them to describe these sorts of people? Well, yes, but we shouldn't.

Arnold's language was offensive to me as a man first and foremost. It was the towel-snapping language of the locker room bully, pure and simple. And make no mistake about it, Arnold is a bully. Ask the women who worked with him on his film sets. He intimidates others... now who else in power do we hear those stories about?

The Kentucky slur was offensive to me as a gay man. So Williams won't have anyone limit his vocabulary? That's the difference between civility in a campaign and what we are seeing now. It's one thing to disagree with an opponent's views but another to slur him.

Also: meow indeed.

You're right. I thought that might go over like a lead ballon. My apologies. I'll re-edit. So hard to know where to draw the lines.

Edward -- it's just that in my heart of hearts, I've always belonged to the school of thought expressed by either Lenny Bruce or George Carlin -- whoever it was who had that marvelous routine about how odd it was that "f*** you" was an insult rather than an especially emphatic way of saying "Gosh, I really hope that something wonderful happens to you!", given the nature of the activity in question. ("F. you, Mrs. Jones!" "Why, thank you! And f. you too, Mrs. Smith!") And likewise in the case at hand, as well as its male counterparts. (Gosh, aren't posting rules fun!)

Political rhetoric is a mine field, especially in issues of sex, religion, sex, sports and sex. I give Arnold the benefit of the doubt because, as I understand it, he was coming out in favor of the State of California steroid benefit plan. If his language suggests a preference of dykes over fems, or coverers rather than covered, its just his way of saying he wants to pump you up.

I should say, for the record, that I tend to dislike political correctness, but I love the sort of turning language around in one's mind that leads to e.g. the Carlin/Bruce/whoever routine I just cited. -- I remember once, in college, some of my friends and I were talking about swearing, and while none of us had a problem with it per se, we did think that it was sort of unimaginative, and that there must be any number of equally colorful, graphic ways of making the relevant points that we could think of, if we only tried. So we sat around trying, just for fun; this resulted in the permanent substitution, in my vocabulary, of the phrase 'in deep yogurt' for, well, what posting rules forbid me to say. I liked that effort.

Three thoughts:

1. These folks are out of line.

2. I come from the "use curses rarely so as not to lessen their impact" school. Still, there's a bit of a creeping PC here -- ironically, fostered by the fact that we're taking words out of context. "P_ssy" is frequently used as a put down without actually calling to mind the genatalia in question. When "Gay" is used as a slur, it's increasing in the South Park sense in which it is divorced from sexuality. Sensitivity is good and worthy, but I'd rather a few hurt feelings (and the apologies and understanding that hopefully come from them) than a list of "words that cannot be used."

3. This is a brilliant point, btw, by Hilzoy.

I should say, for the record, that I tend to dislike political correctness, but I love the sort of turning language around in one's mind that leads to e.g. the Carlin/Bruce/whoever routine I just cited.

I absolutely agree.


*Since I'm a bit in the Arnold position, here are my bona fides: (a) The majority of my pro bono work over the cource of my career, in terms of hours donated, has been for the Lambda Legal Defense fund; (b) I am frequently called a "p_ssy," albeit most often by my wife; (c) mentioning the fact that I have a wife is not intended to suggest that I'd be at all ashamed if y'all thought I was gay as a result of point (a), but rather to address Hilzoy's point; (d) the "Arnold position" is not, to my knowledge, a sexual position; (e) mentioning point (d) is not meant to imply anything about Arnold or his sexuality .... y'all see where this goes, I trust.

Point well taken hilzoy. Overall the problem with the insults is that they rely on belief that women are not as strong or resolute as men. This becomes even more complicated when it implies physical strength and the value of that.

I personally don't mind all the "counterparts" talk, either direction. I wish it were more open actually. The first time I heard a woman criticize another woman by saying "She doesn't have the ovaries to tell me that to my face," I was delighted. Owning the language is important I believe.

I also believe the idea situation is where gender-based insults become interchangable to the point where they take on more nuance, allowing for greater punnery and eventually less sterotype-reinforcing harm. For example, "bitch" has become a much more gender-neutral verb (to complain). And this is perhaps leading to the way it seems to be becoming a gender-neutral noun. Yes, the verb most likely originated out of a sense that women complain more than men, but today as a verb "bitch" doesn't necessarily convey gender. The use of the noun to suggest someone under another's control also has roots in the subjagation of women, surely, but that's changing too.

And I'm happy that you cited comedians in your explanation, as I believe humor is the key here. Watching "Sex in the City" or even "Friends" I've noticed that in an atmosphere where men and women treat each other with mutual respect these terms seem more funny than harmful. That's the avenue to neutralizing them. Mutual respect and humor.

I love George Carlin's routines.

But here's the thing. Carlin is smart enough to deal with this stuff in a funny intellectual way that makes you think, "Yeah, why is it that way?"

On the other hand, the instances cited by Edward are quotes from demagogic bullies, meant to elicit a certain response from a certain type of person. These bullies expect their targets (Liberals) to respond in a fairly, harmless, intellectual manner, which will then be taken as further evidence of the very traits their original slurs referred to.

Back to Carlin. His intellectual comedy routine is for smart people. But take him out on the street and have stupid people bully him, and they will be in a traditional fistfight with all the traditional language including the "f"-bomb in its full, original street meaning. This fight may be many things, but it's not going to be funny.

You will not hear "deep yoghurt" bandied about. Actually "deep, fermented milk" would be even funnier.

The folks Edward refers to require the full street treatment. They are not worthy of comedy.

typo clarification

idea situation = ideal situation

(b) I am frequently called a "p_ssy," albeit most often by my wife;

This is one of those contexts where I believe it's more than OK, it's actually good and funny. One of the potential pitfalls of political correctness is that taken to its logical conclusions some words/connotations would have to be totally drummed out of our vocabularies. I don't believe it's the words/connotations that are the problem though. It's the intent behind them. We need more variety in our vocabulary not less.

Regardless of the specifics, this strikes me as another example of the general "Liberalism is Unmanly" theme that's been a common line of attack since time immemorial. It's usually phrased a bit more subtly, though -- have we reached the point where schoolyard insults are an effective political tactic? I sincerely hope not.

Yes, I think Von's wife is funny as hell, in that context.

How about this context? Jim Bunning, former major league ballplayer calls Curt Schilling limpwristed after some high cheese. What do you think, is Schilling going to call a meeting of the Algonquin round-table for some witty intellectual repartee? Or are the dugouts going to empty?

I'm a Jimmy Breslin liberal. I'll be happy to write a column the next day musing on the charming insults I could have engaged in at the bar last night.

But first, we fight.

Of course, in the context of Obsidian Wings, I'm all metaphor.

Von: Sensitivity is good and worthy, but I'd rather a few hurt feelings (and the apologies and understanding that hopefully come from them) than a list of "words that cannot be used."

Not quite that, Von: words that we agree should not be used as terms of abuse.

There was a great thread on Body and Soul not long ago about the creeping habit of using words relating to women as if being female was offensive. There was a recent thread on Redstate even more recently which was sparked by the presumption that it's inherently insulting to say someone's gay.

This isn't a harmless affectation. It's a effect, not a cause, of course, but it's worth looking at: the difference in meaning presumed by the two sentences: "George W. Bush - a real man!" and "George W. Bush - a real woman!"

The first would be presumed complimentary. The second presumed insulting. And the same, bizarre effect would take place with the two sentences; "Condi Rice behaved exactly like a man!" - "Condi Rice behaved exactly like a woman!"

And as for Kerry's polite and positive reference to Mary Cheney.... So long as identifying someone who is publicly gay as gay in public can be assumed to be insulting or threatening, it is at least verbal collaboration to use "gay" - or related words - as terms of abuse.

slightly off topic, but...


more on the harm intolerance toward gays is still inflicting from Sullivan:

In Georgia, the head of the Christian Coalition is Sadie Fields, the major proponent of a state amendment that would eny gay couples any legal protections for thie relationships. No big surprise that her daughter is gay, like so many offspring of the religious right. Until now, the daughter has kept silent. Until now. Money quote:
I was 24 years old when my mother, through a series of mishaps, found out I was gay. My mother came over to where I worked, screaming, and told me I was "dead" to the family. She called me "sick," "crazy" and "of the devil." She said that I would never see my family again. For more than five years after that day, I heard nothing from my family. No birthday cards, no invitations to Christmas or Thanksgiving events. It wasn't just the loss of my immediate family that was difficult, but the loss of my extended family as well. Since my mother refused to be in the same room with me, it forced my aunts and uncles to choose sides. I have not been to a family reunion in more than a decade.
There you have the anti-family agenda of the religious right. By next week, they will have passed bans on any protections for gay couples in eight states.

No one deserves that, ever. Her mother is a monster.

Edward: After reading about the "monster mother", I want to fight, I want to engage in witty repartee, but first I need to go throw up.

The mother's (I use the tern advisedly) behavior is malevolent. And they want to get their malevolence all over the rest of us in the public square.

What to do?

I was lucky enough as a child to listen to a lot of Lenny Bruce (thanks mom and dad for letting me twist my sense of humor forever). I believe hilzoy is referring to Lenny.
Isn't it a long established Rove trick to call your opponent gay when all else fails?

Also, I thought the term "pussy" was originally more a reference to a cat ie. he brought a cat to a dogfight. Of course it may have multiple meanings depending on who uses it but I certainly hear my women friends use it as often as men.
Although, on the otherhand, "catfight" always pertains to women fighting when not being about actual cats.

"I use the tern advisedly" Term.

I use large sea birds for other things. Not proofreading while ticked off is my albatross.

hmmm... maybe its time to start taking gender, sexual preference, and racial slurs a little less seriously?

I know I try to - I feel as if the whole discussion of whats insulting to whom assumes that it should really matter whether or not someone understands your "pain".

If you are a gay man, do you ever make fun of your friends with lisps? We all know black people that make fun of eachother over "black" stereotypes, jews that poke fun of eachother about "jewish" stereotypes... and lets be honest - as a man I cant rip on my woman for being on "the rag" - but most of the time she deserves it (and takes the s**t in stride when it comes from her female co-workers).

Maybe people need to let these barriers down: How can you feel most confortable around someone when they cant make fun of you for who you are? when you cant make fun of them for who they are? How are we ever going to get over these "issues" if we cant be most comfortable with someone who is not just like us?

Your quirks, and adherance to certain stereotypes are part of who you are - maybe your worry about other people talking about them, and even poking fun at them is actually a hangup on your part and not on theirs?

(yes yes, i grew up in an ideal world, surrounded by idealists.)

Bender, I want to live in your ideal world. I used to, but was forced to move.

Richard Pryor using the "N" bomb on Nipsy Russell is a qualitatively different sort of language and communication than Lester Maddox using the "N" bomb on Martin Luther King. It would be fun to have a deep linquistic discussion regarding the difference in intent, the response required by the speaker from the one spoken too, or the one spoken about, but...

...certain people mean certain things when they say certain words.

I know what they mean. Discussion over. For me. Everyone else please continue.

hmmm... maybe its time to start taking gender, sexual preference, and racial slurs a little less seriously?

i would advise you to walk in the shoes of black, gay woman for awhile and then let's hear your thoughts.

Now that I'm done with teaching for the week: sorry to slightly derail the thread; I didn't mean to. However, since I have: my problem with a lot of the, um, genital insults is less that they are not PC, and more that they are not accurate. Thus, consider calling someone (I don't think this violates posting rules, since it's a dual-use word, but if I'm wrong, sorry) a prick. This isn't just a generic insult; it carries the connotation that the person in question is snotty and aloof. Now, is this a normal characteristic of the organ in question? Well, um, not in my experience; if anything, its characteristic failings tend to run in the opposite direction, sort of like my cat when he really, really wants to be stroked, and decides that the only possible reason why I am not doing stroking him is that I have not noticed him, and therefore decides to helpfully sit down on my computer keyboard. Once you have this thought, it's hard to un-have it, and (for me) hard to go on using this insult in this way -- leaving out entirely the fact that it is totally unclear to me why comparisons to the organ in question should be insulting. (It has always been perfectly nice to me...) And it was something similar that ran through my head when I read the original comment.

There are things I object to on PC grounds -- bitch-slap, for instance, is not the least inaccurate, but hearing people say approvingly that X bitch-slapped Y would really bother me even if I hadn't spent years working in battered women's shelters. Likewise, the various gay insults and racial slurs. One of the things I minded about the excesses of the PC stuff was that it took what seems to me an entirely appropriate response to terms like 'bitch-slap' and extended it past all reason.

I also agree with von on this point: "I'd rather a few hurt feelings (and the apologies and understanding that hopefully come from them) than a list of "words that cannot be used."" My operating assumption is that it's my responsibility to think about what I say, and that it's helpful to me if, when what I say bothers someone, they tell me, but not helpful if they just berate me rather than explaining. (Or, in other words, that arguing about whether it's right to use certain words is essentially like arguing about whether it's right to hold a certain opinion: the list of opinions about which it's OK to say: "you just do not get to believe this and be a decent person" is very small (Nazism and the like), but the list of opinions you might question someone about, in the spirit of good argument, is much larger.)

But when I wrote my original comment, it was because I thought what Edward said was analogous not to 'bitch-slap' but to 'prick'.

Hey - im just being irrationally ideal.

Im sure about half the people reading this are laughing WITH me, and the other half are laughing AT me - and IM NOT TROLLING - im just telling you how I try to play it.

Believe me - I get my life threatened by some of the "victims" on a regular basis. Still - maybe if enough people can play to that Ideal between friends, it can eventually extend beyond that? Even if you are a black, lesbian woman?

I always liked the movies that had all the odd kids in them (always made more sexy by the fact that most hollywood actors are pretty hot) - you know the ones with all the social rejects? They start out suffering because of their own differences, then we all discover that as a team their differences are specific advantages for the situation they are in.

Eventually they are all laughing at eachothers quirks.

Of course, its not part of human nature to accept and laugh at differences, even of opionion.

Hilzoy, my wife will never view our cat lying on our keyboard waiting to be stroked in quite the same manner.

Thank you. :)

And the rest of your comment is very sharply reasoned.

I guess it hasn't occurred to Ms. Tori that, by her own warped reasoning, she is a man. Whatever. The amount at which I am surprised at this is precisely zero. Here's a little secret for you, and you may want to be sitting down for it:

The Republican Party, as an organization, does not like homosexuals.

There, I said it. Oh, individual Republicans might, but as a party, the Republicans have little use for them, except to convince them that they should vote against their own self-interest on the civil rights front because security issues or economic issues are more important.


The below is most probably against the posting rules but it is on topic and a direct quote from Lenny Bruce which is also slightly on topic. I think we can all agree that the point is rather idealistic:

"Oh, my god, did you hear what he said? Are there any niggers here tonight? Is that rank! Is that cruel! Is that a cheap way to get laughs? Well, I think I see a nigger at the bar talking to two guinea owners and next to them....Now why have I done this? Is it only for shock value? Well, if all the niggers started calling each other nigger, not only among themselves, which they do anyway, but among others. If President Kennedy got on television and said:'I'm considering appointing two or three of the top niggers in the country to my cabinet'-if it was nothing but nigger, nigger, nigger- in six months nigger wouldn't mean any more than good night, god bless you...-when that beautiful day comes, you'll never see another nigger kid come home from school crying because some motherfucker called him a nigger."
---Lenny Bruce

When that beautiful day comes...

I'm all for that day coming and we live in a society that over time progressively seeks that day.

But until then, before the little kid comes crying home, he or she needs to unload the "mofo" bomb on the "mofo".

It's a stop gap measure I realize, but it at least gets the attention of the "mofos" until the great day comes.

The idea's nice, but it fails in light of the fact that there's nothing intrinsic to any word that makes it offensive. It's the repeated offensive and dehumanizing intent that makes it offensive. The word 'sandwich' would become incredibly offensive if it was used repeatedly and vehemently as a euphemism for someone who deserves no respect because of e.g. their race, gender, upbringing, whatever. So you can neuter any word you like and another one will roll right into its place. You have to deal with the mouths making the words.

Exactly, sidereal. The words are irrelevent in themselves; the intent is what matters. I very strongly self-identify as a 'geek'. You could write a whole book on the etymology and meaning of that word. You cannot look at words outside of theur context. It is meaningless. Which is one of the reasons, BTW, why censorship is so evil.

sidereal and Duane,
Only a 'geek' and a 'sandwich' would write the opinions you two expressed above.


I am a sandwich.

Proud sandwiches of the world unite! We have nothing to lose but our salad.

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