Imus Strikes Again

Yesterday, Elle sent me this article under the bitterly amusing subject line "Newsflash: Don Imus is a jackass‏." Bitterly amusing, you see, because it's really, really, really not a newsflash that Don Imus is a jackass. Though he is most famously a jackass for referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," an incident for which he was fired by NBC (later landing on his feet at CBS), he's an equal-opportunity bigot, with as much homophobia and transphobia and disablism and fat hatred under his belt as his more well-known racism and misogyny.

But, in fairness to Imus, misogyny really does seem to be his favorite toy in the box.
[Emmy-award winning journalist Cokie Roberts] made the point that women in public life are still spoken about in a demeaning way that men rarely are. She was responding to a point I raised, about an exchange on Imus' radio program.

Imus asked Fox News host Chris Wallace, who was looking forward to interviewing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, if he would conduct the interview with Palin while she sat on his lap. Wallace replied, "One can only hope."

I made the point that Palin is also a Fox contributor and a member of the "Fox family" as it were, but that didn't spare her from being subjected to this sexist palaver, and Cokie made the point that the lure of the boy's club often trumps ideology.

It seems that Imus and Wallace did not appreciate our remarks: Imus accused Cokie of being "hysterical," and Wallace — whose office was next door to mine and down the hall from Cokie's when we all worked at ABC News together — pretended not to remember who she was.
What rakish rapscallions! Boys will boys, amirite?!

It's actually difficult for me to even write anything serious about this infuriating exchange, because I just can't even get past WHY THE FUCK DOES DON IMUS STILL HAVE A GODDAMN FUCKING CAREER?!

I quite genuinely wonder if there exists a level of misogyny that can cost a white man his job. I don't think there is.

Broadcasters like Imus, talkshow hosts like Jay Leno, professional athletes like Ben Roethlisberger, actors, comedians, authors, politicians, any highly privileged white man in a public career can literally talk about women on a daily basis as nothing but fuckholes, as second-class citizens, as hysterics and sluts and sexual objects, as less than men in every conceivable way, with special condemnation for women who deviate from the white thin straight cis young able-bodied neurotypical Beauty Standard in any way, can make rape jokes and domestic violence jokes and murder jokes and Lorena Bobbitt jokes and deceptive tranny jokes and feminazi jokes on a nonstop basis, can malign men by comparing them to women, can demean women day in and day out, using gendered slurs right on the air because "bitch" is just A-OK according to the FCC, and he can even personally rape or hit a woman, maybe a couple, all without any fear of consequence in his professional life.

Post-feminist society!!!!!!!!11!!!1!!eleventy!!!!1!!!111!!!

Understand, I'm not playing the Oppression Olympics here. This isn't an argument that racism, or any other bigotry, is dead—or even that the same people can't get away with a heaping fuckload of other kinds of bigotry, too.

Quite the opposite: Much of the bigotry expressed in these same venues is tied to misogyny. "Nappy-headed hos." "Tranny or Fatty." Militant Michelle. Ann Coulter is a man. John Edwards is a woman. Feminists are dykes. Brown-skinned immigrant women are breeding machines. Welfare queens. Fat bitches. Dumb sluts. White women are all this. Black women are all that. Latinas are all this. Asian women are all that. Bitches are all crazy! Heather Mills doesn't have a leg to stand on HAR HAR. Et cetera et cetera ad infinitum.

If I were a more cynical type, ahem, I would suspect that the dirty little secret of broadcasting bigotry with impunity is: Just make sure it's intersectional bigotry—tie your hate to a little high-larious sexism and you'll get away with it a lot easier.

But back to Imus.

The objectification here is so simple. The idea that an interview of a famous woman would be conducted while she's sitting on the male interviewer's lap. And the retribution is so simple, too. The pretense that an incredibly successful woman is invisible, forgettable, nobody, nothing at all.

It is nothing but the message: Remember, Ladies—You can spend your entire life working at something, learning, practicing, training, honing your skills, building your talents, giving every piece of yourself, your nights and mornings and weekends and every spare minute you have, keeping a laser-like focus on your ultimate goal, inch by inch making your way to the top of your field, becoming the best there ever was, maybe the best there ever will be...and whether you're a presidential candidate or America's best female skier, we can still put you in your place with a single slur, a single touch, a single image, a single shared chuckle over your nothingness.



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