Friday, June 12, 2009

NOW Finally Denounces Letterman But Can't Leave Politics Out of It

Reaction to David Letterman's vicious attacks on Sarah Palin and her 14 year old daughter in the name of "comedy" continues to build. For example, see: "Why the Left Ridicules Women" is good and Melinda Henneberger.

Sarah Palin may be a politician, but she is also a mother and there is a natural phenomenon called "mother bear byndrome" that one ignores at one's peril: Here is an example from her guest appearance on the Today Show yesterday:

"In a sharply worded response to the off-color remarks, a Palin spokesperson said earlier this week that "it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman," a veiled suggestion that he couldn't be trusted around teen girls.

Asked Friday to explain the statement, Palin dug her claws in. "Hey, take it however you want to take it," she shot back. "It is a comment that came from the heart that Willow, no doubt, would want to stay away from David Letterman after he made such a comment. And you can interpret that however you want to interpret it."

Letterman had it coming. Too bad for him. If he really thinks that what he said was harmless fun, then he can prove it by going on air and making jokes about Obama's daughters getting raped by baseball players. He really thinks that it's all just harmless fun, doesn't he?

But the big news of the day is that NOW still exists, I mean that they responded to the controversy after being called out for two days by the media. The press release looks like a compromise. Probably some in the organization argued that they should never defend a conservative woman for any reason, while others argued that their credibility was swishing around the toilet bowl and they had to say something. So they did condemn Letterman, but also attacked conservatives in the final paragraph. Here is it. [My comments in bold and square brackets]

Letterman "Jokes" About Palin's Daughter

Offender: David Letterman on "Late Show with David Letterman"
Media Outlet: CBS, aired 6/8/09

The Offense: Late night TV host David Letterman "joked" that during their recent trip to New York, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter "was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez" during a Yankees baseball game. The next night Letterman said that the hardest part of Palin's trip was "keeping Eliot Spitzer away from her daughter."

NOW Analysis: After two nights of "jokes" at the expense of Palin and her family, Letterman tried to explain himself and offer something of an apology. On his June 10 show, Letterman said he was referring to Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol -- not the 14-year-old daughter who actually accompanied Palin on her New York trip. Letterman said "I recognize that these are ugly" jokes. [Notice that Letterman appears to lack a moral vocabulary for judging insults and hatred toward women. The best he can muster is an aesthetic judgment "ugly." Mr. Letterman, the word you are looking for is "wrong." Also note that Letterman's defense was that making jokes about your 18 year old daughter getting knocked up is just fine.] NOW agrees. Comedians in search of a laugh should really know better than to snicker about men having sex with teenage girls (or young women) less than half their age.

The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days -- it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. [This is an important point. They are right to say this is a huge issue. Good for NOW.] Letterman also joked about what he called Palin's "slutty flight attendant look" -- yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician's appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. [This is rather mild. What about the insult to flight attendants? Or does NOW not think that accusing a whole group of promiscuity is offensive? The issue of judging women, not by their appearance per se, but by their sexual appeal to men, is a big issue. Good for NOW for flagging it.] Someone of Letterman's stature, who appears on what used to be known as "the Tiffany Network" (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.

On that point, it's important to note that when Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old she was the target of numerous insults based on her appearance. Rush Limbaugh even referred to her as the "White House dog." NOW hopes that all the conservatives who are fired up about sexism in the media lately will join us in calling out sexism when it is directed at women who aren't professed conservatives. [Here is where NOW cannot resist dragging politics into it. Up to this point it has not been about liberal versus conservative or Democratic versus Republican, it has just been about stereotyping and insulting and degrading women. Why couldn't NOW leave it at that? Why drag partisan politics into the equation? Can't they see Sarah Palin, just for five minutes, as a woman and a person, rather than as a politician of a certain stripe? Apparently not.]

Take Action: Write to CBS and tell them what you think.
Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director, June 11, 2009

I'd have to give NOW one and a half stars out of five for this. They were on track for four until the final paragraph. It appears that they have a guilty conscience since Second Wave Feminists are the great enablers of male degradation and instrumentalization of women, (eg. by defending pornography) so they feel very unconfortable condemning this sort of thing even though they feel backed into a corner. What women need is an organization that puts women first and politics second. NOW is not such an organization.

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