Double Standards or Different Situations?
After Rush Limbaugh’s latest disgusting comments about women, there has been a lot of buzz going on around how much slack we should cut him, what constitutes misogyny, how to respond, freedom of speech, and perhaps most importantly, misogyny on the left side of the aisle as well as the right. There have been a number of people who have pointed out that lefties are misogynists too (take Bill Maher for example). This article highlights some of the examples of Democratic attacks on women, and decries the left for remaining silent in the fact of misogyny in their own party, but for jumping down the throats of those on the right who attack women. But is there really a fair comparison to be made between sexism on the left and sexism on the right?
First, it is important to note that many on the left HAVE called out their own party members for their bad comments, but it’s simply not as visible when left-wingers yell at left-wingers on left-wing sites. But more importantly, we have to ask if the examples cited of misogyny from the left really reach the same level as those on the right. Yes, there have been times when individual left-wingers have made horrible comments, using words like “bimbo”, or “twat”. However there are a number of important differences between the misogyny exhibited by the right and that exhibited by the left. The most important difference is that the right actively pursues policies that back up their inappropriate comments. In comparison, Democrats are the party that has introduced equal rights legislation, equal pay amendments, and other bills that fight for women’s equal rights. Actions speak louder than words, and the harsh opposition to birth control, equal rights legislation, and abortions on the part of the Republicans makes it a lot easier to get upset when they say something inappropriate about women.
But even beyond that, there are other differences in the actual examples of misogyny in the two parties. With someone like Limbaugh in particular, the sexism is constant and extreme. His comments about Fluke alone indicated that he believed women owed him porn if they were having sex, and that he misunderstood the basics of birth control (which seems to imply he doesn’t care to have a basic understanding of female biology). These go far beyond name-calling and play into deep lying anti-woman tropes that insist that women should hide their own biology, that they owe sex to men, that their sexuality should be controlled by men, and that women should not be allowed to have opinions in public forums. Few of the examples cited in the above article from Democrats play into these tropes. This is the difference between some individual examples of name-calling and what appears to be a complete worldview that dehumanizes women. This can be seen vividly when Limbaugh compared women to cats. Additionally, Limbaugh has repeatedly, almost constantly let out a stream of hatred towards women (a simple google search can give you hundreds of examples, but here are some choice examples), whereas the article above seemed to have to look pretty hard to find examples (some of them hardly seemed sexist to me at all and were more on the level of personal attacks than attacks on one person that were sexist because of their deeper implications).
Limbaugh is just one person though. What about the rest of the Republican party? Well many of the major Republican candidates for president support Limbaugh and have given him money. They also support people like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, who also repeatedly let out sexist outbursts. Many of the candidates themselves have said pretty offensive things (a choice number can be found here, there’s a few from Newt Gingrich here, Romney refuses to decry sexism here, and here’s a particularly good one from Santorum in which he blames his wife for his own misogyny. This is a party wide game in the Republican party, whereas the comments in the Democratic party come less often.
None of this is to say that we should accept sexism when it comes from either side. We should all hold our political leaders responsible no matter what our beliefs. However we should also be honest about where the harshest words are coming from and speak out there. The Republican party has some upstanding people in it. They just need to speak up a little louder to be heard over some of the anti-woman vitriol that’s coming from people like Limbaugh.