I wrote this specifically for Daily Kos, addressing women on the left who are regular readers. The following may not be suitable for more easily butt-hurt readers.
I believe we can stipulate that the entire right wing of this country is as nutty as squirrel shit. On race, on gender, on science, on everything. The Overton window has moved so far to the right in general, as we know, that if we sneeze we’ll fall off the right edge and into the abyss.
What I’ve learned about the progressive movement in the past week has disturbed me so greatly that I am now at a Rosa Parks moment. We’ve been so busy wiping Dick Cheney’s piss off our necks that we haven’t minded our own house. We haven’t had time to fix our foundation, and that crack in the wall has spread until we now have a gaping hole in an exterior wall.
The thing that needs to happen now, IMHO, is that we need to hold a family meeting to inventory our values about gender. Is our moral compass properly calibrated? How will we know if we don’t compare notes?
Things that I had thought were settled long ago turn out to be no longer part of the conversation, even among progressive, gender-positive men. I’m working on a list of positions, and I’m asking progressive men in leadership to state their positions on the record.
1. Do we have gender parity on the left? (Remember, we stipulated that the other side is made entirely of guano. Asking only about our community now.)
2. Is sexual objectification/commodification a legitimate feminist issue? Or are men and women equally sexually discriminated against in our society?
3. Is the “culture of raunch” a problem? Does it belong in the progressive discourse?
4. Is the word “feminazi” appropriate for a progressive man? (Not discussing it academically, I mean using it the way Boss Limbaugh does.) Are words like “bitch” and “cunt” OK for men to use?
5. Do men and women have equal standing in determining when something is or isn’t a valid feminist issue, i.e., do men or women have the final say about when to table a discussion on feminism?
6. Are there any sexist men on the left? If so, who?
7. If there are, whose job is it to confront them? Does the responsibility of progressive men begin and end with their own communication? What are the mechanisms by which progressives push back against sexist men, and whose wheelhouse is that?
8. Would a “Girls of OWS” calendar be appropriate?
Unfortunately, I believe that if we got some of our most influential and powerful men to state their positions on the record, the rest of you would be at the same moment of existential panic that I have been in for several days now. Don’t worry, there’s virtually no danger of them stepping up to the plate, because they don’t have to.
But wait! You’re saying. Everybody jumped Bill Maher’s shit for saying we shouldn’t be pushing back, didn’t they?
Yeah, about that. There was a moment when I could no longer pretend it was OK, like I couldn’t un-ring the bell on one crystal clear fact: progressive men (as a legion, not individually) step up to the plate only if and when it’s politically expedient for them to do so. That’s when my roof caved in.
When Maher suggests we stop fighting back, that shoots all of us in the foot, including the men. It was politically expedient for men to push back against Bill Maher in that moment, i.e., meets the all-important “what’s in it for me” test.
I have yet to see anyone pushing back at him about the thing he said that totally galled me — because it’s a standard response to raising feminist issues with anyone, even on the left: you’re overreacting.
That’s just not good manners to say to anyone who feels offended, even if you’re thinking it. As a progressive I’d hope you’d at least stop and consider how that person feels and find some less asshole-ish response even if you don’t get it. Ironically, that’s what “politically correct” means: learning to sound respectful even if you’re not.
Best answer of all — the trait that separates progressives from wingnuts — either (a) already get it, because you consistently give a shit about other people, or (b) wonder if not getting it is maybe something you need to address about yourself. White hetero male multimillionaire standing on his enormous media platform telling me to calm down? Fuck you, Bill.
As a marginalized, utterly irrelevant woman who is literally fighting to survive every goddamned day I invite you to shove that up your ass and snap the handle off, Bill.
Keith Olbermann mentioned noticing that our sexism tolerance threshold has gotten way too high, and it was music to my ears. I wish he would’ve stopped there, but he landed on discontinuing “WPITW” instead. I feel he overshot. I hope he continues WPITW, takes one step back, and starts working on our sexism tolerance threshold.
Our community needs to take an inventory and very consciously establish boundaries. We’re setting boundaries with the right these days, great. What about men on the left? We have “men” in leadership positions within our community who are unabashed, remorseless, committed sexist pigs. There, I said it. Unfortunately nobody — male or female — stands up to them, because it makes one very unpopular. Voice of experience.
My short list of progressive men who I would like position statements from:
1. Cenk Uygur
2. Michael Shure
3. David Pakman
4. Ben Mankiewicz
5. Keith Olbermann
6. Al Gore
Actually I’d like to have as many of them as possible weigh in, including those whose answers will, I believe, track very closely with my own, including:
Dr. George Lakoff
Dr. Cornell West
Really all progressive men. I’d like to see them all state a position, so progressive women can review, aggregate, and confer on how that works for us and what, if anything, we need to do next.
In discussing this with a number of progressive men I’ve noticed an almost constant theme: They don’t want to take a position, they want you to go first and then they can attack your position. No thanks. You stand up first. Nobody hesitates to criticize a woman’s position, and if she tries to defend it anyway, they pile on. How about you all weigh in, then we’ll discuss it amongst ourselves IN PRIVACY and let you know what we decide.
Here’s the bottom line, the problem I now officially refuse to be dismissed on: Cenk Uygur is a misogynist, bullying asshole. He’s also positioned within our discourse in such a way that no one wants to go against him, because for any progressive with any media platform, that’s a lot of skin in the game. If you think the progressive punchbowl is improved by that giant pile of diarrhea in the middle, we must now part ways. Fortunately the hole in the exterior wall is big enough to step right through.
Regarding Keith Olbermann. I have great respect and appreciation for him. Understand that internally, I operate on firehouse rules; we treat everyone with respect, but we don’t actually respect them until we see them DO something that shows who they are under pressure. We just wait and see. I’ve seen Olbermann not only fight the good fight, but behave like a grown ass man over and over again, and I love him for featuring Janeane Garofalo and Maysoon Zayid. When Jon Stewart busted his balls (which I thought fell flat, personally) Olbermann handled it the way we do at the firehouse. Olbermann meets or exceeds the “this tall to ride” standard.
However, in firehouse rules, when one of your soldiers is an asshole, it isn’t just his problem, it’s his commanding officer’s problem. Civilians look at each individual and stop looking for culpability. In my world, we keep going up the chain of command, the same way a dentist pokes at holes in enamel to determine how far back we need to drill. Unfortunately for Keith, Cenk and his whole lousy crew are under Olbermann’s chain of command. Cenk is a cavity, and that means Olbermann needs to get poked. It’s possible that Vice President Gore does, too; fortunately he knows how this theory works. Again, we work systematically up the chain of command until we’re sure we’ve gotten everything.
It’s not possible that I’m the only person in progressive America who can smell that 800-pound sack of fermenting santorum in the living room.
Granted, a lot of the stench wafts out through the giant hole in the wall created by our cracked foundation that we’ve had to stop addressing since the Reagan administration. But we have a lot of men on the left who think it smells great.
One of our most influential progressive shows has an atmosphere where you could easily run clips of “Girls Gone Wild” in the background without changing the tone. The next day, there’s an interview with Dr. Lakoff, or Michelle Goldberg, or some other person who is actually worth listening to. Next day, back to scenarios that would never — NEVER — pass a parity test for any other minority group, including blacks, gays, Jews, or the disabled.
That’s where the rubber meets the road for me. I’m done. Stick a goddamned fork in me, I’d rather die than resign myself to living in a world where this is as good as it gets. The state of our progressive discourse these days makes me hate the world so much that I leave my house as little as possible. I found a website, and when I get the money I’m mail ordering a burqa.
No joke. I can no longer deal at all.
Check out this clip from David Pakman, where he can’t believe even more women aren’t outraged about the right’s treatment of women. He’s so “outraged” at this abuse that he’s chomping at the bit for someone to give him a way to go after the right so he can do it. Check him out, he’s like giddy, waving his arms around. I thought he might jizz his pants.
Let’s be very clear on what he’s asking: Someone help me find a way to get Bill O’Reilly or Boss Limbaugh to beef with me on-air. Let’s do a tale of the tape on the scenario he wants us to help him create:
Risk to David Pakman: 0
Potential reward for David Pakman: Holy Grail
Side note: the thumbnail he chose? A very fit young woman running, arms and legs away from body for perfect view of torso, lots of flawless skin, cut off at the head and face. Fuck you, David.
He clearly specified, the offer is to confront “the right.” I’ve asked him several times if he’d be willing to take the official first step of posting a position statement. Surprisingly, no response to that. He did, however, make a snarky reference to not being able to follow some random rant (mine), before he dismissed it. He’s not the first progressive man to punch down at me on air. I’m super, super impressed with his integrity and balls.
OK, so why is this diary called The Nuclear Option?
Because it has become abundantly clear to me that this is a microcosm for the whole discourse. Trying to have my issues addressed by progressive men is like trying to get tea partiers to have a reality-based discussion about anything. We have a little clique that gets to be the gatekeepers of the conversation. They make money and gain influence by playing little games that enrich themselves at the expense of our community as a whole.
I’m a marginalized, middle-aged woman with almost no social support network who has been in a pre-foreclosure posture for a year; I got driven out of my paramedic career due to my annoying integrity and compulsion to speak truth to power. I’m socioeconomically high-risk and frankly struggling to survive. If I don’t have standing in this discussion ON THE LEFT? Fuck it. All bets are off.
From what I can see, in the awesome “populist, horizontal” conversation where every voice matters that we’re having here, nobody will give a shit about any of this. The influential men with the media platforms and no skin in the game are too busy championing Anonymous, OWS and the War on Women to address my gender position statement request, fer shure.
I’m at the point where I don’t give a shit what happens next. I’ll be damned if I’ll grin and bear it while this beautiful movement gels into “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” The main difference between the old paradigm and their vision of the new one is scale, and that now the self-serving sexist fucks like Cenk and his little toady Pakman get to claim progressive cred while living like Republicans.
I’ll be damned if I’ll work to build our new castle on wet sand. If we don’t have internal consistency we have jack shit. That’s another thing that’s supposed to differentiate us from the wingnuts.
Bottom line. I’m going to call out Cenk, the Naked Emperor of Sexist Progressivism, as loud as I can. If some miracle happens any anyone at all is still reading, and Keith Olbermann picks up the clue phone, I will celebrate. I’m not banking on it.
I do, however, suspect that I may receive a warmer reception on The O’Reilly Factor. WHUT?!? Xave, you can’t go on the O’Reilly factor! You’re allergic to brimstone!
Don’t worry, I’m a paramedic, I know how to use an Epi-pen.
At this point I gives no fuck, literal or figurative. I’m sick of the left and right bullshit that promotes endless conflict to enrich the few by shitting on people like me. I’m not loyal to the progressive movement, I’m loyal to my progressive ideals. I’m loyal to liberty and JUSTICE for all. It’s possible that they won’t let me go on, but I bet they’d be happy to drill out all the decay.
If it’s going to come down to me being bullied, I’ll choose the bully that will put my issue out on the national table. I’ll pants every hypocritical sexist entitled gatekeeping self-serving motherfucker on the left with a song in my heart, sitting right there on Satan’s bidet in the No-Spin Zone. I have literally almost nothing left to lose. Think I’m bluffing? Find some shit out. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us. Can you hear me now?