Maher, Palin and NOW

Why are some victims of sexual degradation more worthy than others?

The left’s penchant to apply double-standards when it comes to speech was on full display again last week, as it took the National Organization for Women (NOW) four days to reluctantly admit that Bill Maher might have crossed the line while insulting Sarah Palin. According to NOW, denouncing Maher’s use of a gender-associated vulgarism was a relatively unimportant, time-consuming distraction that kept them from far more important work. Of course, it was NOW’s colleagues on the left who long ago decided that Palin’s use of language they don’t like – such as daring to utter the word “reload” – is terribly provocative and of the utmost importance.

Maher’s obsession with the former governor of Alaska resurfaced in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Japan earlier this month. Somehow, that tragedy translated into an excuse to insult Palin once again. After claiming that Palin wanted to invade the nation of “Tsunami” and that she said that “these Tsunamians will not get away with this,” Maher punctuated his attempt at humor by observing that Sarah Palin is a “dumb tw*t.”

It’s ironic that Maher would dare to question the intelligence of anyone, of any gender. This is after all the same fellow whose one appearance on a serious national news show featured him declaring that Brazil “got off oil” over the last thirty years and that the South American country now powers their economy on sugar cane. In fact, Brazil is the world’s ninth largest oil producer and the president of the United States wants to trade batteries for more Brazilian oil imports. Clearly, Maher is not a bright enough bulb to evaluate anyone’s intelligence.

One would expect that Maher’s misogynist remarks about Palin would raise hackles at NOW, but the organization refused to even discuss the issue when Fox asked for a comment. Then, on Tuesday, NOW finally issued a response of sorts. The group’s communications director, Lisa Bennett, published a blog post that was somewhat critical of Maher’s remarks, without bothering to name the comedian or address the incident directly.

“Listen, supposedly progressive men (ok, and women, too): Cut the crap!” Bennett wrote. “Stop degrading women with whom you disagree and/or don’t like by using female body terms or other gender-associated slurs."

With that slap on the wrist out of the way, Bennett then attacked her ideological opponents on the right for daring to wonder whether an organization that is supposedly devoted to defending women would come to the defense of a woman who was the subject of a particularly degrading insult.

“You’re trying to take up our time getting us to defend your friend, Sarah Palin,” Bennett wrote. “If you keep us busy defending her, we have less time to defend women’s bodies from the onslaught of reproductive rights attacks and other threats to our freedom, safety, livelihood, etc. Sorry, but we can’t defend Palin or even Hillary Clinton from every sexist insult hurled at them in the media. That task would be impossible, and it would consume us. You know this would not be a productive way to fight for women’s equal rights, which is why you want us stuck in this morass.”

The fact is that there are a lot of organizations representing a multitude of diverse groups who spend their time scanning the media and issuing responses whenever they believe that their group has been unfairly characterized or treated in the public realm. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such advocacy organizations scattered throughout the nation. Whatever your ethnicity, your religion, your illness, your age, your hobby or your peccadillo, chances are that there is an organization ready, willing and able to slap down anyone who might dare to offend you. But NOW – one of the largest advocacy groups in the nation – can’t be bothered to issue a simple statement denouncing a sexist bully like Bill Maher? That’s the very definition of “disingenuous.”

Asking NOW to comment on Maher’s remarks wasn’t about “defending Sarah Palin,” it was about hoping that NOW would adhere to a principle. If sexism and sexist vulgarisms shouldn’t be part of public debate, then let’s be consistent about that ideal. Let’s not insist on a squeaky cleanliness from one side of the aisle, while we ignore transgressions on the other. For, if we agree that vulgar sexism has no place in public discourse, then giving one side a “get out of jail free” card will only encourage more of that behavior. Denouncing abhorrent behavior has nothing to do with defending any particular individual. It’s rather a matter of focusing the public’s attention on behavior, rather than on the person. That’s what NOW is supposed to be about.

NOW’s petulant and tepid response to Maher’s remarks is further proof that the group doesn’t care about behavior or principle. They’re all about advancing the leftist political agenda. If that means that a popular conservative woman is the victim of a disgusting gender-based attack in the public forum, there’s no real harm done in their eyes. It’s just Sarah Palin after all. As far as NOW is concerned, she probably deserved it.