Well, what do you know! The National Organization for Women, after sitting back and tolerating (or perhaps enjoying) comedian Bill Maher’s repeated use of misogynistic language to denigrate women as long as the women—Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin—were anti-abortion and conservatives, finally spoke up and followed their mission when Maher’s show, as it was bound to do, went too far even for NOW.
NOW issued a release condemning Maher and his guests on HBO’s “Real Time” for endorsing rape and sexual abuse, or “angry fucking,” as proper punishment for Bachmann for the crime of not seeing the world as Maher and guests Dan Savage and Marc Maron do. While discussing Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus’s controversial gay Christian therapy clinic, the panel and Maher discussed “Mr. Bachmann’s” sexuality and marriage with Michele. Marc Maron declared that he hoped Marcus “takes all that rage that comes from repression and denial and brings it into the bedroom. . . I hope he fucks her angrily, because that’s how I would, and I’ve thought about it.”
Maher, who is responsible for the tone and content of his show, chuckled and egged his panelists on. Then Dan Savage, he who has made Rick Santorum’s name synonymous with post anal-sex fecal-discharge, announced that to avoid “charges of sexism,” and demonstrate that “it’s not just women we’re talking about fucking,” confessed that he “sometimes think(s) about fucking the shit out of Rick Santorum.” Panelist and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joined Maher in yukking it up over these sexual assault fantasies.
NOW, which shrugged off Maher demeaning Palin as a “dumb twat,” now says,
“Political topics and satirical humor have always gone hand-in-hand, but joking about the sexual assault of anyone is in no way amusing. Savage and Maron made it very clear that they have different political views from Bachmann and Santorum, but that gives them no right to fantasize about these candidates being the targets of aggressive, unwanted sex. It is deeply frightening that this needs to be said, but rape is not a joke, nor should it be used as a punch line for a political dig. These adults need to grow up and understand the weight of their words. And Maher, who long ago set the tone for his show, might consider trying to bring it back from the hateful path onto which it has strayed.“
Well, this isn’t bad for NOW, but it is far from good.
- Who sat back and watched as Maher “strayed” into this “hateful path”? The National Organization for Women. An acknowledgment of accountability is called for.
- NOW doesn’t get to decide what is amusing or a joke. Ask Mark Cuban and Maher what they find amusing. Anyone can find anything amusing. Mel Brooks finds Hitler and Nazis amusing. Quentin Tarantino finds mayhem amusing. What has consistently been wrong with Maher’s uncivil and hateful rhetoric is that it demeans women and is personally abusive, whether anyone finds it amusing or not.
- Nor can NOW say that there is no “right to fantasize about these candidates being the targets of aggressive, unwanted sex.” Wrong. There is an absolute right to fantasize about that or anything at all. It is wrong to use such fantasies to demean real women in public, but there is a right to do even that. It’s just uncivil, disrespectful and hateful—as NOW should have pointed out months ago.
- NOW is on firmer ground criticizing Maher’s use of rape fantasy as political warfare, but it can’t quite bring itself to be straightforward and say that this is unacceptable political discourse when its target is a Michele Bachmann. Maher understands the “weight of his words” very well; NOW just can’t bring itself to criticize Maher’s guests for using rape as a means of political demonization, so they are recasting his show’s “path” as politically incorrect humor, which NOW, typically, would ban. The fact is that “Real Time” stopped being primarily about comedy, and Maher stopped being funny, long ago—around the same time that he decided he was qualified to be a pundit.
So what NOW has done is better than the nothing it has been doing, making it a tepid, muddled, half-hero at best. It is still better than the conduct of Chrystia Freeland, the Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters who was the lone woman on the panel while the boys were indulging their hate-sex fantasies. She was perfectly positioned to stop the nonsense, tell Maher and his gang to cut out the misogyny, and point out that indulging in this bile was rude and disgraceful conduct toward her, a woman and an invited guest. Freeland would have been a true ethics hero to do so, and she should have intervened if she had the character and courage to do so. Obviously, she did not.
She should join NOW.