Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Old Balancing Act

I've been ruminating about a post on the Rosanne Barr / Samantha Bee foofooraw, and I may yet do something more extensive.  But the AV Club had a post yesterday, about Jon Stewart's reaction: "Jon Stewart Says the Samantha Bee Outrage Was Bullshit."  Stewart says that the Trump administration
"don’t give a shit about the word cunt,” Stewart said of the Trump administration, adding that he expects Trump himself “say that instead of ‘please.’” That comes from The Daily Beast, which says Stewart also implied that Bee should never have apologized, saying that the phony outrage game conservatives love to play is a “strategy” and “it’s working.”
Well, he's entitled to his own opinion.  What interested me was what the AVC writer, Sam Barsanti, had to say, namely that "it should be clear to everyone that saying something racist is worse than saying a bad word."  This, I think, indicates a what liberals / progressives fail to get about a lot of matters.  "Cunt" is not just "a bad word," it's a misogynist insult, fully as nasty as a racist epithet, and Samantha Bee used it as a misogynist insult.  She doesn't get a pass on it because she's a woman.  I'm a bit bemused by the way so many women see the word as ultimately, soul-destroyingly horrible in any context, but that too has to be taken into account in evaluating Bee's remarks.

Sally Field got it right, I thought:

(If you want to groan and bang your head against something, though, read some of the angry responses by Rosanne Barr fans to Field's tweet; the first one is typical.)

Should Barr's show have been canceled?  Should Bee have apologized?  Should she have been fired?  I've been thinking and writing about questions like these for a long time now, and I am no closer to answers than I ever have been.  I don't think there is a simple answer to the questions of when someone should lose their TV show or their job and when they shouldn't, of what is going too far, and the like.  But I also think that most people, regardless of their political affiliation, jump to demands that whoever offends them should be fired, and that alone is a good reason to reject those demands on principle. 

I'm inclined to say that Bee was not only indulging in misogynist abuse, which in itself is certainly free speech and therefore protected, but incredibly tactically stupid.  Calling Trump a cunt was self-indulgent, but it also played into the hands of the Right, and pandered to widespread misogyny among liberals.  I don't believe she should be fired for that; I do think in addition to pandering to specific audiences' prejudices, we need more rational discussion of just about everything in politics today, and that neither Bee, Stewart, Comedy Central, nor the media in general are interested in that.