I’m not the only one who thinks that David Letterman owes us all an apology. But it seems like there are only a few of us.
It’s probably no secret to some of you that one of my hot button topics lately has been the free ride the media often get when sexism tries to disguise itself as humor. Lots of people disagreed with my objection to the Spongebob Square butt commercial as inappropriately sexist and aimed at children. Now, just when I’ve cooled down over that one, I’ve got the whole David Letterman/Sarah Palin smack down to think about.
A few think I’ve lost my sense of humor and others have accused me of being a closet Republican because I believe that Letterman calling Palin’s clothes slutty and joking about her daughter’s sex life (I don’t think it matters which daughter he was talking about) were sexist, not harmless humor.
I can promise you I have not crossed over to the GOP and my sense of humor is intact.
My gut says that there’s not going to be much agreement between the humor vs. sexism camps on this one, but hear me out on why I think it’s important to object to what Letterman said, even for those of us who disagree with Palin’s politics. When a powerful entertainer with the media platform of David Letterman suggests that a woman governor is a slut and jokes about the sex life of one of her daughters, that sends a message to our children, especially our daughters, that it’s accepted in our society for men to make women’s appearances and their sexuality the brunt of their jokes. What’s worse is that it also says they get rewarded for it, big time.
Some on the political right have claimed that the lack of protest by progressives about the Letterman/Palin saga proves that conservative women bear the brunt of this type of treatment more than their liberal sisters. To prove the error in that argument, I only need two words — Hillary. Clinton. Not to mention the latest video from the Republican party that not-so-subtly compares Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with that infamous James Bond character Pussy Galore.
It doesn’t matter who the political woman of the minute is — comedians and talking heads alike will continue to use sexist terms in their jokes and “analysis” because it gets attention and attention makes them money. The fact that we’re still talking about all this is proof of that. But if we don’t call them on it every time — even if the target is someone of the opposite political persuasion — they’ll keep doing it and the next generation of celebrities and TV personalities will continue that tradition when our children are having children.
Some seem to think that Letterman’s remarks were fair game because Palin somehow brought this on herself because she injected her sexuality and her views on abstinence only education into her political persona. But don’t we just perpetuate that sexism by adopting that view? Just because Palin made the mistake of trying to use her daughter Bristol as the poster child for her own political agenda, doesn’t justify the subsequent sexist jokes of Letterman, which impact all of us, not just the Palin family.
It just seems to me that it’s a societal slippery slope if we say that, in the name of humor, it’s OK for our kids to see shaking booties selling burgers and high profile comedians mocking women politicians for the way they dress and saying that it’s just all in good fun.
My nine-year-old daughter is already starting to doubt herself on a whole host of issues. I’ve spent plenty of time dealing with some of the Disney demons, so I don’t need any help from other entertainment sources when it comes to convincing her that news and entertainment outlets really do respect girls and women.
That’s why I feel so strongly that it’s important, regardless of our political persuasion, to step up and speak out when this type of sexism continues. We have plenty to debate when it comes to the views and politics of progressive and conservative women; their physical appearance and sex lives should be left out of it. And while we’re at it, we can ditch the sexist code words so many use as default, as well.