Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Eh, Whatever

So what have we learned from the Don Imus dust-up? That it’s not OK to call black women “nappy-headed ho’s.” If you’re a white man. If you’re a black man—have at it.

I’m not defending Imus. But I’m also not wildly impressed with his critics. Racism has no place on the public airwaves, shout the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson. But sexism? Eh, whatever. It’s not the “ho” that troubles them (I don’t recall Jackson threatening to picket 50 Cent), but the “nappy-headed.”

Imus has used any number of viciously derogatory terms when referring to Hillary Clinton. No one seems to mind. Sunday night, hours before the Imus situation exploded into full-blown scandal, a white male contestant on CBS’s “The Amazing Race” referred to white female competitors as “hookers.” I think he thought he was being funny; Imus used the same defense. (And maybe black women find “ho” amusing when uttered by black men. Speaking as a white woman, “hooker” is never taken as a compliment.) Last I checked, the Amazing contestant was still in the running for the show’s $1 million final prize. The message seems clear: racially offensive comments are taboo; sexist comments are acceptable. Statements that demean a person based on the color of their skin will earn you a suspension; statements that demean a person based on their gender won’t merit so much as a timeout.

I’ve been watching the coverage of Barack vs. Hillary with keen interest. I wonder what’s so appealing about the one and what makes the other so “un-electable”? It’s a charisma gap, people say. Hillary is cold, calculating, arrogant, ambitious. All of which has nothing to do with her politics or capabilities as a leader, I would argue, and everything to do with traditional notions of desirable female behavior. We will never forgive her for not staying home and baking chocolate chip cookies. We will never forgive for not being content with First Lady.

I maintain that U.S. voters will elect a black male president before a white ho, oops, female. Because we’re not allowed to be racist. But sexist? Eh, whatever.


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