the Change I Wish to See

...and whatever else it takes to find my pants

Here we go again;
it's not the first time
the "news" left us
with wounds to mend.

It's really as simple as Pulitzer wrote in 1904:
"Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself."

Today is, apparently, that time. We are, apparently, those people. And Joe Scarborough is, it seems, one of those mercenaries.

On Friday, Scarborough, broadcast on the newly-designated mecca of misogyny, joined by Craig Crawford, made sexist inferences about the nature of former Senator Fred Thompson's marriage. The two asked and then mutually "confirmed" that Jeri Thompson "works the pole."

I've watched the clip several times now. I've read MSNBC's knee-jerk reaction: put it in context. I tried to do so. I shouldn't have; but I did. I failed of course, because at best the remark was crass and I don't consider the pursuit of crudity an achievement of any real aspiration.

The basic gist: two shrivelled phalli walk onto a cable news set. The first one spots a woman he deems out of his reach. So he's bitter; naturally, he feels shafted. The second one is much less advanced in his shrivelling, but if there's one thing a diminishing phallus hates, it's standing alone. So the second one pokes his head in, feigning an interest. Wrinkled and past their primes, they begin flopping around, lashing out at the man this unattainable woman does care about: how could he "get" her? She's so attractive, they long for the days when they weren't mere wrinkles in time; when they were each something with some longevity, some sense of purpose, and had the tools with which to achieve it. Those days are gone. But these two don't cut and... excuse me, that word is in bad taste here. These two don't tuck and run. Instead, they prematurely spit assertions. They don't really know what they're talking about; they're inexperienced. So what happens next comes fast: "You think she works the pole?"

The breakdown:

Aside from the clearly offensive nature of the remark, more pressing for at least Scarborough (since I know neither Crawford's attraction nor relationship status) is that he has to explain to his wife his drooling envy.

But both men suffer from exactly what so many shrivelling phalli do: a lack of fore... sight. They have a complete inability to get the big picture and drown in their moment. They also can't see behind them since their dumb asses get in the way; hence, they have no hindsight. So neither could remember what the word "Imus" means this summer nor anticipate what fallout would follow.

I don't think, from the clip I've seen (my opinion may change if I see more), that they were calling Jeri Thompson a stripper per se. I don't. I realize that the use of the word "works" allows other conclusions. I don't think such conclusions are wrong, but I think these two were actually referring to the exercise technique, albeit offensively. But by no means should that be read as an excuse. What they still did is objectify Jeri Thompson. They still reduced her to an exclusively sexual being. I don't know why she, at 39, chooses to be with Thompson, at 64. But perhaps she was so sophisticated -- be it emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, some combination... -- that her maturity could only be matched by someone who had lived enough to develop similarly. The truth is, it doesn't really matter why she chose him. She chose him. And Scarborough and Crawford blatantly dishonored her choice by implying that her partner's decision to be with her was less than credible.

Reducing Jeri Thompson was not an anomaly. This morning on ESPN2, Mike Golic "joked" to Mike Greenberg that he "might as well be a woman" for not being able to bench 185 lbs. He quickly noted that he meant the inability to lift, not the remark, was the real insult to women. Huh, what? Exactly. I have no idea how he thought that put the dirt back in the hole he was digging. I'd be insane to suggest any woman reading this right now can't think of ten times she's already been "indirectly" insulted today. These insults are not indirect; they're assaults; they're micro-aggressions. Beauvoir was right: women are not born, they become. In so far as gender, as distinct from sex, is about otherization, these assaults and their underlying normative assumptions operate to subordinate females (as well as males since implying males display attributes we've assigned to females is understood as demeaning). If we don't stop them now, then when?

Again, our civic duty includes not just exercising our right to speak, but managing said exercise. Here, these two have to be held responsible for, at the very least, not realizing that suggesting a woman "works the pole" was going to be inflammatory, certainly if done so without clear, contextual qualification. I grant that structuring such a proviso would be a formidable challenge, if not impossible. Nonetheless, I'm tired of excusing the obliviousness of the ignorant. We should be informing the ignorant, not ignoring them. "Ignorant" and "ignoring" have the same root word. Take that theory a step further: how could we possibly fix the problem with more of the same?

And to come full circle, I don't know why Jeri Thompson was even dragged into this. In what newsworthy context is she relevant, let alone her exercise routine and how said routine may or may not affect her sex life? She is the spouse of a man who is bumbling through the initial steps of a campaign. I get it. But what does her attractiveness have to do with his ability to run/serve or her ability to lead his support from his side if he does so?

There's only one real "attractiveness" element of this story: you can find some of the ugliest things under the nails of pointed fingers.