Unacceptable: Sexist Bill Maher Calls Sarah Palin the C-Word

[Trigger warning for misogyny.]

Last week, I mentioned that Bill Maher had called Sarah Palin a "dumb twat" on his show. On the next episode, he called Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann "bimbos." Then, Sunday night, during a comedy show in Dallas, he reportedly called Sarah Palin a "cunt," because "there's just no other word for her."

Except twat and bimbo, of course.

Now, it's no secret that I don't like Bill Maher, who relies on deeply misogynist, routinely homophobic, fat-hating, ableist, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, religion-hating jokes, and is a one-man rape joke machine, and then wonders why it is that marginalized people in the US tend to disagree with his assertion that we've got it so good here; what the fuck are we complaining about?

Maher's certainly not the only public humorist who pulls the same shtick, but one of of the particulars about the frame of his comedy is that he's a rational, thoughtful, intellectual guy. And he quite observably is smart enough to understand how institutionalized prejudices like sexism work, but chooses to utilize perpetuating language anyway.

Someone as clever as Maher cannot be confused about why it's problematic for a girl to be born into a world in which a powerful woman can be demeaned as a twat, bimbo, and cunt by people who disagree with her.

Someone as clever as Maher cannot be mystified by the concept that a misogynist slur against an individual works specifically and only because institutionalized sexism is directed against the collective; its power comes from the narrative that women, as a whole, are less than.

Someone as clever as Maher cannot be bewildered by the fact that calling Palin a cunt does not happen in a void, but in a culture that continues to marginalize women's voices across the political spectrum.

Someone as clever as Maher cannot be ignorant about what he's doing when he calls a woman (or a man) a twat or a cunt: If you're turning a (typically) female body part into a slur to insult someone, the implication is necessarily that twats/cunts are bad, nasty, less than, in some way something that a person wouldn't want to be or be associated with. That's how insults work. When twat/cunt is used as a slur, it is dependent on construing a (typically) female body part negatively—and it thus inexorably insults women in the process.

Someone as clever as Maher, who writes and talks for a living, also probably has other words in his vocabulary that he could use, if he needs to express his contempt for Sarah Palin—words that aren't inherently misogynistic, words that don't demean other women in the process of discussing a particular woman.

I challenge him to use those words, and prove to us he's actually as smart a guy as he thinks he is.

Shakesville / By Melissa McEwan

Posted at March 29, 2011, 7:12am

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