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I think this is a big enough issue to warrant its own diary.  I see this mistake made a lot, not just in the diary currently on the rec list.

Personally, I do not usually make superficial insults unless it's as a joke.  I think there's plenty of substantial reasons to rip on Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, George Bush, etc.  But sometimes I will do it in jest.  I will go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of DKos members have probably at some point made some comment about the physical appearance of some conservative.  Whether it's calling Bush "Chimpy" or referrencing Bill-O the Clown's giant head.  I see it done casually all the time on here.

Unfortunately when someone makes a superficial criticism of a female figure, others call it sexism.  Depending on context it may be sexism, but usually it is not.  It's just being shallow.  Which everyone does sometimes, and is not nearly so big a sin as being sexist -- which hopefully we are not.

If I say Rush Limbaugh is incapable of eating salad because he's a man, that's sexist.  If I say Rush Limbaugh is incapable of eating a salad because he's the size of a small house, that's just being shallow.

Likewise many of the comments people cite about Palin as being sexist, are not sexist at all, just shallow.  It is especially bothersome to me that people would make claims of sexism when Palin herself leverages her appearance at every opportunity to further her career.  And why shouldn't she?  Obama does as well.  Bush managed to look somewhat authentic in a cowboy hat, and used that to his advantage as well.  Unless you run for office in nothing but a burlap sack and a Nixon halloween mask, you're going to be putting your appearance to effect.

It also bothers me when sexism is leveled incorrectly because it diminishes the cases where someone really is being sexist.  Actual gender based discrimination is rightly reviled.  Shallow behavior and comments while stupid and not particularly useful, are not an equal crime.

It's a perfectly legitimate criticism to say people are too focused on Palin or Coulter's looks, and that distracts from impeaching them based on the content of their message (as sparing as that may be.)  Why not make it that way, rather than throwing out the incorrect sexism label?

Lastly, I'm sure there is actual sexism leveled against Palin, Coulter, etc. -- I'm only referring to the incorrect use of the label here.

Originally posted to ebbv on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 02:49 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Thank you... (8+ / 0-)

      I was hoping someone would write this diary.  It makes the charge of 'sexism' less powerful when it is merely equated with appearance-related criticism.  Men are also routinely criticized for their appearance.

      Mitt Romney, for instance, looks like his hair was grown in a petri dish.  George W Bush was constantly compared to a monkey.  John Kerry was said to resemble a zombie.  It is not sexism.  

      -3.25 / -6.51
      Gay, straight, black, white...
      Marriage is a civil right!

      by joehoevah on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:12:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent point (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3goldens, csquared, ebbv, BardoOne, Amayi

      Those who use terms like "sexism" and "racism" casually and promiscuously to denote merely shallow ad hominem attacks cheapen and degrade the actual sexism and racism that exists throughout society.

      To say that referencing a woman's looks in insulting or devaluing her ideas is sexism is usually a phony charge.  Certainly actual sexism may be at work, but calling people ugly or fat or whatever is a standard part of the vocabulary of insult.  It is not potent or persuasive, but it is common.

      The word "sexism" to my mind should be reserved for real, actual cases of discrimination or systematic oppression of women, or of a pattern of thought that devalues women as women.  The concept is too important and too serious to be casually flung about where it shouldn't be.

      "I would say to you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!" Bzzzt! Sorry Barry, thanks for playing.

      by Dallasdoc on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 04:11:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree (6+ / 0-)

    A lot of this argument took place in ColoradoistheShiznit's diary.

  •  This shoulda been a comment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Derfel

    not a diary.  Just sayin'.

    War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

    by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:01:32 PM PDT

    •  I did post a comment (9+ / 0-)

      But as I stated at the top, this is an issue beyond just that one diary.  It is a mistake that comes up a lot.

      •  Fair enough. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        irishwitch, Derfel

        I don't agree with you, though.  Just because you don't intend a sexist comment to be sexist doesn't make it not sexist.  The comments you defend are shallow, yes, and arguably they may primarily come from shallowness.  But they're also sexist, and that's more offensive than mere shallowness.

        Also, your Limbaugh analogy doesn't hold up.  Men haven't been the historic victims of sexism, nor have they historically been held to impossible body-image standards that have led to widespread emotional problems.  Because of that cultural context, it means something different to comment about a woman's body than a man's.

        War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

        by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:18:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That argument doesn't fly (8+ / 0-)

          You are right to say that the author's intent does not absolve them of the actual meaning or impact of what they say.  If someone does not mean to be sexist but says "Hillary is not fit to be president because of her female mood swings." it is still sexist.

          I also agree women have been the victims of sexism, men have not.  No one with a brain would argue that point.

          But that fact does not mean that any superficial comment made toward a female is automatically sexist.

          •  No, it means you can't justify sexist comments (0+ / 0-)

            by saying they were only superficial.

            The diary in question listed examples not of merely superficial comments, but of overtly sexist comments.  Every one of them involved judgment about physical appearance, and most of the judgment expressed was sexual.  E.g.:

            Coulter: sex on a stick. And not good sex at that.

            and

            "a feckin' hoor's ghoost!

            and

            Long stems, but about as sexy as a pair of coffee stirrers. Of course, if you're into arthropods...

            The other comments Coloistheshiznet identified were of similar ilk.

            So nobody's arguing that any superficial comment made toward a female is automatically sexist.  They're saying WTF is with all the overtly sexist comments?

            War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

            by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 05:48:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I repeat those comments are not sexist (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Subversive

              They are superficial, shallow, childish, yes.  But they are not at all sexist.

              Coulter: sex on a stick. And not good sex at that.

              That is not sexist.  It's crude, it's stupid, but it's not sexist.

              Saying "I bet Rush Limbaugh has a tiny little penis." is sexual and could only be said about a man, but it is not sexist.  It's shallow, childish, stupid, but not sexist.

              That's what my whole diary is about, the misuse of the term "sexist" that you and many others are engaging in.

              •  And there you have it. (0+ / 0-)

                You just don't know a blatantly sexist statement when you see it.

                What you don't seem to understand is that the cultural context matters.  Because you don't understand this, your attempt to illustrate an analogous remark vis Rush again misses the mark.

                In our culture it's not the same to shame a man's appearance as it is to shame a woman's.  Why? History.  Pervasive sexual stereotyping.  Cultural context matters.

                The comment you chose could be considered sexist--if our culture had a history of dominant women overtly judging men by the size of their penises.  That's the sort of context that changes a sexual comment into a sexist comment.

                But even then, a comment about the size of one's sexual anatomy isn't remotely as sexist as someone directly denigrating Coulter's sexual desireability.  Your example is more analogous to saying "Coulter is flat-chested."  That would be  appearance-based, and sexual-anatomy based, and when the comment is made inappropriately made outside a sexual context (Coulter being a pundit, not your sex partner) it becomes somewhat sexist.  But that's nowhere near as sexist as commenting directly on how undesireable she must be as a sex partner.  Comments don't get much more sexist than that.

                War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

                by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 06:36:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Oh I see (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Subversive

                  So women are a special case, and not equal to men.  No one can comment on their desirability.

                  You know what I think of that policy?  I think it's sexist.

                  Like I said a hundred times now, those kind of remarks are childish and stupid.  I am not one of the people who was called out for this, as you won't find me making statements like that unless I'm being ironic.

                  But they are not sexist comments.  I don't share your belief that women are weaker than men and cannot stand up to the same level of criticism.  I know that's not how you would choose to word it, but it is how I see your viewpoint.

                  I don't think that insulting a woman's sexual desirability is sexist anymore than it is for a man. It's a shallow, ad hominem and devoid of substance but it is not sexist.

                  •  Don't misstate my arguments. (0+ / 0-)

                    You just don't understand the concept.  Fine.  But don't misstate my arguments.  I didn't say women are weaker, or that they can't stand up to the same level of criticism.  I said context matters.  You appear to have a tin ear for context, which is probably why you don't understand the concept of sexism.

                    We're going to have to agree to disagree.

                    War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

                    by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 06:55:18 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Hmmm... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Subversive, FreeStateDem

                      Why do you feel the need to be insulting repeatedly.  You're basically calling me stupid in so many words.  Not very nice.

                      I plainly stated my view of your opinion; you think women need special treatment.  That's sexist.  Sorry but that's the reality.

                      Making derogatory comments about someone's appearance or sexuality is not automatically sexist.  It can be done in a sexist way, but I see the sexism label bandied about in cases that clearly aren't sexist.

                      •  Not saying you're stupid, either. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Jane Lew

                        This has nothing to do with being smart or stupid. It has more to do with sensitivity.

                        War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

                        by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 07:05:10 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  ...nor did I say or argue that one can't comment (0+ / 0-)

                    on women's desireability.  Not all comments about a woman's desireability/lack thereof are sexist.  I specifically and intentionally made a distinction between sexual and sexist commentary.  You want to just comment on Coulter's desireability:  fine.  You want to denigrate it while attacking her for being a right-wing hack:  sexism.

                    Again:  context matters.

                    War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." -- George W. Bush, May 17, 2003

                    by Simian on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 07:01:54 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Context can matter (0+ / 0-)

                      But I think it would take some specific circumstances, like for example the speaker/author being in a position of power over Coulter or Palin for a comment such as "She's the cryptkeeper" to be sexist.

          •  I guess I don't have a brain (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ebbv, FreeStateDem

            How have men not been the victims of sexism? The only ones forced to go to be slaughtered in war? The presumption, in some state legally mandated, that they are the ones, and the only ones, financially repsonsible for supporting their families? Being legally liable for their wives crimes, even when they were forced to work 16 hrs per day 7 days a week and couldn't possibly control what their wives did while they were doing that?

            And of course there is the enormous disproportion of men being the victims of violence on TV and in movies, and exponentially more funding for breast cancer than prostate cancer, even though there is roughly equal incidence of both.

            Just call me "Scarecrow."

            •  Good points (0+ / 0-)

              In my rush to respond quickly while working (which I am still doing) I made a stupid statement.  You are right, men are in many cases the victim of sexist policies or norms.

              I guess I meant to agree with the sentiment that on a general societal level women are usually the ones more often derided as being unfit or unqualified based on their gender.  But like I said, rushed, sloppy response.  Thanks for your reply.

              •  Maybe in the past, but-- (0+ / 0-)

                I guess I meant to agree with the sentiment that on a general societal level women are usually the ones more often derided as being unfit or unqualified based on their gender.

                At one time, and maybe still in certain professions, but attitudes have changed enough so that now women are often preferred in certain professions. Remember the Seinfeld episode where neither Elaine nor George wanted a male masseuse? Also when it comes to therapists and lawyers, at least certain kinds of lawyers, women are often preferred. Forget about daycare!

                •  You're right (0+ / 0-)

                  There are some professions where women are preferred.  But I know from my experience in the working world, there's still a lot of anti-female sexism out there.  A lot of "boys' club" mentality.

                  Not to say that there isn't some "girls' club" mentality in some places too, but I think that's less common.

  •  there's another issue at play (10+ / 0-)

    Which you mention in passing. When looks and sexuality are being used as a weapon, to advance oneself, than it is natural for one's detractors to attack those looks or sexuality in an attempt to weaken that person. Making those attacks off limits creates an unfair imbalance.

    Attractive women have a leg up in many pursuits, and since feminism has opened many doors for women, the women who have walked through them the fastest are attractive women, and it has been shown that good looking people of both sexes have an advantage in general because they are more instinctively likeable and people are disposed to treat them better based on the unconscious biological impulses they inspire. So again, it is inevitable that attractiveness which creates an advantage will be challenged by one's opponents.

    Of course we will have Fascism in America, but we will call it Democracy. - Senator Huey Long

    by Marcion on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:02:14 PM PDT

    •  This claim (0+ / 0-)

      Attractive women have a leg up in many pursuits, and since feminism has opened many doors for women, the women who have walked through them the fastest are attractive women

      represents a misunderstanding of feminism.  

      •  He's not talking about feminism (5+ / 0-)

        It's really a comment about attractive people generally, and the advantages they enjoy.  

        What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

        by Alec82 on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:10:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The person wrote (0+ / 0-)

          feminism has opened many doors for women

          That is on its face "talking about feminism".  Do you deny that it is a very clear statement about feminism?

          •  Yes (7+ / 0-)

            Do you disagree with that statement? I doubt it.  Unless feminism is for naught.  Now, having considered that, does the fact that attractive women enjoy more social advantages in a superfical culture as a result of the avenues opened up by feminism have anything to do with misunderstanding feminism? I don't think so.  He's not stating it is consistent with feminism, simply that it's a byproduct of a feminist victory in one area.

            And he's absolutely correct about the legal profession.  

            What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

            by Alec82 on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:21:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The fact that there are now more (0+ / 0-)

              women professionals is a success of feminism.  

              But the fact that the legal system and its participants, or society more generally, are more responsive to a woman's appearance rather than her intellect and skills is a not the fault of feminism.

              It is the failure of people to accept the claims on justice made by feminism.

              The blame for judging females by the way they look rather than their abilities does not lie with feminism.  This failure is not a "byproduct of feminism".  It is the failure of people to adopt a feminist viewpoint.  

              To blame feminism for these shortcomings is to misunderstand feminism.  

      •  no I understand feminiism (5+ / 0-)

        Feminism of course had nothing to do with looks. But feminism as applied in a superficial culture has produced this somewhat perverse result.

        For example, I am observing the evolution of lawyers. As recently as a few decades ago, law was an almost all male profession. Today, the majority of law school graduates are female, though the partners are still mostly male (in my firm for example, the managing name partner is a female, the partenrship is still about 2/3rds male, but the associates are 3/4 female). But with every year, the female lawyers just seem to get hotter and hotter. I can't sit in court without becoming completely distracted by the short skirt and firm derrire of some young attorney. And this certainly gives her an advantage. The judges (usually male) is going to be nicer to her. If her opponent is male, he will be distracted and also more likely to give her a good deal to get on her good side. And if the opponent is female, she will get distracted also by competiteness and insecurity. And these girls know it, and they put a lot of energy into looking good and dressing hot. And these are professional, smart women.

        That's not what feminism is about, I grant you. But it's reality.

        Of course we will have Fascism in America, but we will call it Democracy. - Senator Huey Long

        by Marcion on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:11:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Palin, Coulter, etc. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rick Aucoin

    Use gender hypocritically, to promote their "cause". Are they the typical "female role models" that their political party  promotes ?

  •  You write (0+ / 0-)

    It is especially bothersome to me that people would make claims of sexism when Palin herself leverages her appearance at every opportunity to further her career.

    You should carefully think through the assumptions behind this statement to understand what is wrong with your argument.  

    •  Could you be more patronizing? (7+ / 0-)

      You should look behind the inflated self image behind your wording before you write another comment, IMHO.

      Secondly, give me a break.  Are you actually trying to claim that Palin does not attempt to leverage her appearance constantly?  The photoshoot for that running magazine begs to differ.

      •  This is what I'm saying. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Derfel

        Here's your original claim:

        It is especially bothersome to me that people would make claims of sexism when Palin herself leverages her appearance at every opportunity to further her career.

        Summarized,you're saying:

        1. Palin leverages her appearance...."
        1. "People make claims of sexism" about some criticisms of Palin.  
        1.  The people of point 2 bother you.

        In other words, in that particular statement, you're saying that because Palin "leverages her appearance", criticisms of her should not be considered sexist.  

        That's flawed logic in your statement.  By pointing out your flawed logic I do not mean to be patronizing, I simply want you to consider what you are saying.

        •  You're not understanding my point (5+ / 0-)

          Here's a tip for the future; when you think that what you are reading doesn't make sense, try giving it another read.  Assume first that you do not understand rather than assuming the author doesn't know what they are writing.

          Secondly, I did not say at all that there cannot be sexist comments against Palin (in fact at the end of the diary I state exactly the opposite.)  What I say is that calling superficial criticisms sexist is especially galling because Palin leverages her appearance.  In other words, she makes her appearance an issue.  She makes it part of her platform.  It thereby becomes "fair game".  Whether it is worthwhile game I will leave up to the individual.

          I reiterate that you do not seem to have understood my argument, or are deliberately misconstruing it.

          •  Thanks for the tip. (0+ / 0-)

            You originally wrote:

            It is especially bothersome to me that people would make claims of sexism when Palin herself leverages her appearance at every opportunity to further her career.

            Now you've amended your claim to say:

            calling superficial criticisms sexist is especially galling because Palin leverages her appearance

            But either way, superficial or not, whether or not a particular claim is sexist has nothing to do with the behavior of the person being criticized.  

            You keep bringing up Palin's behavior to defend certain ("superficial") criticisms of her.  Why?

            My original point was this:  a criticism of a woman (Palin or any woman) is either sexist or not sexist on its own merits.  The behavior of the subject of the criticism is irrelevant to that.  

            •  I clarified for your benefit (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              csquared

              Because you did not understand my point.  I think it was pretty clear what I was speaking about the whole diary.  I very clearly illustrated the difference between sexist and superficial comments.  I was also very clearly talking about how superficial comments are falsely labeled as sexist.  I then went on to say that this is especially galling because Palin herself makes her appearance an issue.

              If you do not understand the above, I don't know what more to say to you.  It is an extremely simple concept and logical argument.

              •  Could you please provide (0+ / 0-)

                some examples of "how superficial comments are falsely labeled as sexist"?

                •  Oh come on (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  csquared

                  You know what I'm talking about.  I linked to the other diary at the top of mine.  Are you just being obtuse on purpose now or what?

                  It's really simple.  Someone says "Ann Coulter looks like a scarecrow."  Someone else calls that sexist.  It's not sexist, it is shallow and childish, but it is not sexist.

                  •  No, I'm not being deliberately obtuse. (0+ / 0-)

                    You make a strong claim, in your diary and in your comments.  I haven't seen such statements.  Please provide actual, specific examples to back your claim.

                    •  WTF (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      csquared

                      I did provide you specific examples.  I just told you where they are again.

                      As far as finding other examples, sorry buddy I have better things to do with my day than maintain an index of comments.  I respond to things on here as they happen and then move on.  I don't keep records.

                      •  You did not provide even one (0+ / 0-)

                        specific example.  Not one.  

                        The entire premise of your diary is about some illegitimate claims of sexism.  

                        Then you link to a diary with 1,000+ comments, and say they are there.  

                        Where?  Which ones?  I have no idea which comments you are referring to.

                        You have no real argument if you cannot provide some examples beyond vague references.  

                        Could you not please provide just a few examples to prove the premise of your diary?

                      •  It's OK. (0+ / 0-)

                        I'm not surprised that you cannot come up with any examples to back the claim of your diary.

                        Basically, you said you were upset that people were saying that people on DKos are being sexist.  You have written your diary saying that you do not like the fact that people are being accused of making sexist comments.

                        You wrote your diary to criticize a diary that says people on DKos are being sexist.  That diary bothered you.  And, by the way, that same diary provided many, specific examples of people making sexist statements.  

                        And in the end, you have not provided a single example to back your claim.  

                        •  Your rebuttal is weak (0+ / 0-)

                          That whole diary is non-stop examples.  Your requirement that I go out and find and then point you to other examples outside of that diary is ridiculous.  You resort to that because you cannot make an actual logical argument against my point.

                          I am done responding to you.  This exchange with you has been extremely tedious.

                          •  If you don't feel that you have a (0+ / 0-)

                            sufficient response to my claims, then by all means go ahead and ignore me.  

                            But if you still believe in your argument, then I'd like to hear your defense.  

                            You are now saying that basically every example provided in that diary as instances of sexism is, in fact, not sexism.  

                            OK, well a few claims the diarist cites:

                            1.

                            Ann Coulter = disgusting anorexic hag. Sarah Palin = disgusting, witch-looking yeast monster.

                            2.

                            Ann Coulter is an anorexic ass

                            3.

                            Coulter: sex on a stick. And not good sex at that.

                            1.  

                            Is her age more than her weight I wonder?

                            You see no sexism at work here?

                            Or maybe, as you say, you consider this tedious.  You seem to have more important, less tedious work to attend to.  

                          •  I've said it a hundred times (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Calvino Partigiani

                            I do NOT consider those sexist.  I don't know how I could have been more clear.

                            They are shallow, superficial ad hominem attacks, devoid of any substance.  But they are not sexist.

                            And yes I do find explaining myself to you over and over very tedious.  And I actually DO have other work I am trying to get done.

                          •  Alright, well I'm sorry if you feel (0+ / 0-)

                            I've wasted your time.

                            In my view those attacks are clearly sexist.  Calling a woman one dislikes a

                            disgusting anorexic hag

                            is to me an obviously sexist claim.

                            I could try to explain why calling a woman these names is sexist, but you've apparently already made up your mind that such statements are not sexist.    

  •  Programming logic in the title... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3goldens, MKSinSA, joehoevah, BardoOne

    Many readers who don't code are not going to read "!=" as "does not equal."

    Just sayin.

    But I think your point is well made.

    _______________________________
    Healing the universe is an inside job.

    by spotDawa on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:04:40 PM PDT

  •  Is there a reason you used (0+ / 0-)

    Bang Equals instead of <> or ><?</p>

    "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

    by enhydra lutris on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 03:45:12 PM PDT

  •  But without all the ismism to whine about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebbv

    ...a whole lot people would have to find a new hobby!  Oh the humanity!

    Why are they shooting abortion doctors, when they could be shooting bankers?

    by Subversive on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 07:41:18 PM PDT

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