In a response to my "Fake Orgasms" post, Speechless makes an important objection:
[T]he Whore/ Fake Ogasm stuff doesn't work for me. We women have been put down tied down, kicked down and laid down too long to go this route. We need to attack substance 'cause the standard ad hominem arguments cut against the liberal progressive agenda.I tried to respond to this in the comments, but Blogger ate it...which was just as well, because it's worth discussing more publicly and thoroughly.
The truth is, I hesitated before posting the piece in question. Why did I go ahead with it? I'll try to reconstruct my thinking, if I can, because the language we use is extremely important these days, and it's worth sorting out when and how one goes wrong.
While wondering - all too briefly - whether the analogy was problematic, I felt a flurry of irritating associations. Gallagher, I thought, expresses a generally traditional view of male/female relations...because she's getting paid to express it by men who have a vested interest in perpetuating such ideas. In addition, she often tries to present the Bush Administration as brimming over with competent, virile masculinity. That was where the "fake orgasm" metaphor came in. The role of the women around Bush, it seemed to me, is often to "reassure" everyone as to his virility and power and goodness.
Anyway, with those ideas swimming around in my head and making me angry, I just said "The hell with it," and hit "Publish." I'll explain why that was wrong in a moment, but first, here's another comment from Speechless:
I need to ask: Would you write this way about a man? What is the male equivalent to Whore? What is the male equiv to faking an orgasm?This, at least, is easy to answer: I would write, and have written, that way about a man (in fact, the description of Ms. Gallagher as "comparatively affordable" was in reference to Armstrong Williams, as was the last line in my post). In this, I'm basically following the lead of sites like Media Whores Online, in which one's status as a political whore is assumed to be gender-neutral.
The male equivalent of a whore, in this context, is simply a whore; the male equivalent of faking an orgasm is faking an orgasm (and men sometimes do this in real life, by the way).
But all this is a distraction from Speechless's more important point, which is whether or not these metaphors are progressive:
Sure there are lots and lots of slurs and put downs against men, questioning their manhood, their virility, their sexual orientation- and those are just as useless for furthering any uselful progressive conversation.I agree with all of that. But on reflection, there's an even more serious reason why my analogy is faulty, which never would've occurred to me if it hadn't been for Speechless's remarks: I don't actually think prostitutes are bad people.
In other words, I'm attacking Gallagher - whom I find reprehensible - by likening her political behavior to a form of sexual behavior that I don't find reprehensible (which also happens to be a behavior for which women are irrationally and unfairly treated as criminals). That's incoherent thinking, plain and simple. And recognizing it forces one to speculate on the extent to which women like Gallagher, and African-Americans like Williams, are themselves victims. (I'm not saying they are, necessarily; I'm saying it's worth thinking about.)
So Speechless is right: We need a better metaphor for selling out one's integrity and credibility (particularly in ways that add to the oppression of one's own minority group, as Gallagher and Williams have done). Anyone have any ideas?