What’s worse than cracking a sexist – possibly rapey – joke about one of Sarah Palin’s daughters on national television? Cynically using sex abuse as a bat with which to beat a political opponent over the head. That’s exactly what Palin supporters did by staging a ludicrous protest in front of David Letterman’s studio on Tuesday. The man offered what seemed to be a sincere apology this week, which Palin accepted. It should have ended there.
But because wingnuts are feeling powerless right now, some reacted to the controversy in a wildly disproportionate (and disingenuous) fashion – by accusing Letterman of sexual perversion and child abuse, among other things. You can watch some video of unhinged protesters here. I can’t bear to embed it.
I am having flashbacks to the Teabagging protests from a few months ago, wherein the intellectually impotent gathered in town squares around the country to voice their dissatisfaction with “high taxes.” Holding misspelled signs accusing President Obama of everything from Naziism to being illegitimate on the basis of his Kenyan heritage, they revealed their true motives.
Imagine a world wherein wingnuts really do care this much about rape and the mistreatment of young women. They’d have demanded answers about Rush Limbaugh’s two-day trip to the Dominican Republic, known for it’s flourishing child “sex” industry, armed with illegally obtained Viagra. They’d have called for his head after he referred to a then 13-year old Chelsea Clinton as “the White House Dog.” Bill O’Reilly would no longer have an audience, after making comments such as this and this. There’d be no apologism for the Catholic Church.
But they do not care. Known to accuse feminists of making mountains out of mole hills, they sure know how to turn up the outrage when they can aim it at a member of the supposedly liberal media. I’m bombarded with sexism nearly every time I flip on the tv; the Letterman episode was just another day. But to these vultures, it was a gift from god.
Sexism and misogyny needs to be called out, even when it’s directed at women we dislike, because that’s what feminism is about. If any of these pitiful people are legitimately outraged, it’s due to ignorance regarding the meaning of “sexism.” In their eyes, Letterman’s comment was sexist not because it was slut-shaming or rape glorifying – depending on your perception of the joke; it was sexist because those girls don’t deserve slut-shaming or rape jokes. An unintentionally ironic quote from the video says it all: “How dare he! When he has a bastard son, and a slut for a wife!”
In defending the Palin family, the wingnuts accuse Letterman of being a literal danger to children. “He will rape them with his mouth,” one protester screamed, equating an admittedly crass and sexist joke with actual child rape. The normalization of rape and child sex abuse is a serious problem; calling Letterman a child abuser only diminishes victims’ experiences. Feigning concern about sexual violence in order to bring the other guy down a peg is more callous and hurtful than David Letterman could ever be.