Dr. Cornel West, author and professor at Princeton University, is a bad-ass motherfucker. Always has been. His look and his flamboyant style sometimes detract from the fact that he is one of America’s leading thinkers and activists on issues of gender, race, and class. This week he appeared on “Politically Incorrect” and gave the show one of its best—and most feminist—moments ever.
The roundtable talk turned to Gaddafi, and Bill Maher decides to bring up the fact that one of the videos of Gaddafi’s capture appears to show a man sodomizing him with a stick. Bill, of course, sees this as a gay thing, and gets all snigger-y, going off on a riff about Libyan men: “when you segregate the women and you cover them up, homosexuality becomes sexuality.” He completely misses that what happened to Gadaffi was not a homosexual act, or even sexual act, but an act of violence and degradation—the same as every other act of rape that men commit. The woman on the panel tries to correct him, but flubs the point.
But then Brother Cornel jumps in. I couldn’t find a shorter clip but the conversation begins at 9:50. (transcript of Dr. West’s response after the jump)
“It wasn’t a woman who stuck it up his butt, it was a man. It’s a male thing, though, Brother Bill, it’s a deeply male thing. We had a rogue New York policeman stick it up a brother’s behind. So this is a deeply…I mean, we’re complicitous to the degree where our male privilege allows us to do that kind of gangster-like stuff and get away with it. I’m glad you’re critical of it and I’m critical of it, but it’s a male thing, though, brother. It’s a deeply male thing, brother. I don’t see no sisters doing that.”
Bill gets all defensive saying, “I didn’t realize I had such a part in this.” Male privilege has always been a hard thing for Bill Maher to wrap his mind around—he has the habit of making degrading or dismissive remarks about women and then, when criticized, protests that he’s not sexist and he simply can’t understand why people are so upset. And his comments about this kind of brutality being a gay act committed by sexually frustrated Libyan men is equally boneheaded and offensive. Kudos to Dr. West for straightening him out.