Action Alert!
Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Feminist contempt for women

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 21, 2010

Meg Whitman, candidate for Governor in California, has been described by her opponent’s aide as a “whore.” You might assume that the use of that ugly term would make feminists howl in outrage, and leap to Whitman’s defense. But if you made that assumption, you were forgetting something.

Whitman is a Republican.  

She is not the preferred candidate of the Left; she is not the champion of the feminist cause. Committed feminists have always been more interested in political causes than in defending personal rights. (Remember the feminist slogan of the 1970s: “The personal is political!”) An insult to one woman weighs very little in the balance, against the wider cause of social engineering.

Writing in the Boston Globe, that bastion of reflexive, conventional liberal thought, columnist Joanna Weiss opens with the confession that she is “not feeling great sympathy for Meg Whitman.” She goes on:

And I’m not saying there aren’t slurs against women that should be verboten — or that “whore’’ can’t be a hurtful, literal term, in certain contexts. Rap songs. Prostitution rings.

That’s exactly wrong. It’s offensive to call a woman a “whore” in any context. In rap songs and prostitution rings the term might be a bit less shocking, only because women are already being treated with contempt in those contexts. There is nothing more offensive to the dignity of women than treating every female as a prostitute. Rappers and pimps might refer to women that way. Civilized men don’t. 

“But language evolves,” says Joanna Weiss. I think—and sincerely hope—that she’s wrong there, too. I am not squeamish about strong language, but I do not want to live in a society that treats such vile language as ordinary.

Weiss continues:

And you have to have been living in a 1940s movie not to know that the word is now applied in a gender-neutral way — to men and women who compromise their principles, engage in shameless pandering, even enjoy things to excess.

Here, for the first time in this column, Weiss is right. Hardball political operatives do indeed use the term “whore” to describe someone who will support any cause, provided he has something to gain from it. But even in that context it’s an ugly term. And anyone with an ounce of sensitivity recognizes that the word “whore” takes on some serious overtones when it’s used to describe a woman.

Joanna Weiss does not see that. She bids us look in a different direction:

In politics, it’s far more instructive to search for words and attitudes that are truly gender-loaded, and suggest deeper truths about the candidates who use them.

Right. If you can find a term more “gender-loaded” than “whore,” let me know. Weiss is utterly unpersuasive here, with her argument that it is more offensive for a male politician to refer to a female opponent’s questions as “unbecoming.” At worst, one might say that the male is condescending. Better condescension than contempt.

Weiss concludes her column with a statement that Whitman will show herself a stronger woman if she ignores the insult. “The fact that she can slough off slurs should be a badge of honor — and a model for women who want to play the game.

So this is the point to which the feminism of the past generation has brought us: Women who wish to advance in politics must be prepared to endure insults against themselves and against their sex. To gain respect, women must be ready to accept contempt.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: mamsd9487 - Oct. 22, 2010 8:52 PM ET USA

    Meg Whitman may prove her strength by ignoring it. We do not have to ignore it, and are honor-bound to state that those who use this term are anti-woman, even though they pretend that they are helping women. They have betrayed us for many years.