Laura Ingraham, Ed Schultz, and ‘right-wing sluts’


Ed Schultz, liberal talk show host, is photogrphed in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/ROLL CALL)

But recently he called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a slut on the air. His exact words were, “this right-wing slut, what’s her name?, Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut.” As Mediaite points out, “talk slut” in no way improves on the phrase “right-wing slut.”

And in general, calling people sluts is not a good idea, even in the sense that one sometimes calls people cabs — “Oh, it’s past 8:00 p.m.; we should contact Mark.”

And if you want to be taken seriously, don’t use slurs in your political discourse. True, who wants to be taken seriously now? All we want is viewers and listeners. “I advise you strongly to land on the sun,” we say, racistly, donning capes that reveal our manly or womanly endowments and allowing people to hit us in the face with pies on our book covers. Anything for our Public!

But besides the general degradation of discourse, there’s more at work here. Why would he pick this word in the first place?

Slut is not a gender-neutral term, yet. In spite of all the Slut Walks proclaiming that You Can Do What You Want And Wear What You Want And Society Shall Not Label You — which, really, didn’t anyone think this through beforehand? (“We’re going on a slut walk,” you say. “Oh, that’s nice,” your employer says. “Boy, when you bring them home, you really have no sense of the amount of care, feeding, and walking that’s required.”)

But in defense of the walks, there’s got to be some way to drive the point home. So far, it’s not working: If this is a misogynistic term, then it’s a term that’s somehow reserved for women. And that’s a deeply misogynistic thought.

This term is either used too much or not enough, depending upon whom you ask. I’d be fine with tossing it around with wild abandon if we called men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Edwards sluts as well. Their behavior merits the term! But generally when it gets flung at men, there’s “man-” appended to it. Slut? Must be female. There’s no equally fraught term for a man who, er, bed-hops. Bed hops just sounds like a fun party activity — which, admittedly, it might be, in certain circles. And that’s wrong.

“But Ingraham and Ann Coulter both have this strange blonde-conservative-women-who-are-definitely-wearing-heels thing going on!” you cry. “Doesn’t that entitle me to --”

No, of course not.

And even were the word cut free of the misogynistic baggage, it doesn’t belong in the context of civilized political discourse — or what passes for it on the Ed Schultz Show.

If you are attacking someone’s politics, no need to be ad hominem, or ad womanem. Just make your case.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".

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