I have purposely refrained from discussing the whole Don Imus
flap, for various reasons ("everyone already IS discussing it" not being the least of those reasons). However, I read an interesting commentary on CNN today, which highlighted a part of the controversy that seemed to me to be getting overlooked:Imus might be spark for debate on sexism
While I appreciated what Roland Martin said, and was glad he said he pointed out the sexist angle in more than a passing reference, I was not entirely satisfied with his editorial. Because somewhere in the middle of it, he says, "So many people tried to make this a race issue. But for me, that wasn't the primary point. I never wavered from the attack as one of a sexist. It didn't matter that he was trying to be funny. He insulted a group of women who are already accomplished."
That argument prompted me to write him the following email (edited here):Mr Martin,
I just wanted to extend my gratitude to you for calling attention to the sexist nature of Imus' remarks. As a woman, I was actually flabbergasted that the producer of Imus' show did not share in Imus' drubbing; after all, he used the word "ho's" first! Where was the outrage over that? Where were the cries of disgust that women in general, regardless of race, can be referred to by such a disgusting, derogatory word even aside from the racial adjective?
Your column certainly went further than any I've read so far in pointing to the existence of a problem that goes beyond race, and for that I thank you. However, I am puzzled when you say, "he [Imus] insulted a group of women who were already accomplished." Is that really the problem? If they were not so accomplished, would it have been OK to insult them? (I am sure you didn't mean that, but that's the unfortunate interpretation left open by your statement.)
The bottom line is that it is not appropriate to call women "ho's", regardless of their accomplishments. I may not be a CEO, a star athlete, or a high-ranking politician—but such language still hurts me. It is not a term of endearment in any way; it is so degrading. Sexism pervades our culture, it's true, but the language, the language... oh, why can't we hate it more than we do? I wish the word "ho's" had gotten the same amount of media attention as "nappy-headed." As far as I'm concerned, whatever Imus suffered, his producer should have been suffering right along with him.
So there you have it. My take on the Imus controversy, in a nutshell.
Having said all that, I don't know if I think Imus should have been fired. I mean, if a man is paid to be a "shock jock," it's a little hypocritical for his bosses to fire him when he's doing such a good job of it. Now they want to be seen as principled and all. Well, where were those wonderful principles of theirs throughout his entire career?
All six, or maybe even seven, of them were in the "amount" section of his paychecks, that's where.
Let's face it. The problem isn't really that Imus and his producer said what they did; it's that people listen to him in the first place. There is money to be made with his kind of shtick, or he wouldn't have lasted as long as he did.
Where the carrion lies, the vultures will gather, after all.
There is a solution, of course. It's called, "Don't listen." Is that going to stop racism or sexism? No. But it might go a long way toward shaking things up in corporate empires that make money off of offensive material, if they suddenly found they were NOT making money off of it.
Well. It's a nice idea, but I am not naive enough to think that we will see it happen any time soon. Such a paradigm shift in the marketplace would have to start with a paradigm shift deep inside a place much closer to home.