Alex Blaze

Andrew Sullivan, Lesbian pundit

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 08, 2008 1:47 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens, homophobic behavior, lesbian, MSNBC

On MSNBC this past Sunday, Christopher Hitchens called Andrew Sullivan a lesbian:

SULLIVAN: Again, you keep playing with that quote. We're happy to have it on the record. And now you've made me forget my second point, which is --

HITCHENS: Oh, well, don't be such a lesbian. Get on with it.

Pam asks what this is supposed to mean, and to me it's pretty obvious that Hitchens is saying to Sullivan: "Don't be such a whiny bitch."

Here's the full context of the quotation:

SULLIVAN: Two things. One, it's important to clear up that he [Wright] did not say "The Jews are going to get you" in some conspiratorial, classic anti-Semitic fashion. I think that's just --

HITCHENS: He [Wright] thinks only Jews are going to object to [Rev. Louis] Farrakhan and [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi. Excuse me?

SULLIVAN: No, he didn't say "only."

HITCHENS: No, but --

SULLIVAN: Again, you keep playing with that quote. We're happy to have it on the record. And now you've made me forget my second point, which is --

HITCHENS: Oh, well, don't be such a lesbian. Get on with it.

SULLIVAN: I'm sorry, I've forgotten my second point. But I do think that's important. And I don't think Wright is Farrakhan. And I don't think Obama, in any conceivable way, represents anything but racial inclusion and integration. And anybody that looks at any part of his career and can be in any doubt about that is beyond me.

The reason he went to that church, clearly, if you read his biography, is he wanted to understand what it was to be black in America. He didn't understand. He's a very polyglot person. He grew up in Hawaii, he had some time in Indonesia.

Sullivan responds to the Media Matters report on his blog:

Some people really need to get a sense of humor.

I get it. I know this sort of joke, the kind men make about how dumb or whiny or mean or vapid or frivolous or whatever women are by calling each other "woman" as an insult, in the same way as "That's so gay" works. It's not meant to be an insult to the person who receives it - that's all in good fun - rather it's meant to reinforce a subtext of misogyny and police gender.

And of course Sullivan doesn't get the point. That isn't news.

Focusing on Hitchens's comment as a direct insult to Sullivan and nothing else obscures three important points:

  1. This is just another case of Hitchens being a major misogynist.

  2. Neither has anything insightful to say about politics so they resort to idiocy like this. (How's that war you both supported in 2003 going, boys?)

  3. MSNBC desperately needs more female commentators and regular guests.

I know, it's not the end of the world. But it would have been nice to have heard someone say, "Hey, Chris, that's not cool. Don't say that on national TV."

Instead we got a stupid prediction from Sullivan that there would be war crimes trials as a result of the Yoo memo. Uh, yeah, right.

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diddlygrl | April 8, 2008 2:38 PM

I don't know which to be insulted by, being both a lesbian and a whiny bitch, it makes it hard to choose which to feel insulted about, maybe I will just sit and whine about it for awhile.

Do people sit up at night just trying to think up these sort of things? I mean couldn't he have come up with something more colorful, like:
"Don't be such a drooping scrotum sac.".

I do not give him any points for cleverness. If this is what passes for a witticism among you guys, I am glad I don't associate with you anymore. We women Know how to insult people, especially you guys, it is just too easy.

"Whats that useless piece of meat at the end of a penis?"

"A man."

Oldy but goody.

Alex, don't be such a lesbian! It's got a nice ring to it.

But I agree with Diddly. I'm gonna start saying, "don't be such a nut sack."

I remember decades ago Armistead Maupin wrote a line is one of his "Tales of the City" books that went something like this: "Coit Tower sticks into the San Francisco sky like a huge erect penis, and in the apartment buildings hidden inside its pubic hair below live many little old ladies of all ages and sexes."

The idea is that a "little old lady" is someone of any age and sex that worries all day about relatively trivial things, gets upset about things easily, blows tiny social interactions out of all reasonable proportion, etc., etc. The line isn't meant to insult people who are physically diminutive elderly females.

It's also a standard line among gay men that two elderly gay men twittering away their senior years together might be called "two old lesbians" --- the idea here being that their masculine years are clearly behind them. Yes, it's a bit misogynistic, but the point is that they have graciously, if grudgingly, let go of a masculinity that they once took pride in.

I hope that gay women do not go on the lesbian warpath when gay men make comments like that. In a way, we are acknowledging how easily our masculine egos can get bruised by the realities of life.

On the other hand, I sure wish I could get paid as much as Sullivan gets for putting out ideas that sometimes are really rather stupid.

AJ, are you implying that Hitchins is gay? Do you have the inside scoop there?

I think it's hil-ARIOUS! I give Hitchens a pass! LOL

Alex: No, I don't mean to imply necessarily that Hitchins is gay --- in fact, I don't even know who Hitchins is, not to mention whether he's gay or not.

However, if this statement makes Hitchins guilty of a public faux pas serious enough that an apology is warrented, then gay men are equally guilty of making such remarks all the time --- at least, gay men of my generation --- and if Hitchens needs to clean up his act, then so do we. I do believe that if there is a standard of conduct and speech in such matters, it should apply to gay men as well as straight guys.

On the other hand, it is true that the standard for public speech is, and should be, higher than the standard for private speech --- and I would add specifically, gay men referring to themselves and each other in female terms is common privately, but in public circles greater carefulness is required. Publicly referring to RuPaul as a "her" may be appropriate because RuPaul voluntarily projects a public feminine persona much of the time; publicly referring to, say, John Amachi as a "her" is less appropriate, since (as far as I know) he chooses to project a consistently masculine persona.

These choices of language operate on a continuum that is complex; and since gender is an important human facet, it doesn't serve us well to attempt to oversimplify them.

P.S. Here's another oldie but goodie for DiddlyGrl: Q. What do you call a woman who doesn't have an asshole? A. Single.

We were talking about this on a mailing list and I said to them:

I don't get it.

If you forget your 2nd point, you're acting like a lesbian. Are lesbians known for forgetfulness? Did I miss that? Is it just the 2nd point that's a problem or can 1st points get you lesbian cred?

I'm so confused.

My favorite reply came from a lesbian on the list. She wrote:

I was going to respond but forgot what I wanted to say.

Another person suggested that perhaps Hitchens meant to say "elephant" instead of "lesbian" but elephants never forget.

you actually sent me to wikipedia, AJ. Hitchens has a wife, although that doesn't necessarily mean....

I think that if people had a better idea of what he meant from the start, like Bil said, there'd be less of an issue here. I thought it was a remark about Sullivan's whininess; some people I know thought is was about forgetfulness.

Anyway, if we're defending him, then what did he mean?

Honestly, I don't care about an apology. That's what I meant in this post - it's just a symptom of several deeper problems. Hitchens has a history of writing misogynist columns (e.g. "Women aren't funny," "Women aren't funny, part II"), and MSNBC has a serious lack of female commentators. Apology or not, those are the problems that need to be addressed.

I do find it surprising that Hitchens claims to be so much more advanced than those Christian fundamentalists he criticizes, actually, Christians in general, and yet as an atheist fundamentalist he seems to come to the same conclusions all the time as they do: women are inferior, invading Iraq is a good idea, black guys are scary, etc.

Hitchens used half of the G/L community as an insult and Sullivan gave him a pass, and the community as a whole is giving Sullivan a pass for doing so.

Picture thus scenario:
Hitchens interviews Rachel Maddow, says "Don't be such a Homo" and Maddow lets it pass. There would be howling from an angry gay male mob.

When you transition MtF;

Lesson #1: It is a man's world.

Lesson #2: Don't forget lesson #1.

Despite the feminist movement, civil rights, equal opurtunity, and all that jazz, it still comes down to this being a patriarchal society. The major religions practiced are all based on the oppresion of women by men. Our culture is built around male domination of the family and society.

We are not seen quite like the hysterical weak weepy creatures we were thought to be only a few decades ago. But certain assumptions are still made about us, certain stereotypes still entrap us in a cultural web of degradation and discrimination. Too many women still believe that they need to have a man around for them to be a worthwhile part of our society. Women are still taught that they should be submissive to men, that it is man's nature to 'rule the roost' and be the head of the household.

If women really want to be free, they need to pull down the institutions that teach them to be slaves.