November 13, 2007

"How do we beat the bitch?"

Someone asks John McCain. You can see that he does some comic gesturing and asks for a "translation," but then he says it's an "excellent question." Presumably, he means the translated question is good, and he's making a show of ignoring the word "bitch." But I don't think "bitch" is a word that can be used in political discourse around a presidential candidate. Imagine if the questioner had asked — referring to Obama — "how do we beat the [n-word]?" He would have immediately voiced his rejection of that word. Laughing and pretending to wipe away sweat and so forth would never have been good enough and he would have known it.

ADDED: For comparison, look at how McCain reacted, just last month, when a man asked a question that conveyed racial hostility:
"Do the people in Washington - the politicians and the lobbyists and the rich people writing the checks - do they understand the amount of anger the average European Christian, native-born American feels when they see their country turning into a multicultural chaos Tower of Babel?"
McCain brought that man up short:
"I believe the greatest strength of America is the lady who holds her lamp behind the golden door that says send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... And I am grateful to live in a nation that has been enriched by people coming to our nation from around the world.

"I will do everything in my power to secure the borders, but I love this nation and I love the people who have come from around the world," he said to loud applause.
Why did we not see that kind of passion and indignation in response to the sexist epithet?


Mark Daniels said...

I think that you're absolutely right here, Ann.

McCain should have been indignant with such a question. The way in which it was couched says that the questioner's rejection of Clinton has little or nothing to do with policy or character issues. Part of the questioner's objection to her is simply that she is a woman.

That's unacceptable. And it should be unacceptable to McCain. The fact that he chose to effectively legitimize the question is disturbing.

It's tiresome and shocking to me that this sort of stupidity--sexism--still exists. But it's even more shocking when a respected candidate for the presidency doesn't call the questioner on the carpet for it!

Mark Daniels
Better Living: Thoughts from Mark Daniels

Unknown said...

Whenever I hear that crap it just reinforces what most men think of women. I always remember what Lennon said: "Women are the n***** of the world"

I enjoyed the patti boyd piece.Poor patti...

Just got this from nyt:
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 -- 9:27 PM ET

Spitzer to Drop His License Plan for Illegal Immigrants

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is abandoning his plan to issue driver's
licenses to illegal immigrants, saying that opposition is
just too overwhelming to move forward with such a policy....

former law student said...

When one middle-aged white woman describes another middle-aged white woman as a bitch to you, a man, the best thing is to stay out of it -- you are going to piss off one maww either way. He could have slapped down the peanut gallery voice who joked about his ex-wife, however.

Some women are very proud of their bitch status. I've known several (all middle-aged, all white) women who wore attractive pendants that spelled out "Bitch".

Ann, what does bitch mean to you?

Unknown said...

It's kind of wimpy to call a woman a bitch.

I just call them c%nts when they piss me off.

reader_iam said...

Some women are very proud of their bitch status.

Of course this link is both obvious and probably gratuitous.

amba said...

The right answer to that question would have been "By running a son of a bitch, and I am by far the most qualified."

Hunter McDaniel said...

I guess I have to disagree here. I've always considered b***h and b****rd as roughly equivalent terms of disrespect, notwithstanding their constrasting etymology. Hardly polite, but not in the same league as the n-word.

Now if the questioner had used a four letter word starting with c (you discussed that word once, IIRC ), now THAT would be different.

Brent said...

I'm uncertain as to why "bitch" is inappropriate, other than being impolite.

"Bitch" speaks of character and behavior choices. One can choose to do or not do "bitchy" things.

It is not immutable like race.

Hey, if the shoe fits . . .

Joan said...

Don't male politicians routinely refer to their opponents as son-of-a-bitch and/or bastard? Calling Hillary a bitch in this context is par for the course.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revenant said...

Why did we not see that kind of passion and indignation in response to the sexist epithet

Because "bitch" isn't a sexist epithet.

John Stodder said...

I don't know why Tim Russert should be allowed to pose as an audience member at these kinds of events.

reader_iam said...

It sure has some serious sexist baggage, however ... however generational that may be.

One of those divides among women, chasms in feminism. Or should "divides" and "chasms" switch places? Editors, please?

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

Look, sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.

Sometimes, a bitch really is a bitch.

cubanbob said...

Much ado about nothing. If the polls are to be believed half of America believes she is a bitch. Considering the job description she is running for includes Head of State, Head of Government and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces instead of Nanny In Chief, being a bitch just like being a son-of-a-bitch is a quality to be desired in the job applicant.

Congress may like a nice guy or gal but Congress won't roll over for one. And Congress is a piece of cake compared to the rest of the world. We need the right kind of bitch in office, not a whinny and complaining one. Rather a nasty one with a sweet exterior like Margaret Thatcher. One that can be sweetness and light at tea with the various foreigner ministers because they know she is quite capable of ripping their hearts out with a smile if necessary to protect Number One cub, us.

The real joke is that the last real man at number 10 was Maggie.

Swifty Quick said...

If somebody calls me an asshole I'm requesting that you reject it as an epithet against all mankind. Be consistent please.

As for McCain, maybe he concurs that she is a bitch, but was too classy to say it in mixed company.

reader_iam said...

Why did we not see that kind of passion and indignation in response to the sexist epithet?

I've been trying, for hours, to put together a pithy response to this. Can't do it pithy, or at least not acceptably, especially because the response is multiple, not singular.

You tell me: Is the answer clear and pithy?

Caroline said...

To me the question was tacky. And McCain's response, "Excellent question", was pretty tone deaf. For a large percentage of the population, bitch is still a pejorative word, that is sexist in that they would only ever use it to describe women.

That women are now embracing the word- I see it as "claiming" the word to reduce its effectiveness as an insult - does not negate the fact that for many people, it is still a pejorative applied only to women. McCain should have been savvy enough to acknowledge this.

The woman who asked the question should apologize to McCain for putting him in such an awkward position. He seemed somewhat taken aback to me. Are we sure she wasn't a Clinton plant? ;)

rcocean said...

How can it be 'sexist' when a little old lady asked the question and used the word?

And to go after the old lady for using the word? Then McCain would look like an A**h*le - big time.

BTW, when Grandma says you're a bitch in public - and everyone laughs, you need to go bring down the negative rating, maybe bake some cookies.

Revenant said...

[bitch] is sexist in that they would only ever use it to describe women.

By that logic the word "woman" is sexist, too.

Just because a word is gender-specific doesn't make it sexist -- not even if the word is used insultingly. An obvious example -- calling a guy a "dick" isn't sexist at all.

rhhardin said...

Bitch is correct ; it's a first-wife effect that Hillary is not going to overcome.

It is, moreover, objective. Just not perceived by females.

Caroline said...

"By that logic the word "woman" is sexist, too."

You left out half my sentence. "Woman" is not a pejorative (at least to me it isn't), so it's not sexist.

"Just because a word is gender-specific doesn't make it sexist -- not even if the word is used insultingly. An obvious example -- calling a guy a "dick" isn't sexist at all."

If someone said "all men are dicks", some might call it a sexist remark.

I'm not going to argue about whether the word bitch is sexist or not; since, to me, the word is really not as important as the intent behind it.

My main point was McCain was caught off guard and could've handled it better. His answer plays well into the hands of those who want to portray the Republicans as a bunch of sexists.

Guy Fawkes said...

Because "bitch" isn't a sexist epithet.

In 50 years being a man, I've never been called a "bitch." Non-sexist epithet? No.

rcocean said...

And all those who've thown demeaning insults at Althouse play into the hands of those who think all Lefties are sexist.

Along of course, with all the Lefties who attacked Kathleen Harris for her looks, call Coulter a bitch and a man, Laura Bush a frump, Rice a lesbian, etc.

Brent said...


I would find more outrage over this if I felt that there was even a modicum of "equal treatment" in today's politcal conversations.

Though there are reams of more recent examples, I still remember my wife reading out loud from an interview with Jessica Lange in TV Guide several years ago. Ms Lange opined that she wished that she could "hang them by their b***s", referring to Republican Congressmen who didn't agree with her. My wife, one of her sisters, and her 2 best friends laughed. At which point I asked "So it would be funny if a famous actor was quoted as saying 'Jessica Lange makes me so mad, I'd like to force a _____ up her p****.'"

They didn't think that was funny.

But it was fair.

rhhardin said...

There was a time long ago, I think in the time of Carter, that one of his CAB appointees, Elizabeth Bailey, had a run-in with an Eastern Airlines stewardess. Bailey had some complaint about proximity to smokers in the non-smoking section, and a heated discussion ensued in which the authority of the stewardess prevailed.

The stewardess defended herself later, ``I didn't call her a bitch. I called her a witch.''

But I don't think any female's use of the term reaches the male's meaning of it in any case.

Caroline said...

Hi B;

Since you addressed me directly I will respond to you.

If I'm interpreting your comment correctly, you have the impression I'm outraged? Or that I think you should be outraged? I don't get outraged that easily.

I chuckled when I saw the video, because to me, McCain was caught in a "homina homina" moment. (Honeymooners reference for those too young to know.)

I don't look for reasons to be angry.

Brent said...

Good to know, Caroline. You sound a bit more balanced than the Hillary Bimbos of both sexes who comment here.

Caroline said...

"Good to know, Caroline. You sound a bit more balanced than the Hillary Bimbos of both sexes who comment here."

LOL! Talk about damning with faint praise. ;)

rhhardin said...


There was no pretension or overkill, simply a relaxed, resonant realism. Pelosi, with her low purr, has mastered both TV and radio -- which cannot be said for Hillary, who smiles and smiles but whose tight-wound, self-righteous attack voice always erupts and betrays her.

mrs whatsit said...

I haven't seen a discussion like this one since way back in the ERA days, when people used to debate ad nauseam whether words like "chairman" or "stewardess" or "poetess" were sexist. Sooner or later somebody would insist that the word "mankind" was sexist, at which point somebody else would insist that if "chairman" had to be replaced with "chairperson," then we'd better change "human" to "huperson", too, while we were at it, and at that point, the first person would usually get furious and stomp out of the room. Those long-gone discussions were as useless as this one is -- though I note that somewhere along the line, words like "poetess" did, for the most part, drop out of the language.

Maybe the word "bitch" had sexist overtones back then that are disappearing today. It may be that some of the commenters here who don't perceive those overtones are too young to recognize them, or have forgotten them. That's a good thing, if you ask me. McCain, however, is old enough and politically savvy enough that he ought to have recognized the danger of the word as soon as he heard it. His failure to do so reminds me of another time he got into trouble with a Hillary-related joke: at a fundraiser in 1998, when he told a joke that went like this:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

Chelsea Clinton was something like 17 at the time and had not chosen life in the public eye. Call me a humorless feminazi if you like, but I tend to think there's a pattern here, and not a very pleasant one.

KCFleming said...

1. amba's answer would have neatly diffused the entire issue.

2. Gay men use the term about each other.

3. Of course the word is gendered. But by what twisted logic does it denigrate all women when a woman used the perjorative solely to describe that woman?

4. An actual McCain supporter would have been smarter and avoided the term.

5. McCain's not very quick on the draw.

rhhardin said...

Call me a humorless feminazi if you like, but I tend to think there's a pattern here, and not a very pleasant one.

McCain was in the Navy.

paul a'barge said...

What was it that GWB said about Adam Clymer of the NYT?

Leaving feminist sensibilities aside, what if bitch is the absolutely most accurate descriptor?

rhhardin said...

Adam Clymer

Kirk Parker said...


"If someone said 'all men are dicks', some might call it a sexist remark."

Huh? Who said, "All women are bitches"? I thought the item in question is that someone (a woman, if that matters) referred to one specific individual as a bitch.

Tituspk said...

If some Moonbat said that about Liddy Dole the wingnuts would be outraged.

By the way, that fake blonde/gray haired republican south carolina woman is absolutely horrible. Actually, did anyone get a gander at the entire audience? You know some of them bashed some blackies in south carolina in their youth.
Was anyone there under 70? I bet they love "states rights".

the south is gross, sorry, it is just gross.

amba said...

McCain reacted differently to the anti-immigration quote because it was not about a potential political rival.

That said, if he were squaring off against Obama and anyone made the most faintly-tinged racist remark, McCain would swiftly and unequivocally reject it.

That said . . . women are not a minority, and the war between the sexes that now becomes a strand in public life is very, very ancient. Pols should of course refrain from attacking one another's gender, but they won't, and since they won't, women will have to toughen up. The balance of power, starting with muscle, has been loaded against women for millennia, yet women have some devastating weapons and access to secrets and vulnerabilities that equalizes things just a bit. Now that they can't just rap us across the mouth to shut us up, if men choose to fight on that ground, they're in for a rough battle.

Caroline said...

Hi Kirk;

Sorry for the delayed response. Life beckoned.

You are correct. No one said all women are bitches.

That was just my example of how the word "dick" could be used in a sexist way, in response to someone else's comment.

To be clear, I don't believe a person is sexist simply because they use the word "bitch". Probably everyone today, myself included, uses the word. I certainly don't believe everyone is sexist.

Life beckons again...

Unknown said...

*clears throat
For me,It was rude, crude and uncalled for!

Methadras said...

The fact that there wasn't a rebuke of sorts to calling Hillary a bitch is because people really do think she is one. Obviously it has no place is presidential politics, but when I see Arab parlimentarians throwing shoes at each other, Latin socialist dictators and sovereignty telling each other to shut up, Vice President Cheney telling Patrick 'The empty suited, grandstanding moron' Lehey to go fuck himself on the Senate floor, then asking a Republican Presidential Candidate on how to beat that 'Bitch' Hillary really isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things.

Methadras said...

Caroline said...

To be clear, I don't believe a person is sexist simply because they use the word "bitch". Probably everyone today, myself included, uses the word. I certainly don't believe everyone is sexist.

That's quite refreshing to read. I wonder how soon you will be attacked by some of the limp-wristed, seemingly effeminate, liberal/leftist males on here that calling a woman a bitch isn't only sexist, but that you are letting all other women down because you don't think so. Remember, consistency of ideological idiocy is the hallmark that all limp-wristed, seemingly effeminate, liberal/leftists males must abide by. Such a naughty word.

Revenant said...

If someone said "all men are dicks", some might call it a sexist remark.

If someone said "all men are stupid", that would be a sexist remark. That doesn't make the word "stupid" a sexist word. said...

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