- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The recent furor over radio personality Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” has been useful in exposing how much misogyny is still accepted in news and entertainment media. In the midst of the denunciations and rebuttals, years of demeaning anti-woman rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle have been dredged up, exposed and rightly condemned.

Yet what is shockingly absent from this discussion is the blatant misogyny on full display during prime-time “entertainment” programming. Mr. Limbaugh’s comments happened last week, and the controversy resumed on Monday without missing a beat. Over the weekend, ABC premiered “GCB,” previously titled “Good Christian Bitches,” but no one has spoken out about the offensive title, let alone the inherent sexism in the new series. Later this spring, ABC also will be airing “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23.”

Although anti-woman language in the political realm is still hotly debated, we seem to be only too willing to put up with it in the entertainment realm.

Last week, USA Today published a piece by Carol Memmott that amounted to little more than a defense of the “B-word” on television. In it, Ms. Memmott quoted Anne Charity Hudley from the College of William & Mary, who insisted that “for some people [the B-word is] completely not derogatory” while pointing out that for some, the word is even used as a term of endearment.

“GCB” seems more than satisfied to follow in the footsteps of “Desperate Housewives,” airing immediately after the latter. Like “Desperate Housewives,” it reinforces sexual stereotypes. Women’s identities are determined primarily on the basis of their attractiveness, to whom they’re married, or the purses they own. When the main character is looking for a job, her own mother encourages her to put her breasts on display.

Throughout history, racist and misogynistic language has been used to keep an entire group of people “in their place” - to strip them of their dignity, individuality and humanity and thereby make mistreatment, abuse and even violence toward that group or individuals in that group seem somehow more acceptable.

The subliminal message is that women are not worthy of respect. They are less than human. They are slaves to animalistic passions. They exist to be sexually available to men, and nothing more. Women who are exposed repeatedly to messages like these may eventually come to believe they have no worth beyond their sexuality. Men who are exposed repeatedly to messages like these may come in time to believe it is their right to treat women poorly, even to be abusive.

Misogyny in entertainment is certainly not limited to “GCB.” You can see it in reality shows like “The Bachelor” and in NBC’s recently canceled “The Playboy Club.” It should be opposed everywhere, at all times. At a bare minimum, however, we should all agree that the word “bitch” doesn’t belong in the title of a program.

Melissa Henson is the director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council.

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