Sunday, February 06, 2005

Nipplegate: One Year After

Picking on Frank Rich is so easy, I almost feel guilty for doing it. Today in the New York Times he gets yammering again about those darned conservatives. Ann Althouse points out this Mickey Kaus piece which punctures Rich's premise, and Ann adds a few thoughts of her own.

All I really want to point out is this line from Rich's piece, which is full of his usual sneering and captures a perfect snapshot of Rich's one-note ranting. The topic: Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction and those "backward" conservatives who complained.

This repressive cultural environment was officially ratified on Nov. 2, when Ms. Jackson's breast pulled off its greatest coup of all: the re-election of President Bush.

That's it. That's Rich in a nutshell. No matter what he's ranting about, it all comes down to President Bush in the end. He reminds me of a former co-worker who erupted in Tourette's-like barking if anyone mentioned Ronald Reagan in his presence.

Mickey Kaus sets the record straight:

It wasn't what Jackson did that was offensive. It was what Timberlake did. Here was a massively popular, relatively hip singer whose message was that it was a hip, transgressive thing for men to rip clothes off women when they feel like it (which is quite often). I watched the game with a group of non-evangelical, non-moralistic dads who were uniformly horrified. The problem for them wasn't sex--their kids see flesh all the time in videos--but a form of sexism, not prudery but piggishness. Surely there are some types of behavior--homophobia, perhaps, or racism, or Republicanism--that even Frank Rich wouldn't want implicitly endorsed during a telecast watched by most of the country's teens and pre-teens. Yet the press has effectively recast this complicated issue as an uncomplicated case of "Nipple-gate," of blue-noses overreacting to the sight of a breast. No wonder red staters respond negatively when New Yorkers call them simplistic.

Exactly. Ann Althouse adds these thoughts.

But if it was sexism and not prudishness that was really offensive here, why didn't people on the left get upset about it? The fact that the right reacted to the breast-baring proves that it really was about sex, doesn't it?

You might well ask.

But didn't you notice that the feminist concern about sexual predation, a huge deal circa 1992, fell into steep decline shortly thereafter? The people of the left had a keen eye for the sexual subordination of women in the late 80s and early 90s, the era of the anti-pornography movement. They gasped about sexual harassment around about when Clarence Thomas was nominated as Supreme Court Justice. And then it all just suddenly went away, because party politics outweighed whatever real concern about feminism they'd ever had, and Bill Clinton needed help beating Paula Jones into submission. Feminism has never recovered! Oh, abortion politics still remains, because it works well as a campaign issue, but there's not much serious attention to feminism on the left anymore.

Let's also ask why feminists have been silent regarding the achievements in the Middle East. Women in Afghanistan are no longer worried about being executed for wearing makeup. Instead they're voting. The same is true for women in Iraq. You'd think the feminists could put aside their natural antagonism toward Republicans to acknowledge that President Bush did a great thing here.

You'd think.


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