Sunday, May 24, 2009

Last Night's P-Galore Tempest

It looks like we on the left are going to get the privilege of this week's hissy fit. On Saturday, the Republican National Committee put out a video that attacked Nancy Pelosi by representing her as "Pussy Galore," the villainess from the Bond movie Goldfinger. The big play here was to portray Pelosi in terms of the P-word as a term for female genitals and in case anybody missed the point, they put the label "Democrats Galore" at the end.

Having published a post entitled the "Deep Depths of Dick" last night in relation to Dick Cheney, I'm not in much of a position this morning to be self-righteous about reducing anyone to their genitals.

But here's what Taylor Marsh says:

At the end it says “Democrats Galore.” Imposed with a naked woman behind the tag line. Get it? Subtle it is not. But check out the video at around :40 seconds; a split screen that says it all. “Pussy Galore” is shown with “Starring Nancy Pelosi the Speaker” over “Pussy’s” image.

But hey, it’s good to have a sense of humor about these things right? And who doesn’t love the Bond films, especially those Sean Connery classics?

The RNC, however, is not celebrating the women in these classic movies, even by 1960’s standards. Nor are they empowering women through utilizing one of the the cunning female villains who parade around in them by equating her with Speaker Pelosi. I shouldn’t have to spell it out any further, though if the RNC doesn’t have women in their leadership ranks or men who get this stuff and know bad taste when they see it, the Rush, Newt and Cheney Party (as they were aptly called on "Hardball” yesterday) is truly nothing more than a frat boy institution. No offense to
fraternities meant.

That a woman, let alone Speaker of the House, should never be hinted to in any public way through the use of “Pussy” insinuations should be obvious. That this is being used by a once major political party in the 21st century is stunning.

Still laughing smugly to myself about my Dick Cheney post, I can't quite agree that making female genital insinuations is degrading at all times--just in male-dominated societies like our own. The problem of living in a male-supremacist society isn't so much that female genitals are degraded but that female genitals are so rarely exalted. Going back through the history of Western literature and popular culture, male genitals have been subject to a constant outpouring of exaltation and a steady stream of degradation as well. Jon Stewart can refer to Stephen Colbert as having "titanium balls" for sending up George Bush to his face and liberal bloggers like myself can demean Dick Cheney for being such a "dick."

But it's still so rare for female genitals to be exalted in any way that there's good reason to think that any insinuation concerning female genitals is demeaning. In the Renaissance classic Gargantua, Rabelais gives Gargantua a legendary penis, but his wife Gargamelle's vagina, clitoris, and ovaries must also have been enormous and had their own outsized qualities. But Rabelais limited her to giving birth and dying. That's pretty much still the case today. I saw a reference on Open Salon yesterday to a female blogger having "steel ovaries," but there's still little in the way of imagery, metaphor, mythology, and hype that represent the "parts" of women in terms of valued qualities, like energy, drive, determination, and toughness. If anything, the situation has gotten worse over the last couple of decades as the tentative efforts to represent women as full human beings have been overwhelmed by the explosion of pornography.

So yeah, the RNC video on Nancy Pelosi is degrading to Pelosi as a woman and degrading to all women. Even though I've degraded Dick Cheney through a reference to his genitals (Sorry Dick), I wasn't males in a bigoted way because I'm just as prone to exalt masculinity in other places. Exalting and degrading people in sexual terms is a lot of what popular culture and popular politics is about. But until women's sexuality is much more exalted than it is now, insinuations concerning women's genitals are going to be rightfully seen as degrading.

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