How Meg Whitman should have responded to “Whore-Gate”

Last week, I covered the flip-flopping and mixed signals coming from the feminist organization NOW in the aftermath of a scandalous voicemail message which inadvertently caught someone on California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown’s campaign using the word “whore” to describe a woman, his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman.

Here’s the condensed version: NOW criticized the use of the word whore to describe a woman as “hate speech,” but its California chapter endorsed Jerry Brown anyways (for his “support for women’s rights”), though its national president did call for the person who used the word “whore” to be fired, except she changed her mind hours later and said that anyone who says the “W” word “from this point forward” should be fired, but then NOW’s California chapter president used the word “whore” to describe Meg Whitman again, insisting to Talking Points Memo, that “political whore” is an accurate description for her.

Whew! They do say that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. But the feminists on the Left aren’t the only ones who appear hypocritical in the aftermath of this scandal. What about the RNC’s extremely offensive and tasteless ad targeted at Nancy Pelosi back in 2009? (I’ll leave you to read Politico‘s account and discern the ad’s offensiveness for yourself.) This same party has opportunistically jumped on Jerry Brown for his staffer’s use of the word “whore” to describe Meg Whitman, when it has arguably done worse in the past, and likely laughed off any criticism as “political correctness run amok.”

There’s a good argument that political correctness has run amok, but you can’t criticize political correctness and then turn around and use it as a weapon when it happens to suit you. There’s an ugly Alinskyite opportunism that runs deep in both parties and which has been perfectly exemplified in the recent events which have now been dubbed “Whore-Gate” by the Internet blogosphere. It’s almost as bad as the Alinskyite polarism that makes politics so irrationally extreme, so crudely personal, so blindly “us vs. them” that your opponent isn’t just your opponent, but a whore.

Frankly, there’s an argument to be made that all of the uproar over the issue is more damaging to feminism and degrading to women than if we had just let it slide, as we would have if the Republican candidate for governor were a man and a Brown aide had been recorded saying, “He’s a whore for cutting a deal with that union over pensions.” By treating Whitman differently because she’s a woman, we are guilty of a kind of sexism. There’s a certain old-fashioned and quite un-feminist chivalry in riding to Whitman’s aid and protecting her from those mean words.

Instead of jumping on the political opportunity and condemning Brown so harshly as Whitman’s campaign did, she may have scored a lot more points and garnered a lot of respect by imitating one of the strongest women in our country and saying: “I certainly don’t need anyone to rescue me from a man with a gutter mouth. Sure, politics is a dirty business, but Harry S. Truman once said said ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.'”