I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to address this subject, but an etymological battle in Washington seems to have just been stirred up further, meaning I just have to jump on top (so to speak) of the semantic debate.
I speak of whores. That's right, whores. Prostitutes. Hookers.
Because some in Washington have apparently latched onto these terms either as a favorite insult to hurl, or as a faux-controversy (while giving Oscar-worthy performances of having the Victorian vapors over hearing the words). Following close behind are charges of "sexism" and "insensitivity" and probably a few other "-isms" to boot.
To which I say: "Oh, Puh-LEEZE."
The beginning of this tempest in a teapot was when Alan Grayson called a woman who works as a lobbyist a "K Street whore," during an interview. He did not actually name the woman -- but only because he couldn't recall her name. Through describing her, he made it obvious who he was talking about, so he doesn't even get a pass for refraining from naming her.
More recently, Glenn Beck described Louisiana's Senator Mary Landrieu as a "prostitute" for what appeared (to him) to be selling her recent vote on healthcare reform for $100 million for her state (she even later got up on the Senate floor and made sure everyone knew it was actually $300 million, not the paltry $100 million others were referring to -- which brings to mind the old "we're just haggling over the price" joke, of course).
Keith Olbermann then jumped into this fray, and named Beck the "Worst Person In The World" for his comment -- while Olbermann did not say "boo" to Alan Grayson earlier on the same program for Grayson's recent use of the word "whore."
To which I say: "Can we all please just get over ourselves?" I mean, seriously.
The argument against using such a loaded term as "whore" or "prostitute" is that it demeans women. To which I say: "Balderdash!"
In the first place, there are whores and prostitutes of both sexes. The term is gender-neutral as far as I'm concerned. That's the way I've always used it, and will continue to use it.
Because, when appropriate, use it I do. Here is my entire catalog of such uses in my writings. See which ones you agree with, and see how the term can indeed be used regardless of gender.
[1/7/08 -- calling the primaries for New Hampshire (long before Edwards' own zipper problem came to light):]
So I'd really like to see [John] Edwards place second in the Granite State, because then the media would either have to pay attention to him or just flat-out admit that they're corporate whores, and that Edwards' message terrifies them.
[9/25/09 -- on Congress and healthcare reform:]
"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."
Of course, this really should be (in today's inclusive society): "Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party." But what it really should say is something more like: "Now is the time for all good men and women to pick up the phone and give their party representative an earful about what it actually means to be a member of that party, and that we actually expect them to stand up and vote for what the party not only believes in at its core but also what we were promised in the last election, and (by the way) why we gave you such overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress to play around with -- but the time for playing is over, and it's time for you to now either stand tall with the people in your party, or admit you're just a corporate whore at heart." But that's a little hard to type, so maybe not.
[10/14/09 -- satirical coach-at-halftime pep talk on healthcare reform:]
Now, I know it's going to be tough to score your touchdown with the team you've got [Congressional Democrats]. There's all kinds of corporate whores wearing our jersey who would be happy to see the whole thing fail. Explain to them that failure means not getting re-elected. Maybe they'll come on board when they see it that way.
[11/04/09 -- one year after Obama's election:]
This reality is a lot more ugly, and a lot more concrete. Obama is not King. Obama really believes reaching out to the other side is a good and important thing to do, and not just a campaign promise. Congress still has a role under our Constitution, as inconvenient as it is to admit this fact. Lobbyists still exist. Washington is still situated on a former swamp, having only exchanged alligators for alligator wingtips on K Street. Congresscritters (far too many of them) are still absolute whores for big corporate campaign contributions. 'Twas ever thus in the District.
And that's not even counting the times I've used the word "prostitute," such as in my first-ever Thanksgiving column (lampooning the whole Washington culture), which is extremely dated but still rather amusing in parts. In it, I describe "ex-male prostitute Mike Jones," because, well, that's what he is. The other places I used "prostitute" were usually because it was an unavoidable fact (talking about Eliot Spitzer's downfall, for instance).
These columns, I point out, caused no outrage at the time. Neither, for that matter, did P.J. O'Rourke's excellent book "Parliament Of Whores" -- which, while written from a conservative-to-libertarian slant, is quite possibly the best book written about (among other things) how lazy our elected officials in Congress truly are, and how they work less days a year than just about any other job you can get. The book, no matter what your politics, is downright hilarious. And yet, I don't believe that O'Rourke got any grief for his title at the time, which was in fact calling every member of Congress a whore.
Of course, back in those days, most of Congress was male. Perhaps the pearl-clutching swoons happening today about the word are because there is now a sizeable percentage of women in the political arena. And, while the word "whore" or "prostitute" has been hurled around Washington pretty much since they drained the swamp and built the place, now we have women on the receiving end of the epithet.
Or perhaps it is the personal nature of such attacks, rather than broad-based attacks which name "all lobbyists" or "all of Congress" or "all Blue Dogs" or whatever other group. Saying Congress is full of whores is not the same thing as saying Congresswoman X is a whore. Some would argue that the same goes for lobbyists who also happen to be women.
I have to draw the line at lobbyists, however. I don't care what genitalia you happen to be packing, if you screw some people over for some other people who are better organized and have more money, and your income is solely derived from such actions; then you, Sir or Madam (as the case may be), are a whore. Deal with it. Nobody forced you into that K Street office.
When Eliot Spitzer crashed and burned his political career, I wrote the column "In Defense Of Hookers" (somewhat tongue in cheek, I admit), suggesting that we should just go ahead and legalize prostitution in Washington, D.C., and set up a federal whorehouse for politicians to have clean and healthy sex with people for money, rather than getting all neo-Puritan each time one of these sex scandals rocked the political world (so to speak). In it, I said:
It is in defense of hookers that I speak today. Because America would be a whole lot better if we legalized prostitution in Washington, D.C. After all, what did we really get for that $40 million we gave Ken Starr? How does anybody really benefit if the public knows details of how Larry Craig or Eliot Spitzer has sex? Wouldn't it be better to facilitate such dalliances with clean and reputable brothels for our politicians?
. . .
Erect one of those pseudo-Greek marble buildings in the Federal Triangle district and name it the Fighting Joe Hooker Memorial Federal Brothel (they've already named the FBI building after J. Edgar Hoover, so this shouldn't be a problem). Stock it with healthy men and women who volunteer to earn their money this way (if you don't think they'd arrive in droves to have sex with the powerful and famous in our nation's capital, you are delusional). Cater to every taste and whim.
. . .
[M]aybe we can get beyond our Puritanical roots when it comes to sex scandals as well. Maybe the next time around, John McCain will be on the front page of the New York Times for a lobbyist scandal, without having to throw sex into it. Maybe we'll all realize that it is simply impossible to describe the relationship between Washington politicians, lobbyists, corporations, and campaign cash -- and still have it come out sounding somehow different than what a prostitute does for a living. Or somehow more moral.
So I say, in defense of hookers everywhere, let's legalize prostitution in the nation's capital. The kind that involves sex, I mean. Because the other kind is not only legal, it is actually how we create our laws. And if we as a nation are fine with that, I don't see why we should have a problem with bringing Hooker's Army back to the banks of the Potomac.
So please, spare me the fake sanctimoniousness, whether from Left or Right. Or from Keith Olbermann. Sometimes a whore needs to be called a whore, whether any sex was actually involved or not. And no matter what particular gender is involved, either. I do not intend to give up using the term, and I refuse to admonish any who are using the term themselves, as long as it is being used correctly (which, from the respective points of view of Grayson and Beck, it was).
The only people who have any standing to complain about the use of the term are actual whores, who may feel I am degrading their profession, by comparing it to what the denizens of K Street or Capitol Hill regularly do. If one actually complains to me about my use of the term, then I will consider banning it from my writing. But not before. Because by my definition, anyone who screws the public over for money is, indeed, a whore.
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post
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-- Chris Weigant