Feminists accuse Joe Scarborough of using sexist language

Jeff Winkler | Contributor

In a scathing op-ed, Joe Scarborough told the GOP they needed to “man up” against Sarah Palin. Women advocates, however, have taken issue with the MSNBC host and former congressman’s comments, telling Morning Joe to “STF Up.”

Women advocates aren’t upset with Scarborough’s political rhetoric. It’s the male-centric language. They want so-called sexist language to stop, and in the name of equality, that means women’s use of that language, too.

In his Politico column on Monday,  Scarborough called on Republicans to distance themselves publicly from Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate. “Enough,” wrote Scarborough. “It’s time for the GOP to man up.”

Later that day, author and Democratic activist Christine Pelosi, who is the daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, began her comments about the article with an admonition of Scarborough’s sexist language, not his political comments.

“‘Man up’ is a sexist term that should be retired along with all the other gender-based imperious imperatives,” wrote Pelosi on Politico’s “The Arena.” “Candidates at all levels of service deserve better than ludicrous taunting that does little to advance civil discourse.”

Pelosi isn’t the only one who’s upset.

“I agree 100 percent with Christine Pelosi that this kind of language, however it gets used, it should be excised from political discourse in the same way that language that might have been acceptable in previous generations towards individuals who are African American has been successfully excised from public discourse,” Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, CEO and president of the Women’s Campaign Forum, told The Daily Caller.

The WCF advocates for female candidates in all levels of government and has lobbied publicly to change the language of political discourse. While it’s liberal in its activism, Bennett stressed the need to end sexist language on all fronts.

But what if it’s other women using the allegedly sexist remarks?

Female candidates — particularly Republican female candidates in the 2010 midterms — have begun co-opting the male-dominated lingo for their own use. Former Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharon Angle told her soft-spoken opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to “man up” and former GOP Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell told her challenger, Sen.-elect Chris Coons, “this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”

“We’re seeing some woman-on-woman and woman-on-man action with all this rhetoric, you’re absolutely correct,” said Bennett. “[But] it’s unacceptable either way. When a woman uses this terminology … that is, at its foundation, forced… In a way, it’s an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ mentality. That doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Bennett has a standard for determining appropriate language from inappropriate language.

“I think the litmus for us is diversibility. If a word or a term is commonly against a man candidate then fair game,” continued Bennett. “But if specific words are not commonly used, it’s not fair game. It has pass the test of diversibility.”

So perhaps these “sexist” phrases do qualify as “diversibility.” Take, for instance, this mind warp: Testosterone-filled male and MSNBC host Ed Shultz admonishes mama bear Sarah Palin for taunting alpha male President Obama about his lack of “cojones” while similarly implying that female Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer does in fact have the equipment necessary to grow male sex bullets.

Shultz’s exact description of Palin? “Sexist.”

Other women’s advocates are still very much concerned about overt sexism in politics, but aren’t as sure about the “sexist” classification of phrases like “man up.”

“I don’t think it’s so much anti-women. There’s certainly are plenty of words that I would put in that category that get thrown around,” said Donna Allen, founder and president of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press. “But we still haven’t gotten rid of ‘mankind’ and those phrases so I don’t think it’s critical. “

Allen did stress that it is was important to move toward “inclusiveness” by eliminating phrases that everyone can agree are naughty.

“Maybe the result of this, the language will change a little and we’ll come up with ones that aren’t loaded but are lively,” said Allen “It doesn’t mean we can never say anything, but I think it’s good to go in the direction of cutting out some of the loaded words.”

While Bennett offered a slightly different opinion, saying that “man up” comes from a “very nasty, negative source of sexism,” all the women’s advocacy groups agreed on one thing, unanimously: We need more chicks in politics.

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