If you’ve ever heard conservative TV and radio host Glenn Beck’s name, you undoubtedly know that he’s an asshole. Simple enough, no big shocks there. He’s also dumb as a bag of rocks. The other night, I was out for pizza, the restaurant TV was unfortunately tuned to CNN, and Beck was talking about the condoms that NYC handed out on Valentine’s Day. He made the ridiculous argument that handing out condoms to teenagers is encouraging sex, blah blah blah, but then took the stupidity up a notch — I kid you not –with saying that NY is a dirty city and it’s not a good idea to hand out condoms on the street because people should be having sex in more sanitary locations. I kept waiting for an indication that he was joking, and not actually so dense as to think that the moment you hand someone a condom, pants are dropped and fucking ensues right there on the sidewalk. It didn’t come.
This is generally harmless asshattery. But he often takes it up a notch and decides to implicate other people in his ignorant rantings. He did just that on his radio show, the morning of the same day that I watched him make his above comments. Media Matters only highlights the last paragraph here, but I think that the preceding paragraph they provided for context is just as offensive. Here are Glenn’s thoughts on a story he found called “Surprising reasons you’re not having sex”:
BECK: I mean, here are some other reasons. “You’re ugly.” Hello! I’m not a sex expert but I’m — you know, I’m thinking, you know, you’re ugly and, you know, that’s a tough one to overcome especially if you’re a woman. If you’re a guy, that’s not hard to overcome. I’m sorry. That’s just the way the world is. Have you — how many ugly guys have hot wives? Take me, for example. I don’t know why she married — I think it was low self-esteem. I do. No, really I think it was low self-esteem. I got in — you know, you buy when the market is low. You know what I mean? While everybody else is selling, you buy. And I think I got in there right at the right time. Low self-esteem, low, wait a minute, could go a little lower, she might come down to my price. Hang on, OK, sold! Now her self-esteem is going up. And if my income wasn’t going up, she would have ditched me long ago. She would have gone, “Wait a minute, I think I was depressed when I married you.” I’m just — look. I’m not Tania, but I am a thinker. I’m on to you, Tania!
OK, so anyway, I was talking about ugly people. Ugly people, if you’re a guy, you can get past it. I don’t think you can as an ugly woman. I don’t — no, I don’t. If you’re an ugly woman, I apologize. Oh, you’ve got a double cross, because if you’re an ugly woman, you’re probably a progressive as well. Oh, jeez. I’m sorry. Today’s just not your day. But you know what? If you believed in God, you’d know that there’s going to be another chance for you. You don’t have to be ugly in heaven. You’re going to be your perfect self, and there will be another perfect somebody waiting for you on the other side.
Now, as much as it pains me to analyze a single word that comes out of Glenn Beck’s mouth, there is just so much rampant misogyny here that I absolutely can’t help myself.
Clearly, Beck understands very little about sex and human attraction, namely that what constitutes an attractive appearance is highly subjective. Focusing on build alone, this is why some men and women who like men are attracted to very muscular men, while others are attracted to skinny men, etc. And despite the myth that there is only one appropriately attractive way for women to look, while some men and women undoubtedly are attracted to women who are very thin with very large (and probably enhanced) breasts, others like women with athletic builds, or with curvy shapes, etc. There’s also the lovely fact that once you find a person attractive on an intellectual level, questions of your personal “type” are thrown out the window, and someone to whom you would not normally be attracted becomes very hot indeed.
The point is that no matter what Glenn thinks of his wife, chances are very good that — at least at some point, and for whatever reason — she did find him attractive.
How do I know this? Probably because unlike Beck, I don’t believe that women are commodities just itching to be “bought.” He apparently thinks that he’s being funny or clever here. But strangely enough, most women don’t like jokes along the lines of “I bought you when the price was low!” Nor do they generally like to hear that their husband thinks they were so very desperate to get married that they would have settled for just about anyone, or that he thinks this fact means he tricked them into the relationship and is actually proud of that. Also, though men seem to think that it’s the joke that never gets old, the whole “women are gold-digging bitches who actually hate men” meme isn’t exactly a favorite among the ladies.
It should probably go without saying, though, that how Glenn Beck’s wife feels with regards to the things that Glenn Beck says about her isn’t exactly among his chief concerns.
But back to his thesis that womens are goods for men’s consumption, and that men inevitably have more valuable aspects to their personhood than women do, since women are just tits and ass and a pretty smile. Men that Beck thinks are ugly can have lots of money, charisma or intelligence. Women that Beck thinks are ugly are just terrifying, screeching hags. In fact, the only consolation as an ugly woman is to believe in an afterlife where you will be “perfect,” and therefore definitely not ugly by Glenn Beck’s standards, as the only chance at happiness, fulfilling relationships and gratifying sexual encounters. Basically, he thinks that ugly women have nothing to look forward to except death.
And yes, there’s the elephant in the room: “if you’re an ugly woman, you’re probably a progressive as well.” Ouch, Glenn, that stings. I think that I’m going to go have myself a cry.
As most of you know, this is an exceedingly old and not very clever trick. All the way back to the suffragist days, women who demand equal rights were portrayed as ugly. When I visited the Susan B. Anthony house, I got to see lots of posters and cartoons along the lines of “she wants to act like a man because she looks like a man!” “Feminists are ugly” is an old battle cry, and sadly, it hasn’t been a resounding failure.
Feminists are ugly, fat, manly, unmarried, childless, sexless, loud, and the implication is that anyone who has these traits should be deeply ashamed. Also, anyone who doesn’t feel these traits describe themselves should work as diligently as possible to make sure that they’re not associated with them by proxy.
To be these things is bad. But why do they belong to feminists? One answer is that feminism works to fight the assumption that women should be judged on these qualities and that all of them should be considered innately bad — to relentlessly reuse the myths works against the argument that they’re manufactured and false.
But there is another reason that is a lot more relevant and a lot more dangerous. Misogynists believe that all women should be how Glenn Beck at least thinks his wife is: looking to be bought. In this world view, all women are very cheap whores. It’s certainly true that for a very long time in our patriarchal society, women have had to rely on men for financial and societal survival. I have no ill will towards the women who do and have done the best that they could with what they were given to stay alive and to feed both themselves and their children. I have no intent to insult them. I certainly do have ill will towards and do intend to insult the men who still believe this is a wonderful set up, that women chose for it to be this way and have no right to back out on the “deal.”
Glenn Beck (along with all of his other conservative talking head buddies) is one of those men. He thinks that women are happiest when being bought, sold, traded and used. And he thinks that the only women who would challenge this societal order are those who no one will buy. The only women who would want to change the status quo therefore must be ugly. And only women who are ugly could ever possibly feel like they’re getting fucked over.
It’s an interesting argument and one that might even be easy to believe for those unused to engaging in analytical thought, or for those who have a large stake in it being true. The problem is, of course, that being purchased isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Being financially dependent on someone else isn’t usually a jolly good time — something that those so opposed to the dreaded “welfare state” fail to understand. Forcibly popping out kids is demeaning, hard on one’s body and little more than a form of slavery. Being told that your ideas are stupid by default can be pretty annoying. Having your sexual rights and desires constantly denied or ridiculed is hardly good for one’s psyche. And having the shit beaten out of you because you’re not quite obedient enough and your owner is feeling buyer’s remorse, well that isn’t exactly an aspiration for anyone.
So here’s the thing, Glenny-Boy. I am a progressive — though I prefer to say liberal — and one of those scary ball-busting feminists. I also have a relationship with a partner who didn’t have to trick me into it, who didn’t buy me, and who sees me as an equal. And I have no complaints about my sex life. If that makes me ugly, fine. But if that’s the best argument you’ve got, I’m pretty sure that you’re not the one coming out ahead.