Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Once again Bob Herbert misses the point

Herbert's column "Politics and Misogyny" misses the point because of his obsession with prostitution. This time it's the unpleasant working conditions of prostitutes in Nevada.
It just so happens that the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning this week in the misogyny capital of America: Nevada. It’s a perfect place to bring up the way women are viewed and treated in this society, but don’t hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are hardly in the habit of insulting the locals.

Prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and heavily promoted even where it’s not. In Las Vegas, where prostitution is illegal but flourishes nevertheless, Mayor Oscar Goodman has said that creating a series of legal, “magnificent” brothels would be a great development tool for his city.

The fundamental problem in all of this is that women and girls are dehumanized, opening the floodgates to every kind of mistreatment. “Once you dehumanize somebody, everything else is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.

A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas. There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At the sound of the bell, the prostitutes have five minutes to get to an assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to drop by.

What does Bob Herbert think of Hooters, I wonder. I don't like Hooters myself, especially after seeing its Employees Handbook at The Smoking Gun. But I sure as hell wouldn't compare the misogyny of a Hooters with women being raped and murdered, the way Herbert compares - really conflates - rape and murder with prostitution and pornography.

And here's a question that the anti-legal-prostitution people always REFUSE to answer: if going to a prostitute is a man's expression of misogyny, what does it mean when a man goes to a male prostitute? Misandrony? Self-hate?

Or do they just want to have sex and can't find a willing volunteer?