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Outting Imus

If I were Don Imus I would stay home for a while. Not just in the house, but in bed, with the shades drawn. With all the invectives being slung around — about his comb-over, his lack of sexual prowess, his tired rants — it’s better just to hibernate out of sight than to feed the fire. But the problem with Imus, which is what got him into trouble in the first place, is that he doesn’t know when to stop, stick his foot in his mouth, and call it a day.

If I were Don Imus I would stay home for a while. Not just in the house, but in bed, with the shades drawn.

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With all the invectives being slung around — about his comb-over, his lack of sexual prowess, his tired rants — it’s better just to hibernate out of sight than to feed the fire. But the problem with Imus, which is what got him into trouble in the first place, is that he doesn’t know when to stop, stick his foot in his mouth, and call it a day.

First came the announcement that Imus wanted to publicly apologize to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. NBC initially suspended him for two weeks before realizing just how much was at stake and ultimately canceled his MSNBC simulcast of his CBS radio show, which has now also been dropped by CBS completely. Imus is finally being hung out to dry and with any luck he’ll completely disappear from the public stage.

Truly, what surprises me about this whole situation is why it took NBC and the American public so long to take offense to Imus? This is not the first time he showed his true colors. In fact, Slate published an abridged list of insults Imus has spewed about everyone from blacks, to Jews, to gays, to the handicapped. So I wonder, why the world has only taken notice now? And why is NBC riding this wave to distance themselves from Imus in the name of decency and political correctness? Did NBC not understand the Imus brand when they aired his radio program? Did they not know that his off-color jokes and racist-sexist-misogynistic-anti-Semitic-derogatory-rants-disguised-as-humor are what attract listeners to him in the first place? Or is this NBC’s way of preserving their brand now that Staples, Proctor and Gamble, General Motors, Glaxo SmithKline, and Sprint Nextel have all pulled their ads? Somehow the disclaimer “[Don Imus’s] views are not those of MSNBC,” allows NBC to walk away from this imbroglio looking like politically correct, do-gooders. But the naïve, how-could-he-say-such-a-thing look on NBC’s face is transparent. Especially when NBC is the platform from which Imus has been allowed to insult, mock, and ridicule ad infinitum. And don’t make any mistake — if ad revenues weren’t being pulled and Imus was bringing in wads of cash, NBC would not have canned the program. Someone at the top must have noticed that Imus was costing NBC more than he was making them and decided that cutting ties with Imus was their best bet. At least we know NBC’s self-preservation gene is intact. They knew when to pull the plug in order to save their brand (and prevent employee revolt).

On the Nation’s website, Barbara Ehrenreich suggested that women of the world should unite and take back the “nappy-headed ho” invective as our own. She said that all women — no matter their race or heritage or hair type — should stand proud as nappy-headed hos. But who in their right mind wants to be defined by or in reaction to Don Imus — a tired, worn out, newly-unemployed radio show host? As much as Ehrenreich believes in the people and standing up for the rights of the underdog (as witnessed by her book “Nickel and Dimed”), her reference to her blonde hair and lack of experience as a prostitute came across as naïve and beside the point. I know she was trying to pull the whole we’re-all-in-this-together card, but now is not the time. Instead of telling women to embrace their inner-ho, she should be railing against the mentality that tells women they have to be smooth-haired, virginal, and sweet to be accepted.

What bothers me is that women always have to be on the defensive, making excuses for their gender. The most obvious example is Hilary, who is in the unfortunate situation of being a woman and running for president, and who is constantly being barraged with derogatory comments based on her gender (that’s she’s ugly, fat, a bitch, not sexy). Likewise, the Rutger’s women’s basketball team is good at what they do and yet instead of celebrating their skills, they are defending their race and gender. If they were men they’d be considered tough and we’d hear comments like, “Oh, did you see that play he just made?” But instead they are being called “rough,” most certainly in reference to their race, gender, and sexual availability (just like the term thug is thrown around when referring to black men) and hos, which is an easy way to insult, objectify, offend, and threaten women.

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Now when you add in the fact that the person making the overtly racist and sexist comments to these women was a white man making loads of cash because he is a) in a position of power b) wielding his power and c) putting down those who don’t have power, NBC had no choice but to fire him. And the fact that they gave him the privilege of a public platform from which to air his opinions, all the while making money from his drivel, makes NBC complicit.

NBC should not be looked at as some sort of saint in this situation. The network did the only decent thing that could be done if it wanted to keep its audience and its ad revenue. In a time when America finally has the opportunity to vote a black man into office, people like Imus and his brand of insulting, negativity only serve to polarize.