Assorted thoughts about sexism and sexual misconduct since my last post on this topic:
⊗ Comedian Sarah Silverman told a reporter from The Guardian, “There are jokes I made 15 years ago I would absolutely not make today.” I understand why she said this but there may be less to her statement than meets the eye. I would ask, was there ever a time when Sarah’s statement was not true? I think that even the conservative Bob Hope — were he still around to answer — would acknowledge having made jokes in 1960 that he would not have told in 1975. I suggest that what we laugh at and what we cringe from measures the rate of change in our culture.
⊗ In the early 1970s, I drew two cartoons for our college newspaper that had blatantly sexist punchlines. I got well-deserved blowback for those items in the letters-to-the-editor of the newspaper. At the time, I responded to that feedback with defensiveness, as a cover for my personal embarassment, immaturity and confusion. Eventually I would walk away from the 1970s college culture dominated by The National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live and R. Crumb, but for a good while, and to my discredit, I pretty much went along with that post-modern sexism. I never embraced it but I didn’t question others about it either.
⊗ Al Franken not only absorbed but helped shape this culture. He was a member of the writing staff of SNL when guest host Buck Henry played his now-infamous “Uncle Roy” character, the babysitter who took photos of his nieces as they slid down the banister in their nighties. While Franken did not write that sketch, he was a full-on particpant in SNL‘s early mission to obliterate any and all boundaries of comedy and taste. The first time I heard the word areola on television was the SNL skit pitting Dan Aykroyd against Jane (You Ignorant Slut) Curtin. The first time I saw brain tumors used as a comedy bit was another SNL skit with Tom Davis and Al Franken. It is not a big stretch to suggest that Al Franken was accustomed to (and was rewarded for) disrespecting boundaries.
⊗ I don’t want this commentary to be about pointing fingers. Instead, without making excuses, I would say that the times that baby-boomers grew up in were incredibly sexist. We can’t walk that back. Some men grew out of it faster than others. Some never have and some never will. Sadly, many women will have to be on their guard for a long, long time and many men — beyond the celebrity revelations — will never be held to account.