Penn Jillette is a douchebag. We knew that, we know that, and some of us argue that it’s one of the main ways he’s risen to stardom in our community. Myself included. So it wasn’t a real surprise to any of us that, with his steadfast defense of showing women as tit-and-ass buffets, and his stalwart support of Mallorie Nasrallah’s open letter to the skeptic community, that Penn would find nothing wrong with calling a woman a cunt for the crime of not amusing him. But why? What context justifies this?
Lindy West posted about this year’s Superbowl ads and the takeaway lessons these ads give the average viewer. Penn did not watch the ads, but thought the article was unfunny, and therefore felt justified to post on his friend Emily’s Facebook wall that she was “a remarkably stupid cunt”. He evidently did not feel it necessary to view the ads to suss out why Lindy was annoyed by them, but felt qualified to comment on her post nonetheless.
Some skeptic communities, Freethought Blogs included, said “that’s totally fucked up.” We took Penn to task for being a douchebag, and the Offense Brigade, the winged monkeys who flit about our community and swoop in to defend sexism and misogynist behaviour, could be heard echoing about the hills with their cries of “context!” before they even descended upon Jen’s blog. Penn’s friend Emily, and Penn’s wife Emily Jillette (separate people evidently), both defended Penn as being in no way a sexist, and characterized this as a hit job about a remark taken out of context. The “context crowd” offered so many different contexts where it’s supposedly justified to say “cunt” that Jen was able to build a Bingo card out of them.
But despite all the defense offered, and the number of times “context” was brought up, nobody’s actually offered the context in which Penn’s use of the word is actually somehow acceptable.
So, knowing the following facts, what is the context here?
1) Lindy West, Emily, and Penn Jillette are all American
2) The word “cunt” applied to a woman in America is a sexist slur, used in exactly the same vein as calling a black person a “nigger”
3) Lindy’s crime was of not amusing Penn Jillette
4) Facebook is not a private messaging system — anyone with Penn on their friends list would see his posting on Emily’s wall on their own timelines
5) Penn is not a woman, and could therefore not have been owning the slur
Bear in mind also that when Michael Richards called a black person a “nigger” for heckling him at a stand-up routine, his career imploded. For the crime of failing to amuse Richards, for the crime of trying to show him up, he used a racist slur and thereby committed career suicide. Why is sexism okay, in that Penn Jillette is still around, but racism is not, in that Richards can’t get a job for the life of him?
I await your justifications, and do hope you’ll take into account all of the above.
Take your time.