Oh lord. It’s Alex Castellanos, a man with a knack for soundbites and in fine form here. I went back and forth with a friend last night about where “bitch” ranks in the hierarchy of slurs, since some would never be used in polite company towards a candidate whereas this one occasionally gets deployed, even on air, towards Hillary. The closest male analog is “prick”: Both mean roughly the same thing and each applies (traditionally) only to one gender, but the threshold for the P-bomb seems higher than it is for the B-list. A “prick” is usually guilty of some sort of bad behavior apart from his aggressiveness, like a boss who screams at you in front of the entire office; a “bitch,” it seems to me, can end up getting tagged through aggressiveness alone, like a boss who screams at you behind closed doors. Given that lower threshold, I can understand women being angry/jittery at seeing one of their own slapped with the label while she tries for the ultimate alpha male job. Even so, Castellanos’s larger point that not every insult aimed at Clinton is aimed at the Eternal Feminine (even when it references other women, as Obama’s Annie Oakley dig did) is well taken. It’s not the crime of Being Aggressive While Female that got her this ugly little label; it happened long before this, like when she sneered at stay-at-home moms for baking cookies or started trying to destroy her political opponents. Dare I say it, that sort of behavior in a man would warrant the ceremonial dropping of the P-bomb. I’d like to think that’s what Castellanos meant, but by defining the term explicitly in terms of her aggressiveness he added rather more nuance than he should have. (Or, rather, rather less.) Bottom line: Don’t use it.

Two clips for you, then, the first of Castellanos and the second of our favorite liberal wondering why media types aren’t quite so evenhanded with their slurs. Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine anyone giggling on “Morning Joe” if McCain got called a “prick.”

Update: Further to the last paragraph, a commenter notes that “bitch” is commonplace on TV while “prick” is still taboo, which can cut both ways. The fact that it’s gone mainstream means people may feel instinctively safer to use it; the question then is, why has it gone mainstream? Maybe the real analog here is “bastard.”

Tags: Barack Obama