What about sex-specific or sexual insults? Feminists have a point when they say that such attacks on women are uniquely damaging because historically, women have been so often demeaned and disempowered by being reduced to their sexual functions. Today, too, women in public life can face unmistakably misogynist rhetoric, whether it’s Salon.com publishing a Palin-bashing screed filled with degrading sexual imagery or Rush Limbaugh repeatedly portraying Clinton as an emasculating female; whether it’s conservatives suggesting that feminists are not “real women” or liberals suggesting the same about women who don’t toe the feminist party line.
But not every crude and hateful slam at a woman is misogynist; sometimes, it’s just crude and hateful. An anatomical epithet toward a woman is not automatically worse than the male equivalent. Calling a female politician a bitch is not automatically worse than calling a male politician a scumbag, an overwhelmingly male-directed slur. Rocker and right-wing activist Ted Nugent’s invitation to Hillary Clinton to “ride one of these into the sunset” while brandishing two rifles at a 2007 concert was no more disgusting than his simultaneous invitation to Barack Obama to “suck on this” (and there’s no reason to think that Nugent would have been kinder to a top Democratic presidential contender who was male and white).