Okay, I couldn't let this one pass. Cenk Uygur posted his "Man-Crush List" yesterday, pointing out a few men of virtue and substance whom he admires. Awesome — HuffPo is all about the love. Except why did he have to go ruin it by being homophobic and sexist?
Seriously. It doesn't rise to the level of, say, General Peter Pace but that almost makes it worse: It's quieter, more matter-of-fact and hence is more insidious. Coming from someone who is such a strong voice on the left, well, it requires calling out.
Cenk defines a "man-crush" as "an affinity that one man has toward another man that is completely non-sexual." Fine. Fair enough. Then he goes on: "It is one straight man saying to another, I am willing to have my sexuality questioned by admitting that I like you. Only the coolest possible people deserve this honor." Oh, the bravery! The fortitude! Willing to step proudly forth and accept the indignity of maybe being mistaken for a gay man! You must really not care what anyone thinks of you! And how manly is that? Well, as manly as about fifty zillion disclaimers. That reminds me of that classic line by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry: "Go ahead, make my day. But not in a gay way, I'm straight. I meant that figuratively. I don't actually want you to make my day that way. I like chicks." Yes, a seminal movie moment.
I have no fault with his list — in truth, I have rather a man-crush on Russ Feingold myself. But my God, how many times does he have to disclaim about how straight he is? It goes beyond wanting to clear up any confusion for any swooning damsels in the audience — it's a very specific disassociation of himself from something that he does not seem to consider all that positive. Consider this: "I'm getting dangerously close to actually being gay." Ooh, the danger! For a straight man like yourself! WATCH OUT! And how 'bout this: "I know I'm gay for liking Two and a Half Men, but I do." Wow. Don't worry about it, Cenk. You're forgiven. Just don't do it again, goddamn it. You're getting dangerously close to actually being gay!Uygur is, sadly, way closer to actually being sexist. I probably would have let this one slide had it not been for this gem about Man-Crush #6, Bill Clinton:
And he got blown in the Oval Office by an intern. That's obviously cool. If Monica was hotter, Bill would have been a couple of notches higher on the list.
WHOA. First of all, there are many people who don't think that it was all that cool that the most powerful person in the United States saw fit to engage in a sexual relationship with a starry-eyed 22-year old. Can you say 'power imbalance?' I have known many 22-year olds, and was once one myself — and well I recall what a total freaking ninny I was (okay, I still am, but my point is, 22 is young). Barely old enough to drink, barely out of college, and not so many years removed away from barely legal. Sleazy, yes; icky, yes; "cool," not so much. Oh, and what about if he'd gotten blown in the Oval Office by a male intern? Would it still be as cool?
Secondly, on behalf of Semitic-looking women everywhere, I'm a little over the criticisms levied at Lewinksy's looks. Actually, I'm over women being reduced to their looks across the board. You'll notice I'm not saying "Cenk Ugyur's list of man-crushes is homophobic and sexist, but it would be better if he were hotter." That's just silly. But anyway, vis a vis Monica: Last I checked she had fantastic skin, gorgeous hair, and the dignity to keep on keepin' on after a pretty horrendously embarrassing scandal and intense public scrutiny. That looks pretty good to me.
There's more — oh, yes — in his celebration of Charlie Sheen's hooker habit and the fact that "he doesn't give a shit what women think about him." He's got 99 problems, but the bitch and her restraining order ain't one! And whoo, George Clooney is still single! Fight the power, George, no ball and chain for you! Marriage is for wimps! (But if you do get married, George, be sure to cheat on your wife with a 21-year old intern, because that's cool.)
Look, I have no doubt that Cenk did not set out to write a post that denigrated gays and women — I've enjoyed chatting with him before on The Young Turks, and I've enjoyed reading his work here, and I have no doubt that he is animated by principles of fairness and equality. But whether or not he meant to give this impression, or was kidding around, or whatever, these are insidious attitudes and should not go unchallenged. Have your man-crushes, Cenk — Alec Baldwin, Al Gore, Jack Cafferty, Gilbert Arenas and Clive Owen — you admire them, and it's not like there's anything wrong with that. It's only wrong when you get there by belittling gays and women. There's nothing crushworthy about that.
Update: Oh, wow, Cenk has posted a response — this is my first intra-HuffPo debate! Exciting. (And, er, thanks.) As always, too, the commenters will have their say, on both of our posts — lively debate on this, which is always a good thing. Thanks for reading! (Even you, person who thinks I'm the worst kind of liberal ever. Sorry!)