Oct. 27 2010 10:18 AM

You can’t take my ‘whore’ without a fight


The first thing I thought—when I heard about the backlash surrounding the Jerry Brown campaign staffer who called his opponent, Meg Whitman, a “whore”—was: What’s this now?! “Whore” is an offensive epithet? That’s news to me.

Apparently, Whitman had been offering pension-reform exemptions to California law-enforcement unions in exchange for their support, which prompted the staffer in question to call her the W-word. Then, during the last debate, moderator Tom Brokaw asked Brown why he had not admonished the staffer for using a term that, Brokaw said, “many women have compared to the N-word.”

Brown replied that he did not agree with the N-word comparison but wouldn’t elaborate. “I don’t want to get into the term and how it’s used,” he said before issuing a second apology.

Well, if Brown doesn’t want to “get into the term and how it’s used,” I will, because I’m sick of so many words being arbitrarily removed from the lexicon without any real analysis of what they mean, whom they affect and why. If I’m expected to stop using the W- word—a word that has brought me overwhelming joy and ebullient laughter throughout the years—there had damn well better be a good reason.

I intend to prove that no such reason exists. Consider it my line in the sand.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists three entries for the W-word. Here is the first:

Whore: noun. 1. a woman who engages in sexual acts for money: prostitute; also: a promiscuous or immoral woman.

Right away we can debunk the theory that the W-word and the N-word are “comparable” in nature. When you look up the N- word in any reputable dictionary (including Merriam-Webster), the first thing you see is a notation, in italics, that it is “offensive” or “offensive slang” or even “extremely disparaging and offensive.” The word “whore,” however, includes no such notation in any of the same reputables.

This seems reasonable.

The N-word is a foul epithet that vilifies a black person for no other reason than being of African descent. The word “whore,” however, describes a person’s behavior, a person’s choices. The fact is, there are people in this world, good or bad, who take money for sex, just as there are people who take political currency for pension exemptions, bribes for legal protections, covert contributions for bureaucracy bypasses and on and on. These actions are similar to that of a prostitute and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. It’s called a metaphor, and whore metaphors (metaphwhores?) are found repeatedly in literature, from The Bible to Hamlet to The Geto Boys’ Big Book of Dating Tips. Of course, my lefty, pinko trollop of a wife and her slutty little sister-in-law disagree. They say “whore” is sexist because it is typically used to describe women, and nobody calls men whores.

Not so. Just type “manwhore” into Google and you’ll receive 150,000 hits, including links to a movie called Diary of a Male Whore, the Cheap Trick song “He’s a Whore,” a multiple-choice questionnaire called “The Manwhore Quiz” and a 1991 book by P.J. O’Rourke titled Parliament of Whores, which gleefully eviscerated our male-dominated government.

However, it’s our second Merriam-Webster definition that ends the debate on the matter of gender specificity:

Whore: noun. 2. A male who engages in sexual acts for money.

Look, I understand the inherent revulsion to this word. It comes from all those dickheads out there (“dickhead,” incidentally, is an aspersion applied only to males) who use “whore” to define all women. Now that’s sexist. I would never point at some random female walking along the beach and say, “Look at the rack on that whore over there!” I wouldn’t even say it about an actual prostitute. It just seems too harsh a word to describe these hard-working women of the street. But I gladly use the word to describe a no-good, conniving, candidate for governor. I use it to describe a friend of mine who craves recognition, too. I call him an “attention whore.” Hell, I even call my nephew Noah a “greedy little grenade whore” because he hogs all the explosives when we play Call of Duty. Want to know who else I call a whore? The California branch of the National Organization for Women (NOW), that’s who.

When asked about Brown’s staffer’s comment, California NOW President Patty Bellasalma affirmed that “political whore” was an “accurate statement” about Whitman. But after receiving a shit-ton of criticism, she changed her tune and declared it “hate speech against women,” which makes Bellasalma something of a public-relations floozy. Because it can only break down one of two ways: Either she always had a problem with it but, for political reasons, defended the Brown campaign anyway, or she never had a problem with it but said she did to appease her peeps. Either way, she pimped out her worldview for a few brownie points, which brings us to the third definition:

Whore: noun. 3. a venal or unscrupulous person.

And there you have it, a slam dunk. Not only does the third definition make no mention of gender, but, also, the word “venal” exactly defines Whitman’s alleged track record (Venal: adjective 1. willing to sell one’s influence). Therefore, if Brown’s opponent unscrupulously trades exemptions on pension reform for votes, I can freely call her a whore without apology. If I absolutely had to apologize for something, I would apologize to prostitutes, for lumping them together with a shameless hussy like Whitman. She makes them look bad.

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Carbon-neutral toothpicks available at edwindecker.com.

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