I basically don't care about Maher speaking at commencement, because I already hate commencement. It's a long boring ritual that we're strongly pressured to participate in whether or not we personally derive anything from it. Anyway, I'm not an undergraduate, and it's for the undergraduates to work out.
What I find shameful is the defense of Bill Maher in general, and the defense of "sexist" jokes (in scare quotes because my opponents are contesting that they are sexist):
...let’s take as an example a Tweet that Bill Maher made recently, saying “Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who’s trying to kill u – u can only hold her wrists for so long before you have to slap her”.
Now, I agreed with him that the Tweet was objectionable, but I also saw that the moment he started arguing over whether the term “sexist” applied to it, he gave the conversation away to the forces of nonsense.Calling something sexist just means that it's objectionable, particularly with respect to the gender axis. If he agrees that it's objectionable, then it hardly seems necessary to argue a point we already agree with. He appears to be operating under the view that "sexist" is to be reserved for things that are LITERALLY HITLER, whereas my definition of "sexist" is apparently too loose? It seems clear to me that a looser definition of "sexist" is simply a superior one, because then maybe I can actually use it every so often on things that exist in the real world.
The author then goes on to talk about the real world harm of the tweet:
“It perpetuates the stereotype of women as irrational and insane.” In whose mind? Yours? Maybe if you’re an idiot.Wow, what a great example of people believing that if they're smart enough, they can overcome cognitive biases. Only an idiot would ever be taken in by stereotypes.
You don't need to look very far to find lots of research on sexist jokes, and how they affect attitudes towards women. Here are a few examples from one study:
How many men does it take to change a lightbulb? None let her do the dishes in the dark.These jokes are, of course, "ironic", because no one actually believes that women have small feet so they can do housework. The lightbulb joke only mentions a specific woman, and not women in general. In fact, that one's really making fun of lazy men, not women. Only an idiot would be affected by these jokes.
Why do women have small feet? So they can get closer to the sink!
Look, we can argue back and forth whether Bill Maher's humor is qualitatively different. But we don't know if it's sufficiently different, because I didn't see any studies that looked at the finer gradations of sexist humor. I don't think the problems with Maher's humor can be dismissed out of hand as something that only affects idiots (and certainly not ourselves!).
Oh, and take a look at this concern trolling:
If Feminists attack people who make disagreeable remarks on social media, then – in the public perception, at least – Feminism comes to entail attacking people who make disagreeable remarks on social media, and that’s all anyone needs to know to safely dismiss the brand altogether (e.g. "Feminists? You mean those people who say you can never call a woman crazy, even if she's trying to kill u?"). If you want to brand yourself as the kind of person who throws a fit whenever a public figure says something unflattering, don’t be surprised when people stop listening to you, even about real issues.People focus on quotes because it's actually a lot more effective than saying "Bill Maher is islamophobic" or "We have a problem with islamophobia." "Oh? Can you give an example?" Yes, here are some quotes. No wait, Alex Freeman advised me not focus on quotes, and surely he knows best.
Alex Freeman proposes that instead we focus on actions. For instance, Bill Maher is my goddamn enemy because he is anti-vaccination, and I got into skepticism precisely to oppose that sort of nonsense. But let's not focus on anything Maher said about vaccines or Louis Pasteur recanting germ theory on his deathbed. Let's focus on his actions, and any actions he directly inspired. I don't know of any such action, so I guess Maher's off the hook!