Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Letterman "Top 10" calls pregnant man "freak show"

The Late Show with David Letterman. I have never watched this show with any regularity, and now I doubt I ever will. In his "Top 10" list last night, the subject was Thomas Beatie, the pregnant man I had blogged about earlier. They called it "Top Ten Messages Left On The Pregnant Man's Answering Machine."

You know what number one was?
"Michael Jackson here -- just wanted to reach out to another androgynous freak show."
No joke.

I think Beatie's story is great. He and his wife wanted a child, and she couldn't conceive. Modern technology will be helping them have a family. We should be celebrating the fact that Beatie and his wife are able to do something that will make them happy because they are human beings who deserve that. Instead, people with high visibility, like Letterman, choose to throw around hateful, intolerant words. It's not funny. I can't believe it.

I will be, so I hope like-minded individuals will also tell CBS that Letterman's "Top 10" was uncalled for.

Via, with much thanks.

Also, according to Feministing, Thomas Beatie will be appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show tomorrow. If you're interested, you should watch out for that.

68 comments:

Ryan Capuano said...

Coming on the heels of Jay Leno's homophobic comments regarding an early Ryan Phillipe role where he played a gay teen, this hasn't been a very good week for late-night talk show hosts tossing out hateful sayings.

You'd think that in this day and age that this wouldn't be such an easy target for ridicule, and yet here we are. Really piss poor on Letterman's part.

Anonymous said...

And yet you people complain, which interests people, and drives up ratings.....

Every sane person on Earth said...

He isn't a he because she has a working uterus.

Ryan Capuano said...

Well, either way, Letterman isn't funny, never has been, and this further solidifies the fact that transgender and gays aren't as openly welcome in our society as people think.

And it's nitpicking in terms of saying whether or not the man is actually a man. At this point, it's irrelevant because he's married to a woman and in a happy marriage and now they're going to have kids.

Hypothetical: if a woman was a woman, but had a penis-making her a hermaphrodite-would she still be a woman? Sure. And if we have the science to recreate this genetic abnormality and it's making people happy, then why not?

Colt said...

I agree with "every sane person on earth" but I also agree that it's private matter and every one has there right to be "happy" as long as it doesn't harm or "offend" anyone else.

Amelia said...

Yes, Anonymous, "we people," do complain because being silent about societal problems is not a way to fix them. And I have to say, I think that calling someone who is doing something as non-controversial as starting a family (without the gender considerations) a "freak show" is a problem that needs to be changed.

Silence only allows these things to continue, and my conscience will not allow me to be silent.

all american girl said...

Isn't this America? Aren't people entitled to their own opinions? If Letterman thinks the guy is a freak show, he's entitled to think that and say it too. The First Amendment gives him that right.

I also agree with "every sane person on earth" - just because he looks like a man that is negated by the fact that he has a uterus that obviously works... thus making him still a woman.

I would like to point out that complaining about societal problems is not a way to fix them either...

Starting a family is typically non-controversial, but in this case it IS controversial simply because the person giving birth is precieved as a man.

Silence allows things to continue? So does complaining with no action.

Kate said...

I completely agree with Amelia.

Silence is passive acceptance. And we will NOT be silenced.

Amelia said...

I do believe that the first amendment stops applying when someone's right to safety is infringed upon. And using terms like "freak show" are only fuel for the fire of trans-hatred and trans-violence (like this: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/02/10/2008-02-10_cops_excon_slays_bronx_transsexual_hooke.html

I'm sorry that I don't buy into the idea that people should be allowed to use hurtful language like that on the television. There's no way you can call someone a "freak show" in a nice way.

And by the way, I'm not sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused... are you sorry? or not? you seem to contradict yourself a bit there...

all american girl said...

I think saying that his "rigt to safety is infringed upon" is stretching that just a bit much... it's not like anyone is yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre filled with blind kids in wheelchairs... Letterman is simply stating his opinion, which he is constitutionally entitled to. He is not calling a meeting of torch barring followers to go to the man's house and burn it to the ground - since his comment is legally harmless and in no way a call for violent action, it is not infringing on the man's right to safety...

Amelia said...

I am not sorry, Anon.

I disagree with you, All American Girl, in that I believe that words, even without direct calls for action, can greatly inspire action. Using the term "freak show" in reference to a transsexual perpetuates the idea that transpeople are somehow less-than-human. And it is much easier for people to inflict violence upon those whom they view as being less-than-human. So, because Letterman's words help reinforce this wrong idea that transsexuals are not human, he does indeed increase the likelihood that violence will continue to be inflicted upon them.

all american girl said...

I still don't understand how he increases the likelihood of violence being inflicted - how many times have you heard someone that works at the circus refered to as a "freak show" and how many times have you heard that someone in the circus who was deemed a "freak show" was a victim of a violent crime?

Amelia said...

American Girl, if you could come up with more than one hypothetical situation about your point, I would be glad to reconsider.

meg said...

I agree with All American Girl. Everybody has their right to say what they want when they want. If Letterman was just a guy walking down the street and he said this no one would know except who he was talking to, but because he has a TV show, people freak out about it. So, he called someone a freak show, you cannot honestly tell me that you haven't said something hurtful to someone at a point and time in your life...

Amelia said...

Meg, I am resisting your attempt to make your argument into a personal one against me. But I stand by what I said.

all american girl said...

"4. freak show
1. a friend that is always putting on freaky displays of a great variety
2. a highly entertaining risque individual.
examples:
"you were dancing on the bar last night freak show""
- http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=freak+show

would this elicit violence against the friend dancing on the bar? calling someone a freak show does not cause people to run amuck, hunt them down, and club them to death.

ps. in addition to freedom of speech, there's also another thing called freedom of the press.

Amelia said...

American Girl, listing the definition of a word does not express any consideration of how words can affect the way people behave.

Kate said...

I don't know if Urban Dictionary is the most reliable of sources (as entertaing as some of the entries are).

I disagree to an extent with Amelia, did Letterman have the right to say what he did? I believe he did. But did he have a responsiblity to refrain? Most definately.

As a public figure, Letterman should know as much.

Amelia said...

I bet that when people hear the word "freak show," they do not automatically think things so...nonthreatening...as a friend.

meg said...

Amelia, I wasn't making it personally about you. Everyone has said something hurtful, whether they mean to or not, it happens.

Amelia said...

I see your point, Kate. Taken.

all american girl said...

okay, try this one from dictionary.com then:
"any ludicrous, bizarre, or dehumanizing occasion, function, performance, etc.; grotesque, circuslike event: endless interviews and auditions that became a ridiculous freak show"

a person who appears to be a man, but still possesses a uterus and has the ability to give birth does qualify as a bizarre occasion, does it not? last time I checked, women were still the ones that had to go thru 9 months of fun and joy before pushing out a 7 pound baby... but when a man is pregnant, that's just a little bit out of the ordinary - thus qualifying it as a freak show.

and if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I believe it is safe to call it a duck.

Letterman, as a public figure, does not have a responsibility to censor himself. If he wants to state his opinion, legally he can, and he shall. People are free to speak their minds without having to worry that the king will throw them in jail - that's the beauty of America.

Amelia said...

"Dehumanizing occasion", American Girl. That's all I have to say on that for now.

"Letterman, as a public figure, does not have a responsibility to censor himself."

I think you are wrong here. Public figures are very influential in American life, and therefore should be responsible and make sure that they don't promote ideas that are harmful, such as transsexuals being less that human. (Please see "dehumanizing occasion.")

all american girl said...

He is not "promoting his ideas" he is stating his opinion. The two are very different things. The Trump-O'Donnell battle not too long ago was very public, and both stated their opinions on the other - they did not need to censor their opinions. Letterman, since he is stating his opinion, should not need to censor himself. I don't know how many times I can say it: he is in no way calling for an act of violence! He is not standing out on street corners handing out flyers saying "Kill the Pregnant Man! Gather at (insert location) at (insert time) if you hate transsexuals!" As long as he is not calling people to rally for a common goal of taking the right to life away from someone else, legally he has done nothing wrong.

Amelia said...

...but ethically, he, and his writers, have done something wrong.

In my opinion. Which is my main point.

All American Girl said...

"In my opinion"

You can state yours, but Letterman can't simply because he is in the limelight of the American public?

In my opinion: that is ridiculous.

Amelia said...

Excuse me, but my opinion is not offensive. I am not calling anyone names. Maybe you missed that slight difference between Letterman's "opinion" (probably written by someone who was not him) and mine.

Amelia said...

So who needs to be more responsible when expressing their opinion? Me or Letterman?

all american girl said...

There are some that may find your opinion offensive. What is deemed "offensive" is in the eye of the beholder, the same with "beauty" and other such ideologies. If everyone were to go around trying to not offend anyone, no one would say anything. Chances are for everything someone else says, there is someone out there that is offended by it.

Amelia said...

Good night, everyone! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anonymous said...

All American Girl: I wish someone could buy you a clue. :/ You seem to know nothing about how bigotry and violence actually come about. It's a process, and it starts with hateful ideas. Words. They're spread and eventually the idea snowballs until real people get killed.

That is why it's morally wrong and irresponsible for Letterman to say what he did. He is free to, yes. Hooray, Bill of Rights! But that doesn't mean he should. Not by half.

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I can't believe that right after the "gayest look" debacle, that another host would come out with something like this. I hope to see more coverage about this like with the Leno incident.

All American Girl said...

Anon: Thank you for your offer to buy me a clue, but I'm pretty sure I understand the concepts of bigotry and violence and how they occur. You, however, do not seem to understand that this is not a hateful idea. This is a comment based on opinion, which you yourself agreed that Letterman is intitled to. It was not a call to violence, and I doubt that it will be taken as one - there is no one that has made a follow-up supporting Letterman's idea. Gaysocialites.com seem to be just as offended as you, but they are not out creating violence against themeslves. This comment is being blown out of proportion, and you're looking for problems where there aren't any.

Amelia said...

American Girl, I am sorry if I happen to see a major problem with people seeming to be unable to refer to transpeople as that - people. There was no need to call Thomas a freak show, and the fact that Letterman and his writers allowed that to be broadcast was irresponsible.

You may think it's harmless, but I don't think so. Words can hurt people. It's a fact.

all american girl said...

everything people say can be construed as harmful. since there is a potential that people can get hurt by every statement anyone could possibly say, what is the use in talking at all?

Anonymous said...

All i know is that if I had a baby inside of me, all my friends would call me a freakshow, and rightly so. No matter how you twist it, this man/woman is a freakshow. Amelia, walk down the sidewalk at Knox and ask 10 random people if they thing a man having a baby is weird. I am willing to bet that al least 9 of them will say yes. Oh, and Letterman can say whatever he wants- this is AMERICA! This bog makes me want to play the song Get Over It by the Eagles.

Kate said...

I agree with you on one thing, All American Girl and anonymous, that we do live in a politically correct world, and a lot of times, people are overly sensitive and get offended too quickly.

HOWEVER, transpeople are the most discriminated against group in America. They are still killed for simply walking down the street. They are denied jobs, expelled from schools, and experience violence because they are simply trying to live their lives. They are denied their basic human rights because people view them as less than human.

Letterman contributed to that dehumanization when he called Thomas a "freakshow." Yes, he can say whatever he wants, this is America (the land of the free, as long as you are white, straight, capitalist, male, and wealthy), but he is a public figure, and he should have known the statement could have harmful effects.

Will anybody be killed as a direct result of the statement? Probably not. But, it is another contribution to the dehumanization of transpeople.

Anonymous said...

when was the last time a transsexual was killed walking down the street? I believe Letterman did not realize that everyone would get so huffy about his simple statement.

Kate said...

Killed FOR walking down the street, not WHILE walking down the street.

Killed for living their lives as transpeople.

http://gender-org.armadillodesigngroup.com/remember/#

Colt said...

Well if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. It's a duck. Hurtful or not she is a freak show.

Jezabel said...

I agree with Colt. Calling him/her a freak show is a statement of fact, not mearly an opinion. It is something unusual and not normally seen in nature.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to see so many transphobic/homophobic freakshows posting here.

Michael said...

If I were to ask someone on the street if they thought a person who had the general outwardly displayed physical characteristics, but also possessed the necessary internal organs to concieve, carry, and birth a child, was in itself a strange thing, I'm certain they'd say yes, because it's really not a particularly common thing in our world. Yes, people with such biological rarities certainly do exist in substantial number, but it's an uncommon thing that would certainly be strange for most people to see. Of course, we react with fear to things we're unfamiliar with, and many people choose to respond to fear with humor.

Letterman is clearly afraid of Thomas Beatie.

Colt said...

Why is no one standing up for Mike?

Anonymous said...

Micheal, you say "in substantial numbers" what composes a substantial number in your opinion? can you back up your facts, or are you posting out of your backside?

Amelia said...

Anonymous, the fact that you choose not to reveal your name, and that you say things like "...posting out of your backside" is making me very cautious when it comes to your comments. Please be careful in the future, or I will start deleting. Your question could have been posed in a much less rude manner.

Amelia said...

I also like the idea of Letterman fearing Thomas Beatie. I might be starting something here when I say this, but I think it might have some validity. Why would Letterman fear Beatie? Because Letterman is a white male who has been very successful in a society whose structure supports (and even calls for?) the subordination and sometimes oppression of people (such as women, transpeople, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers, etc.).

Because Letterman has been successful in such a society, he wouldn't want someone like Thomas Beatie to go public and try to change the way society views people of different genders. He is afraid, and so he reacted by making an unnecessary joke.

It's a definite possibility in my view, although I do not contend to know all the facts.

all american girl said...

Since it is true that Letterman is the successful man you claim him to be, what would possibly cause him to fear Beatie? Beatie is no true threat to Letterman. You're claiming there's a fire where there is none.

Amelia said...

A little off topic, but I think it's funny how the ONLY example anyone ever uses for when free speech does not apply is the "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theater one. That sort of signals to me that perhaps a lot of people just don't know very well when free speech does not apply?

Anonymous said...

omg guys, Bernard Goldberg just was on Fox News and he called thomas a "freak show" twice in under two seconds!

all american girl said...

I know when free speech applies, thank you. My last metaphor to fire had nothing to do with a movie theater.

Kate said...

Two things:

1. Beatie is not a DIRECT, personal threat to Letterman. His existence and ability to reproduce as a male is a threat to the power structre Letterman exists in, as a white, wealthy male.

2. I would expect nothing less from Fox News, an incredibly right-wing biased and sexist "news" organization.

all american girl said...

beatie isn't even an INDIRECT personal threat to Letterman. he is one (wo)man. thus not a threat at all to the powerful letterman - he is no more a threat to Letterman than you or i are

Amelia said...

I don't really know why I am continuing this...but all I have to say is...wow.

Anonymous said...

i'm pretty sure goldberg was a guest on fox news and therefore fox news themselves does not control what he says therefore the opinions are his.

Ryan Capuano said...

Bernie Goldberg is a nut job anyway.

And don't get me started on Fox News. They do have a right-wing bias and it's evident in the guests on their network and their most popular hosts.

Also, the amount of hate that's been posted here is really alarming. I had no idea so many people would react this badly to Beatie.

Anonymous said...

Foxnews might have rightwing bias, but MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN all have a leftwing bias. MSNBC is the worst, so you go watch keith "I have no clue" oberman some more.

Michael said...

None of the major news hosts, like O'Reilly, Olbermann, Imus, or pretty much anyone who is on the major "News" networks are really journalists. They're all political pundits, and I don't know why we expect them to be 'neutral' or 'unbiased'. That's not their job. When someone brings up O'Reilly as an example of a conservative journalist, or Olbermann as a liberal journalist, they display a profound misunderstanding of the difference between journalism and punditry.

/rant off

straight white male said...

letterman and fox news should be allowed to say whatever they want. this is america afterall, at least last time i checked i was in america....

oh wait... i forgot, suddenly this is nazi germany! here - have my freedoms, i'll give them to you on a silver platter lest i offend someone by exercising my freedoms.

Michael said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

Straight White Male said...

Ok, Its not Nazi Germany, its Soviet Russia

all american girl said...

Thanks for the link, Michael, but it fails to prove anything. My analogy was correct because in Nazi Germany people's rights were taken away from them... but in order to please you, I suppose I can change my former statement, based on the suggestion of straight white male, because who am I kidding, society is all about pleasing the male:

"oh wait... i forgot, suddenly this is soviet russia!"

Amelia said...

Can we try to keep the discussion on topic, please?

all american girl said...

thank you for your support swm... and also for posting under my name....
please refrain from doing so in the future...

back to the topic at hand, Letterman's comment was repeated tonight on fox news, as someone else already pointed out, by goldberg, and i haven't heard anyone complaining that his statement that Beatie was a "freak show," a comment which he made not once - but twice, is a call to arms against transsexuals.

Kacie said...

All American Girl and Straight White Male and all you other literal constructionists:

When talking about oppression, and bigotry, and hatred of the transgender and transsexual community, a lot of the points, like Beatie being a threat to Letterman, and contributing to the enviorment of sexism and hatred, we are doing a little thing called THINKING ABSTRACTLY. Of course Beatie is not siting outside Letterman's studio with a gun about to shoot him. And yes, Letterman did not give a specific call-to-arms against the trans community. However, his comment has contributed to a cultural attitude that is very unaccepting of the trans community (as so artfully displayed by many of the comments here) which fosters violence.

Also, and this is specifically to All American Girl. You obviously know nothing about free speech. Speech is not 100% free, ESPECIAlLY on broadcasting. Obscenities, profanities, and hate speech are not allowed on Television, believe it or not, so please stop using the free speech argument as a justification for his language. Yes, it "freak show" is not an obscenity, but the first ammendment rights are not completely extanded to broadcasting. At all. Of course, he will not get fined for it, but again, just becuase it is technically legal does not make it right or good. And if he, or you, for that matter, actually had an intellectual opinion on the matter, instead of just using school yard insults for a cheap laugh, I might be more inclined to respect it as opinion, instead of just immaturity fueled by threated members of the patriarch.

Finally, it is a gross assumption that everyone is just sitting around in complaining. First of all, setting up discourse about a matter and bringing awareness to it is the first step in creating change. Secondly, you do not know ANY of us personally and have no idea what we do to foster change in the real world.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone, no matter how controversial/unorthodox they may be, deserves to be blatantly insulted on national television. It's infantile and cruel, and it makes people like Letterman look equally bigoted and immature.

But, I also have to wonder why this family would go to such extremes. Certainly surrogates and other such options exist. Did he really want the mood swings, the swollen ankles, and the pickle-and-ice-cream cravings? Laughably, yes, that is the part that confuses me the most.

Kate and Amelia, you know who this is.

Amelia said...

Anonymous, I cannot tell who you are simply by your comment, but if you would like to let me know privately, feel free to e-mail me at amelia.impersonator[at]gmail[dot]com.

Maybe we could meet and talk sometime?