FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Borat: It’s a Guy Thing!

Sitting in a local Boston theater watching Sasha Baron Cohen play Borat, an anti-Semitic misogynist from Kazakhstan, made me uneasy as a Jew and enraged as a woman. The Jewish part of me wasn’t quite sure why all the non-Jews around me were falling off their seats laughing at Cohen’s joke about Jews being money-grubbing cockroaches. Did they see the ridiculousness in this, or did they also harbor the same anti-Semitism skillfully unveiled by Cohen in some of the Americans interviewed? The gun owner who recommended a 9 mm weapon to Borat for use against Jews could very well have kindred spirits sitting near me in the theater. But then again, I have lived in this area for over twenty years and have yet to feel any fear as a Jew. When I am out late at night, I don’t worry about being attacked because some anti-Semite is on the prowl looking for a bit of Jew bashing. Had I watched Cohen’s film in Germany in the 1930s I would have felt differently but today, as a Jew, I feel a lot safer.

This is not to say that I am a stranger to fear. As a woman, I live in that place between cautious apprehension and occasional dread where over half the population resides. When night falls, the world becomes a threatening place. Empty streets, parking lots, deserted parks and lonely public places are to be avoided at all times. For many women, the home is no sanctuary, as this is the place where women are most frequently abused and killed.

So when Cohen makes misogynist jokes about rape, prostitution and incest, they feel anything but funny. Okay, so Cohen may well be trying to satirize American sexism by unveiling the dark side of American men but when the audience laughs, I feel rage because I know that some of the men in the audience may well be on the prowl that night. Some may select the street as their hunting ground, other may prefer the frat party or the bar, and some need venture no further than their own home.

Violence against women, unlike violence against Jews, is a major public health issue of our time and the costs to women makes it a very unfunny topic. In recent school shootings, girls were specifically targeted by men, though few newspaper reports highlight this. Had the killer selected only Jews to kill, there would have been a national debate on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in America. And a movie that made jokes about Jews would have been considered to be in bad taste at such a time, even if the filmmaker was Jewish. Maybe today, we need Borat’s outrageous antics to unveil subterranean anti-Semitism, but his misogynistic humor is as mainstream as Howard Stern. In Borat, the jokes about women dying (his wife), being raped (his sister) or being stalked by a crazed fan (Pamela Anderson) are passed off as business as usual in the life of being a woman. For Pamela Anderson, who was beaten by her now ex-husband Tommy Lee as she clutched her newborn baby, violence was indeed a part of her life. So watching Pamela Anderson being stalked and chased around a parking lot feels too close to reality to be funny.

Watching Cohen’s film in 2006 also feels too close to reality for all women. Were the men in the movie theater laughing at or with Borat? I don’t know the answer to this for sure, but I do know that the fear I feel in the world is because of my gender, not my religion. This is what separates me, a Jewish woman, from Sasha Baron Cohen, a Jewish man.

GAIL DINES is professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in Boston. She is co-editor of the best-selling media text book, Gender, Race and Class in Media.

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 27, 2020
Elliot Sperber
Sunset’s Soon
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What the Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail