I was hoping to avoid commenting on the strange feud between Ann Althouse and Open Source Media, which is rather dull (to me, at least) and is taking up entirely too much space on Ann’s usually very readable blog. I haven’t been following the OSM launch too closely, and I don’t quite get what it’s all about. (Apparently, I’m not the only one.) But Ann’s complaint about sexist attacks on her in the comments at Little Green Footballs piqued my interest.
In a post titled, “Can I get a feminist?”, Ann writes:
[M]ale attacks on women are not so much of a food fight as a sex fight. Blogosphere-strength fighting with a woman takes on an outrageous sexual tone, aggressively declaring that that this is a boy’s game. Are there any feminists around to see when it’s happening and say a little something?
(She adds that, in her view, this is one of the reason there aren’t more women in political blogging.)
Now, here’s what happened, in case you (wisely) haven’t followed the brouhaha.
Ann made an OSM-bashing post in which, commenting on Jeff Goldstein’s (joke) reference to a beer glass with the inscription “Bloggers do it in their pajamas” spotted at the OSM launch party in New York, she said:
Would you drink a fluid out of something that said “Bloggers Do It In Their Pajamas”? I think of bodily fluids. But no matter, now the bloggers can do it in their Open Source Media. Or as somebody already quipped: Open Sores Media. Swapping semen for pus, bodily fluids-wise.
One of the OSM co-founders, LGF’s Charles Johnson, reposted that last line at LGF under the heading, “The Epitome of Taste” and with the comment, “Althouse jumps the shark.”
A lot of LGF commenters then took whacks at Althouse. Some of the comments were pretty nasty. It should be noted, however, that some of the people who used nasty language made it clear that they were responding in kind (“well, if she wants to be childish…”). To me, the most telling thing about the thread was that most LGF-ers automatically assumed that Ann Althouse was a leftist, and the most amusing (and depressing) comment was this one:
BTW folks – Ann is no lefty. She may be a tad bitter and jealous – but she’s no lefty.
So be nice.
show some class.
(Obviously, in LGF world, civility and class toward a “lefty” are unnecessary.)
As for sexism: by the time Ann posted her plea for feminist intervention, the LGF thread had over 300 posts. One of them referred to to Ann as a “dumb slut” and a “Berkley house whore.” Two or three made fun of her appearance. Another, subsequently deleted, riffed on Ann’s “swapping semen for pus” joke (which, by the way, I still don’t get) by saying, “Perhaps she’s dyslexic and intended to say that she wants her puss swamped with semen?” — which is pretty nasty all right, but strikes me as less a display of misogyny than an unfortunate attempt to play on Ann’s already unfortunate wordplay. I should add that unlike some of Ann’s commenters, I don’t see “bitch” as a sexist insult. It’s gender-specific, but so is “bastard” or “jerk.”
I also have to take issue with the notion that somehow, women in the blogosphere are uniquely targeted for sexual insults. On sites that don’t discourage flaming, for instance, is it unusual for men to be called names like “d*ck” or “d*ckhead”? Is it unusual for male posters to have their manhood called into question?
I’m not a fan of LGF; and I am, generally, a fan of Ann Althouse’s. But I simply don’t agree with Ann that the tone of the entire thread is “egregiously sexist.” Nasty, yes, but to be fair — Ann’s own attack on OSM was hardly nice. I think Baldilocks sums it up well: if you make jokes about pus and semen to attack a venture you don’t like, don’t complain about the “outrageously sexual tone” of the response. And asking for feminists to step in and protect you really does not look good. Sorry, Ann, but in this case, you can’t get this feminist in your corner.
Note: As I said, I am a fan of Ann’s, and I want to take note of an excellent post of hers that I should have linked to, but didn’t — pointing out that in today’s climate, reporting on scientific evidence of sex differences is “safe” as long as it’s “spun” in a way that’s flattering to women.