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March 06, 2008

How Dumb Can WaPo Readers Get?

Well, to all appearances the bar is set pretty low. Over the past few days erudite readers of my hometown paper have fallen all over themselves protesting the fact that Charlotte Allen was "allowed" to insult their intelligence with this travesty of a column in Sunday's Outlook section.

They may have a point. Surely it didn't take a rocket scientist to predict that readers who consider this an appropriate response to an opinion piece might be a bit defensive on the subject of IQ:

Hey, did you hear about that time some dumb, past-her-prime, femme-hating lady penned the worst single opinion piece in the history of the Washington Post? Yeah, we thought you had. I've already had a couple of riveting things to say about it elsewhere. And, recommended: Jezebelles Moe and Megan give it the point-by-point takedown it deserves.

Obviously, compounding the stupidity of the original piece is the lame walk-back attempt made by Outlook editor John Pomfret this morning, who defended the piece on the grounds that it was a "tongue-in-cheek" attempt at humor. That would be a decent enough excuse if Charlotte Allen was some sort of noted humorist, but so far as I have been able to ascertain, she's only notable for misogyny.

Still, this "tongue-in-cheek" style that Pomfret describes sure is intriguing, and sounds like an enjoyable milieu in which to write. So if I were to attest to the fact that Outlook Editor John Pomfret was a dumb son-of-a-whore who lacks the common sense that God gave a wet bag of grapefruit husks, and whose lack of evident competence at his job points to the sad truth that his upward career trajectory has been earned mainly on the strength at how willing he was to blow his bosses with the eagerness and aggressive enthusiasm of a rabid raccoon ferreting through a dumpster for tiny scraps of spoiled food and thus is in no way deserving of a post of responsibility at a major daily newspaper, I would certainly hope that Mr. Pomfret takes it in the "tongue-in-cheek" spirit of this wretched Charlotte Allen piece that he continues to champion.

Hope I've "packaged" this piece with sufficient clarity, asshole.

I suppose we may be thankful the author did not insult our intelligence by engaging in hyperbole or ad hominem attacks.

Seriously, I've read Allen's original column three or four times now and for the life of me I still can't understand what all the fuss is about. If one absolutely, in the face of all that is reasonable, insists on taking it as some sort of scholarly treatise on female intelligence rather than a lighthearted poke at the foibles of the fairer sex, I suppose it's possible to work up a really righteous wad of indignation.

But what then? Do various commentators really mean to suggest that it's now off limits in the United States of America to voice opinions they disagree with in a publicly owned newspaper? Since when did the Taliban move here?

Or, perhaps, is it their intent that a vocal minority of readers ought to be able to shout down unpopular opinions? For instance, if the editors of the Post get enough hate mail, should they shush up writers who pen anything controversial? Great, because I really detest liberal writers and I'm sick of having my blood pressure go through the roof when I see them in the Post. Now I know how to ensure the Post only prints what I want it to print: my friends and I will just engineer hate mail campaigns every time we see something we dislike and intimidate the Post into refusing to publish anything that might inflame the huddled masses. How is this any different than what went on over in Denmark with the Mohammed cartoons?

Oh. You mean intimidation is acceptable when it's used to suppress ideas you disagree with? Got it.

If women wanted to prove Ms. Allen's point, they could hardly do better than to behave exactly as they have this week: i.e., erupt like a bunch of overemotional harpies on a PMS jag. And pardon me, but it doesn't help to have Ed Morrissey fanning the flames:

Allen also does something else in this essay that deserves condemnation, albeit slightly more subtly. She denigrates those who choose to stay home and make motherhood and family their primary ambition. Instead of recognizing it as a valid choice for strong, independent women, Allen makes it sounds as if women are suited for nothing else. That shortchanges women whose capabilities allow them a wide range of choices but whose priorities unselfishly focus on the people closest to them.

Pardon me. Ms. Allen did nothing of the sort. Mr. Morrissey should work on his reading comprehension skills. How do Ms. Allen's words "denigrate those who stay at home"?

I don't understand why more women don't relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home.

I was a stay at home wife and mother for 18 years. I don't know about you; perhaps it's those superior female verbal skills of mine, but being told my own sex excels at "the things most important to life" sounds more like an accolade than an insult to these all untutored ears. Your mileage, of course, may vary. One must look awfully hard to find disparagement, but Ed manages to reach for the rose and find the thorn. But he's hardly alone in the humor-impaired crowd screaming "off with her head"! Lisa Schiffren perceives rank sexism in Allen's send-up of ditzy chicks who faint at Obama rallies:

The rationale for the piece appears to be the admittedly quite disturbing phenomenon of adult women literally swooning at Obama rallies. Allen makes the same analogy that has occurred to me: These women look like the teenage girls at Beatles concerts, fainting and wetting their seats, circa 1964. Disturbing, to be sure. But that was a mass phenomenon in a repressed age. The Obama business is considerably more limited in scope. Anyway, what does this prove about women's intelligence? It proves, for sure, that certain kinds of generally sexualized "fan" behavior have become acceptable, and leached from the popular culture to the political culture, which, post-Bill Clinton, is no surprise at all. More specifically, it suggests that some "fans" (and this applies equally to men and women), don't really know in which realm "Obama the phenom" belongs. And thirdly — yes, it's just plain embarassing behavior. You'd think the Obama campaign would want to squelch it, since he isn't really angling to get on the Ed Sullivan show, and it trivializes his appeal.

Let's walk through the "logic" of Lisa's argument, such as it is:

1. The "women" who swooned over the Beatles were really only girls.

2. Plus, that was in a "repressed age" where such pent up feelings naturally might become overwhelming, especially to an immature and unsophisticated person; hence the fainting.

3. The women who swoon over Obama are full grown adults.

4. We no longer live in a repressed age.

5. Therefore, these full-grown, unrepressed women are fainting because....

Yeah. And while we're at it, how dare Charlotte Allen imply fainting is a sex-linked characteristic!

Does a certain type of man swoon and faint in the same way? I don't know.

Well gosh, Lisa. Maybe someone in the media can tell you. Have you asked?

Exactly how many men have fainted at Obama rallies? Could it be that Ms. Allen's criticisms contain more than a grain of Inconvenient Truth? Could it be, possibly, that this is precisely why you (and apparently others) find them so upsetting?

I don't know about you, Lisa, but as a woman in a technical field I've spent years fighting the perception that women ARE ditzy, overemotional, and prone to making ill-informed decisions. So I really don't appreciate it when I see other women playing into those stereotypes.

On the other hand, it doesn't bother me one bit when a women points out that women who DO play into those stereotypes are acting like jackasses because that shows that not all of us approve of that sort of behavior. And I don't think much of people who apologize for that sort of behavior.

The phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" comes to mind. You may have heard it bandied about. Sorry, but I expect more from women in general. If you find that harsh, I'm afraid you'll have to dislike me too.

I'm not sure this particular column was Charlotte Allen's best work, but it certainly isn't worth the snit fit it seems to have provoked among humor impaired folks who ought to know better. Both men and women as general classes of people have their funny quirks. Not all of us behave in these ways, but when we lose our ability to laugh at the funny (and often painful) sides of both personal and political life, we are in danger of losing a part of our souls.

Grow up. And more importantly, lighten up. It was just a column, hardly the sort of thing that imperils the Republic. If we're going to begin censoring lighthearted commentary about the differences between the sexes out of some misguided feeling that women are too fragile to handle a little criticism, then we aren't ready to compete with men in the boardroom, the battlefield, or the classroom and this childish outcry, far from than strengthening confidence in our rightful place in American life, both undermines and erodes it.

Posted by Cassandra at March 6, 2008 09:59 AM

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Comments

I'm not a fainting man, but I play one on TV. Does that count?

Posted by: a former european at March 6, 2008 01:05 PM

Bullet-proof minds. We need more bullet-proof minds out there.

It's probably pretty expensive, though. Not something everyone is willing to invest in.

Posted by: Kevin L at March 6, 2008 01:42 PM

I swear Kevin, there are days when I think my irony meter is just about pegged.

And then I read something like Charlotte's Q&A session.

God help us. Somewhere in the world, there are people with real problems and these morons are wasting time getting outraged over a stupid column in the Outlook section.

On the otter heiny, I will never run out of things to post about.

Posted by: Paying Attention, Still Not Outraged at March 6, 2008 02:07 PM

"...upward career trajectory has been earned mainly on the strength at how willing he was to blow his bosses with the eagerness and aggressive enthusiasm of a rabid raccoon ferreting through a dumpster for tiny scraps of spoiled food..."

Indeed?

Quoting Gunny Highway,

"You sound like a man of experience".

Posted by: socialism_is_error at March 6, 2008 02:16 PM

It was a remarkable post, was it not? :p

Posted by: Paying Attention, Still Not Outraged at March 6, 2008 02:19 PM

How dare you! Men and women are just the same.

After all, we see swarms of men pitching hissy fits anytime another man rants about guys living down to their stereotypes.

/sarcasm

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 6, 2008 04:59 PM

Yeah. I'm waiting for the inevitable "You're a woman-hater!" idiocy. The sheer illogic of proving women aren't overemotional and hysterical by becoming... oh, gosh... I dunno... emotional and hysterical? over a freaking opinion column is just breathtakingly moronic.

Oh. Was that mean? My bad.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2008 05:14 PM

That's OK, your punishment will be for The Unit to take you to Castle Anthrax and spank you.


Did I just say(type) that out loud?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at March 6, 2008 06:15 PM

The things I do for you people...

I give, and I give, and I give.

[rolling eyes]

Posted by: Cassandra at March 6, 2008 06:25 PM

> ...insists on taking it as some sort of scholarly treatise on female intelligence rather than a lighthearted poke at the foibles of the fairer sex...

Uh, Cass, present company probably very well excepted, most females have little sense of humor about themselves and their foibles, and feminists in particular have no sense of humor at all. While I think Mike Adams over on Townhall almost certainly goads them on a bit, some of his stories show how little grasp they have of the notion of humor.

I really, really can't imagine, for example, this commercial:

Handsome Guy: (holds up bar of soap) Irish Spring, the manly deodorant soap!
Large, Butch Woman: (grabs bar, pushes guy offscreen) Manly, Yes!! That's why *I* like it, too!!

The hue and cry would be deafening...
Even -more- unlikely would be:

Young Woman: Mom, do you ever feel... you know... "not fresh"?
Mature Woman: What do you mean, dear? Do you mean, "Do I ever smell like a seven-day old haddock"? No, NEVER -- because I use (product X)!

The company would probably be sued out of business.

Most women won't laugh at themselves, ever -- they hate that. The will always laugh at men, they will sometimes laugh at "other" women (particularly blondes, or others with high-attractiveness features), but virtually never at themselves. The quickest way to piss off a woman is to make fun of her for some quality. It's like talking against a guy's mother.

Posted by: obloodyhell at March 6, 2008 09:11 PM

> How is this any different than what went on over in Denmark with the Mohammed cartoons?

At heart, not much. I do think burning flags and threatening to blow things up with bombs does raise the objection to a higher order of magnitude.

...But this is surprising? Liberals have felt free to shout down anyone they want to for decades on college campuses -- it's one of their chief tactics when dealing with any speaker they don't like, either for-pay or not-for-pay.

Posted by: obloodyhell at March 6, 2008 09:13 PM

> Bullet-proof minds. We need more bullet-proof minds out there.

Wrong wrong wrong!!!!

Too much tiger food, not enough tigers.

Much more appropriate.

8o)

.

Posted by: obloodyhell at March 6, 2008 09:18 PM

so, jackassery is a trans-gender, trans-ethnic, trans-economic, trans-just-about-any-demographic issue..., how many women remember recognizing for the first time that they're swimming in a pool of testosterone only to realize the fat deposits that buoy them to the surface in water has quite the opposite effect in their chosen industry? or the deer in the headlights look of the guy at work that walks into the marabou froufrou office after a group gosh-i'm-glad-you're feeling-better-but-i-wish-you'd-drop-that-loser-boyfriend hug? or the marital dynamic in place when a wife does a double-take at the Marine formation running downtown? i swear it was just the surprise of seeing them in town i didn't realize there was a reserve training installation around the corner. or that same dynamic in place when a husband picks up the quilt cutter in the office/exercise/sewing room and drops it on the pilates ball used by his wife as the bill-paying chair? ok so it was kind of funny but he didn't have to stand over me laughing as he apologized and compared me to a youtube clip. when people realize they're standing in the middle of a stereotype, most people go one of two ways emotionally, humor or bitter outrage, very few sit back to analyze why they're having the response they do and even fewer sit in the middle without an emotional response.

Posted by: Elena at March 7, 2008 12:45 AM

How Dumb Can WaPo Readers Get?

It is my long (and firmly) held belief that stupidity has no lower limit...

Posted by: camojack at March 7, 2008 01:11 AM

Good for you, Cass. First sensible thing I've read about this.

Posted by: Grim at March 7, 2008 02:39 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at March 7, 2008 10:53 AM

"Too much tiger food, not enough tigers."

So... that's how we explain the increase in tiger maulings in the news lately.

Posted by: Kevin L at March 7, 2008 12:34 PM

when people realize they're standing in the middle of a stereotype, most people go one of two ways emotionally, humor or bitter outrage, very few sit back to analyze why they're having the response they do and even fewer sit in the middle without an emotional response.

I missed the humor in this completely, but didn't spend much thought on it, either--and I'd never heard of the author before. Coupled with my low opinion of the WaPo, my reaction after reading it was, "Well, that's just about the stupidest waste of newsprint I've read in awhile. Bet Cassandra would have fun with it, though..." and then forgot it (other then to comment when Grim brought it up).

There's obviously something wrong with me... :P

Posted by: FbL at March 8, 2008 12:52 AM

i didn't mean to imply there was anything wrong with anyone that read or had a reaction (or not) to the original article and subsequent responses, just that the full spectrum of reaction is interesting and applicable to more than just one op-ed scenario. We see it every day, every where, but especially in reaction to media. We have a very sensation oriented media which lends itself to presenting opinion, rumor and innuendo as fact. Add to that a demographic that doesn't recognize an opinion piece, is unable to distinguish opinion from fact, or is just overly sensitive to the repeat behavior that makes up a stereotype, and you will see fireworks.

I thought the article was funny because I identified with enough of those "dumb things" that I realized, I'm by most of the definition of the article in the dim-witted woman category and I wouldn't change it.

I thought Cassandra hit it hard and exceptionally well when she pointed out that if the negative responders wanted to support the opinion presented in the Allen piece, continue to make the fuss they're making and add to that list of dumb things.

Posted by: Elena at March 8, 2008 06:53 PM

> It is my long (and firmly) held belief that stupidity has no lower limit...

Camo, sure it does. It's the level that gets you killed. That's as stupid as anyone ever got.

Posted by: obloodyhell at March 15, 2008 05:17 PM

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