It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the great civil rights movement leader. It’s a day for many of us to reflect on the legacy of a man who was more radical, flawed, brilliant, complex, and human than our media cares to remember and many of us care to admit. Or, if you’re Bill Keller, and you’ve run out of women with cancer to shame, it’s a day to give credit to white dudes.
That’s right, Bill Keller is using the ONE DAY OUT OF THE YEAR that is specifically set aside to honor an AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADER to lionize “An Unsung Hero of Civil RIghts,” aka dead white guy from Ohio:
Somewhere in all this worthy commemoration we should pause to pay homage to a conservative white Republican named William Moore McCulloch. Never heard of him? Neither had I. But there is a good case to be made that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have become law without him. And there is a very good case to be made that Washington desperately needs his example today.
Keller goes on to outline McClloch’s role in the political horsetrading that led to the passage of the bill — details he gleaned from a new book by Todd Purdum. And while I will say that we here at Fuck You Grey Lady HQ are happy that Keller is seeking material for his columns from books instead of the twitter feeds of sick women who don’t actually want his attention, we also have yet to pick our jaws up from the floor, because holy shit are you fucking kidding us?
It’s bad enough when white people try to center the civil rights movement on the contributions of white people on any other day, but using MLK Jr. Day as the jumping off point for that shit? Acting like this white politician is the REAL HERO because he was pragmatic and sensible and focused on the law? Elevating this dude as the “conscience of the bill” and an exemplar of integrity? Take a fucking seat, Bill Keller.
It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our only federal holiday honoring a man descended from the African slaves who built this country. If the Grey Lady continues to refuse to diversify it’s editorial voices, those voices should at least try to have some goddamned sense and show a modicum of respect.
To all you readers, I say, Happy Martin Luther Kind Jr. Day. To you, Grey Lady, I say fuck you. Seriously, fuck you.
— Julia Carrie Wong
I will say one thing for David Brooks: he has his finger on the pulse of America. Over five years after the onset of the Great Recession and two and a half years after Occupy Wall Street began, Brooks has discovered income inequality. Someone should give this guy a column. ”Suddenly the whole world is talking about income inequality,” writeth he! Thus, with the same degree of mental acuity he regularly applies to being at the cutting edge of the zeitgeist, does Brooks begin his argument against raising the minimum wage.
In the first place, to frame the issue as income inequality is to lump together different issues that are not especially related. What we call “inequality” is caused by two different constellations of problems.
At the top end, there is the growing wealth of the top 5 percent of workers. This is linked to things like perverse compensation schemes on Wall Street, assortative mating (highly educated people are more likely to marry each other and pass down their advantages to their children) and the superstar effect (in an Internet economy, a few superstars in each industry can reap global gains while the average performers cannot).
At the bottom end, there is a growing class of people stuck on the margins, generation after generation. This is caused by high dropout rates, the disappearance of low-skill jobs, breakdown in family structures and so on.
If you have a primitive zero-sum mentality then you assume growing affluence for the rich must somehow be causing the immobility of the poor, but, in reality, the two sets of problems are different, and it does no good to lump them together and call them “inequality.”
Actually, in the first place, to talk about the top 5% of workers is really fucking stupid. Sheldon Adelson is not a worker. He is a capitalist. The top 1% (or 5% if you must) aren’t the top 1% because they work really really hard at a high hourly rate and never sleep or take vacations. They are the 1% because THEY OWN EVERYTHING.
In the second place, give me a fucking break. The owning class isn’t rich and getting richer because of the special rich people assortative mating dances they learn at cotillion or internet superstar power (wha?). THEY ARE RICH AND GETTING RICHER BECAUSE THAT IS HOW CAPITALISM WORKS. The problem isn’t the Duke of JP Morgan making eyes at the Marchioness of Morgan Stanley and deciding to merge asset empires. The problem is that capitalism is based on the exploitation of labor and the rate of that exploitation has been accelerated by a neoliberal agenda that has stripped workers of bargaining power, decimated the social safety net, dismantled financial regulation, and enabled corporate imperialism.
In the third place, I see what you did there Dave, saying that people who disagree with you have a PRIMITIVE ZERO-SUM MENTALITY. However, as much as I would love to possess a Brooks-certified primitive mentality, no one is saying that the growing wealth of the rich is causing the “immobility of the poor.” We’re saying the growing wealth of the rich is causing the poverty of the poor. Because, and I’ll say this slowly for the negative-sum mentalities in the room, the rich people are taking all the money.
To Brooks, all this talk of inequality comes distastefully close to “class conflict.” (People in David Brooks’ class do not talk about class.) The real problem with poor people is that they’re just so…poor. They have “high dropout rates” and require “low-skill jobs.” They’ve suffered a “breakdown in family structures and so on.” They undertake (gasp) “single motherhood.” They “are engaging in behaviors that damage their long-term earning prospects.” They are the embodiment of “the fraying social fabric!!!!!” (Exclamation points mine.)
Each of these “complex and morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem” is actually just an example of what Ian Haney López calls “Dog Whistle Politics.” (Check him out on Democracy Now earlier this week.) It’s Brooks’ way of saying that poor people (especially poor people of color) are poor because they have sex, do drugs, and don’t study hard enough. It’s his way of saying that poor people have only themselves to blame. It’s a vile and racist and immoral abdication of a societal responsibility to care for all people.
David Brooks is the guy who smoked pot in his youth, never got caught, and now sniffs at young men from certain communities for engaging in certain behaviors. He’s the guy who thinks folks living at 2x the poverty line ($39,060/year for a family of three) are the wrong people to get a raise. He’s the guy who thinks the 80% of US adults who face unemployment or near-poverty just aren’t ASPIRING hard enough.
David Brooks is a lesson to us all. Once you start talking about human beings as having a “human capital problem,” you’re well on your way to being completely inhumane.
Fuck you, David Brooks. And fuck you, Grey Lady. Seriously, Fuck You.
(Special thanks to @darth for the beautiful portrait of David McScroogeyBrooks)
FYGL was still in the process of waking up from our long midwinter’s nap for the lion’s share of the Ariel Sharon/Grey Lady hagiographic smoochfest of the past week or so, so we missed most of our opportunities to point out just how fucking racist and ridiculous the Times’ coverage of the dearly departed war criminal has been. (Check out the awesome Rania Khalek if you want to fill in the gaps).
But never fear, Thomas L. Friedman is here, with a piercing analysis of how the Butcher of Beirut was the personification of the evolving id of the Israeli Everyman, in his latest column, “The Man on the Wall:”
I’ve always thought that the reason Ariel Sharon was such an enduring presence in Israeli political life is that he personally reflected three of the most important states of mind that the state of Israel has gone through since its founding. At key times, for better and for worse, Sharon expressed and embodied the feelings of the Israeli Everyman as much, if not more, than any Israeli leader.
What I find fascinating about this is that I’ve always thought the reason Thomas Friedman is such an enduring presence in the American media is that he personally reflects the bullshit racism of the New York Times that places the blame for atrocities on the victims, if those victims are Arab or Palestinian. Sharon, Friedman explains, was one of the “hard men… who were ready to play by the local rules.” He “[understood] the kill-or-be-killed nature of their neighborhood.” He was Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” guarding his walls with guns. He was Israel’s “chief warrior, who played by the local rules.”
The argument here is that Sharon’s behavior (and by extension Israel’s) is excused by the setting of the Middle East, and the implication is that the nature of the Middle East is savages gonna be savages. “Local rules” is one of the most disingenuous justifications for colonial violence I’ve ever heard. It’s un-seriousness can be seen by applying the idea of a “kill-or-be-killed neighborhood” to ANY OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD OR REGION IN THE WORLD. It is only if one starts from the assumption that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular are less than fully human that one can justify the invasion and settlement of their land with a shrug and a “When in Rome.”
Fuck you, Tom Friedman, for perpetuating this racist and hateful attitude. And fuck you, Grey Lady, for publishing this shit. Fuck you both.
We all have our roles in life. David Brooks asks, “How do you translate the poetry of high aspiration into the prose of effective governance?” I ask, how do you translate the poetry of David Brooks into comprehensible prose? Henceforth, my attempt to elucidate his most recent offering:
“The Leadership Revival" by David Brooks: A close reading
If you are in politics or public life, you probably had some moment of spine-tingling transcendence. Maybe you read the Declaration of Independence or watched the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mountaintop sermon, or read Nelson Mandela’s 1964 speech from the dock.
Translation: Words have the power to inspire emotions in people, even if those words are political in nature. Brooks describes this emotional experience as “spine-tingling transcendence” because he is confusing Chris Matthews’ “thrill going up [his] leg" with the sense of fear or foreboding one normally associates with "spine-tingling" and because he thinks "transcendence" sounds good.
Subtext: Brooks is kind of a racist, but he wants you to know he has two Black friends. Brooks’ two Black friends are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Suddenly, your imagination was inflamed beyond its normal scope. You were enveloped by this epic sense that public life could be truly heroic. The people who issue these statements brought their lives to a glorious point, pledging their sacred honor, offering to sacrifice their lives for some public mission.
Translation: What you thought was simply a tingle in your spine has progressed to an inflammation of your brain-scope. You have meningitis. You should seek medical help immediately, because now is not actually the time to sacrifice your life for a public mission.
You got into public life inspired by something like that. But how do you execute that sort of vision? How do you translate the poetry of high aspiration into the prose of effective governance? This is the common problem today. Most people go into public life for the right reasons, but government doesn’t work. The quality of the people is high, but the quality of leadership is low.
I’d suggest three responses.
Translation: You have recovered from meningitis, and, unlike that saucy socialist Helen Keller, you still have your sight. Now David Brooks will ‘splain to you how to “execute” your “vision,” because the fact that those two words really don’t work together is immaterial to David Brooks.
First, apprentice yourself to a master craftsman. Find yourself a modern version of Ted Kennedy cobbling together a Senate majority. Find yourself some silent backstage official, who knows how to slide ideas through the bureaucracy. Glue yourself to that person in order to learn the craft of governance.
Translation: You can learn the art of governance by apprenticing yourself to Ted Kennedy, the famed cobbler memorialized by the Brothers Grimm. Ideas are shoes with old soles that slip and slide on the marble floors of bureaucracy. You are a new sole, and Ted Kennedy is the old shoe, and if you glue yourself to Ted Kennedy, you will be a cobbler too.
Subtext: Ted Kennedy was at home in bed on the night of July 18, 1969 when three elves drove a car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick.
Schools are good at transmitting what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge. This is the sort of knowledge that can be expressed in rules and put down in books — like the recipes in a cookbook. But craftsmen possess and transmit practical knowledge. This sort of knowledge, Oakeshott says, exists only in use. It cannot be taught, only imparted by imitation and experience. It’s knowing when to depart from the cookbook; how much, when running a meeting, to let the conversation flow and how much to rein it in.
Translation: Ted Kennedy made the best peach cobbler that Barnstable, Plymouth, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Middlesex Counties ever saw, but he refused to write down the recipe because he was a real son of a bitch and now he’s dead. Conversation is moving water. Conversation is also a running horse.
Practical knowledge is hard to see, but it is embedded in traditions of behavior. It is embedded in the lives of older legislators and public servants, and it is passed down by imitation to the younger ones. This craft of governing well has been forsaken and disrespected, but you will not be effective in public life unless you find a wise old person who will teach you the tricks of the trade, hour after hour, side by side.
Translation: It is basically impossible to get a decent servant these days. David Brooks’ grandfather’s butler was an absolute tyrant, but he knew how to keep the footmen in line and the silver in shine.
Second, take a reality bath. Go off and become a stranger in a strange land. Go off to some alien part of this country or the world. Immerse yourself in the habits and daily patterns of that existence and stay there long enough to get acculturated. Stay there long enough so that you forget the herd mentality of our partisan culture.
When you return home, you will look at your own place with foreign eyes. You’ll see the contours of your own reality more clearly. When you return to native ground, you’re more likely to possess the sort of perceptiveness that Isaiah Berlin says is the basis of political judgment.
Translation: The America that you live in is populated by sheep who belong to two political parties. Consorting with these animals has left you incredibly smelly. Seriously, you stink. You stink of AMERICA. Go take a bath, and when you’re done, go to Europe. In Europe they still have decent servants, and urchins who will sell you their eyes in exchange for loose change. Buy the eyes of European street urchins. Then you will see as Isaiah Berlin saw, through thick hipster glasses.
This sort of wisdom consists of “a special sensitiveness to the contours of the circumstances in which we happen to be placed; it is a capacity for living without falling foul of some permanent condition or factor which cannot be either altered, or even fully described.” This wisdom is based on a tactile awareness of your country and its people — what they want, how they react. You don’t think this awareness. You feel it. You experience a visceral oneness with culture and circumstance — the smell of the street, tinges of anger and hope and aspiration. The irony is that you are more likely to come into union with your own home culture after you have been away from it. You have to walk away from the partisan tunnel vision to see how things really are.
[Editor’s Note: At this point in the column translation failed due to a complete and total lack of comprehension on the part of the translator. Attempts to reach Isaiah Berlin for comment were unsuccessful, due to his death in 1997. Our apologies.]
[Translator’s Note: This is gibberish. You can’t touch a tinge.]
Finally, close off your options. People in public life live in a beckoning world. They have an array of opportunities. They naturally want to keep all their options open. The shrewd strategists tell them to make a series of tepid commitments to see what pans out. Hedge your bets. Play it smart.
But the shrewd strategy leads to impotence. You spread yourself thin. You dissipate your energies and never put full force behind any cause. You make your own trivial career the object of your attention, not the vision that inspired you in the first place.
The public official who does this leaves no mark. Only the masters of renunciation leave an imprint, only those who can say a hundred Nos for the sake of an overwhelming Yes. Only the person who has burned the ships and committed to one issue has the courage to cast aside the advice of the strategists and actually push through change.
Translation: When the world beckons, do not go to the casino. You will make bad bets, lose your money, and be unable to achieve erection. You will contract gout and an excess of spleen. Instead, spend all your money on a boat, and then burn your boat.
We live in a nation of good people and ineffective government. I don’t know if these tactics will improve the quality of the nation’s leadership, but something has to.
Translation: You are now a leader. Go forth and lead. Real leaders don’t need boats.
Subtext: Happy Birthday Joshua Eaton!
I kid, I kid. Kristof’s idea of a compelling argument is displaying the ravaged body of a women of color from the Global South for the edification of white liberals. He wouldn’t know a compelling argument if she stood up and slapped him in the face.
However Kristof may want to apply his own annoying “It just makes business sense" arguments about Twitter’s all-male board of directors to himself:
Twitter is on schedule to go public as a company next month, a sparkling symbol of innovation, technology — and stale, old thinking reflected in a board of seven white men.
Twitter users are reportedly more likely to be female, so it’s bizarre to have no women on the board. But the main reason to add women — not just on Twitter’s board, but in politics, business and the news media — isn’t just equity. This shouldn’t be seen as a favor to women but as a step that would be good for all of us.
You know another influential body that reflects a lot of “stale, old thinking?”
That would be the current slate of the Grey Lady’s opinion makers, that dull dozen who have regular columns and tell all the rest of us what to think. It’s a collection of voices that is far from representing New York City or the United States, or the Times’ readership. 50% of the Times’ 29 million unique monthly visitors and 48% of its 4.8 million paper subscribers are women. So what gives, O Paper of Record?
Seriously, this group could use some shaking up. Thomas Friedman basically exists to be the punchline of taxi driver jokes. David Brooks is a racist who’s losing his touch when it comes to hiding that sorry fact. Joe Nocera spends half his time defending BP from the people whose lives it ruined. Maureen Dowd has been phoning it in for a decade (I mean do we really need more Washington DC fanfic, MoDo?) And Ross Douthat, the only one of the bunch under the age of 40, espouses opinions about women that might as well belong to an 80 year-old.
Of course, as with corporate boards, there is only so much space at the top of the Op-Ed pages. And one of the hardest things for the white men who love to talk self-effacingly about the value of diversity is realizing that talking ain’t doing and talking while white and male is drowning out women and people of color who might be talking too. (Indeed, a woman reporter at the Times wrote a better, more interesting post on the subject weeks before Kristof got to it.)
Therefore, I announce the First Annual Fuck You, Grey Lady Challenge: I challenge you, Nick Kristof to put forward one subject that you write about in your column that couldn’t be better addressed by a woman of color. When you come up empty (and you will) I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and resign. Pass that giant megaphone to a young woman of color. We can take care of saving ourselves.
Like many Americans, I am not a white person. And like many non-white Americans, I do remember the substance of Dante de Blasio’s campaign ad for his father’s mayoral campaign. I remember Dante de Blasio claiming his white father as his own. I remember Bill de Blasio claiming his Black children as his own (something generations of white political leaders in this country have avoided). I remember looking at Bill de Blasio differently once I knew that he opposed Stop and Frisk not just as a so-called progressive but also as one of millions of parents of Black sons who fear for the safety of their children from the police.
I remember these things vividly, and with complicated emotions, because I am not white, and because I am not Black, and because I have a white mother, and because we live in a country where the prohibition of miscegenation remained in a state constitution until the year 2000 and even then 40% of the voters in Alabama voted to keep the ban. I remember because these are complicated and emotional issues. I remember because I can’t forget.
What’s both astonishing and completely unsurprising about Bruce Handy’s Op-Ed in the New York Times, “My Afro, Myself,” is that he doesn’t remember the substance or context of Dante de Blasio’s ad. Indeed, one could fill a volume with all the things Handy had to not remember in order to write this essay. He doesn’t remember that before Angela Davis’s Afro was a way to sell t-shirts, it was a political statement — a way to strike fear into the hearts of white people who viewed Black liberation as terrorism or worse. He doesn’t remember Black is Beautiful or how such a statement could be revolutionary and liberatory. He doesn’t remember Sally Hemmings or Essie Mae Washington-Williams. He doesn’t remember that Barack Obama, whom he quotes as saying “My Afro was never that good,” also had a white parent, and has explored his complex relationship with his own blackness at length. He doesn’t remember Stop and Frisk. He doesn’t remember Jim Crow. He doesn’t remember slavery.
Handy’s absence of mind is explained but cannot be excused by the condition he admits in his first sentence: “Like many Americans, I’m a white person.” It is his whiteness that allowed him to appropriate one aspect of Black identity without taking on the burden of institutional racism and state violence. It is his whiteness that allows him to write with unearned authority about that one aspect; to profit professionally if not monetarily off the fame of a young Black man; to offer advice to that same young man. (It is likely Handy’s gender that allows him to perform this act of uber-whiteness in the august pages of the New York Times. White women who want to engage in this practice are more likely to find a platform at the MTV VMAs.)
An Afro is not a “hat or ivory-handled white stick or whatever affectation” one chooses. It is not a “protracted, inertial wallow in self-abnegation.” It is not a variation on Donald Trump’s comb-over. Handy’s confusion on this point is a symptom of the affliction of American whiteness. In exchange for power, in exchange for supremacy, white Americans have for generations surrendered their cultural identities in order to assimilate into the default “American” culture.
I understand and, to a certain extent, empathize with the sense of loss that the children of that whiteness feel when they look at other peoples’ culture and other peoples’ identities. It’s not difficult to see how that sense of absence can lead them to adopt or appropriate pieces of other people’s cultures as if they were an article of clothing or accessory. Without awareness of their own roots, they become cultural magpies if not outright colonists. Some even yearn not just to put on the accouterments of another race or ethnicity, but also the struggle (or at least what Gawker calls “that sweet, sweet moral superiority" of not having privilege.)
I do understand, but I that doesn’t mean I don’t wish you all would stop. Whiteness is a construct that has been used as a weapon against people of color for centuries. The fact that it also does harm to the very people who wield it should be motivation for white people to move away from whiteness, not by pretending to be parts of other peoples’ cultures, but by learning about and embracing their own. You have to surrender the power whiteness gives you and find your own culture at the same time. You have to do this with the same sense of urgency Forever 21 applies to capitalizing on Black culture. Seriously: do it now.
Bruce Handy admits that he wrote about his pouffy hair because “on some level I must still crave negative attention,” so here’s where I will give him some. Bruce, this essay is inexcusably stupid. You know nothing about the topic you’re writing about, and your concern that Dante de Blasio will become defined by his Afro is entirely misplaced. Dante de Blasio will always and forever be defined first and foremost as a Black man, no matter the length of his hair. If you must share your “epiphany” with others, perhaps you should direct it toward Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, and other white men trying to make a buck off the appropriation of Black culture. Writing about art and literature performed or written exclusively by white people seems to be your thing anyway.
Julia Carrie Wong
When I first took Lady Grey to task for valuing the care and feeding of zoo animals (and white collar workers’ ability to waste time on the clock watching said zoo animals being cared and fed for) over the serious concerns about food insecurity for 9 million low-income women and children, I worried that I might be being a tad unfair. It was, after all, only the first day of the shutdown and the shuttering of panda cam was a fun if hacky fact about the consequences of congressional intransigence.
However, it seems I did not speak to soon. Indeed, in the days since I wrote my initial post, the New York Fucking Times has gone on to mention panda cam in FOUR SEPARATE ARTICLES AND A SLIDESHOW and cuts to WIC in NONE.
Here, for your edification, are the five panda cam mentions the Grey Lady saw fit to print:
“National Zoo’s Panda Cam Goes Dark,” Ashley Southall, October 1 at 5:08pm.
WASHINGTON — One casualty of the impasse in Washington is the public’s look at the newborn panda at the Smithsonian National Zoo on the “Giant Panda Cam.”
The popular live video stream was turned off Tuesday as part of the federal shutdown. Visitors to the Web site were greeted by a black screen carrying the message, “Error loading stream.”
“The cams require federal resources, primarily staff, to run and broadcast, and they were deemed not essential in the case of a shutdown,” zoo officials said in a statement, adding that the animals would still be fed and cared for.
The zoo has 15 live feeds for animals like the Asian small-clawed otters and the naked mole-rats. All of them went dark.
The Giant Panda Cam was one of the zoo’s most popular sites in August, when the giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth. The site racked up 847,000 page views by the end of August, most of them after the cub was born, according to The Washington Post. The figure does not include mobile users.
The panda cameras are funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation and operated by volunteers, who were furloughed along with most zoo employees. All events were canceled at the zoo, which was closed to visitors and vehicle, pedestrian and bike traffic.
Fans of the Panda Cam were not happy about the digital darkness.
“Surely this is our nation’s darkest hour,” John Stephen Dwyer said on Twitter.
The Twitter user @delrayser urged lawmakers to compromise.
“GIVE THE GOP WHATEVER THEY WANT,” @delrayser said.
“On Day 1, Parks Close, Workers Stay Home, and ‘Panda Cam’ Goes Dark,” Michael D. Shear, October 1
The reality of the shutdown began to become clear early Tuesday. Children’s playgrounds in small pocket parks around Capitol Hill were closed. The military service academies suspended all intercollegiate sports competitions. The National Zoo’s online “Panda Cam” stopped showing images of Mei Xiang’s latest cub. Officials stopped giving tours of Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay.
“Will the Shutdown Affect Your Travel Plans?" Stephanie Rosenbloom, October 1 at 2:40 pm
Speaking of Web sites, Smithsonian National Zoo’s “giant panda cam,” beloved by scores of animal-loving procrastinators, has also been shut down (National Parks, along with Smithsonian museums, are closed, and so are National Park Service Web sites). Don’t bother clicking the “Start the Panda Cam” button; you will only be disappointed.
“Another Shutdown Victim: U.S. Efforts to Offset China,” Mark Landler, October 2.
WASHINGTON — Debate over the federal government shutdown has tended to focus on those it hurts: veterans, tourists barred from the Lincoln Memorial and Yellowstone National Park, and giant-panda enthusiasts deprived of their publicly funded panda cam….
An ungovernable America is not something that the Chinese want either, given the economic interdependence of the two countries. But in the diplomatic struggle for influence in the region, a dysfunctional Washington plays to the short-term advantage of Beijing, especially with China having weathered its own domestic political upheavals.
“And,” added a senior administration official with bitter humor, “they still have a panda cam.”
“Shutdown Felt Far Beyond Washington,” Slideshow, October 2
A young visitor will have to wait to visit the National Zoo in Washington, which even stopped showing images of the last baby panda on its online “PandaCam.”
And here, for the New York Times’ edification, is my response, which has not significantly changed since Tuesday:
SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT THE PANDA CAM ALREADY AND COVER SOME REAL GODDAMN NEWS ABOUT HOW THIS IS AFFECTING POOR PEOPLE YOU ASSHOLES.
Julia Carrie Wong
I was hoping I was only going to have to say this once, but I was wrong, so here it goes again:
SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT THE PANDA CAM ALREADY.
Every single US news organization has already assigned some hack reporter to write an “Aren’t we clever for tapping into the Washington-hack zeitgeist by making the government shutdown about something as cute and internet-savvy and hacky as the panda cam?” piece. (And yes, I realize I used “hack” three times in that sentence — it was deserved.) If you don’t believe me, click here.
And you, Grey Lady, you “paper of record,” you “all the news that’s fit to print,” you New York Times: you’re the worst of the worst. Because not only did you not get around to your definitive panda cam story until 5:08 pm Eastern (making you hacky and slow), but while you were busy assuring us that the pandas, naked mole rats, and Asian small-pawed otters at the National Zoo are being fed and cared for, you forgot to assign a single reporter to cover the more pressing issue of 9 MILLION LOW-INCOME WOMEN AND CHILDREN FACING FOOD INSECURITY BECAUSE OF THE LOOMING LOSS OF WIC BENEFITS.
Your editorial board made a mention, but poor people aren’t NEWS, amirite? You’ll just carry on with your liveblog coverage of all the ways the shutdown impacts people who can afford to go on vacation, the real victims in all of this.
Honestly, Fuck You, Grey Lady. And Fuck You, Every Other News Organization. Fuck all y’all.
I was not planning on writing any thing else about the New York Times’ coverage of Anthony Weiner, in part because I was assuming that Lady Grey had already gone as low as she could go, and also because I don’t really care about Anthony Weiner, but what can I say? I’m a slutbag for woman-shaming.
It’s actually somewhat pleasantly surprising that we’ve made it this far into the Weiner scandal without too, too much scorn being reaped upon woman-kind Usually a male politician behaving badly would morph instantaneously into a BLAMETHESLUT situation. But despite some predictable meanness about Sidney Leathers and patronizing wringing of the hands in Huma Abedin’s direction, for the most part the media has avoided judging women-in-general in favor of focusing on the apparently endlessly fascinating puzzle of Weiner’s schnitzel.
But the Grey Lady has predictably jumped in to fill the void, publishing “Weiner’s Women,” an Op-Ed piece by Susan Jacoby.
There is something missing from the endless moralizing and sophomoric jokes aimed at Anthony D. Weiner. That something is the role of women in a coarse and creepy Internet culture dedicated to the fulfillment of both male and female desires for virtual carnal knowledge.
People ask how Mr. Weiner’s wife, the soulfully beautiful and professionally accomplished Huma Abedin, can stay with him. My question is why hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women apparently derive gratification from exchanging sexual talk and pictures with strangers.
While recognizing the benefits of safety, control, and consent provided by online interactions, Jacoby is troubled by the “fantasy” that “female thrill seekers” find in online sexual relationships:
But the “sex” that women engage in with often anonymous men on the Web has nothing to do with pride in one’s body or mind. Whatever women or men are getting out of sex via Twitter or YouTube, it is not recognition of their specialness as individuals…. Sex with strangers online amounts to a diminution, close to an absolute negation, of the context that gives human interaction genuine content. Erotic play without context becomes just a form of one-on-one pornography.
For Jacoby, women’s embrace of online sexuality is a betrayal of the feminism her generation fought for:
As a feminist, I find it infinitely sad to imagine a vibrant young woman sitting alone at her computer and turning herself into a sex object for a man (or a dog) she does not know — even if she is also turning him into a sex object. Twentieth-century feminism always linked the social progress of women with an expanding sense of self-worth — in the sexual as well as intellectual and professional spheres. A willingness to engage in Internet sex with strangers, however, expresses not sexual empowerment but its opposite — a loneliness and low opinion of oneself that leads to the conclusion that any sexual contact is better than no contact at all…. This is not the sort of equality envisioned by feminism.
I don’t think Jacoby necessarily set out to write a shaming and anti-feminist essay. She asks a question that is certainly valid — Why do women engage in online sex? But instead of taking the bold step of posing that question to actual women, Jacoby skips the evidence gathering and jumps to her own conclusions.
And this is where my feminism and Jacoby’s feminism begin to diverge. Because my feminism demands that women be allowed to speak for themselves.
With only her imagination to depend on, Jacoby’s conclusions about these thrill-seeking women are as two-dimensional as the pornographic depictions of women she deplores. What is the difference, really, between the infinitely sad, vibrant young women yearning for Prince Charming but settling for a dick pic and the naked actress faking an orgasm on the screen? Neither is real. Neither is allowed to be fully human by the beholder. They’re both just projections of desire, be that desire sexual or diagnostic.
Sex is complicated. I’d defy Jacoby or anyone to come up with a time in our history when sex between men and women has not been fraught with issues of power, race, class, control, money, property, and more. You think a single lady getting off in a chat room is sad? What about Lydia Bennet forced into a marriage because she was 16 and horny? What about Bertha Mason locked in the closet because her husband couldn’t handle her sexuality (Jean Rhys version, what)? What about Tess of the fucking D’Urbervilles? That shit is so sad I had a nervous breakdown reading it in college and had to remove the book from my room so it wouldn’t haunt me in the middle of the night. Shall we go back another hundred years? Another thousand? Fictional or non, things aren’t going to get much cheerier.
The internet might change the mechanisms of communication, but what it hasn’t changed is the fact that women’s sexual autonomy will always be infringed upon in a patriarchal society. My feminism wants to dismantle that patriarchy. Jacoby’s feminism seems content to exist within it. The very idea of judging a woman as “infinitely sad” based on one potentially minor aspect of her life is a feature of that patriarchal worldview.
Weiner’s women? Fuck that shit. Women belong to themselves. What we do with men when we choose to do things with men is our own damn business, and there’s nothing sad about that.
— Julia Carrie Wong