A commenter here expressed disgust with me over some of the slurs I hurled at Ann Althouse:
>lying, spiteful sack of shit.
>that brainless crone
>This is Ann Airhead we're dealing with.
>a vain, petty old scag like Ann Althouse.
>who's being a total fucking retard?"
>this useless dimwit
>your wilted crumpled self
>you fetid old bat.
A lovely post, Ilyka. I don't want to hear another word from you criticizing the tone of right-wing bloggers. NOT ANOTHER WORD.
No, really. Not one word.
You don't like Ann Althouse. WE GET IT.
I've seen this issue come up on other feminist blogs, so it was only a matter of time before it came up here. This is how I work it out: I don't have a problem with someone suggesting that if you're against demeaning and objectifying women you should, in fact, walk the talk. That criticism is valid, and it's one I see feminists make of each other regularly. From Amanda's post on Breastgate, commenter Crys T:
. . . the number of messages I’ve read in this thread–many of them apparently written by women–that basically say that Althouse’s real problem is she’s a dried-up old bag who’s just jealous of the Sweet, Nubile Young Thang that is Jessica* makes me think that it’s not just Althouse’s misogyny we need to be criticising here.
. . .
Being one of the tragically over 40, I can’t tell you how fucking annoying and dehumanising it is to be constantly reading about how any woman my age is clearly on the rubbish heap of sexuality, never to attract another potential bonking partner again, because god knows that no man would ever have to lower himself to fucking me when he’s got all those vibrant 20-somethings to go after. And of course, any criticism a woman my age might make of a younger woman CLEARLY comes from “jealousy” and could never have any other explanation. Right?
And this reasoning is from the “feminists”???? Someone explain to me exactly how this differs from mainstream patriarchal woman-hating, because from where I stand, it looks like the exact same thing.
Pay attention, now: In the abstract, I agree with her--in the abstract, as a general rule. The problem with applying it to this particular instance is that it doesn't hold up. There is enough evidence that Ann's motive for not backing down from her tasteless (and tiresome) Lewinsky jokes stemmed from spite and jealousy to safely call her out on it. See Lindsay Beyerstein's thorough timeline here, including:
I agree that, initially, Ann wasn't judging Jessica by her looks. For the most part she and her commenters were just using her picture as fodder for cheap Clinton/Lewinsky laughs.
But when Jessica confronted her, Ann felt compelled to justify her trash talking. After all, Ann Althouse doesn't engage in idle trash talk. No, she's a serious intellectual. There must be a principle at stake.
According to Ann, Jessica deserved the Monica jokes because of her wanton "posing" and her willingness to stand next to Bill Clinton. Jessica's presumptuous complaining sealed her fate. Ann explains that this was when she decided to punish Jessica by judging her for real.
"Provoked, I decide to actually give her a small dose of the kind of judgment for brains she seems to demanding," Althouse writes in her second post.
This isn't a hypothetical 40-something woman about whom people are making unfounded assumptions. This is a specific instance in which the shoe fits, and I say she may as well wear it. Especially once she lobbed this:
But I certainly think that to really do a great comic performance, Jessica should have worn a beret. Blue dress would have been good too.
12:51 PM, September 15, 2006
On, then, to my problem with the "you've got no call to complain about civility on the right when look what you said, ooh, hypocrisy" critique, which is that it disingenuously ignores vast differences in degree between the treatment of women on the left versus the treatment of women on the right, for one; and for two, feminism isn't Christianity. It doesn't obligate anyone to turn the other cheek and it certainly doesn't obligate anyone to pretend things are any other way than the way they are.
And this is the way things are: Misogyny and sexism run free and unbridled throughout MOST of the best-read right-wing blogs. Not some, not just a few cranks; MOST. And don't kid yourself that they spare Althouse from it. A lowlight (there are others) from a thread about her at Little Green Footballs:
Does this dumb slut realize the left is well represented at OSM?
I guess not. Typical ill-informed invective from a Berkeley house whore.
Because calling her a slut was really relevant to addressing her criticisms of Pajamas Media. We can't evaluate Ann's criticisms until we've established that she has a lot of sex, probably with multiple partners; this is important to stipulate.
Granted, this WAS in response to Ann's joke that Open Source Media = Open Sores Media, which set the bar of taste low to begin with; but if you can't see the difference between criticizing, however juvenilely, a business versus calling an individual a slut and a Berkeley house whore, then you know what, you've failed to grasp everything I have ever said on this blog and I must firmly suggest that you read something else.
The short version of my position on civility: When I see any evidence at all that the right is taking steps to police itself on the issue of sexism--I don't even demand that they do it as rigorously as Crys T or any other left-leaning feminist, just that they acknowledge the problem and do something to rein it in--then I will consider a commenter's outrage at remarks like "fetid old bat" with the respect it is due. Until then, that commenter is comparing apples and oranges, and holding me to a double standard, and I ain't down.
I basically decided yesterday that I'd rather have a feminist apologist for Clinton in my corner than a "Mine is the One True Feminism" nutbar like Althouse. But I realized also that I've never said much about Clinton, or about Clinton and feminism, or anything like that. Here is all I have to say about it:
While I largely agree with arguments like Scott Lemieux's yesterday, that politics is about policymaking, and that therefore a feminist might support Clinton for his policies without endorsing some of his personal behavior, I nonetheless wince at statements like this one:
What he did with Lewinsky is potentially open to criticism on (genuinely) feminist grounds (and he received some), but again--it was not only consensual but initiated by Lewinsky. It is sexual harassment only under an extremely broad definition of the term, and isn't "groping" (which in context implies a lack of consent) at all.
I am tired of hearing how Lewinsky "initiated" the relationship. "But she did!" you say. "Yes, she did," I agree with you, "but he was her boss, he was married, he was older, and he should have known better."
I don't like "but Monica started it!" because the implication is that, well, gosh, Bill couldn't help himself, what with her throwing herself at him like that! And to that I say bullshit. I don't object to Bill having scored on the side in the White House, I object to Bill having scored on the side with a woman with whom he was so obviously not on equal footing. Bill didn't bang a sophisticated, 45-year-old D.C. attorney, people, he banged a 22-year-old intern. I think it's an abuse of power regardless of who initiated what. I can't approve of it, and before someone brings this up, I don't care that "every other president" did it, too.
Besides I figure defenses of Bill on the grounds that Monica started it are counterproductive, because all it means is that the next time an Althouse shrieks about how quick! The gender feminists are! To make excuses for Clinton!, I'm going to have to admit, grudgingly, that she has a point. And I hate doing that.
The Overton Window:
"The what?" you ask. "The Overton window," I answer, "as explained by über-dork Tacitus to thereisnospoon, a diarist at My Left Wing. Here," I say, giving you a link, "read it. If you've already read it before, read it again, because tomorrow I'm going to tackle how it relates to Instapundit and the right-wing blogosphere in general." "Did you just say blogosphere?" you shriek. "Yes, I did," I say contritely, "and I am so sorry."
UPDATE: Belledame has more on civility here:
It's not about ideology, particularly. It's not about never swearing or never getting passionate or even never personally insulting anybody.
It's about: can you, ever, in any circumstances, meet the other person halfway? A quarter of the way? A tenth of the way?
Are you capable of grasping nuance, even a little bit?
Can you, even partially, even grudgingly, ever admit, in any circumstances, that you were wrong? About anything?
Would you, once in a great while, be willing to put aside your overwhelming need to have the last word?
Yes. Ultimately civility is about such nebulous concepts as attitude and good faith, which makes it difficult to classify dialogue definitively as civil or uncivil. Though for the record, I do think my post about Althouse was uncivil; my point is that it's difficult for me to care about that, because I don't see any evidence that Ann approaches these issues with any of the qualities Belledame lists. Asking me to meet an opponent 100% of the way--which, since Ann concedes NONE of her opponent's points, is what I'd have to do to be civil to her--is asking too much of me, or of anyone. It's . . . uncivil.
A VERY PEDANTIC UPDATE: Thanks to Auguste for pointing out that the Overton Window thing was actually a discussion between Josh Trevino and thereisnospoon, not Maryscott O'Connor. I've corrected the attribution. I just hate goofing up things like that for I, too, am a pedant. AND A HYPOCRITE! Let's stone me for it.