Please, someone, just make it stop. I know it sells papers to pander to the most hateful among us. I know some people love reading contrarian screeds, no matter how idiotic and poorly researched, just to have something to disagree with. I know that sometimes media outlets just mess up.
But this is just too much. Sunday's Washington Post printed what could in fact be the Platonic ideal of a misogynist op-ed piece. It's all pretty horrible, but here's the final paragraph, just to give you an idea of what Charlotte Allen said:
So 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. (Even I, who inherited my interior-decorating skills from my Bronx Irish paternal grandmother, whose idea of upgrading the living-room sofa was to throw a blanket over it, can make a house a home.) Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts' content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are... kind of dim.
There will always be misogynists, there will always be racists, there will always be homophobes, and there will always be people who hate just about everyone. And with 300,000,000 people in our country, there's no shortage of them and no lack of people who can write hateful drivel like that. And there'll never be.
The better question is why the country's #2 paper chose to give it such a platform. Is it because they think we still need to have a discussion about these issues? Is it because they cynically want to sell more papers and they know that people are just too dumb to read a researched piece about health care policy instead? Is it because newspaper editors are just more likely to hate women? Is it because Washington is so devoid of women that someone needs to describe them to the locals, and Charlotte Allen was the first to volunteer?
They try to cover themselves by adding this on the top of the online version:
Agree? Disagree? Think this article should never have been published? Send a response to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Smarter Than You Think" in the subject line. We'll publish a selection online and in the newspaper on Sunday.
Hey, women! Here's your chance to prove that you can think! The best thing about this demeaning exercise is that it casts doubt on women's ability to think, work, and live independently of men, because whether one side has better arguments or not, the entire topic is now up for a poorly researched discussion! And we know which side is more credible because it's the side that got printed in the paper first!
This comes on the same day as a Linda Hirshman op-ed calling women fickle for not all voting for Hillary Clinton:
For the Clinton campaign, this is devastating. A year ago, chief strategist Mark Penn proclaimed that the double-X factor was going to catapult his candidate all the way to the White House. Instead, the women's vote has fragmented. The only conclusion: American women still aren't strategic enough to form a meaningful political movement directed at taking power. Will they ever be?
Penn was right about the importance of the women's vote. About 57 percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries so far have been women. As of Feb. 12, Clinton had a lead of about seven percentage points over Obama among them (24 points among white women). But the Obama campaign reached out to the fair sex, following Clinton's announcement of women-oriented programs with similar ones within a matter of weeks. I can imagine the strategists for the senator from Illinois thinking, "What's that song in Verdi's 'Rigoletto'?" Women are fickle.
Turns out it's true.
Because, of course, making a woman president isn't a big step forward for women's equality, it isn't an historic step forward, it isn't the largest possible step forward. No, no, no, it's the only step forward! And, yeah, women, all women, reneged on their promise to Mark Penn to vote Hillary.
I think that someone needs to develop a more complicated understanding of identity politics here, and it's not just Linda Hirshman. I notice that both these sexist columns (and, yes, if you call women stupid for not voting the way you want them to, then you're being sexist, even if you quote Verdi) were written by women, as if for some reason that makes the arguments more reasonable.
(Actually, I take that sarcastic comment back, because in general I do believe that observations about women made by women are more likely to be valid than observations about women made by men. But that's really not the point here. What we have is a newspaper editorial staff, probably dominated by men, making decisions on what op-eds to include with advertising dollars and distribution revenue in the backs of their minds. What's being printed isn't at all what people generally believe or what science has to say or even what two random scholars think about women. It's just a ruse used to get print whatever they wanted to print in the first place that proves nothing other than the fact that, in a country of 300,000,000, there are sexist women who can write. It works in the same way that Republicans give a huge platform to the few Black people who are against Affirmative Action or the Religious Right parades around the five ex-gays who've stuck with it for more than a year so that whites and straights don't feel guilty for being racist or homophobic or denying classes of people their rights.)
Or maybe we should consider these columns a message to the "sexism doesn't exist" crowd: you're wrong!