March 12, 2005

"As a woman... I wanted to be liked - not attacked."

Responding to "[t]he kerfuffle over female columnists started when Susan Estrich launched a crazed and nasty smear campaign against Michael Kinsley," Maureen Dowd explains the travails of a female editorialist:
Guys don't appreciate being lectured by a woman. It taps into myths of carping Harpies and hounding Furies, and distaste for nagging by wives and mothers.
Hmmm... that's a thought I've had a few times in my twenty years as a female lawprof.
This job has not come easily to me. But I have no doubt there are plenty of brilliant women who would bring grace and guts to our nation's op-ed pages, just as, Lawrence Summers notwithstanding, there are plenty of brilliant women out there who are great at math and science. We just need to find and nurture them.
Nuture?! If we want women to go on the attack, we've got to nuture them? Well, actually, yes! It takes a lot nerve to put your harsh, straightforward words down on paper. You can feel entirely squelched and intimidated, yet still have those things inside you, and you could say them if somehow someone managed to give you the go-ahead. I know I've found myself able to write a lot of things down in this blog, but I've also gone many, many years holding my tongue. There may be a lot of men clamoring to speak first, easily finding a way to talk over the women who have just as much to say. It may take a little something more to unleash what women can say. Maureen Dowd doesn't explain how she was able to let loose. Someone saw she had it in her and gave her the forum, and from there she had to force herself to do it. But clearly, she could.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links here for the point I think women are more sensitive to harsh attacks. This post is really more about how women are more harshly punished if they go on the attack, which is what Maureen Dowd wrote about. It's not just that we (generally) feel worse when we are attacked, but that we are (generally) more likely to be perceived in a negative light if we do attack. Anyway, I have written before about wanting more civility and rationality in blogging, such as here, where I respond to a post by Kevin Drum, who wrote:
[D]oes this mean that women need to change if they want to enter the fray, or does it mean that the fray needs to change in order to attract more women? As usual, probably some of both. Unfortunately, the blogosphere, which ought to be an ideal training ground for finding new voices in nontraditional places, is far more vitriolic than any op-ed page in the country, even the Wall Street Journal's, and therefore probably turns off women far more than it attracts them.
My response was:
I don't think women or the blogosphere needs to change. Each blog is a place unto itself, where a writer establishes a tone and a voice. As long as you keep the comments function off, you control your own space. A thousand vitriolic male blogs don't prevent one woman from setting up her own blog and making whatever she likes of it.
Reynolds was noting how vicious people were being to Zephyr Teachout -- in the comments. Well, I definitely turned off my comments long ago and after a very short experience with them, because I was not going to tolerate people talking to me like that on my own blog. I want to decide whom to ignore and when to fight back.

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