November 17, 2005

Can I get a feminist?

Remember back last February when Kevin Drum wrote about why there are so few women in political blogging? He guessed that "men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing — both writing it and reading it." I had occasion to think about that yesterday. One thing Kevin failed to note is that male attacks on women are not so much of a food fight as a sex fight. Blogosphere-strength fighting with a woman takes on an outrageous sexual tone, aggressively declaring that that this is a boy's game. Are there any feminists around to see when it's happening and say a little something?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum asks whether my observation is specific to the LGF comments section -- in which case, who cares? -- or whether it applies elsewhere, including at at Washington Monthly. Lots of good comments from readers.

MORE: Drum also gets his word in about OSM:
Open Source Media — formerly Pajamas Media — had its big rollout yesterday, and it was an odd affair. I never really understood what OSM was about, but I figured they'd explain themselves at their launch party and then I'd get it. Except that they didn't. The main site is here — bankrolled by $3.5 million in venture capital money! — but all it contains is a couple of posts, some newsfeeds, and an explanation (as of noon on Thursday) that they are actually OSM, not Open Source Media, so no worries over Chris Lydon's trademark over "Open Source."

Everyone else is as befuddled as me, which is an odd reaction to a product launch, but perhaps OSM is just running behind schedule and decided not to put off the party just because there was no actual product yet. It wouldn't be the first time in the high tech biz.

YET MORE: Enough folks have misread my intention in writing this post that I feel compelled to add that I am not whining about needing someone to help me out of a jam because I'm a victim. I actually am concerned about the larger feminist issues identified in the post.


KCFleming said...

Michelle Malkin has been a high-profile recipient of this kind of attack. However, I think using gender is not an anti-female approach as much as a fairly typical "everything's fair" in fighting approach.

That is, divisive arguments, whether political or not, can quickly degenerate into name-calling. The task then becomes to use the epithet most likely to inflict harm. Striking at one's intellect, social status, and sexuality are merely sixth-grade schoolyard tactics, and this tends to be adopted when positions become fixed and the stakes appear high.

Put more simply: people can be really mean when they want to win a fight. Attacking a woman through sex-based fightin' words is just another weapon, and often an effective one.

"People...they're the worst." seinfeld

Bruce Hayden said...


I agree with Pogo that you haven't seen anything yet. Malkin has the disadvantage of being both Asian, a real conservative, and being way off the reservation.

I hope this doesn't dissuade you from doing what you have been doing. Because for me, and for I think others, yours is a voice of reason in among the overly partisan.

I do find it humorous that you are now considered "conservative" and thus fair game for this. It couldn't have been more than a week or so ago that I remember you suggesting that you considered yourself still slightly liberal.

I do think that to some degree you see this sort of name calling on the left more than on the right. The only non-politician womens I hear dissed anywhere near like this by the right is MoDo. Maybe Huffington, but not really (yet?) As for politicians, I would throw in Hillary, Pelosi, and, now, Boxer.

Don't back down just because some juveniles think that intimidation through name calling wins arugments. Keep up the good work.

Meade said...

I'm a sauce-for-the-goose-is-sauce-for-the-gander feminist. What little something is it you want said?

bearbee said...

There is plenty of male bashing in this society.......

Meade said...

from the Matt Welch link:

"Ann Outhouse is a bile bitch," "Ann Outhouse is a bile stool of the left," "She a vile bag of pus," "uglier than a dirty boot," a "dumb slut ... [and] Berkeley house whore," "nasty bitch," "snot," "ass hole" and "moonbat." One correspondent surmised, "perhaps she's dyslexic and intended to say that she wants her puss swamped with semen?."

My favorite comment, though was this: "When they have to stoop to insults, it's probably all they have left for their attacks."

I count 5-7 sexist insults vs. sex-neutral insults.

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce: Those who were insulting me at LGF assumed I was a big lefty.

Meade: Read the whole thing -- at LGF. The tone is overwhelmingly, egregiously sexist.

Meade said...

Ann: I agree. Even a 5-7 count is shameful and reveals those commenters as the boors they are. How fine a point do we need to put on it?

Bruce Hayden said...


Thanks for the clarification. I hadn't seen it, so sorry. But what this seems to mean is that you are vulnerable from both the right and the left now that you appear to be in the approximate center.

bill said...

The tonal shift where they go from assuming you're an American hating lefty to feeling betrayed (she guest-blogged for Instapundit, how can she do this to us!) is fascinating. You asked the other day what songs were running through our heads; after skimming LGF I'll be singing Uncorrected Personality Traits all day.

From Robyn Hitchcock's I Often Dream of Trains.

Uncorrected Personality Traits
Uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

Lack of involvement with the father or
Over involvement with the mother
Can result in lack of ability
To relate to sexual peers.

And in homosexual leanings,
Narcicissm, transsexuality.
Girls from the waist up,
Men from the waist down.
Attempts to be your own love object.

Reconcile your parents to you
By becoming both at once.

Even Marilyn Monroe was a man but this
Tends to get over looked by our
Mother-fixated, overweight, sexist media.

So, uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

If you give in to them,
Every time they cry,
They will become little tyrants
But they won't remember why.
Then when they are thwarted
By people in later life,
They will become psychotic
And they won't make an ideal husband or wife.

This spoiled baby grows into
The escapist teenager who's
The adult alcoholic who's
The middle-age suicide.

Oy, so. Uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

Meade said...

That's a great song, Bill. An aside -- Robyn Hitchcock made some excellent covers of 'Tell Me Momma' and 'Visions of Johanna.'

Meade said...

Ann: I think you in particular may appreciate Robyn Hitchcock's doodle work. An example.

reader_iam said...

Sorry, Ann--I was tempted to call the LGF commenters precisely on their sexism--but it's just too vile over there for me. And while I could definitely be wrong, my impression was that some of the worst of it came from ... female commenters! Oh, I hate that. You don't have buy into the whole "sistah-hood" schtick to find that type of own-gender undermining deeply offensive.

And I don't care HOW good or useful a blogger's homepage is, if he or she can't or won't keep his or her commenters in line, I have absolutely NO use for that blog. None. I wouldn't care if God himself wrote it.

Which is why this was the first time in absolute ages I went over to LGF. And I'm VERY sorry I did.

Pete said...

After reading the above, I think I'll pass on the opportunity to go to LGF, thank you very much.

But, Ann, you or someone else may have addressed this, and I'm curious: You've often mentioned that the Left treats you worse than the Right, when you disagree with them. As a member of the VRWC, I took that as something to be prideful about. After this, though, I'm wondering if the score hasn't been settled. If so, all I can do is thank those good LGF commenters for making a good impression on the Lefties around here. Nothing pursuades like vile insults.

Gordon Freece said...

I've had a few chats with lefties about gun control, where after a few minutes something snapped and they started attacking my manhood: Either they claim that I own a gun (actually, I don't own one) in order to compensate for being (*a-hem*) "underendowed", or else they claim that I own a gun (even though I don't) because I go through life constantly terrified of being attacked.

This is all exceedingly funny: Not only is it a steaming pile of non sequiturs, but, I, er... don't own a gun. So I tell them that, and then they accuse me of not being man enough to own a gun: "Scared of guns, huh? HUH?! CHICKENHAWK!"

Well, there you go: Some people, you talk to them and all their reasoning boils down to is "I hate you". That's not always a real compelling argument in favor of whatever public policy they're advocating, but at least it's factual: They really do hate you.

KCFleming said...

The anonymity of the internet both permits and encourages comments that very few people would make face to face. In the juvenile sport of dishing, dissing, or otherwise mocking one's verbal opponent, the more disgusting one can be, the better. The victor is often the most over-the-top.

Certainly, LGF posters fall into that trap too often. And many didn't bother to form a rational opinion based on facts. Theirs is an insular community, meant to increase group safety by ruthless enforcement of conformity.

Is it sexism? Certainly. "Woman" plus "semen" plus "mocking Our Guy" becomes the simple calculus of "insert most vile sexist term here". Guys would instead receive a mixture of attacks (gay epithets being less effective these days overall). Women always get more sexual content, mainly because the injury inflicted is so much greater.

1. It would have been far wiser for the LGFers not to attack potential supporters. Really, really dumb.
2. Sexism will be declared dead when people are mocked for all of their characteristics: brains, gender, family, looks, popularity, and beliefs. Can't we all just ridicule each other equally?

tiggeril said...

I am seriously baffled by this hullaballoo. I had no idea that semen and pus were inherently vulgar.

I guess I know what to do instead of cursing the next time I'm stuck in traffic.

"Pus you! Spinal fluid off! Hair follicles that! PLAAAASSSSMAAAAAA!!!"

Ryne said...

Women who dare to criticize men often get a good douse of testosterone sprayed in their faces. And I know this because I am a man, although one who likes to think that he can do better than that.

This sort of behavior is nothing new.

But one thing about it, you usually enounter it only from males who have nothing to add to the discussion and have nothing to say.

As someone who loves all of the OSM bloggers as individuals, but has to laugh a little at the OSM model, I think that the abuse and invective their readers have hurled at you is just sickening.

I don't blame Charles, as what would the blogosphere be without a hot slapfight every once in a while? But his commenters have been beyond the pale in what they've said to you, Ann.

geekesque said...

Just imagine if you had been European, Muslim, and/or Arab.

I wonder why Open Sores won't have a comments section . . .

tiggeril said...

No? If, in the course of criticizing your blog (on its launch day, no less), I compared it to a toilet brimming with watery stools, you wouldn't take offense? Nothing vulgar about the term "stools," after all. Why, it's practically clinical.

Actually, I wouldn't. Compared to the kind of invective you usually find in the damp, moist corners of the internet, "a toilet brimming with watery stools" is positively genteel.

tiggeril said...

Hey, I've been called worse.

Peter Hoh said...

So much is completely lost on the frothing LGF comment critics. Ann's semen & pus comment follows (but not directly enough) from her musings on the idea that someone would be drinking from a glass with "Bloggers do it in their pajamas" inscribed on it.

Ann's style of blogging includes longer, meandering commentary in which she employs literary devices and attempts to tie threads together with wit and humor. This is all lost on folks who don't look beyond the excerpt.

Charles didn't make it easy for his readers to find the context. His post links to Ann's blog, not to the post from which he took the excerpt.

Poking around the LGF site, I see that the commenters are amused that the Philadelphia Inquirer was also fooled by Jeff Goldstein's fake live-blogging. Silly outsiders. Don't they know the inside jokes?

That's fine if you're content to limit your audience to the insiders -- but hardly the approach to take when you're launching something that you hope will appeal to a wider audience.

But please, make the outsiders feel foolish. That's marketing genius.

Buck said...

Bruce Hayden said: I do think that to some degree you see this sort of name calling on the left more than on the right.

Nope...I believe there are LOTS of illiterate a-holes on either side of the divide. As to who can say the vilest, most disgusting things, well, it just depends on what day it is.

I still have LGF bookmarked, but I cannot remember the last time I was there. And it pains me to read Armando, too, although I will follow a link that demonstrates just how over-the-top that SOB can be. Guilty pleasures, and all that.

On the feminist question...I'll side with Allah. He pretty much nailed it.

Gordon Freece said...

peter hoh, so you're saying a) that it's dumb to make outsiders feel foolish just because they lack context, and b) that anybody who doesn't read Althouse regularly lacks the context to understand the potty-joke "literary device" everybody's het up about, and is therefore dumb.

I'm glad you took the trouble to clarify that.

On a side note, I've been reading Althouse regularly for about a year now I'm no stranger to literary devices. The offending remark is dumb and gratuitously obnoxious. When I saw it, I did a double-take. I figured she must really hate those guys and it affected her judgement. But everybody goofs now and then. She's got a long, long way to slide before she starts campaigning for Howard Dean.

Eli Blake said...


'SOB.' Now there is a word. I've always wondered about that-- even when a guy is a total jerk, people use that term to blame it on his mother. If that isn't sexist, I don't know what is.

Simon said...

I can't take Drum seriously after this post, I'm afraid. There are people - on the right and left - who aren't coming out of this round of SCOTUS nominations with their reputations intact. The process has become a crucible; Drum and Hewitt are two of the casualties who couldn't take the heat. Both male, noticably.

Ann's mentioned before that she hasn't previously encountered from the right the kind of biting hostility associated with left-wing bloggers. I think she has now. ;)

Ann Althouse said...

Peter Hoh writes "Ann's style of blogging includes longer, meandering commentary in which she employs literary devices and attempts to tie threads together with wit and humor. This is all lost on folks who don't look beyond the excerpt."

Thanks, Peter, I really appreciate that. A lot of people are imagining me angry or bitter about OSM, but really, I'm just observing things and commenting. The same goes for the LGF comments. Those who think I'm crying for help from feminists and playing the helpless victim are not really getting me as well as good old Peter, who really understands me. The fact is, I have nerves of steel about those LGF dorks. I'm just calling them on their bullshit. They are being sexist in a way I want people who care about feminism to take note of. That's why I appealed to Kevin Drum to get some attention to this. It's not that I need help. I've been making fun of them all along. Please try to keep up with Peter in comprehending the spirit of the Althouse blog!

knox said...

Allah said...
Fair enough. We'll mark you down as part of the one-tenth of one percent of the population that doesn't mind being compared to shit/jizz/yeast infections, etc

LOL...yeah, you kinda have to call bullshit on that one

vbspurs said...

Women who dare to criticize men often get a good douse of testosterone sprayed in their faces. And I know this because I am a man, although one who likes to think that he can do better than that.

This sort of behavior is nothing new.

No, it's not.

Men have this way of shouting at you, if you're a woman, and using obscenities, because they believe that will make you cower and run a mile.

They also mistake tears for fears (cue "Everyone wants to rule the World"), whereas tears for women are simply an emotional outlet, similar to shouting for men.

But for them it's a sign of weakness (for me too, actually).

Whenever, IRL, a man does this to me, I just look at him as if I'm amused, and wink.

That stops them dead in their tracks.

Helps if you're cute though.


vbspurs said...

I can say that becuz i am a grrl, and an LGF regular.


I like the note of self-mocking sms-text orthography you used here.


Anonymous said...


Can't a female make a lame semen and pus joke loosely aimed at Charles without unleashing the fury of the lizardoids.

Probably not.

It cuts both ways, too. LGFers are pretty much equal opportunity flamers. Is that sexist?

Besides, a filthy tirade in the proper setting adds some flavor to the blogosphere.

vbspurs said...

I clicked on the "I think you're infected" link, and read this:

it has recently spread to Jeff Jarvis, Steven Den Beste, Ann AltHouse,

AltHouse! That's nifty, I thought. Then I wondered:

Hey -- what if you press 'alt' at the same time as 'Home" on one's keyboard?

And guess what! It defaults to!!


reader_iam said...

Playah grrl:

... an LGF regular.

That pretty much sums it up for me.

As I noted elsewhere, the homepage is a place that I used to visit and that has quite a bit of value. But I don't go there specifically because of the low tone of the comment section--which is a result of a (noisy) subset of "LGF regulars."

It bothers me when bloggers seemingly don't care about the atmosphere in their comment sections. When they don't do anything about it, I can only assume that they tacitly approve or, worse, that they really wish they could say those sorts of things but are too cowardly to do so in their own posts. To each his own, I suppose.

As to being called a sex traitor regarding Summers, how ridiculous that happened (they could only have been doing that based on the twisted, knee-jerk version of sisterhood)! He was remarking with regard to objective fact based on real research, and his detractors went into stereotypical "vapors" mode--I say that based on their OWN quoted words. If you were supporting him and mocking them, you were not being a sex traitor. You were excercising good judgement--in the indispensible "the emperor has no clothes on" mode.

This is different. Vicious and loaded word choices specifically designed to be demeaning and degrading specifically to a woman in relation to her setting forth an opinion IS the essence of sexist discourse. In the "real" sisterhood sense, I DO find it MORE and VERY disturbing when a "girl" participates. (I don't and didn't use the word "sex traitor" because it's too loaded, but yes, I am calling the women out more than the men for the reasons stated). Pointing that out is NOT playing the equivalent of the "race card," as you put it so flippantly.

And I'm not saying that because I in any way buy into the current, "high-jacked" form of feminism (in fact, I strongly suspect that yours and my overall attitudes about the current "women's movement" are very close--much closer, I'll bet, than mine and Ann's, for example.) I'm saying it because such language does, in fact, show contempt for the reality that a woman is an individual PERSON, apart from gender, first, when it comes to endeavors that really DON'T have anything to do with our plumbing.

Like, for example, blogging.

(And yes, I would and have had plenty to say along the same lines about all the male bashing that takes place on a daily basis.)

And I can say all this because, well, I'm a girl, too--one who can and always has been able to play with boys on their own turf just fine, without going all overly sensitive, etc. Equally, I've never been afraid to call out a "sister" either.

Ann & others: Sorry for the very long post. This whole situation has really, really hit a nerve with me, on a lot of levels. And funnily enough, I didn't even like the original pus and semen line (though I instantly recognized its context)! Go figure.

Peter Hoh said...

P. Froward: Fair critique. Certainly the way you summarize things, it does look as if I'm using a double standard for context and insiders.

Let me elaborate.

I accept that some people think that Ann's semen/pus reference was in bad taste. I am not drawing conclusions about them. Nor would I insist that "real insiders" would not find it tasteless. In fact, I think "real insiders" are drawn here because Ann occasionaly flirts with bad taste.

If the LGF commenters were simply saying that Ann's language was in bad taste, I'd have no basis for criticism. However, quite a few LGF commenters concluded that Ann is a moonbat lefty from a single line that Charles posted. I didn't call that stupid, but if you insist, I'm happy to comply.

You don't have to be an Althouse insider to realize that a knee-jerk reaction like that is a knee-jerk reaction.

However, you have to be an insider in order to make fun of the people who read the fake live-blogging as real. People familiar with Goldstein's style were mocking those outsiders who gave him an honest reading.

Putting fake live-blogging up on your launch day is a serious faux pas for a group trying to pass itself off as a serious alternative to the mainstream media. If you were starting a newspaper, would you run a tongue-in-cheek report on the front page of the first edition?

Simon said...

This all seems a lot of smoke and noise for a stunningly boring non-event. This whole OSM business hardly seems worthy of comment - a bunch of blogs linking to one another! Wow! - seems to have spiralled into some bizarre excuse for some namecalling between people who are involved in it (well done) and people who aren't (equally well done).

Is this stuff really worth expeding more than a few words over? It's like bickering over which is better, ABC News or the News Hour. News organizations aren't supposed to be the story, and no matter how self-important they become, they're never the interesting story.

Melinda said...

Is the title "Can I Get A Feminist?" a reference to Marvin Gaye's "Can I Get A Witness"?

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, Jeff's post is still the only "BEST OF THE BLOGS." How can OSM be so inert? The site should be hopping! Is it already in collapse?

And what about the "Current Headlines" next to "BEST OF THE BLOGS"? It starts off:

AP: Kristofferson Eyes New Cash Biopic

UPI: UPI NewsTrack TopNews

Is that a little sad?

There are two ads in the sidebar. One is for OSM. A self-ad, place-holder.

The main story at the top: "The Washington Post has revealed that the dean of investigative reporting, Robert Woodward, knew the identity of Valerie Plame more than two years ago. Bloggers are going wild."

Well, give them credit. They wrote two sentences. The first sentence is news from yesterday. The second sentence... I guess that one could be reused every day. Do you care if bloggers go wild? Send me the videotape.

tiggeril said...

This whole thing has only served to remind me that things don't regress to the mean on the internet. They teleport.

Ann Althouse said...

Playah: "that's all i have to say." Promise? You've been boring.

Melinda: Yes.

TCD: Thanks. Don't worry about my being able to deal with this. It's a piece of cake. I don't stay up at night worrying that some LGFer called me a whore. I laugh about it a lot on podcast #21. I'm not the one with $3.5 million dollars on the line, and I'm nowhere near the people who are. I'm sure Charles and Roger are sweating it out right now, and I don't really mean to cause them pain. But a blogger's got to do what a bloggers got to do. They said hey look at our big unveiling, and so I've got to look and make a few comments. I had to comment on the name change. They made a huge deal of it.

Ignatius: I guess you don't follow the Althouse blog very much. I participate in the comments a lot. And, unlike Charles, I delete crap.

Ann Althouse said...

APF: Well put. The opening of OSM is a big blog event that we've been waiting months for. Everyone should be commenting, taking potshots, cracking jokes. All the people who are saying shush, don't be mean, give them a chance -- you've given up on the way of the blogger to take care of your friends (or people you hope will be your friends). Feh!

Anonymous said...

Well Ann, as you know, the Republicans didn't go with the brains they wanted, they went with the brains they had.

(It's okay, they overcompensate with greed, thuggery, and malice.)

reader_iam said...

Playuh: Note please the words "a (noisy) subset of "LGF regulars." That was pointing to the specific subset of LGF commenters who cause the problem. And yes, it's true that I'm including you in that subset. That's not a stereotype--it's what I'm observing based on your own "behavior" and the language directed at Althouse that you are defending.

But even if you can't or won't buy that, may I gently suggest that, given the well know reputation of LGF's comments section, you might be asking to be stereotyped by calling YOURSELF an LGF regular?

And I explicitly said in my most that calling you a sex traitor over defending Summers was ridiculous. I was DEFENDING you in that particular context, for crying out loud. I wasn't saying your statement of fact (they called you that) was ridiculous, I was saying that their pegging you as that was ridiculous. (Knee-jerk feminism is irksome; but then again, so is knee-jerk anti-feminism.)

Just because I didn't name every other blog whose comment section I eschew, in whole or in part or with regard to particular topics, doesn't mean I don't know there are a bunch of others. Not listing all of those does not defend LGF's behavior yesterday.

I singled out LGF because that's where the specific outrageous statements we've been talking about appeared. And you seem to think that those things are OK. Fine. We all know that's your right. And we are perfectly entitled to call you on it.

I don't have a problem with laughing at myself and think it's one of the traits I most admire in others, as individuals.

But this was a business launch. A marketing launch. Which purports a serious mission. And wants to generate profits for its venture capitalist and its members. And seeks advertiser support. In that context, I think it appropriate and fair to question the decision to spotlight THAT particular (and very funny, yes!) article on the official launch website on official launch day.

Does the phrase "There's a time and place for everything, but pick carefully" ring a bell here? Or is that just too stuffy of a sentiment these days?

(Although, IMHO, there's NEVER a time or place for the kind of vile name-calling that we've been discussing.)

geekesque said...

Just a reminder for folks what it means to be an "LGF regular."

LGF or Combat 18? Hard to tell

vbspurs said...

you just stereotyped me.
i use alternics to comment on other blogs because people like you stereotype the LGF commenters.
Ann has been dishonest and insulting through this whole episode.
calling out for Drum and the femministas to rescue her?
tant pis, she deserves it.
and yes, Drum's tame feministas called me a sex traiter when i stood up for Summers. and i'm still mad.

Wait, playah grrl. You can reference "tant pis" but can't punctuate or capitalise worth a tinker's cuss?

Hey, no skin off my proboscis. You can do as you like.

But sometimes, u no, u'r judged by more than the content of ur character.


vbspurs said...

And playahh grrl,
It's bad etiquette to link to your own blog in a comments section. Not getting enough blog traffic on your own merits?

Don't you start. That's my mealticket.


vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vbspurs said...

You seriously need to get over yourself. The Patriarchy has been very, very good to you, and you should show some appreciation.

See, this throw-away reducto-sexist line would've worked so much better if Mossback had written it thusly:

"You need to get ova yourself, honey"

Now, that would've been funny.

The way it is above just looks like a limp dick flapping unrequitedly after a glory hole.


reader_iam said...

Tomorrow's a new day!

Pablo said...

Nag, nag, nag....

But don't worry. They're just big dumb men. they're sure to screw it up, right?