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Shanks Pony Express

May
12
2005

Reading the headline of James Wolcott’s June column in Vanity Fair, “Caution: Women Seething,” I started getting a little ginned up. And you know what that means.
Argh. Here. We. Go. Again. Like most of you, I think this issue is done. For now, anyway. And like most of you, I think much of the important conversation that took place took place here on the web, on sites like this one. Just what we need, another white guy “explaining” it all to us.
I was getting all ready to beat Wolcott over the head with his late timing – not to mention the fact that he’s got a web site he calls a blog which he could have easily used to take part in this conversation two months ago – but he makes it hard. Instead, he gives me a chance to reinforce some of the points I made earlier in this debate. Along with the opportunity to ask, once again, the ever-present (at least for on-line folks) question about Big Media’s self-satisfaction. Not only that, I get an excuse to beat on The Atlantic for its egregiously sexist sins.


How does Wolcott do this? Well, first he goes and echoes my take on Sally Quinn’s lame flirty girlie defense of Harvard president Larry Summers. “The intellectual caliber of the first responders barely rose above a popgun level,” Wolcott says of the East Coast establishment’s reaction to Summers. Gotta love that.
And he goes on to deftly hit the nail on the head with his observation about the cause for my – I guess, I should say “our” – outrage. “What exploded, methinks, was a protracted build-up of exasperation over the persistent under-representation of women in positions of prominence and authority and in the mulish inability of powerful men to recognize the scope of the problem or their tendency instead to rationalize it with voodoo genetics and Victorian-parlor sociology.”
Damn fine writing. But Wolcott’s not done. Because he then goes and links the problem of women being underrepresented with its root cause, one I tried to explain to Katha Pollitt when she turned in a cameo appearance over at Kevin Drum’s site acting as though her contribution to the conversation was somehow – because of her bona fides – superior to what had already occurred. What we have here with all this chat about women’s voices and women’s representation is really a problem with Big Media and how it shapes – or, if you prefer, manhandles – our world into something we can’t recognize.
“The rub is that if more women are picked for the op-ed pages and pundit roundup, they will most likely be chosen from the same incestuous Beltway-media clique that treats the rest of America as a giant appendix to their schmoozy careers….The real war between the sexes is a class war, a war that will remain under the radar as long as the self-perpetuating media and political establishment maintain the fiction that the country doesn’t have a class system, that they all got where they are on “merit.” All you have to do is listen to most of them to know it isn’t so.”
Amen, brother. Amen.
Wolcott’s column is a great step in outling the problem. But here’s a question that still bothers me:
Jimmy, if you’re so very sincere about this media-class-blinders stuff why isn’t this issue front and center on your site? Or why didn’t you incorporate in your print column some of the comments and writing – damn fine writing if I say so myself — that appeared on the web? I know you know Jeff Jarvis and he chimed in. And I know you know who Glenn Reynolds is and he helped out, too. I’m pretty sure you know Katha Pollitt, too; you even say so in your June column. So you can’t really plead ignorance.
An on-line component, in your print column and on your site, would have added a new dimension to your Vanity Fair piece. You’re talking the talk, Jimmy. Now get walking.

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