WaPo to ladies: Dumb, swoony, and you can't take a joke

Sigh. One day after the Washington Post published the op-ed by Charlotte Allen titled "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?", the paper has responded to the massive public outcry against the piece by stating — what else? — that the piece was meant to be "tongue-in-cheek" satire. John Pomfret, the editor of the paper's Outlook section, stated this morning that "If [the piece] insulted people, that wasn't the intent."

Ah, yes. The classic you-just-can't-take-a-joke defense, complete with ass-covering disingenousness. This, on top of the Post's previous cleanup tactic — changing the teaser of the story from "Women Aren't Very Bright" to "Why Do Women Act So Dumb?" — is, simply put, an outrageous attempt on the paper's part to try and justify what was clearly always meant to be a real, live, nonsatirical bit of misogynist tripe that, as a bonus, would yield massive web traffic. As one Politico commenter pointed out, the WaPo hiring Charlotte Allen — an Independent Women's Forum mouthpiece who has defended former Harvard president Lawrence Summers's claims that the girls just aren't cut out for science and written on how transgendered folks endanger the privacy rights of others — would be "like asking David Duke to write a tongue-in-cheek article about the inferiority of African-Americans."

We don't really need to rehash all that's wrong with the article, starting with Allen's reliance on the tiredest of stereotypes — women like shoes! And soaps! And they're bad drivers! The issue here is not that she wrote the piece — serving up steaming piles of woman-hate is pretty much the raison d'etre of the IWF, after all. The issue is that the Post, a paper so concerned with its flagging female readership that its ombudsperson recently reported on the formation of a task force to remedy the situation, is willing to use such thoughtless, offensive baiting techniques in the interest of grasping at web hits. Unless this is exactly what the task force determined would get women reading. Either way, don't let it stand: Write a letter to the editor (letters@washpost.com), and tell all your pals to do the same — and be sure to call bullshit on Pomfret's lazy explanation. There's no "if" here: The piece was insulting, and it's not because women can't take a joke. It's because we're sick of seeing the worst examples of feminist-baiting misogyny proudly disseminated by the papers of record.

by Andi Zeisler
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Andi Zeisler is the cofounder of Bitch Media and the author of We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. You can find her on Twitter.

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5 Comments Have Been Posted

Even if it was a joke...

Say for a moment that anyone believed it was a joke. The next question is; why is that joke appropriate for a major news outlet? This is one situation where if you take out the word "women" and replace it with "African American" or any other race, it immediately would never, ever be appropriate to be published by any mainstream publication. Can you imagine? "African Americans aren't very bright". That would never fly, and rightly so.

So why would it be considered appropriate to publish this "tongue in cheek" article that degrades women?

We here know the answer to that of course, but it would be nice if the Powers That Be consider that.



Thanks for blogging about

Thanks for blogging about this. That article actually made me so angry I couldn't speak. Heffalump smash! Heffalump kill! Heffalump incapable of wittily responding (so it's a good thing there's Bitch)!

So much wrong at WaPo

It has been hard not to be deafened by the sexism the reportage of the current primary cycle. Not even touching the whole Hillary gets critiqued on her wardrobe/no one talks about Barack's lack of experience dichotomy (guess which one of those is an important issue in qualifying for the job of President?), the stereotyping has been a bigot's dream (if you're young you *must* be for Obama; if you're female you *must* be for Clinton...wait, you're not? what's wrong with you?).

It's enough to make me cancel my WaPo subscription.

squash the woman/black analogy

Argh! While the WaPo article was problematic, more distracting to me is the tired analogy "what if you replace 'woman' with 'black'?" Erm, actually, it's been done and more than once. Black communities have more than one off-track sistah or brother attempting to hold black folks accountable for their behavior and failing miserably with their analysis (e.g. see John McWhorter over on theroot.com trying to define blackness---nothing like a very light-skinned black man outing my deep love of fried chicken!).

So returning from the digression into race/gender: how do we hold other women accountable for, dare I say, some of the stupid behavior we get up to? Our are we liberated to act an apolitical fool?

I notice that WaPo published

I notice that WaPo published your letter to them about this article (Sunday's Outlook section). I also found it interesting that they published a "well, these articles have to be published so we can talk about these things" response letter.

Why is it that when you object to being treated unfairly people are "just talking" but when you insist on language mattering you're told it doesn't?

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