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Thursday, April 26, 2007
(1:16 PM) | Stephen:
Taking Women Seriously

So here's the video of Michelle Malkin that's getting so much attention:

I agree that it's hardly serious commentary and even juvenile in execution; however, there is plenty of mockery that occurs on liberal blogs, so the idea of a video like this is not so ridiculous as people are saying.

All that aside, though, what really bothers me about this - about every mention of Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Ann Althouse, Pam of Atlas Shrugs, etc. - is the focus upon Malkin's looks, her sexual appeal or lack thereof. The same thing happens with all women bloggers, all women pundits, all women who occupy any type of public position. When Garance Franke-Ruta was on the receiving end of Ann Althouse's complete meltdown on Bloggingheads.tv, many of the comments made about it were about how attractive Frank-Ruta is, how Althouse doesn't compare to her in that department, etc.

Now, I have noticed that the number of blog posts dedicated to a particular woman's physical characteristics have gone down, at least among the blogs that I read. It's nice to no longer have to slog through repetitive speculation that Ann Coulter used to be - or still is - a man. If I recall correctly, I haven't seen any cracks recently about various women having a penis or scrotum either, which is nice. Respect is respect, no matter who the subject is.

But blog comments are an entirely different thing. Yes, I understand that bloggers should not be held responsible for the content in the comments, but as a frequent commenter on several blogs, I believe I have the right to talk about this. Whenever a female rightwing pundit is the subject of a post - especially if it's Michelle Malkin - the comment thread will fill up with people discussing her looks and whether or not the commenter would deign to have sex with her. It's interesting to note the number of people who declare quite forcefully that Michelle Malkin in particular is ugly, because Ms. Malkin is a very attractive lady. She's pretty, and it's ok to think that about someone even if they disagree with your political views.

What's not ok is to make her looks the substance of your comment or even blog post, because I know that those posts still happen. And what really bothers me about all this focus upon a woman's looks - including, remember, good liberals like Garance Franke-Ruta or the women at Feministing - is that it comes from the exact same place that produces all the anti-feminist/anti-woman crap we can find all over the wingnutosphere:


Being a liberal doesn't provide one with a clean slate. Even being a feminist doesn't mean that one is immune to all of our society's ideas and pressures. And in spite of all the progress that has been made, one of this society's greatest fears is a woman that speaks her mind. So when people like Coulter and Malkin say things with which we disagree - things even that are damaging to other women - we question their femininity, we assume that some man (Jesse Malkin) is the one actually doing the talking. No woman could say such a thing, we think, and completely miss the irony of our words echoing those of the rightwing sexists. To accuse Ann Coulter of being mannish or Michelle Malkin of being controlled by her husband doesn't actually insult them. Doing so insults all women, everywhere, even those we think we support.

As I have pointed out, liberal women are not immune to this. Yes, Garance Franke-Ruta is very pretty. But she is incredibly smart, she writes very well, she carries herself, at least insofar as being the recipient of an Althouse meltdown is concerned, with dignity and poise. And because of that, she is threatening in our culture. So good liberals focus upon her looks, because that is firstly, what we are supposed to focus upon with women, and secondly, because it allows us to diminish her and her abilities. Franke-Ruta has shown no reluctance to address the failings of Democrats and progressives in general, and she's right more often than she is wrong, to say the least. She's far less threatening, though, if in response to one of her incisive, insightful articles our thoughts consist of "Oh, how pretty she is!" instead of really engaging her ideas.

Liberalism has as its essence the idea that all are equally deserving of respect, dignity and justice. So long as liberals themselves are willing to reinforce sexist attitudes and behaviors, we will never attain our goals. For all the people who oppose full equality for all, for all the ways in which they sabotage our efforts and goals, we would be a much more formidable force if we would clean up our own act.

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