I touched a bit on the idea that Althouse was trying to put Jessica in her place in my earlier post. But I want to expand on the point, and to draw in some of the other reactions to the Clinton blogger lunch, particularly with regard to race and complaining.
Althouse wasn’t the only one trying to put Jessica in her place; as I also mentioned, there were any number of commenters across the progressive blogosphere that made comments about Jessica’s fuckability. They didn’t know who she was, or why she was there, but they sure as hell felt free to speculate that it had something to do with sex.
Even those defending Jessica have often focused on the appropriateness of her posture, her pose, her clothing and her smile, as if those were really the issues. They’re not. The issue is that Jessica was invited to that lunch because of her accomplishments and her intelligence, but people like the commenters discussing her fuckability and Althouse criticizing her for having breasts are reminding her that no matter how much she’s accomplished in her life, no matter how smart she is, she doesn’t really belong in that group.
In other words, they smacked her down for being so uppity as to think that she had the right to be there.
This is nothing new, of course. Women have been reminded in any number of ways that they don’t belong — whether it’s in the military, in politics, as a world leader, in business, in judicial clerkships, in the clergy, in blogging, or at conferences.
When Jill pointed out that a panel at the Personal Democracy Conference that was supposed to represent people who were influential in the blogosphere didn’t contain any women or more than one blogger of color, panel members got defensive:
This did not go over well. Apparently this was taken as an attack on the panelists, and they certainly got defensive. “Well, I didn’t put this panel together,” said Roger Simon. Jason Calacanis (who is a douchebag extraordinaire) said something to the effect of, “I don’t think it really matters” and followed that up with, “Anyone can start a blog.” Right. Because it’s not like the row I was sitting in — which was me, Shankar, Jessica, Gwynn and Liza – wasn’t chock-full of female (and feminist) bloggers or anything. It’s not a question of supply; it’s a question of who is considered authoritative, and how that reflects existing stereotypes.
It’s interesting to see how people respond when you bring up these issues. Peter Daou pointed out that he’s ethnically mixed, and that he makes an effort on his blog to include diverse voices. He’s right, and he’s one of the better bloggers when it comes to representing a lot of different perspectives from a lot of different people. Ari Rabin-Havt, who works for Sen. Harry Reid, simply responded, “You’re absolutely right. And we have to do better about that.” Joe Trippi didn’t really comment, and the rest of them seemed generally offended that someone would have pointed out the lack of estrogen on the panel without first kissing their asses. I think perhaps it would have gone over better if I had prefaced my comment with, “I think y’all are SO awesome, and I totally love what you do and you’re all so talented and fantastic and I’m totally not trying to insult anyone where, but don’t you think it’s a little strange that there aren’t any women on this panel? But I mean you all are good representatives so really, don’t worry about it, it’s cool, I’m just saying…”
And I’m not so good at prefacing my comments that way.
Neither is Liza. And, oh, did some people get defensive about her demand to know why the blogger lunch was so lily-white.
There have been many comments and posts to the effect that because there will be more meetups, later, and because Oliver Willis was invited but declined, and because Steve Gilliard wouldn’t have come if asked, Liza was out of line and nothing she says needs to be taken seriously.
But we only know all this because Liza demanded to know why there weren’t any POC bloggers at that lunch. We only know this because Peter Daou responded to her post and her email. She didn’t know this when she put up her post. Should she have done more to find out answers before asking the questions? Maybe, but that assumes that Liza’s primary function is as a journalist rather than as an activist and a blogger and a human being. She did a post off the cuff asking for answers. That she received some answers doesn’t make her questions invalid. (I will also note that one of her questions (and Terrence’s) — why it is that none of the bloggers who attended the lunch meeting mentioned the absence of people of color at a meeting in Harlem? — still hasn’t been answered (though Jessica, whose initial post was done in transit, will get to it once Boobiegate blows over).)
Indeed, this is something that people who want to be involved in politics ought to be sensitive to — people will have gut reactions, and how you respond to those gut reactions is important. That is, after all, what spin doctors are for. Daou did a pretty good job of responding to her concerns, though, as Liza pointed out, he really should be more careful to include a more diverse group of bloggers — both in terms of racial diversity as ell as diversity of opinion on Hillary Clinton — in the future, if the Clintons are really serious about reaching out. They managed to include women, at least one explicitly feminist blogger, and at least one out gay blogger. They’ve come a ways, but they have a ways to go.
As standup as Daou was about the incident, however, others did their best to smack Liza down for being uppity and not knowing her place. To wit:
See, Liza’s pissed because nobody invited her to lunch with Big Dog. But, instead of coming right out and saying that, she’s seizing on this opportunity to try and generate herself some publicity by insinuating that there’s some kind of racist agenda at work. Now, I will admit that when I saw the pictures from the meeting, I was surprised at the lily-whiteness of the crowd, but upon further inquiry, I was informed that several minority bloggers were invited, but declined. Of course, silly me, I took the trouble to ask what the deal was before jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. Sure, lack of minority bloggers is a problem, but that’s not really Liza’s real agenda here. She’s using this as an opportunity to call attention to herself and climb up on the cross. (That last nail’s a bitch, innit?) . . .
So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion. Although judging from your other posts that I read, mediocrity may be a chronic condition for you. Still, I bet you could get a long way on locker-slamming and hair-flipping among the other 13 year olds. Hell, it got you your own post here tonight, courtesy of Yours Truly, and I guess that’s something. You just might have a future in this blogging thing, although I think you might be more at home on LiveJournal or MySpace where you can post lots of photos of yourself to distract from your decidedly tepid prose and numerous grammatical faux pas.
Yep, you have just seen a white man tell a woman of color that she needs to just remember her place and stop “assail[ing] your betters.”
Wellllll, he just put Liza in *her* place, didn’t he? He even pulled out the “you’re just jealous” canard, and we’ve never seen THAT used to keep someone in their place, have we?
It’s not like Liza is the only one to notice this phenomenon, either. Pam Spaulding recently attended a blogger meeting with John Edwards at which she was the only person of color in the room. Steve Gilliard said that Liza was right to be pissed, even if he himself wouldn’t have attended. And then there’s this, from Jill’s post on the PDF conference:
The moderator, Chris Rabb, stepped out of his moderator role a bit to point out that this is a common occurance on panels like this, and that he usually refuses to be the “token Negro” and demands a diverse panel. Which was nice to hear.
So, to recap: If you have tits and get invited to a lunch with someone powerful, someone will be along directly to remind you that you didn’t get where you are by being intelligent, and you don’t really belong. If you protest, you will be pegged as angry and hysterical.
If you’re a minority, and you want some answers as to why no minorities attended the lunch with the powerful person, someone will be along directly to remind you not to sass your betters. If you continue to protest, you will be pegged as angry and hysterical.
Can’t win for losing.
- More about that Clinton blogger lunch by zuzu September 15, 2006
- No racism here, no sir! by Jill January 13, 2007
- Mansplaining, this time with more lawyers by Jill January 18, 2010
- That’s one way to discredit feminist bloggers by zuzu January 31, 2007
- When In Hole, Stop Digging by zuzu February 6, 2007