"Women are stupid!" The discussion continues

Why won't we stop talking about that Washington Post piece on how women are dumb? Because the aftermath keeps getting more twisted.

Published March 6, 2008 4:44PM (EST)

Normally I hesitate to chime in when yet another daft editorial inspires a blogospheric shit storm from offended women. Why give all those chirpy antifeminists auditioning to become the next Ann Coulter a single second of our precious time on this planet? But the aftermath of Charlotte Allen's Washington Post piece "We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?" keeps getting more and more twisted, primarily because of the convoluted thinking extruding from Allen's noodle and the Washington Post's inability to confront its own mistake.

I won't revisit the column point by point -- we dignified it with a response here. Even for a misogynist diatribe, it exhibited little subtextual subtlety: Calling women dim, dumb, with prefrontal cortices that resemble Cream of Wheat, Allen asserts, "Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true."

After the column's publication, the Washington Post has done a little dance of mollification: First the editor explained that the piece was "tongue-in-cheek," and Wednesday the paper printed its own scathing rebuttal of the piece, "A Dumb Argument."

But when any article receives 1,000 comments and 10,000 blog responses, why not make hits while the sun still shines? So Wednesday afternoon, Allen participated in a live online discussion to respond to readers.

As it turns out, the Washington Post editor was exactly wrong in his interpretation of the piece. The Washington Post asks Allen: "When I read this, I immediately thought it was written ironically. Were you surprised that so many people took it literally?"

Allen's response sets the record straight. We're not encountering a Swiftian exploration of women's mental impairment. Allen writes: "I wouldn't quite use the word 'ironic,' but yes, I meant to be funny but with a serious point -- that women want to be taken seriously but quite often don't act serious. Also, that women and men really are different."

Oh, so it's funny to suggest women are stupid, are bad drivers, watch idiotic television, read vapid books and are too emotional to run a decent presidential campaign or keep themselves conscious in the presence of Barack Obama? As far as the defense that "feminists" make fun of men all the time, so why can't we poke a little fun at ourselves, I just don't buy it. This article would get me pissed off no matter which group it was aimed at -- even fundamentalist conservatives like Allen. But we silly feminists keep forgetting: Bigotry against women isn't really bigotry! It's courageous contrarian commentary!

In fact, despite the article's bludgeoning rhetoric, I'd hazard a guess that the article's true target wasn't "all women" but all those women who might support Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. (Otherwise why not go after the women who faint when they meet G.W.?) It's understandable why a conservative commentator like Allen should try to demean the women who may determine the next election (and won't be voting for her party). Crass and pathetic, but understandable.

But what was the Washington Post thinking? Are these editors really so tone-deaf as to think the piece ironic? Didn't the Post know there might be an issue with arguing that women are mentally deficient?

It's hard to say -- but by the end of the online discussion, it seemed that the forum moderators had lost interest in protecting Allen from her own twisted defense of men's intelligence. As a perfect example of how idiocy comes in all biological packages, one comment slipped by the moderator filter:

Anywhere: Hey, Charlotte. Nice tits. Sincerely, a guy.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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