Brief lighthearted musings on nonsense.
All this to get a flavor, you understand…
Brief lighthearted musings on nonsense.
All this to get a flavor, you understand…
It raises arguments I’d never seen before about the factors that lead to the gender imbalance in political commentary.
1) Being a political journalist/columnist, or a serious national affairs/sociocultural-type reporter/freelancer, has got to be hard (both in terms of skill level and opportunities to break in). Very hard, regardless of gender. It’s not something any writer/reporter can just do. But women, I think, have a lot more options when it comes to the range of topics, in general, they can write about and still be “journalists.” There are many, many more (paying) outlets for fashion/beauty/entertainment/sex/relationship writing than political writing. In my own fantasies of the joys/horrors of ever trying to strike it as a freelance writer, I’ve browsed through all the how-to-query sheets on media bistro, and sometimes wondered why the heck I wasn’t trying to write the fluff stuff seriously.
So for the kind of person who starts out with mild pretensions of being a serious journalist, or even just a daily news reporter, or a mildly authentic storyteller, and finds it daunting/hard/unrenumerative, etc., there’s a lot easier ‘out,’ I think, for women than for men, who, for the most part, don’t have the option of writing about healthy/beauty/fashion/etc. It’s kind of the same psychology that I think is often under-valued when explaining why women ‘opt out’ of the workplace—work can suck! It’s sometimes hard, and sometimes boring, and for people who don’t find themselves in a perfect situation, staying home with the kids full-time can seem like a socially acceptable way to ‘fail,’ to give up—one that more men would avail themselves of, too, if they could as easily.
2) Another thing is that there are very few separate “men’s issues” in politics, or media, but there are separate “women’s issues”—things like reproductive rights, gender discrimination, the politics of motherhood, media sexism, etc., just to name a few. While these should *theoretically* be things of concern to both genders, they’re not, and I can’t entirely blame men for not taking them as seriously (while I pay attention to, say, race issues, it’s not—for better or worse—something I tend to spend much time exploring in depth or writing about or anything like that; also, why would a male writer want to carve out a niche in writing about sexism, or gender discrimination, or reproductive rights? There’s always going to be a woman writer who can claim more authenticity, and some who even feel offended by a male writing about these things, so there’s totally a disincentive for them to even consider doing so).
Women have had to carve out their own spaces in the blogosphere—places like Broadsheet, Feministe, Feministing, XX Factor, Jezebel, (Ladyblog!)—to discuss these issues, separate from the “real” political issues, like military endeavors, campaigns, taxes, etc. Again, this is understandable; there are a few Big General Political Issues, the sorts that get talked about at the major political blogs and magazines, the hard news stuff, and then all sorts of non-gendered softer stuff – education, race issues, food politics – have to carve out their own separate spaces as well. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this. It’s just that … well, a lot of very smart, very political women writers/bloggers/pundits are naturally going to be attracted to reading about issues that directly affect them. Which means less time keeping up with the Big General Political Issues. There are only so many hours that can be devoted to keeping up with blog conversations per day, and every minute spent reading Shakesville or the Independent Women’s Forum blog means less time that can be devoted to, say, Andrew Sullivan or Matthew Iglesias. It’s impossible to keep up with it all.
I’m not someone who’s ever had any aspirations to being a Serious Political Blogger (clearly), but as someone who does want to participate in whatever small way in the conversation, who lives in DC, who hangs out with a lot of journalists and writers, and who just generally wants to be well-informed about what’s going on … even I find it daunting. So I think, yeah, this is certainly a disadvantage for women writers/bloggers who do aspire to really be out there—either you’ve got to just do the women’s stuff, or just do the Big Political Issues, and that’s got to be a hard call to have to make. [And, again, the socialization thing, but I think women who show an interest in political/sociology/media etc. are still often encouraged more to focus on social issues than on horserace politics, economics, or foreign affairs).
3) A lot of who-writes-for-where-and-about-what is driven by editors. And if an editor has two people, a man and a woman, who can write about some economic issue, but only the woman can credibly write an article about, say,the ‘opt out revolution,’ they’re going to assign the either/or story to the guy so they can assign the women’s-only story to the girl. That’s certainly not sexist. But it does work against more women writing about the Serious General Political Issues.
Taken as a whole, I think women actually have many more opportunities than men to make a career out of being writers/jouranlists/bloggers. Just not necessarily writing about the kinds of things they may want to write about, or the kinds of things on which we place a premium as Serious Issues.
Prior to Liz’s blog I’d never seen the three column layout. It’s a perfect fit for the frequency with which she updates — maybe three new posts per week on average. Other bloggers who might use it: Damon Linker, Ross Douthat (if only he still had a blog!), Heinrick Hertzberg.
Here is a rant that affords insight into the life and blog of Elizabeth Nolan Brown:
At what point did our society decide that teaching, trucking, firefighting, policing, cleaning, manufacturing and nursing were the only noble professions? And aren’t these references getting tired? I understand that “We’re doing this for the account executives, the online content producers, the graphic designers, the freelance writers, the IT managers, the lawyers and the marketing coordinators” doesn’t have the same ring. I know you’re trying to sound “in touch” with the “average Americans” (a phrase I can’t for the life of me understand being construed as appealing rather than insulting when coming from politicians mouths), but can’t we at least start expanding our base of average American professions? I can categorically say that I have the most “average American” family of anyone I’ve ever met (I can provide many references on this), so I’ll help the campaigns out and give you just a sampling of my family members’ jobs: roofer, electrician, babysitter, railroad worker, salesperson, indeterminate office worker, medical billing specialist, receptionist, part-time auto mechanic, corrections officer, professor, unemployed crazy, day care worker, cashier. Insert these into your average American repertoire from time to time, just to live things up, would you, dears? Live on the wild side?
I’ve been on a mission of late to get its proprietess writing more frequently — this should advance my mission, and afford an interesting opportunity to delve into an excellent blog written by someone I know. Ah access. Expect especially keen insights this week!
A bit about the author:
I earned a master’s in public communication from American University; a bachelor’s in theater, English and film from Ohio University; and went to journalism boot camp at The Daily Reporter in Central Ohio. I dabble in playwriting, fiction and poetry, and have had many previous blog incarnations which are all too embarrassing to share.
After posting about that technique at Andrew Sullivan’s blog I got lots of interesting feedback from reachers. Their arguments and my responses are here.
I loved this:
Good hygiene and exercise work much better than “game.”
— “All’s fair in love and war.”
The community of men who study picking up women — let’s call them “players” — are unified by a belief that dating is a “game,” and that utility should guide one’s approach to it. The results can be harmless enough. An item I once saw in a men’s magazine advised that a good first date might involve walking across a suspension bridge, or standing atop the observation deck of a tall building, because what women feel when they experience vertigo mimics the butterflies that accompanies proximity to a man to whom they’re genuinely attracted. I imagined some poor guy bringing his date on a long hike to the bridge over the river only to discover that she isn’t confused nearly as easily as he was led to believe.
Of course, the belief that one acts amorally by manipulating women quickly leads to abhorrent behavior. The rogue who is zealous for sexual conquest at least understands that he acts badly if he uses deception to get sex. The cerebral “player,” exemplified by the author of the blog Elysium Revisited, doesn’t grasp that anything is the matter with his behavior.
As a result, he is quite unabashed as he describes a male behavior that I’ve observed on many occasions, and that I abhor more than any other mainstream pickup technique. Though I’d never heard it referred to as such, Sebastian Flyte dubs it “the Neg,” and calls it “the Swiss army knife of pickup.”
I’ve been thinking about the neg recently. It’s an amazing little tool that accomplishes so much in such a small amount of time. For those who don’t know, the neg is a comment lobbed at a woman that knocks her off her pedestal. It is not an insult… well, actually, it kind of is (semantics). Who are we kidding? But it’s a playful insult, and some women secretly like being insulted.
He offers examples:
Negs: turning your back to her, pointing out a flaw in her clothes, her hair, something, anything. ‘Hey your nose wiggles when you talk’. ‘Your lipstick is weird’. Eating a sandwich while talking to her, with sweet sandwich in your mouth. Ignoring her. Correcting body language is a great neg. I don’t like when people cross their arms, it’s a sign of anger, so when girls do it I tell them to uncross them. They always do, it’s a very alpha neg… and compliance test… and IOD… and DHV!!! Oh sweet negs, you do so much, so very very much, you are the swiss army knife of pickup!!! They Alice-in-Wonderlandise the world, black becomes white, up becomes down, cute becomes ugly – that 9 you would covertly beggar yourself for is suddenly seeking your smile, your good graces, like some moon-pale concubine in Kublai’s court!
I’ve never seen anyone do this to a woman who hasn’t seemed to me a complete asshole even beforehand — and I’ve been dismayed at the frequency with which it works. Oh, Sebastian Flyte overestimates its utility. But it does work sometimes. Wait, let’s try that sentence again. It works sometimes! And I must admit that the author does a pretty solid job describing when it works: “Be wary though, it must never rampage out from bitter fields – it must always be quick, indifferent, and stealthy, like a dark assassin or pot of poisoned pears. It reaches just out over the abyss without falling in…”
Here’s the part of the post I find most telling:
But there is trouble afoot. The neg has gotten such a bad rap from the disgruntled masses that it has been abandoned by many a seducer. Few dare defend it. Every dimestore doofus who interviews a guy in the community is instantly confronted on the dreaded neg question – isn’t this proof that pickup is purest evil, that it is wrong, wrong to learn what works, wrong to help the piles of beta males left behind by the sexual revolution, wrong wrong wrong!!
Fascinating, isn’t it? The author perceives a world wherein women unjustly pass over beta males in favor of alpha males. He justifies the insults in the same way that MIA justifies Third World robbery and murder: as a tool that is the only choice of the dispossessed to achieve equality.
Interestingly, the author is trying to disabuse us of the notion that the pickup game is depraved when he writes the following:
…without the neg the Mystery Method is nothing, pickup is nothing. It doesn’t work. The neg is central to the whole system. There is no edge without a neg, you become some dancing clown spouting rudderless routines with no backbone to them, very approval seeking. I ‘upgraded’ to Magic Bullets from the old Mystery Method, learned a pile of routines, read some other natural game gurus and so forth, but then had a sudden slump. The reason? No negs!! I completely forgot to neg!!
The neg links it all together. It changes you. It sows the choosy seeds inside that are so key to this whole art. ‘“In the mountains the shortest way is from peak to peak: but for that, one must have long legs”, so said Nietzsche. Let negs be those legs, they will take you from peak to peak, atop each peak you DHV in your own peculiar way, but without the neg you won’t get to those cold peaks in the first place, and you will run your routines in the dark and lonely valleys where no-one hears or cares.
What that passage actually does is demonstrate precisely why — beyond its immorality — the neg is a terrible approach: “It changes you.” Without a technique “that changes you,” the author argues, “pickup is nothing. It doesn’t work.”
Imagine that. The notion that the pickup approach to dating is irrevocably flawed.
When I drink I am not only bolder, but miraculously, sharper and wittier–not only i am more outgoing, but I seem to be able to discuss “serious” topics in a more compelling way. It’s only at about the 10-12 drink point, at the end of the night, that I start to get sloppy, but at that point you’re supposed to have sealed the deal anyway.
I think “seem” is the most important word in that sentence.
Sebastian Flyte is a 23-year-old Libra who writes Elysium Revisted, an obscure blog about a beta male picking up women. It is weirdly fascinating and sporadically updated — most recently on February 7, 2009. Its author was inspired to begin the site after reading Neil Strauss’ bestseller The Game, an investigation of “the secret world of pick-up artists–men who have created a science out of the art of seduction.”A serviceable review describes it as follows:
The Game is at heart a cautionary tale, the sort told by rock stars. Strauss, a writer for Rolling Stone and other publications, has co-written books by porn star Jenna Jameson, rocker Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, and Jane’s Addiction bandmember Dave Navarro. Strauss’ PUAs appear as implausible and out of control as any rock star, including a pre-rehab Courtney Love, who visits Project Hollywood, a house near the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles that Strauss moves into with several other PUAs.The pick-up artists come across as nerdy, emotionally underdeveloped men, usually young, who have chosen to reinvent themselves as sexually irresistible predators by analyzing the nuances of social behavior and “running programs” that hijack these social structures. If this sounds like computer hacking, that’s not too far off: Ross Jeffries, one of the first people to run lectures on PUA techniques (and supposedly the model for Tom Cruise’s character in the film Magnolia), promotes a technique called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that combines hypnosis with a language of gestures and verbal cues to entice women to have sex.
Other PUAs employ other techniques, including the “Mystery Method,” a technique based on the concept of an “indirect approach,” befriending the companions of a target while ignoring her in order to make the PUA more attractive. Strauss befriends Mystery, a profoundly damaged professional magician, who developed this technique, and learns his secrets. After learning and some practice, Strauss shaves his head, trades in his clothing, and becomes “Style.” Style successfully hits on dozens of women, possibly hundreds-if this story is to be believed.
We’re now ready to view Mr. Flyte’s inaugural post, dated May 31, 2008:
I have started this blog for thereaputic reasons. What she said. I am a soft and tired creature, prone to occasional bouts of depression and exuberance. This blog will catalogue the application of The Rules of The Game to my life (and a discussion thereof), my growing culinary experience, and maybe some flights into politics, genetics, music and religion. We’ll see how it goes.
Though it’s early yet, I’m guessing that it’s going to be a post from November 28, 2008 that affords the best insight into the author:
An ex-girlfriend wasn’t responding to my emails.
An American, about a 7.5, we dated for 6 months four years ago. I even trekked to the US to spend a summer with her. She was 17, I was 19. We ended OK. Why wasn’t she responding? Confused, I checked her out on facebook. And there it was – 520 friends! A large proportion male. She was always social and flirty, but jesus.
I got her at the right time, like Agnostic says, she valued the attention more when her horizon was smaller.
Facebook has let her become a kind of queen bee – a pile of worker drones collect all the honey for her. Ridiculous.
Update – She responded. Oh well.
Obviously the update is what makes this blog post special, but I’m also struck by the fact that in describing his ex-girlfriend the author rates her on a 10 point scale, seemingly because that’s just what strikes him as the natural thing to do. I can’t help but imagine an alternative universe wherein a journalistic convention is to introduce all characters that way. “President Obama, an 8.5 who jumps to a 9 without his shirt on, made another push for a health care reform bill Monday…”
Anyhow, stay tuned for more on Elysium Revisited tomorrow…