Everybody Loves to Hate Linda
In the lead piece in Sunday's Outlook, Linda Hirshman says she stopped reading the mommy blogs when the vitriol tended toward the vomit-inducing (literally: as in “you make me vomit”), but that doesn’t mean the mommy bloggers stopped reading her. And so in response to her piece on the vehemence of the response to her views on women and work, the Linda Hirshman anti-fan club is out in respectable force. Also out in respectable force: bloggers rising either to defend fellow online journalist Jason Leopold in the face of Joe Lauria's piece on his dubious ethics in Outlook this week or to commend Lauria for his account.
Starting with Hirshman, the most interesting response is from the non mommy-bloggers on Hirshman’s argument that it is a failure of feminism that many well educated women are fleeing the workforce to stay home and raise their children. No one attacks the argument head on, really, or at least not without chiding Hirshman’s tactics as well as her message.
At Powerline, Paul Mirengoff posts that Hirshman’s questions about what is best for women sounds like “the kind of stuff best left to one’s support group—or one’s psychiatrist.”
In the Corner at National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg calls Hirshman the Sally Field of Philosophers, which is a little backward because, as Hirshman notes, the bloggers don’t like her, they really don’t like her.
His take is that Hirshman’s surprise at the breadth of online criticism against her shows she’s an internet neophyte (with her book blog now up and running one could argue she’s caught on quickly enough). Additionally, her scapegoating is weak: “She does manage to blame — shock! — evangelical Christians for much of the push-back against her book and for the pernicious support this society gives to women who want to devote a few years to raising their kids.”
The story came out on father’s day, so a few daddy bloggers took time to reflect on the women (and children in their life). James Harris at dadspoint (“Fatherhood in the 21st century”) is “proud to call” himself a feminist. He says “It is a core value of how I treat women and educate my sons.” He’s hopeful that “the personal is political” can mean something again. Implied in that statement, perhaps, is that the situation Hirshman criticizes means the personal has slipped from the political radar. Another dad sort of shrugs at the Catch-22 Hirshman highlights in her writing. “On one level, she's probably right. If you drop out of the workforce, you harm yourself by making yourself economically dependent, and to the extent that this serves as an example for others, you hurt others…” But: the problem here is having kids is great. That’s his Father’s Day conclusion. “If you don't raise children, you are also missing out on an important part of the human experience.”
And then there were the moms. They were the ones Hirshman responded to in the piece and they are keeping up the volley, for the most part. The majority of bloggers don’t react to the piece itself so much as reiterate their initial outrage. The most interesting, new points respond to Hirshman’s assertion that faced with personal attacks in the vein of “I wave my middle finger at you” she stopped reading “the unmediated content of the Internet.” This statement irked many who toil, unmediated, on the internet.
Alison Byrne took offense, asking “In other words, promote intellectual debate until someone disagrees with you.”
Karen Braun, who blogs at spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com, also criticized Hirshman for admitting that she tuned out some critics. Braun is a college-educated mother of 6 who, as her blog name might suggest, homeschools her children. She notes that it might be possible that “the ‘queen bee’ of the working woman has been dethroned by a growing number of little bees busy in the blogosphere and she doesn't like it? Today, the voices of stay at home moms can be heard by anyone willing to click over and read what we're saying…Slowly women are catching a vision, one blog at a a time, for what their heart told them was true all along - being a wife and mother is the most lucrative career around.”
The conversation continues, with some nuance, from women writing that the negative reaction to Hirshman is not simply about the issue, but more about “her arrogance dictating what women should do,” and that Hirshman needs to acknowledge the value in raising children as not just a series of backbreaking repetitive tasks, but also the most important job any person, man or woman, could undertake.Others suggest that the conversation needs to shift to the public policy arena, with more realistic options affordable childcare and flexible employment.
And Brad Wilcox and Elizabeth Marquardt at Family Scholars respond directly to Hirshman. Marquardt takes issue with Hirshman’s broad characterization of the site as evangelical. She then asks: “Since when does getting a paycheck from “the man” make for a life well-lived?” and Wilcox chimes in with statistics that seem to suggest it doesn’t.
Hirshman was online, responding to 500+ messages on her site. She shared some personal stories and noted that one main theme emerging is the need for “regime change”.
She also said, as many have noticed, “I have an unnatural taste for judgment,” which is why she encourages readers to hit her Web site: gettoworkmanifesto.com and contact her there.
Father's Day Outlook wasn't all about Hirshman. Many Iraq-focused bloggers pick up on the Baghdad embassy cable and note how perilous it is even for employees at the "fortress-like US embassy in Iraq." Most express disappointment and sadness at the details in the memo, and very little surprise at how grim the picture actually is. Finally, as noted above, Linda Hirshman wasn't the only online personality featured in Outlook for whom bloggers expressed concern. Joe Lauria wrote about the reporter Jason Leopold's dubious tactics in obtaining his Rove "scoop." And while many bloggers excoriate Lauria, some are concerned for Leopold and his journalistic ethics. One, in particular, is Jeff Gannon, who is still blogging away at jeffgannon.com after his brief moment in the White House press corps spotlight. He says: "Get this guy some help--fast." Wise words from a man who would know from the perils of online journalism.
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