Friday, June 02, 2006


Dontcha just love 'em?!?!??

Not if you're Catherine Bennett, it would seem. Okay, that's probably not strictly true, but she does seem to have a few unresolved issues about the more boorish members of the species, which she attempts to air in her latest piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free. Now, I don't want to spend too much time on this, as there are more important things to talk about. A ton has already been said about this, most of it visible in the comments directly below her article, and more still over at Harry's Place, seemingly the focal point of Bennett's rant.


  • She starts off by comparing the attendees of the Euston Manifesto launch to an all-male group of bird-watchers, even though she admits there were actually quite a few women present.

  • She also uses the EM launch as a starting point for her critique without even having been present at the event.

  • Where in this piece is there a reference to the antidote to male-run political blogs? There are dozens of female political bloggers across the UK, who have intelligent, cutting, witty comments to make about anything and everything, and Bennett fails to refer to their (our!) existence even in passing.

  • How on earth does posting about bike frames or run-ins with celebrities qualify as male-dominated? Downright bizarre choice of examples to highlight her point.

  • She completely misunderstands a harmless joke by Graham from Harry's Place and turns it into some kind of subliminal attack on older women, which it just isn't.

  • "Even the most respectable blogs, operated by professional, award-winning progressives, like to show commitment to this mission with devil-may-care asides about porn, notes on the ugliness of women commentators, the beauty of young waitresses, or remarks - as on Guido Fawkes - on the "totty situation"." This may be so, but as another Comment is Free contributor, Padraig Reidy, points out, blogs are not newspapers. These are personal websites and people can post whatever the hell they like! Furthermore, on Harry's Place, seemingly the largest target of her piece, comments like these actually tend to be pretty rare, and can hardly be said to characterise the blog as a whole. And does she really think that women bloggers never take the piss or make comments about people's looks? Oh wait, I forgot, there are no women bloggers in the gospel according to Catherine.

  • Fuck it, Helena Christensen is gorgeous and deserves to be shown off.

Right, so there you have it in a nutshell. And I tell you what, it gives me no great pleasure to post these thoughts, because at the end of the day I am slagging off a fellow female-journalist, which is the absolute last thing I want to do. Even worse, it seems that the last few people to post ill-thought-out, poor-quality comment articles in the Guardian have ALL been women.

Embarrassing? I think so. That's not to say that any of these women are untalented, unintelligent or doing the wrong job. Not a bit of it. What I worry about is the Guardian's worrying march toward ever-greater levels of comment, as opposed to plain old news journalism. Don't get me wrong, I think Comment is Free is a brilliantly forward-thinking idea, and the fact that it takes so long for contributors' articles to go up is symptomatic of how editorial supply has not yet caught up with the massive reader demand. And yet, someone on Farringdon Road has obviously decided that blogging is the future, and for the paper to continue to attract new readers and develop a solid voice, it needs its journalists to comment on absolutely everything, from Croquetgate to the McCartneys' divorce.

It is surely easier for readers to be critical of a comment piece than of a news article. Now, I may be reading too much into this, but it seems that several of the Guardian's female journalists appear to have been singled out for writing regular reams of comment, on topics that are not always likely to have been of their own choosing. The resulting hurried, sub-standard articles produced seem to reflect this. And whose journalistic integrity takes the rap? You guessed it.

So yes, political bloggers of the male variety like to post meaty arguments and big up their anorak skillz by demonstrating their knowledge of the minutiae of the Russian Revolution and the Yom Kippur war, interspersed with the occasional off-colour joke. But so what, they were probably rubbish on the sports pitch at school and need to let their competitive spirit out somewhere. Female political bloggers, meanwhile, tend to reserve their posting for issues on which they feel genuinely passionate about, resulting in thought-provoking articles that trigger long-running and often aggressive debates. But like the men, we also like to post the occasional fluff piece about celebrities or rudely-shaped vegetables or songs that saved our lives. Witness Hak Mao, JoBlog, It Comes In Pints, et al. The point is, well-intentioned blogs published in someone's basement or dashed off during someone's lunch break and read by a few hundred people at most are really not what we should be worrying about when it comes to sexism in the media.


At June 02, 2006 4:55 pm, Anonymous Rob Newman said...

Hear, hear!

At June 02, 2006 9:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing about Bennet's article that really bothered me was that she made a piss-poor case against misogyny among blogs with hollow examples about guys who refer to their spouses as "bloghandlewife" or whatever. Had she even bothered to read a number of female bloggers, she would have known women do this same thing when referring to their husbands and children in porportion to men.

Not to mention, there are cases of *real* misogyny that I've encountered (and that's not a word I use lightly) that deserve her scorn, but she took issue where there was none.


At June 02, 2006 11:05 pm, Blogger Lady M said...

Hi Emily,

Yeah, that's something I was going to mention, actually. A lot of the examples she used were of things that could be (and are) routinely done by women as well. The whole "nicknames for wifey" thing is definitely one of them.

I myself have been referred to as "her indoors" on my boyfriend's (sorry, my man-slave's) blog, but I'm intelligent enough not to take it at face value! And as you say, most of us lady bloggers are only too eager to reciprocate with evil nicknames of our own creation.

But yes, obviously lady bloggers were not factored into Bennett's argument in any way.

At June 03, 2006 12:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's another thing that bugged me about the whole wifey business. In the case of most of the male bloggers that have this habit, like Glenn Reynolds and Norm Geras, they are married to intelligent, educated women and it's condescending to suggest they're merely submissive she-slaves under the yoke of their hateful husbands. That's not very feminista of Bennet at all.

But let's suppose for a second that there was some fluid merit to her argument and male bloggers referred to their wives as "bloggyspouse" as if they were just objectified extentions of themselves, it might be belittling, but it's hardly misogyny, which is a deep psychological hatred of women, not just another word for "sexist pig."


At June 03, 2006 2:09 am, Blogger Paul Anderson said...

M - Whaddya mean 'they were probably rubbish on the sports pitch at school and need to let their competitive spirit out somewhere'? We wuz all stars!

At June 05, 2006 12:12 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evidently Bennett has never come across my boyfriend is a twat...


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