Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Seduction of the Divas

I finally listened to Megan McArdle and Ann Althouse's whining about critics on Bloggerhead TV, and it was a merry few minutes of perfect accord. "We're dangerous seductress[es], Ann," McArdle said, both women laughing at the silly, mistaken critics of their work.

"I'm a woman who blogs about male topics in a female way," explains McArdle.

"Me too," chimed in Althouse.

"That sort of cognitive dissonance makes it seem sort of unserious."

"That's a really important point. That shows we should do that even more. If that's what fires people up we should go there," said Althouse, who goes there every time she can think of a sexual-themed insult to heap on the Clintons.

"Women tend to see things through a personal lens more than men do," said McArdle.

Let's unpack the implied assumptions in those statements. Megan is saying that there are male and female topics. Men blog about politics, women blog about knitting, for instance. And men blog about politics in the male way, which is impersonal and analytical. Women, on the other hand, blog about personal things in an emotional way, through a personal lens, which I suppose means blogging about one's life and how issues affect it. So when Megan talks about her veganism or buying a car or waiting for a dress to go on sale, she's merely discussing economics and politics in the female way.

The problem with this explanation for the behavior of her critics is that it's a bunch of nonsense, based on wrong assumptions. There probably are people who think politics is just for the menfolks, but they sure as hell wouldn't read McArdle or Althouse. There probably are people who think women are all emotion and no reason, but they wouldn't read these female writers either. And the women's main complaints are against liberal critics, who generally would not hold these views. These critics do say that the women's writings are unserious, an accusation that is based on the unserious approach the women take to their work.

Which brings us to McArdle's second explanation for criticism of her work. McArdle's second theory is "women are only allowed to be smart in certain ways." They can study harder but "they're not allowed to be smart through sheer analytical" ability. 'What you're not allowed to do is like, "I thought about it and this is why you're right or wrong."' Regrettably, McArdle is making excuses for her lack of diligence in her work. She seldom does any analysis, shows charts infrequently and does not understand them, and does not provide statistics to back up her statements. Her posts are filled with unproven statements often based merely on personal bias. Her critics demand evidence, so she calls her lack of effort "sheer analytical" ability. We must take her word for it that her opinions are based on verifiable facts. It is an excuse.

"We're squishy," McArdle says. Liberals believe women should be liberal and everyone should pick a side, so they dislike or hate McArdle and Althouse. And liberals are afraid the women will lure centrists over to the dark side. Liberals feel betrayed if a woman is not on the left. Althouse actually blames sexism as the reason she is criticized, ignoring female critics, as does McArdle. Althouse and McArdle say liberals are silly to worry about the effect of their work, but if a person doesn't write to influence people and change opinions, why bother to write at all? For the attention?

Blogs attached to a major magazine have a wider audience and purpose than discussing one's life, or even the effect of economics on one's life. Their readers should expect a high quality of discussion and analysis. In an on-line blog attached to a major magazine, the readers should demand it since they have the venue to do so. As an adult and citizen I am loathe to sit and say nothing when I see so much wrong in the world. I feel we are capable of extraordinary achievements as a people and as individuals, and we have a responsibility to become rational, caring people. To me, that's the ultimate goal in life.

The criticism of McArdle and Althouse is based on the shoddy quality of their work, their personal bias that affects everything they write, and the wide audience they have to listen to their work. They are not analytical or serious, and their work is tinged with a callous disregard for anyone but themselves and a select few. Their work is not a betrayal of liberal women, it is a waste of space that could be put to infinitely better use by better women writers than McArdle, and attention that could be paid to better women than Althouse.

I read a lot of Mark Twain when I was a kid. His brilliant mind struck a chord in me, one that is angry at injustice, amused and horrified by what people do, and furious with God. That he could be replaced by one such as Megan McArdle is a crime against American letters and a damn shame.


Anonymous said...

It's irritating to me that they use their "female" perspective as an excuse for what is pretty much just bad writing. The Atlantic considers culture a part of what they cover, so I wouldn't expect Megan's blog to be all econ, all the time. But she's living in DC, for goodness' sake. If she's going to write about her life, can't she bother to do something interesting, like go to a play or a museum or the symphony and blog about that? No. We get bland marinara recipes and stories about waiting in line for an iPhone. It's not that her writing is feminine. It's that it's dull and lazy. There's nothing feminine about that.

Susan of Texas said...

She depends on sexist ideas to excuse her work and then cries sexism when criticized. Perhaps she should be given points for manipulation, if not ability.

Righteous Bubba said...

That [Twain] could be replaced by one such as Megan McArdle is a crime against American letters and a damn shame.

Twain would not, however, have been surprised.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh, you're right.