You’ve probably already heard about the disastrous week Anthony Weiner’s NYC mayoral campaign has had. The day after answering the chorus of calls for Mr. Weiner to quit the race with a “New Yorkers don’t quit” video, former Weiner campaign intern Olivia Nuzzi made the cover of the New York Daily News with revelations about the low staff morale and payroll problems the campaign has been dealing with. Barbara Morgan, Weiner’s director of communications, completely and thoroughly lost her shit, telling Talking Points Memo that Nuzzi was a “stupid fucking intern” who “like” is a “fucking twat” and “little cunt” who “like” “fucking sucked” at her job.
Yeah, the director of communications for the campaign said that. Soak that up.
Predictable Internet outrage followed, and Noted Progressive Dude, David Roberts, of the Noted Progressive Blog, Grist, decided to weigh in on Twitter:
I dunno, and I also kinda think the intern sounds like a social-climbing mercenary hobag. I’m oddly #teamweiner on this one.
— David Roberts (@drgrist) July 31, 2013
Let me be frank: progressive dudes can be pretty damn sexist. Not necessarily any more sexist than conservative dudes, but certainly not meaningfully less sexist either. Particularly worrisome is the insidiousness form Progressive Dude Misogyny takes, which, to paraphrase sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, often flies under the radar because such dudes “sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.” If you don’t believe me, just check out the comments section of any left-wing blog that mentions “Ann Coulter” (or “Sarah Palin,” or any prominent conservative female pundit) and watch it quickly turn into a discourse on the gender identity, sexual needs, or all-around fuckability of said pundit.
Another example: remember the Great Progressive Uprising and Longest Hacky Sack Game on Record in 2011? Occupy Wall Street was a great opportunity for idealist progressives to make their voices heard – if you were a guy. Ladies were too often relegated to taking notes on the sidelines – unless you were hawt (because of course). PETA outdoes itself every year with its objectifying, gross ads. And any feminist blogger can tell you a story about some supposed “ally” male commenter flipping his damn lid because a bunch of women dared to ignore his comments. (There’s a word for that, although it tends to make people angry.)
Now, credit where credit is due: Roberts walked himself back pretty quickly when an angry social media mob pointed out that he had potentially alienated half the population with the term “hobag.” He followed up with an apologetic blog post about how you can’t force your own (unsexist!) meanings and intentions onto loaded words, remarking that “It’s no great imposition on your White Dude autonomy just to be f’ing respectful.”
A single blog post won’t bring the patriarchy to its knees, but Roberts’s story is a teachable moment for young liberty-loving readers who like to engage in online debates about the proper relationship between libertarianism and feminism. Before you type your reply, ask yourself: “Do I have any special insights into what language is or isn’t antagonizing to women?” (Pro-tip: No.)