Laurie Toby Edison

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Breasts Beat Content, Every Time

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve been big fans of Feministing just about as long as we’ve been blogging.

Jessica Valenti, one of Feministing’s leading bloggers, made a horrible mistake. An unforgivable mistake. She accepted an invitation to lunch with a group of bloggers and Bill Clinton. Then, she let herself be part of the group photograph. How could anyone be so foolish?

The next thing Jessica knew, Ann Althouse started a storm, and a huge portion of the blogosphere was on her case. Althouse, who is now “surpassingly sick” of the conversation she started, began by making a crack about the group photo, in which the conventionally attractive Jessica is standing front and center (photographer’s choice? we’re willing to bet) and *gasp* you can see by her stance that she has breasts under her shirt.

Althouse’s commenters immediately began making intern jokes. Jessica came in to ask them to stop. Two exchanges later, Althouse is saying:

“Jessica: I’m not judging you by your looks. (Don’t flatter yourself.) I’m judging you by your apparent behavior. It’s not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don’t know why people who care about feminism don’t have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don’t assume you’re the one representing feminist values here.”

By now, the thread is on at least seven or eight major blogs, including a superb detailed analysis at Majikthise. Check it out for yourself; we’re not as surpassingly bored as Althouse, but neither do we have the patience to go through the whole thing again.

We have two things we want to say:

1) Jessica can do no right. If she doesn’t go to the lunch, she’s losing an opportunity for both visibility and a chance to talk policy with movers and shakers. If she does go to the lunch, and refuses to be in the picture, her critics are going to say she was afraid to stand near Clinton. If she goes to the lunch, stands in the picture, and fights the photographer so that she’s not in the center, same deal. If she takes the center spot and hunches and looks sullen, they’re going to make fun of her as another ugly left-wing woman. And if she just has her picture taken, she’s pandering to the “old lech.”

We stand for Jessica’s right to make every single one of those choices, and not be criticized for it. As we said in this post, “the best thing we can do for Ann Coulter [or Ann Althouse, or Jessica] is the best thing we can do for each other — respond to words and not chromosomes.”

2) This controversy has neatly taken attention away from two more important issues. One is what was actually talked about at the lunch … words, remember? The other is the fact that the bloggers meeting with Clinton were all white. Liza at Culture Kitchen is far from the only blogger of color to make this point. Apparently, blogger/Hillary Clinton aide Peter Daou did invite some bloggers of color who couldn’t make it, but we stand with Jessica on this one:

“Number of invites aside, I think that it’s all of our responsibility to ensure that the blogosphere is represented accurately, especially when it comes to high-level meetings. The public face of the liberal blogs has to be as diverse as we actually are.”

Diversity and content, or breasts and intern jokes? You choose.

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One Response to “Breasts Beat Content, Every Time”

  1. D. Says:

    1. Ms. Althouse obviously has issues with Mr. Clinton, but those issues will probably not be solved by putting every female being photographed with Mr. Clinton into the equivalent of a chador.

    2. Yes, there should be more representation of bloggers’ diversity. If scheduling is truly the problem, surely smaller, more frequent gatherings could be arranged. (The Clinton team may still suffer from “summitism,” the idea that if something needs to be addressed, everyone must get together once, at the same time and place.)

    3. Was I the only person who realized that Ms. Valenti was the only person in that picture dressed for actual New York summer weather, not air-conditioning?

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