It’s been hard out there for unhappy white guys on the internet this week. Paul Ryan took some pictures and found himself instantly (hilariously) photoshopped onto the cover of Atlas Shrugged. Buzz Bissinger complained that he was “savaged” by fans and fellow journalists for endorsing Mitt Romney, and ended up throwing obscenities at Nation Institute Fellow Jamelle Bouie on Twitter and declaring, “Nobody comes close to what I write.” (Hey, sure, I shall begin icing that on a cookie immediately.) Men on reddit who take upskirt shots of—among other women in their general vicinity—the students in the high school classes they teach, are having their real identities outed.
Then there was the rather inside-baseball story of New York Times Magazine freelancer Andrew Goldman. Over the weekend, he published an interview in which he asked Tippi Hedren about her sexual harassment at the hands of Alfred Hitchcock, the subject of a new HBO movie: “The worst abuse happened after you rebuffed his advances. Actors have been known to sleep with less powerful directors for advancement in show business. Did you ever consider it?” The popular novelist Jennifer Weiner got annoyed, and tweeted, “Saturday am. Iced coffee. NYT mag. See which actress Andrew Goldman has accused of sleeping her way to the top. #traditionsicoulddowithout.”
I can’t say that Goldman’s question bothered me, particularly, as someone with a reputation for detecting sexism in every compost heap I come across. It’s a bit of a fine point; I’m not wild about characterizing these questions as great journalism, but I can’t say I want to forbid any reporter from asking about sex. But put that question in the mouth of an interviewer whose opening gambit on Hitchcock’s harassment is, “Why would he do these things?” (This is not one of the Great Mysteries of Our Time, as Hedren’s response acknowledges: “He was a misogynist.") Add in Goldman’s history of asking other women similar questions, and where he asks sexual questions of men, leaving out the subject of ladder-climbing altogether. Weiner’s point is suddenly clearer.
Anyway, for nothing else Goldman should be thanked for releasing us all from the dreary business of parsing this further by overreacting. His riposte: “@jenniferweiner sensing pattern. Little Freud in me thinks you would have liked at least to have had opportunity to sleep way to top.”
Leaving aside the question of the nature of anyone’s “Little Freud” (ew), the implication that Weiner’s problem lay chiefly in her attractiveness brought down swift condemnation from nearly every female journalist at hand. (Plus it didn’t much help his case that his question to Hedren was well-meaning.) The Times’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, got involved, and though she hadn’t the power to simply quit assigning work to Goldman, you got the impression she wished the magazine’s editor-in-chief would. “Can you believe we’re talking about this in 2012?” she asked.