Why you should care

While you’re getting angry and ranting about perceived anti-feminists, they may be laughing all the way to the bank.

If someone makes a sexist comment in the middle of a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, is it still sexist?

Well, yes. (Duh.) But more importantly, if nobody hears it, and therefore nobody responds, then at least the sexist comment dies and the offender who said it remains insignificant. This might be a better alternative than yelling at said offender about how sexist he/she is, adding more and more angry voices until his/her sexist comment is shouted loudly, reverberating in echoes off of the trees.

When Bryan Goldberg wrote his now infamous PandoDaily post introducing Bustle as one of the first sites for women that intelligently mixes news about mascara and Syria in a totally original, never-before-seen way, the backlash was incredible. Rightfully so. Goldberg ignored multiple women’s websites that already exist and made ridiculous statements about women and how he needn’t know the difference between eyeliner and mascara because he was paying people to do that for him. Many writers quickly rattled off criticisms about Goldberg and his sexism, in simultaneously clever and hilarious articles. Slate’s headline won the gold medal: Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever.

Goldberg ended up apologizing for his post and things settled down, until the New Yorker published a profile on him that made him seem even more ridiculous, complete with a picture of him surrounded by a gaggle of ladies as he precariously perched a laptop on one of their legs. The Internet exploded again.

It was as if she wrote the entire article as a way to throw a hook into an ocean of feminists and see how many would bite.

But is this a good thing? Or, in our fury at sexism, are we giving Goldberg even more of a spotlight and a platform for him to talk about his new product? The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. By expressing outrage and scolding Goldberg, we are giving him attention that might be better spent on discovering other women’s websites.

A similar situation occurred when the New York Post’s Stephanie Smith admitted she was working her way up to an engagement ring by making 300 sandwiches. Her article was a minefield of anti-feminist bombs, from her boyfriend’s quote asking why she hadn’t yet made him a sandwich after she’d been awake for 15 minutes, to her hypothesis that she just needed to show she was wife material to … honestly, there’s just so much material it cannot be contained in a sentence. It was as if she wrote the entire article as a way to throw a hook into an ocean of feminists and see how many would bite. And so many did.

Not surprisingly she retracted everything the next day with a shocked, ”Oh, why would you ever think I was doing this for attention, and of course I was joking, silly ladies, isn’t that obvious?” response article. She referred to the reactions as a “’wich hunt,” in true New York Post style, and said she was most certainly not doing this for a book or movie deal, like many people suggested. (Although she did go on CNN afterward and is apparently appearing on a daily TV show today with her boyfriend because they aren’t on a hunt for press at all.) She wants to have her sandwiches, and eat them too.

Here’s a new formula for you: Bustle + 300 sandwiches = Traffic, traffic, traffic.

The people we criticize for being ”anti-feminist” (whether they say they were taken out of context or not) gain a larger audience and free press.

The people we criticize for being ”anti-feminist” (whether they say they were taken out of context or not) gain a larger audience and free press. The articles scolding them also get a lot of attention, because chastisement is its own form of entertainment. When something remarkably sexist happens, it can become habit to look toward Salon, Slate or Jezebel — to name a few of the usual suspects — to see what reporters’ reactions will be. And the reactions are, more often than not, nuanced, thoughtful reads, which are not the same as concern-trolling.

However, is this the right response? Do we look at these reactions because we derive pleasure from acting better than others and shaming them? Should it matter to us if someone wants to make sandwiches in exchange for a diamond? Should we just leave them alone and let their voices die in the forest? Or is it necessary to call people out to rectify a sort of gender-equality balance they have thrown off? And do we need justification that the little voice in our head saying, “Wait, this seems wrong and insulting” is not alone? Do we find power in our mutual disgust?

Let us know what you think in the comments, although by writing this post, we acknowledge that in our own, very meta way, we are adding to the anti-feminist clickbait world by engaging in it.

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