As I was getting my daily dose of feministing.com, I ran across yesterday’s post by Jessica Valenti asking for support for one of their contributors, Courtney Martin, to win the Washington Post’s “America’s Next Great Pundit” contest. Now don’t get me wrong, I love feministing.com, it is one of my favorite sites. That’s why it’s on the sidebar to the left over there. But, when I started reading the posts by her competitors I realized she is not the best person for the job. Her article was far too personal, even though the personal is political – hers was not political. It was not hard-hitting. I didn’t learn anything. It didn’t force me to re-examine the issues from a different perspective. It did not add anything new to the conversation. In fact, it reminded me of a really excellent college application’s personal statement. Not exactly the job of a pundit, now is it?
Look to Frank Rich and Paul Krugman for a better model from the op-ed pages in the Times. Listen to the old Rachel Maddow when she was a still guest commentator on The Keith Olbermann show. She still offered unique insights to public discourse back then instead of just tweaking the mainstream left reaction like she does now with her show. Or even Jon Stewart (now, the most trusted man in America, post-Cronkite). So, I was disappointed to find they were pushing for Courtney especially when other women had far better articles, Maame Gyafi, Lydia Khalil, Mara Gray, and Zeba Khan. Their reasoning outside of their personal allegiances was that a feminist needs to be thrown into the circle to shake things up (my paraphrase and interpretation). However, she didn’t write about anything particularly woman-centric for her most recent article. And, when she did before it sounded like a creative writing MFA student exercise. I have the nagging notion that her the personal stories are a substitute for her obvious lack of knowledge. She does not have a good grasp of the political issues, the mainstream opinion, her critical thinking faculties are absent or not on display, and because of that I don’t trust that she knows what she’s talking about.
In fact, Mara Gray and Gyafi both wrote about women’s issues, offered something new, and posses the relevant experience and credential to give credence to their work and opinions. All four of the other women are women of color discussing particularly timely issues from a feminist perspective. Or what about Zeba Khan? A self-described social media consultant with strengths in women and minority issues. All of these women had excellent articles. And, besides, it’s so rare to have a woman of color who knows her stuff writing about foreign policy, kudos to Lydia Khalil for her humorous and illuminating article.
Unfortunately, I thought Courtney Martin and Jeremy Haber were some of the worst. Except for maybe Kevin Huffman’s irrelevant vitriol about Halloween: Was he really criticizing trick or treating for UNICEF?
Even more disappointing is that feminism still needs a face lift and the ladies over at feministing know this. Or at least, they should. (Excuse me for the cosmetic surgery analogy, but I would describe the GOP as needing the same remedy.) Feminism for the most part is still portrayed as a white woman’s bourgeoisie cause thus appearing to exclude the plight of women of color and low-income women. That’s why that “endorsement,” if you will, is so disappointing.
It was short-sighted.