Jiggle Journalism? Slut Shaming? Good Grief!

The Houston Press, never a paper to shy away from controversial stories or photos of women in bikinis, stepped into the crossfire of the #waronwomen this morning, drawing accusations of slut shaming for a blog about the alleged double life of a Houston Chronicle freelancer.

The headline, in fact, lays it all out for you:

First, let me say that I am not setting out to bash the Houston Press or the reporter in question. They are hardly the only paper to trade on BOOBIESBOOBIESBOOBIES as a way to drive page views.

Here’s the short story:

Richard Connelly dashed off a post about the sturm und drang allegedly being stirred up at the Houston Chronicle over the fact that a maybe freelancer/maybe staffer who covers the society beat has a second job as a stripper that she documents on a blog, possibly in hopes of someday cashing in with a sweet book-and-movie deal. Other staff members at the paper (her paper) are allegedly miffed by the situation.

Comments started to flow in on the blog, MOST falling into some familiar categories (if you read the Press blogs on a regular basis, which I do):

  1. Meh, so what.
  2. Wow, this brings up some actually really interesting societal issues, like the fact that journalists cannot necessarily make a living in what was once a noble profession, and that many women have to work two jobs to make ends meet, that women have long been pushed into the pink ghetto of fashion and society reporting, and that media consolidation and the internet have changed the profession forever and perhaps not for the better. Perhaps these issues could be addressed instead of teh boobeez.
  3. Meh, so what, and by the way, U SUK and I h8 yer food writers.
  4. Here are all of the mistakes you made, professional journalist on a deadline in a brutal 24-hour news cycle and evaluated, no doubt, based on page views.
  5. This is kind of in bad taste.
  6. Comment regarding how the woman looks/performs sexually/something else skeezy that reinforces the whole “bad taste” comment above.
  7. Obligatory Nazi reference by someone who doesn’t understand Hitler, Nazis, or history at all, but feels clever calling someone s/he disagrees with a fascist in the comment section of an online article which neither explicitly or implicitly deals with fascism, Hitler, Nazis, or WW2 history. [NB – If the Nazi reference is missing, you will likely find it replaced with a mangled misinterpretation of the first amendment. Bonus if the second is thrown in or a CHP is referenced.]
  8. [Comment that marks the devolution into complete irrelevance and/or insider baseball from the usual commentariat.]
  9. Pithy comment from Wyatt, whoever that may be.

But some comments took the author to task for slut shaming.

I, myself, sitting at home, started to write such a comment, but because the Disqus comment system has burned me before, I deleted what I wrote and decided to monitor the conversation for a bit while deciding exactly what I wanted to say about the matter.

I needed to roll it all around in my head and decide what, exactly, made me react so viscerally to this story.

First, what is slut shaming? Those of you who know, please hum a few bars of your favorite song. The rest of you, go here, read to the bottom of the page, then come back. We’ll wait.

You may say to yourself that Connelly’s piece does not strike you as slut shaming. Connelly himself feels this way, and felt compelled to update the post with this addendum:

Note: There’s a lot of “slut-shaming” allegations in the comments, which is odd, because there’s nothing in the item calling anyone a slut. But here’s the response I put in, ICYMI:

I don’t get the”slut shaming” charge. If you want to be a stripper, fine.

If you want to write for a very conservative, uptight paper — covering the very powerful, very conservative and straitlaced people the paper so desperately works to keep happy and unruffled — fine.

If you want to combine the two, it’s interesting, to say the least.

Oh, we didn’t miss it.

We didn’t say “slut shaming.” We didn’t use the quotes.

There are many reasons this story is interesting, and some legitimate reasons it is worthy of being published.

The piece, however, has all of the subtly of five-inch Lucite stilettos. (Get it? Har har har.) It sounds like all of the kids in the in-crowd, the “real” journalists, wanted to get together and teach this woman a lesson. A bunch of lessons, actually, including:

  • Some kinds of reporting are better than others. I’d like to call this the ‘some deep throats are better than others’ maxim, but let’s not go there.
  • Women who work in sexually oriented businesses deserve to have their real names published, along with the helpful tip (helpful if you are a stalker or worse, that is) that their home address is easily accessible in a public database, just in case  anyone wants to visit them there.
  • If you want to be a journalist, you better not be drinking up life experience anywhere else in hopes of someday writing a book about it, or turning that book into a movie, because we all know that journalists never write books, and it is un-American to want to cash in and move to easy street.
  • If you wear nice clothes and carry a nice purse, your co-workers will resent you, and try to rat you out to the boss. So you better be nice to us, or we’ll go after you.
  • You don’t write particularly well, and in fact, your writing brings to mind numerous clichés generally associated with women’s writing.

If this woman’s second job were House of Pies waitress, the story would not have been published. She is being singled out because her second job as a stripper, and her writing about that second job, make her an easy target for ridicule.

Because culturally, it is clear that it is open season on women who have sex, think about sex, or do anything that invokes even the idea of sex.

Ergo slut shaming.

An activity you can engage in without actually using the word slut or any of its common synonyms, by the way.

I do believe that the story could have been written in a different way, a more respectful and newsworthy way, that might not have triggered my feminist sensibilities so quickly.

I also understand, before anyone tries to mansplain it to me, that posts on alternative weekly blogs need not adhere to the same standards (stylistic or otherwise) expected of print pieces for the Sunday paper in a major media market.

Finally, let me say that part of what cements this as slut shaming in my book is the author’s updating of his article to include his response to the charges. Power dynamics are key to slut shaming.

There is no way I can say what I’m about to say without resorting to horrendous double entendres, so my apologies.

The author is a journalist with access to a mighty big organ. He used that organ to smear one woman, then used it again to single out the critics who raised slut shaming and get (or try to get) the last word.

While it is not unusual, on the various HPblogs, for authors to engage with those who comment in the comment section, it is rather unusual for a comment to get pulled out and added to the original article.

I might even say it veers into mansplaining, but perhaps I should just stop there and publish this.

My final thoughts:

  • I hope that the writer/stripper in question is safe and that this article did not put her in danger. She works in a dangerous business.
  • I hope this episode hasn’t compromised her ability to make a living, because everyone deserves a shot at making her American dream come true.
  • Society columns are not hard-hitting investigative reporting, but it takes all kinds, and I would be happy, if anyone wants, to write a spirited defense of why we need society reporting, and how the life it saves could be your own. Seriously.
  • Rich Connelly has done some great work through the years, and I generally enjoy what he has to say. Remember, Rich, if people don’t have an opinion, you’re not doing your job. On the scale of men saying truly asinine things about women these days, you’re way low. I’m much more worried about Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, et al.
  • (What is up with all of these R first names? Glad you go by Rich instead of Rick, dude. Can we get Lomax to look into the R name phenomenon as he’s keeping an eye out for Waynes and Crystals?)
  • If you still don’t get it, then let’s sit down for coffee or a beer and take the conversation offline and broader than 140 characters. People at the Press know how to find me.

OK, it has taken me days to get this out. Kids, it is generally a bad idea to go after someone who has the microphone or the power of the press. But I’ve got on my bad idea jeans today, so am throwing caution to the wind.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in feminists & feminism, good grief and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Jiggle Journalism? Slut Shaming? Good Grief!

    • nonsequiteuse says:

      Thanks for the link – I hadn’t seen that one. I know I’m a couple of days behind the story on this, but the cumulative effect of all of this stuff has slowed me down. It is hard to write when you are operating at a constant simmer.

  1. “When am I ever going to be back in Haiti? I don’t need to use a condom.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s