>> Tuesday, October 22, 2013
... judging by The Book of Jezebel, feminists are so angry that debate with them is no longer possible. To them the only solution to their rage is through politics. There is a steady undercurrent of animus towards conservatives and Republicans in The Book of Jezebel, which is to be expected. But what is revealing is the intensity of the antipathy and its obsessive-compulsive quality...- Mark Judge, "The Angry Ladies Of Jezebel";The Daily Caller, October 21st, 2013.
One is uncertain: on the one hand, one wonders if there's any good reason to pay attention on someone who is clearly trolling; while, on the other hand, one feels a strong compulsion to poke a finger in the eye of fatuousness. I only read Mark Judge's ostensible review of a new book by the editors of the web blog/aggregator Jezebel because of trolling acting at a distance--a kind of Internet version of Keplerian mechanics where Judge's trolling acted at a distance upon a writer at Salon, and now, like some ball on a great billiard table, I take the impact and roll with it, and now I am hitting you with some small force.
I should digress a little, having written that. First, that Judge is trolling and that his piece is an "ostensible review": the very first line Judge writes is, "I don’t want to write a standard review of The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things," and he fulfills that desire by not bothering to review the book until the second page of his entry, and then by reviewing it very little (mostly by producing the maximum number of excerpts Fair Use Doctrine might allow and offering a few nuggets of commentary (perhaps to suggest to his editor that this is, indeed, a review, and not a brief rant on feminist anger followed by a few quickly-copied scraps). Anyway, you can't fault Judge for burying his agenda, seeing how he puts it up front and everything. "This review is not a review," he might as well say (one is tempted to shout "this is genocide!" or "this is 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday'!", but Judge is not that interesting), and proceeds to talk about how everybody is angry because of "missing, absent, and lousy fathers".
Second, that there's a whole problem with writing on the Internet about writing, which I am a part of. Mark Judge is assigned by The Daily Caller with writing about a book published by a website somewhat infamous for a certain amount of trolling, itself, and he writes a trollery piece where he spends much more time talking about America's daddy issues than about whatever merits The Book Of Jezebel has or lacks, and he writes it this particular way so as to incite lots of comments and articles like the one Katie McDonough posts at Salon, which link back and draw more attention to Judge, The Daily Caller, ads on The Daily Caller website, etc.; and then Katie McDonough obliges by writing the kind of snarky linkback post he (and The Daily Caller's editors) were hoping the post would generate, which she presumably does because Salon is kind of like a shark in that it has to keep swimming or it dies, and she likely has ever-so-much material she expects to post, and even if she didn't, this is exactly the kind of thing that generates comments and clicks and posts like the one yours truly is writing right now. And then I go and do what Ms. McDonough and the editors of Salon likely hope or suspect or whatever, and I write this and I have links to Salon and The Daily Caller and I mention everyone by name and I offer up my two cents, and we have one nice big online circle jerk of sorts, over a "book review" (quotes because, supra, it isn't much about reviewing the book). I'll even try to come up with some kind of alluring headline, something like, "Angry Wimmen Is Angry" as a way of getting people--including friends and relatives I should respect more than this--to come along and see what the angry wimmen is angry about. I'm sorry. I am a terrible friend. Please don't hate me.
But so that I'm not totally wasting your time (I hope), I did have something I wanted to say about Judge's review, which is that if you do bother to read it, what's striking is how vapid it is even under it's own, for want of a better word, terms. What I mean is: Judge would hardly be the first person to write a "review" of something that is really an epic-long rant about something else. One of my very favorite writers, the late David Foster Wallace, used to do that kind of thing all the time, turning a "review" of a state lobster festival into a debate on ethical eating, for instance, or there was another time he turned a "review" of a cruise ship experience into a kind of meditation on various subjects like mortality and authenticity of experience.
That DFW could do that kind of thing is either why you love him--because you think he did that kind of discursive, desultory, spiraling-out from the center into a cloud-chamber-like whirl of cosmic beauty intelligence brilliantly--or is likely a reason you never got him and failed to see what the big deal was and maybe even think he was just terrible and too precocious for his own good--because you think an article about tennis ought to be a goddamn article about tennis, already, and you just wanted some behind-the-scenes gossip about Lost Highway not... not... this... this... what the fuck is this?
But whether you loved him or didn't understand the appeal, I think you just about have to admit that David Foster Wallace had something to say about things. Whereas Mark Judge, so far as "The Angry Ladies Of Jezebel" is concerned, has... well, not so much. And I doubt this is merely a constraint of the format; if he had anything more on offer, he might have omitted one, two, or all of the excerpts he offers and might have explained a little more his feelings on America's deep resentment over our absent (and/or lousy) fathers.
Because the thing I find... I don't know, insulting... not quite; hrm. Let's see, here: the thing I find... let's go with vacuous about Judge's piece isn't really his reduction of feminists' anger to daddy issues, but that he doesn't have the commitment, the, the, gumption, I dunno (and forgive me if this is sexist), the nads to really go with it and pull it all together. What he really does, which is insulting to the intelligence, is he begs a couple of really big and obviously relevant questions. Like, for instance, Assuming arguendo feminists are angry about their awful fathers, is there nevertheless any merit to any of the issues they say they're angry about, like unequal pay or reproductive rights or, well, any of it? I guess that's really the all-encompassing question. We could stipulate, just for the hell of it, that feminists--female, male, whatever--are angry because of our awful popses, but it wouldn't tell anybody anything about, oh, hostile environment workplace sexual harassment caselaw.
I suppose, maybe, that Judge means to offend liberals by reducing any or all of these issues to, "Aw, you're just upset about your daddy-waddy," but that's schoolyard stuff, it certainly isn't smart and I hope Judge doesn't think he's been clever. Oh gods, he's been paid for this, so he probably does think he's been clever, plus he's generated pageviews and online pieces like this one. Damn. Well: he shouldn't think he's been clever, because obviously he hasn't. I happen to think my father did pretty okay, all-in-all, but even if he didn't and I'm pissed about it, could someone explain why employers aren't required by law to provide generous family leave to mothers and fathers; why certain industries appear to have gender-preferential employment profiles despite no rational connection between any physiological differences and ability to perform the work, and women appear to be under-represented in certain employment sectors? Perhaps my dad used to put an empty coffee can over my head when I was young and parade me down the street in my Underroos, banging me head-can with a pair of wooden spoons while he screamed, "Iiiii'm Seaaaaaargent Pehhhhhpper's Lonely! Hearts! Club! Band!" while all the neighbors gathered at the ends of their lawns and laughed at me and it's got me righteously pissed off at the world, but if I've decided to cast that furious rage against, say, the fact that women online appear to suffer far more personal abuse when they write about things than men who write similar things, well... I mean, am I wrong, and if I am, why? Or maybe I'm misremembering, and he didn't beat me and humiliate me in public so much as he sold me to circus carnies and I never saw him again; this makes me very sad and the carnies were cruel and abusive creatures who, it turned out, traveled so far out into the highways and byways of missing America that we were, in fact, in some kind of screwy dark, alternate dimension at some point, and this makes me just annnnngrrrrrry and filled! with! the! hate! but does that really say any damn old thing about gender stereotypes in popular media?
I'm thinking not so much. You?
"The writers at Jezebel are angry women," Judge writes in closing. "Their pain is beyond the reach of politics to solve." Well. okay. But the glaring fallacy in that bit of nothing is that the writers of Jezebel are quite often talking about their problems, not their pain, and quite a lot of those problems certainly sound like things that have political solutions; indeed, since some of those problems are political problems, like anti-abortion legislation, it's rather self-evident some of these problems are well within the reach of politics to solve, politics having created them in the first place. It's just very, very dumb, which always seems as bad or worse to me than dismissive. I probably shouldn't sink to Judge's level and close with a schoolyard taunt as he began with one, but: feminists may be angry, but at least we aren't stooooopid, like you, Marky.