Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

LadyBlog & Culture11

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So I mentioned last week that I’m part of the cabal of LadyBloggers over at Culture11. This next part feels a little silly explaining, because everyone I know in DC seems to be writing for Culture11 in some way or other, but I realize some people read this who aren’t the 30 people I know in DC. So …

Culture11 is a new online magazine—it’s still in Beta right now—that was/is aiming, at least theoretically, to be like Slate or Salon but with a slightly right-of-center bent. A few months ago it began snapping up various talented libertarian-ish writers, including three of my favorites: Peter Suderman (C11’s culture editor), James Poulos (C11’s politics editor) and Conor Friedersdorf (C11’s features editor). The whole endeavor seemed radically promising. Where it will go still remains to be seen, obviously—right now, the amount of content is a little light and every now and then article choices just seem weird —but it is still in beta and I think it’s off to a good start.

And now, this brings us to LadyBlog. Please understand that everything I say from here on out should not be construed as criticisms of Jillian Bandes, C11’s assistant editor and the Madam of LadyBlog, if you will (who was nice enough to let me be a part of this project despite the sum of my conservative credentials being “not Democrat,” and who handpicked a very interesting slew of diverse women bloggers and is, in these early stages, currently taking a generously laissez faire attitude towards what we write). Nor of the very smart, very funny women—Phoebe Maltz, Amber Bryer-Wotte, Jillian, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Dara Lind, Nicola Karras, Penny Larkin, Cheryl Miller, to name a few—writing on LadyBlog.

But let me just say that LadyBlog is a weird, weird place. This is the blog’s raison d’etre:

Classier than tea service. Like Fight Club, but with better hygiene. Slightly more aggro than a cucumber sandwich. What’s wrong with modern woman’s culture? How can a girl with conservative political tendencies reconcile herself to the prevailing attitude towards women? How do we manage our values? What, exactly, are our values, anyway? You expect us to wear that? Really?

Ladyblog. Delightfully talky, yet well-refined.

Oh, and LadyBlog has 20+ contributors. Most, it seems, are 20-something women living/working in either DC or NY. But there are a handful of students. And a few 30- to 40-something ladies, and some living far away from the east coast. Some are self-described libertarians, some consider themselves Republican but have completely socially liberal perspectives, some are moderate social-conservativess, and some completely tow the Republican party line on everything. Some don’t really broadcast their religious convictions, and at least two are atheists, but quite a few seem to be devout Christians of some stripe. Some are married, most are not, and I’m told one blogger is a celibate lesbian. Most seem to plan on voting McCain, though I think a few may be anti-voting in general, and we’ve got at least two Obama supporters that I know of.

It’s a very diverse group. And for the most part, I think this works. It makes for some lively inter-blog discussions, and it probably means a lot of different audiences can find writers on the blog with whom they identify. It’s also, seriously, making me consider a few viewpoints I’d just never before considered. It’s challenging me a bit. Which I think is great.

There are some of us who write about political and social issues, in what I guess could be considered “traditional” blog style (roughly 500 words of commentary or analysis revolving around some current event, news story or Internet meme that mixes earnestness and snark). There’s some fun pop culture commentary. There are also longer, personal-essay or humor type posts. These I find a bit jarring—I’m just personally not one for this type of blogging—but people seem to like it, so I don’t begrudge it. There is one type of post on LadyBlog, however, that makes me so angry I have to fight really hard to refrain from going off in the comments section and thus alienating myself from everyone else there: the Complete Partisan Hack post.

Case in point. In addition to insinuating that the Obama campaign hacked Palin’s email account, Fausta Wertz goes on to glibly whine that Democrats find Palin a threat not because she’s, you know, a political opponent who’s stirring up the party base. No, it’s because Palin is a mother who “likes men” and wears fun shoes (all liberal women are barren, butch Keds-wearing harpies, I guess). There is no argument here, no supporting evidence, no tie to some egregious news story or blog post, no analysis, just good old-fashioned Ann Coulter-style straw-liberal-bashing and base-riling.

Or take this post, which accuses Obama and Biden of being anti-woman, for reasons I can’t really decipher other than the fact that they didn’t just concede the race to McCain when he picked Palin as VP.

These types of posts do no service to anybody. I think C11 seeks to really foster an open dialogue, to be a place for intelligent commentary that attracts an audience broader than pure conservative ideologues. But this is the sort of writing that is going to turn off all but the most shrill Republican hacks, or the most trollish liberal agitators. There is room for genuine commentary on the topics sort-of covered in the above posts. Convince me that abortion rights support shouldn’t be the litmus test for feminism—I’m all ears. Or let’s hear what policies Obama and Biden support that you feel are harmful to women. But to suggest that just because the Republicans suddenly have a woman on the ticket that makes Democrats the party of “wanting to keep women in their place” is just … dumb. It is not a good-faith argument, it is not an intellectually honest argument (if they are even arguments based on intellect to begin with). As commenter Emily pointed out:

Do some liberals go overboard? Yes. Are some hating on [Palin]? Yes. Do some conservatives go overboard? Yes. Do some hate Barack Obama? Absolutely. Don’t play this game. It’s a stupid game. We all are in our corners now, I understand, but surely anyone can see that this goes both ways and has for decades. This is a Corner post, I’m afraid to say. Is Culture11 going to turn into the Corner? With people like Poulos and Kuo, you’d think not (and I loved Cheryl Miller’s article on men and the “saving the men” books). Man, I was looking forward to another conservative site with smart and good people that I could respectfully disagree with. I like my mind and opinions challenged on issues. But if I’m going to read nonsense about how I hate Palin for her shoes, I can read K-Lo and get the same effect. If you guys want to be the Corner, that’s your business, I suppose. But good faith liberals aren’t going to stick around for that

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Written by Elizabeth

September 23, 2008 at 5:47 pm

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