Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Bloggers

Bloggingheads

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Diavlog: Conor & Elizabeth

I recorded a bloggingheads segment Monday with Conor Friedersdorf for his channel on bloggingheads.tv. I guess you call this “vlogging.” I have been vehemently opposed to vlogging (ask Rachel Steinberg) since 2006, because no one looks good in web-cam close-up. Also because a lot of bloggers are better writers than talkers, including me. But I talked to Conor for nearly an hour, about: men’s role in feminism, Hugo Schwyzer, James Poulos, women’s ‘privileged relationship’ to the natural world, subsidizing birth control, vasectomies, my partisan political apathy, Gary Johnson, what’s new in eating disorders, David Brooks, Phoebe Maltz-Bovy, ‘elites’ behaving like traditionalists, goat cheese and arugula, old-fashioned cocktails, Portland bartenders migrating to Los Angeles, the farmer’s markets of Indiana, D.C. media culture and the things you’re supposed to say on the Internet.

Anyway, here’s the test clip I sent Conor & my very first test vlogging attempt:

I swear I get a little better.

You can check out the whole thing here.

Written by Elizabeth

February 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

truth in feminism.

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I only first read this morning about this battle re: Hugo Schwyzer & feminism. It’s the kind of thing that stirs me out of blogging apathy—though it helps that all I want to do this week is drink red wine, make vegan desserts and read & write about feminism, anyway; happy February!because it strikes at the root of what bothers me about web feminism à la mode. I’ll ramble on about that in a moment. But in short, I think the anti-Schwyzer sentiment is both ridiculous and sadly typical of the feminist blogosphere.

I don’t know a ton about Hugo. I’m dimly aware of having read him on various lady-feminist blogs. For a while I regularly read The Good Men Project, a site focused on exploring what it means to be a good man now, absent cultural scripts and yada yada yada. I liked the Good Men Project. It published good sex writing (male and female). Sometimes Amanda Marcotte (whom I also like) wrote there. It was heavy with personal-experience driven writing by Schwyzer and others on sex, marriage, masculinity, relationships, fatherhood, feminism.

An instructor in history and gender studies at Pasadena City College, Schwyzer is explicitly feminist. He writes in the language of contemporary feminism (i.e. “I haven’t been always been able to see how my writing reflects my privilege as a cisgender white male…“) and blogged at Jezebel, FeministeHealthy Is The New Skinny, the Good Men Project and elsewhere about gender issues, body image, rape prevention, why men like to cum on women’s faces and the “myth of male weakness.” He recently withdrew from The Good Men Project after founder Tom Matlack published a piece arguing men and women were fundamentally different, writing that it was no longer “ethically possible to remain silent” while the Good Men Project “took an increasingly anti-feminist stance.”

Schwyzer also wrote often about his past, as an alcoholic and druggie in the 90s (born in 1967, Schwyzer hugs the line between Gen X and boomer). He wrote about failed marriages, mental breakdowns, his Christian faith and having “consensual relationships with adult female students” in his early years teaching. It was that last part which provoked the ire of Feministe commenters and other feminist bloggers. Then someone pointed out a year-old post of Hugo’s in which he wrote about attempting to kill himself and his then-girlfriend by turning on the gas in their apartment. He was an alcoholic and addict. This preceded a stay in a mental hospital. But people called Schwyzer a sexual predator who should be excluded from the discourse on feminism (sample comment: Why is a confessed attempted murderer allowed to comment about feminism?). They made it about the role of men in feminism, a role which the feminist blogosphere is still all kinds of conflicted about.

This tendency of many feminist bloggers to be so self-consciously non-offensive gets tedious, though this just makes them boring. It’s the tendency of large segments of the feminist web to cluster and ostracize dissenters from feminism’s PC master narrative that makes them damaging, to the quote/unquote feminist project, anyway. A feminism that doesn’t allow for paradoxes and contradictions in the ideals versus lived experiences of its’ proponents is not terribly useful. And any modern conception of feminism needs not just to include men in the conversation but see men as integral to feminist issues. The movement’s history of sisterhood served it’s purpose, but for Gen Y women and men accustomed to the idea of gender equity, doesn’t we’re-all-in-this-together make more sense?

How to be an adult in an age of anomie is a question central to men, women, feminists and fundamentalists in America. And it’s a big project. I don’t know how many Gen X/Y articles I’ve read about marriage ages, fertility, dating, relationships, careers, unemployment, sex, technology, health that conclude we are all screwed. We’re all going to live into our 90s and our parents and grandparents are going into retirement broke and getting fat and getting dementia and it not only looks sad but how are you going to take care of them? How is anybody going to take care of them? That’s all we hear about is old age programs bankrupting the world. And home health care is one of the fastest growing U.S. industries, but it’s largest companies don’t even want to pay their (mostly female) employees the minimum wage. And a lot of people in the entertainment industry still think violence against women is pretty swell. Birth control is still something people are legitimately against. Women writers still can’t write about sex like Henry Miller. And for some reason people persist in publishing articles about who should pay the check on first dates. Plus, you know: The rest of the world.

I mean, I say, the more men the merrier! Let’s all talk about birth control and blow jobs and the difference between domestic violence and rape fantasies. Gender issues, marriage equality and the contradictions inherent in trying to be good men and good women in a culture with completely schizophrenic ideas about femininity and masculinity. These are problems for all us.

And there should be room in feminism for all of us to talk about them. For Schwyzer to be honest about his path to where he is now without facing this kind of hysterical backlash. For all of us “imperfect feminists” to be honest about where we fail to live up to ideals (and where ideals fail to live up to their usefulness in our lives). Freddie deBoer (who, um, full disclosure: is my boyfriend) has written about how feminism is general but relationships are specific. So are individual paths to feminist beliefs. You can comfortably call yourself a feminist even if you subscribe to less than total egalitarianism in your own relationship or sex life. You can be a feminist even if you were once so fucked up that you tried to kill yourself and your partner. You can have an imperfectly feminist past and be a feminist now. The underlying assumption between people should be respect, non-violence and equity, but people can negotiate different degrees of these amongst themselves. Besides which: The outside world, again. Sometimes it influences us. Sometimes we learn from it. Sometimes we are always getting better.

see, I like baking too. I know sites like Feministe and Feministing serve an important purpose in feminism’s mission. I never considered myself a feminist until I started reading them (along with Pandagon, Shakesville, Ilika Damen, others) back when I was 22. This year over Christmas break I ended up in a late-night bar crawl conversation with a 22-year-old female cousin who is dying to have babies and stay home with them. Until she recently began reading feminist blogs (the only one I remember her mentioning is The Feminist Breeder), she told me, she thought feminists wanted to take things like that from her. Now she’s all OMG I’m a feminist, duh. I’m a feminist and I like babies and crafts and women being treated like human beings. Awesome.

So that’s what these types of intro/activist feminist blogs do: They introduce young women and men to the idea that feminism doesn’t suck. That there are still lots of gender issues to consider and problems to solve. That feminism is relevant.

But as a feminist writer, Schwyzer has always been more essayist than activist. Both of his recent controversial posts were confession—not celebration—of past wrongs. This is what good memoirists and essayists do: They tell the truth about themselves, even when it makes them look bad. It’s in admitting to inconsistencies in their own ideals v. behavior that they have the best chance of finding something universal. Think “Mad Men.” Think Didion. It’s the space between the zeitgeist and convention that’s the most interesting.

For the feminist blogosphere to so consistently stifle voices from that space … I mean, it impedes on feminist discourse, sure. But it also tells writers that it’s not okay to be both honest and feminist. That part of being a publicly-feminist writer means a certain amount of activism, a certain amount of party-line PR. It’s a lot like how conservatism encourages its journalists and bloggers and TV reporters to be partisans first. It’s bad for the truth.

Written by Elizabeth

February 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

Curio: Back to Paying Attention to Things on the Internet Edition

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A few things.
And a few sentences about each.
[And because I’ve been out of the loop for a few minutes, we can pardon my lack of timeliness, can’t we?]

1. Just got around to reading this awesome faux-profile by Ann Friedman about Washington’s “DC Lady Mafia”—a parody and a rebuttal, of sorts, to this unintentionally hilarious New York Times piece about DC’s young male journo scene. Hell yeah.

In only a few years, these young women and others like them have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington — but you wouldn’t know it from reading The New York Times. Once they lived in modest studio apartments and stayed out late, talking about grammar, feminist theory, and ready-to-wear collections while their male counterparts appeared on cable television. Now the members of this “DC lady mafia,” as they began calling themselves because no newspaper style section deigned to give them a nickname, have become destination reading for — and respected by — the city’s power elite. Indeed, arguably they are themselves approaching power-elite status. [emphasis mine]

While we’re on the topic, I’m also kind of sick of this whole ‘brave new world’ of digital journalism narrative. Ezra Klein may have been delighted at discovering the act of reporting after he’d already been finding success as a blogger —

“I came here, and I had no professional affiliation,” Mr. Klein, 26, said over lunch at Potenza, a decidedly grown-up restaurant in downtown Washington. “I just had a blog that was mine, but I came out here and was trained as a magazine writer, and that was just a much more formalized way of journalism. You made calls. People answered calls. You took down what was said in a respectable account, and that began to influence my blogging. It became a lot less of an ‘Ezra affair.’

— but a lot of bloggers and web journalists I know (myself included) still started off at daily newspapers or student newspapers or some sort of outlet that required reportage first, opinion second (if at all). As Conor has eloquently laid out before, one of the problems with movement journalism is that it encourages blogging and opinion and analysis from young journos before they even learn how to tell a proper story. But that’s a rant for another day, or another blogger.

Anyhow, we may be the last generation of journalists to come-of-age if not primarily in print than at least not exclusively web. Although another problem I have with this narrative is that it’s generally only concerned with young journalists following the DC-baby-pundit/Gawker-media-mouthpiece model. These are the writers that are most visible, the ones that have made Names for themselves, so it makes sense. But I’ve got a friend who went from beat reporting at the Boston Globe to beat reporting for AP to a newspaper fellowship in Abu Dhabi. Another who started at the same Columbus, Ohio business paper I did and now helps run an online business magazine. These kinds of writers go under the radar as far as the general media story about young journalists is concerned. Exhibit A:

[…] Douglas Brinkley, the Rice University professor and historian who is working on a biography of Walter Cronkite, expressed nostalgia for an earlier, more in-the-trenches generation of correspondents who didn’t rely on Twitter posts and linking to generate content. “I’m not making a judgment,” Professor Brinkley said [Ed. note: Really? Than what the heck do you call that statement?] .

“What I don’t like is that before, people would start in foreign bureaus all over the world before making their way to Washington. You would be pushing into your deep 20s and have a really deep global background. What you’ve seen is a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.”

Besides negating the identity of tons of 20-something reporters out there, this idea (which one hears from older journalists all the time) is quite insulting, as if we’d all rather sit in an office all day than actually get to see the people and places we write about. Give us an environment where more than the most well-funded media outlets can afford to send their reporters out in the field to report—I’m not even talking the bureau in Dubai, dude; how about something happening down the street?—and, you know, I bet a lot of us degenerate young turks would be more than happy. But there’s not time, or money, for that at most places, and so reporting takes place through emails and phone calls. I get tired of being told to live up to a model of journalism that hardly anyone is willing to support anymore.

Huh. That turned into more than ‘just a few sentences.’ Let’s keep the rest of this brief then, shall we?

2. Blisstree talks about “orthorexia.” Which was not a word I even knew existed, describing a concept I am very familiar with.

3. Megan Daum has an interesting take on folks’ ire towards Planned Parenthood:

Here’s my theory: When it comes to parenthood, the whole notion of planning can be so overwhelming that it feels better to leave it to fate.

Sure, we know that the respectable, socially responsible thing to do is to think hard about when and how many children to have and to take the necessary steps – abstinence or birth control – to avoid producing a child that cannot be properly cared for. But as any parent will tell you, there is no “perfect” time to have a baby. It’s always going to be a showstopper.

And I suspect that’s why a lot of people, pro-life and pro-choice alike, like to think of parenthood as something that was foisted upon them rather than actively pursued.

Thoughts?

Written by Elizabeth

April 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thought Catalog

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The best thing I am reading lately, consistently, is Thought Catalog. It’s one of the few things I always check in google reader before marking all read. One of the few open tabs I go back and read after re-opening my laptop in the morning and making swift determinations on all the tabs left open from yesterday. It’s what I always wanted The Awl to be.

This brings me to the awareness that I’ve been really trying to identify things that separate Gen Y writers, parents and filmmakers from their Gen X counterparts. Those three groups, specifically, but also a little bit the generational differences Writ Large, too. I am 28. I am a cusper. I am, technically speaking, the leading edge of the Millennial generation (high school class of 2000, baby!). I keep having the same conversation, about marriage, and babies, and expectations, and dichotomies, etc., etc., with every f**king person I know, seriously. We’re at a stage where we’re poised to come into our own, I think. We’re at the point where we start mattering more. And we’re at the forefront of defining what it is that makes us not Gen X. Of maybe I’m just being narcissistic and grandiose. It’s possible.

Written by Elizabeth

March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Fetishizing the Good Wife

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The problems start with the subhead: A new generation of female bloggers is championing the importance of being a good wife and partner.

Yes, a new generation of bloggers, eons removed from those paleolithic female bloggers of 2003 who, incidentally, aimed to be terrible wives and atrocious partners! But blah blah blah; people like to cover housewives. The green/locavore/whatever movement is providing a wonderful new hook for doing so.

What’s more interesting, I think, are things like this:

And then there’s Taryn Cox, who isn’t afraid to put it all out there, unabashedly writing about stereotypically uxorial topics ranging from themed baby showers and creating her own cocktail-style dresses to the art of ironing a newspaper and how to clean with vodka at a blog she has titled TarynCoxTheWife.com.

Cox’s posts showcase classic glamour and gorgeous parties as songs such as “Sunny Side of the Street” play in the background.

“I’ve always just been so completely fascinated by the idea of marriage and dedication,” says Cox, a trim 26-year-old with a penchant for pastels and an e-mail address that starts with “stepfordwife.”

No, she’s not married and she doesn’t have kids, but “this [blog] is for those dreams and fantasies. I believe my own vision. I believe there’s an art to being a good wife.”

Clearly, Taryn is taking things a little far. But I think for a certain subset of post-post-feminist (or whatever we are) Gen Y women—especially the particularly horrifying strain who perhaps read a lot of Sylvia Plath or worked in a vintage clothing shop in high school, who were raised by Republicans or Catholics but later got a lip ring or an ill-advised Kanji tattoo, and who appreciate a good cocktail, a man who will take out the garbage and the erotic possibilities of gender roles—well, it’s not too hard to get sucked into the ‘good wife’ allure. Not to the degree Taryn has, heavens no. Just a little bit.

Maybe it’s seriously all libido. Or maybe it’s just another facet of that grasping 20-something desire for some model for how to be Good at Life®.

The rest of the article—which ran in Sunday’s L.A. Times—is mostly a rehash of some book about being your husband’s “at home business partner” or something that came out a few years ago, sprinkled with a little bit of two-bloggers-as-Trend anecdotes. And of course there is the Angry Feminist response:

“They want to live in this perfectly art-directed world,” says Michele Kort, senior editor at Ms. “It’s an illusion that if you have all the right clothes and right accessories that your life will be perfect. This is a throwback to stuff like [Marabel Morgan’s 1974 self-help book] ‘The Total Woman’ … that a wife should be subservient and be all about making a man comfortable and having the perfect household … for the women of the ’50s, it wasn’t so happy-making.”
Which is one of those arguments that just seems silly, for anyone to endorse or for anyone to take as the standard belief of all feminists. To me, it seems that for some women of the 50s, it probably was “happy-marking,” to use Kort’s awkward phrasing. It’s possible that then, as now, there were some women who really did enjoy being completely dedicated wives and mothers. And that this being true in no way negates the fact that many women do not enjoy being full-time housewives, and that women should pursue whatever path makes them happiest. I mean, while I appreciate all the current research and publicity about how women who don’t work could be in for a lot of financial misery if their husbands dump them … at a certain point, god. All of our life paths are a gamble. If we really want to protect our young women’s financial futures, we should tell them not to become journalists, or actors, or major in sociology.

Written by Elizabeth

May 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Pro-Market, Anti-Corporatism

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Via Hit & Run, a really lovely post from Dan Mage, who defends libertarians against accusations of being uncaring—

I tell people that libertarianism simply puts the responsibility for caring about other people back on you. It’s much easier to say that that “the government should do something about it,” than to take any personal responsibility for your life, your community, your country and the planet.

—but takes aim at libertarian corporatists, libertarians who balk at workers’ rights, and those who believe a libertarian philosophy somehow excludes cooperation and community:

People would have to start working together … and somehow that idea offends people, like it’s some kind of “commie” thing. What good is individualism however when it manifests as a self-serving conformity and obedience? How is “going it alone” as a corporate pawn an expression of individual freedom?

Written by Elizabeth

July 8, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Posted in Culture, Misc.

Tagged with , ,

New Blogs!

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My friend Rachel was recently laid off … and lived to blog about it:

Friday, January 16, 5:15 PM, conference room: I was laid-off. It happened. The news wasn’t lying about the economy. I’ve never been laid-off before. This was a new experience and I thought I’d spend the weekend letting the ones I care about know what was going on. Because of that, I thought I’d share what I appreciate but didn’t help:

1. Oh that sucks.
2. Really? I’m sorry.
3. F**k.

Go commiserate in ways that don’t echo the above.

Also, several of my favorite Y-chromosomed bloggers (E.D. Kain of Indiepundit, Freddie de Boer of L’Hote, Scott Payne of The Politics of Scrabble, and some others) have  started a new group blog, The League of Ordinary Gentleman.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen is a group blog that hopes to bring a new style and sensibility to blogging. The contributing writers hail from various points along the political spectrum, but all hold a deep and abiding commitment to the exploration of ideas outside the foray of rhetorical and ideological cul de sacs. The entries are less posts than they are dialogues with an aim towards sustained discussion on topics and issues that lay at the foundations of our lives. This approach, we hope, will provide readers with a thoughtful and searching alternative analysis.

So far, gay marriage, post-post modernity, the good side of partisanship, and more!

Written by Elizabeth

January 26, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Asides, The Best Things

Tagged with

Oh, no! …

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… One of my favorite DC local-stuff bloggers (okay, the only DC local-stuff blogger I read—but there’s a reason for that), Marissa at The Anti DC, was fired from her job for blogging. That still happens?

Written by Elizabeth

January 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Asides

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This Is What I Like About Helen

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She calls for committed hussies and committed smokers:

… smokers and their advocates should feel free to defend irrationality secure in the comfort that they’re in good company. After all, bohemians, daredevils, and international playboys don’t make sense either, and we love them for their anti-utilitarianism.

I’ve defended smoking as an affirmative good before, not because I want people to start smoking—addiction is like soul, you got it or you don’t—but because I think that a full-throated defense of smoking as an irrational but nonetheless legitimate decision is the only way to stop smoking bans in a non-libertarian country like America.

Written by Elizabeth

December 11, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Asides, Feminism, The Best Things

Tagged with ,

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Elizabeth

September 23, 2008 at 5:47 pm

A very long post that will be of very little interest to most people

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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. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Elizabeth

September 23, 2008 at 5:47 pm