Saturday, May 16, 2015

The list that broke the internet

White dudes like Tom Clancy. And Updike. And Jack Kerouac.

I get it. It's supposed to be cheeky and funny, and granted, there is a kernel of truth here. Women are bigger consumers of fiction while men are rewarded for writing it; men who do read generally don't read women... blah blah blah. There are myriad posts devoted to that topic, but a snarkily written list goes viral.

(I am not a dude, and I've read or own most of those books. Hmmm. Get thee some Austen quick!)

Freddie deBoer thinks it's part of a more serious problem of complacency within the leftist blog world:
Hacky garbage getting defended on political grounds is a contagion for today’s progressives. Some of the most cynical people in the world right now are pumping out ostensibly progressive cultural writing. They know there’s no standards; the defense of everything they write is baked into their self-identification with their political movement. I cannot tell you how much shitty hack work gets a pass online because criticizing it will just result in the typical litany of bad-faith progressive defenses. The Toast publishes some smart, funny, perceptive stuff. And it publishes some lazy garbage like the above. The problem is that there’s no incentive for them to put in the effort to do the former rather than the latter because their fans celebrate every piece they run as if Clever Internet Moses has just handed down the next clay tablets to the people, no matter how good or bad it is. This is inspired. It’s wonderfully accurate, entertaining movie criticism. This, on the other hand, is just hacky and boring. It’s someone ladling out every cliche about modern politicized hero worship, like a discarded Tumblr post about Amy Poehler from 2009. But it ticks the right boxes and enjoys the stock defense, so who cares, right?
As someone who once wrote for an ostensibly feminist site, it's incredibly hard to step outside ideological boundaries. There simply isn't a market for apostates.  If you can tow the party line, well, you must be a member of that other party. It's just easier to say, write click-bait lists of dude things or lady things. It's candy. Most people like it, and the ones that pretend they don't eat it anyway because it's cheap and sweet.

And it is hard to criticize, especially other women because being an apostate lonely and not lucrative. Women's writing, political and cultural, gets fenced in as feminist -- or anti-feminist -- so you take the path of least resistance. Blasting out a list of things "guys like" or "guys do" is low risk clickbate. 

There is a silver lining. It seems that weekly there's a piece from someone on the left complaining about either the authoritarianism and thought policing on the far left, or the anti-intellectualism that's a result of writing within a prescribed narrative. Writing a piece about the lack of women or people of color in some aspect of popular culture is easy. Suggesting that a an actress with a disability should have played Julianne Moore's role in Still Alice is easy because it follows a common progressive narrative based on power structures, but it does little to actually advance the rights of people with disabilities. It's not that we shouldn't talk about these things, but for the cultural left, it's all we talk about and says little about the merit of something apart from how it fits into that narrative.