Every morning my wife wakes up and reads the Daily Mail, she calls it her smut. She loves to read the latest celebrity news about relationships. One of her favorite shows when we first dating was Real Housewives of wherever. My wife is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas-Austin, switched roles from being a process engineer working on semiconductors, where she earned her PhD, to work on energy after taking only a pair of classes on energy policy. She does a huge amount of minority out reach, works to educate young under-privileged kids through volunteering and on the board of a non-profit. In short she’s amazing, brilliant, a unicorn, and humbles me all the time.
In an exchange between Lauren Duca, a Teen Vogue journalist, and Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson an amazing conversation took place. Once Carlson realized that he could not pressure Lauren through talking over her, trying to confuse her by asking similar questions in multiple different ways, he attempted to just discredit her by attacking her as a “non-serious thinker” because of some of the other articles she wrote. I suggest you stop reading and watch the exchange here.
No serious, click the link.
Ok, now that you’ve watched it, I’m assuming you’ve gotten to the part where Carlson attempts to discredit her for the thigh-high boots article. I think we need to take a step back and look at this in two different ways. First, let’s look at men who write about similar disparate topics that we consider fully acceptable without a second thought. Second, I’ll talk about how this behavior is hurting anyone that consumes news.
First, it’s clear that Fox news thinks that only people that write about serious topics all the time can ever write about them. This really only applies to women or maybe more specifically things that interest mostly women. Let’s take a look at Michael Lewis as an author. One of his biggest books, which got turned into a movie, is Moneyball. An in depth look at the way the Oakland A’s used statistics in a novel way, with a unique way of finding value in players, to create a low cost team that was absurdly successful compared to teams like the Yankees. His book turned into a movie was the Big Short, which really does a fantastic job showing the culture that allowed the housing crash to happen. No one bats an eye that he writes about these two topics nor uses the former to denigrate his writing on the latter.
An even more extreme case is the news group at 538.com. These guys came out of the sports writing world, focusing, again, on the statistics of the game. They leveraged this data analytics approach to become the darling of the political world during Obama’s reelection campaign. Again now one batted an eye at this transition from sports into politics.
Furthermore, there are a plethora of writers on both ESPN and Sports Illustrated (I’d argue a magazine boys start reading around when girls read Teen Vogue), like Peter King and Greg Easterbrook, that will add a great deal of political thoughts into their weekly columns (Monday Morning QB (SI) and Tuesday Morning QB (ESPN) respectfully). Sure, these don’t often go viral through twitter, but they likely don’t need to. They are splashed on the top their respective websites, which gets huge amount of daily views. These guys have a huge sounding board for their political ideas. No one treats them with an iota of disrespect over it.
I find it unlikely that ESPN or SI would put up with a woman doing something similar. The fans would cry out, she should just stick to reporting sports, or the worst would say, she should just be a pretty face on the sideline not dong any real sports reporting.
This leads me to my second point. This behavior leads us to a much poorer news room and set of perspectives available for young girls and boys as well as women and men. Simply discounting someone’s opinions because they also care about something as seemingly unimportant as thigh-high boots, to me, indicates a small world view as there’s nothing inherently less important about those topics. In fact, there’s a huge amount of politics and agency in the clothes we wear, especially women. The same Tucker Carlson would, no doubt, cast aspersions on practitioners of Islam over the Hijab.
Thinking about clothes, celebrities, and similar topics doesn’t make you a smaller thinker or someone that cares about small things, it simply means you are about different things. There’s no reason to think that someone obsessed with sports things about bigger issues or that sports is inherently more important than fashion.
In fact, companies like Intel and Google are struggling to break into women dominated markets, because they simply don’t understand what they like, care about, or truly need. By disparaging up and coming writers like Lauren Duca for the topics they choose to write about at their job as a way to undercut their credibility, beggars us all.
I love what Lauren has to say in that exchange and I hope she continues to use her voice. She had some great things to say about Ivanka that matter to women, that only a woman’s voice can help men understand the role that Ivanka will play in the administration.
H/t to @FakeGhostPirate for the link