All the Single Ladies

I’m struggling with this list published by the New York Observer. Basically, I can’t decide if it’s an honest celebration of fifty truly remarkable single women, or blatant exploitation of women living in New York and living and looking like a Manhattanite. Not to rail against Manhattan… okay, maybe to rail against Manhattan. As a man, I might not have the best perspective on this, and certainly welcome any of the indoor plumbing folk to correct me. For starters, it’s not the list I’d compile, were I that concerned about publicists in New York. I’m not, though I did at least recognize about half of the names on the roster. I would add women like Digby, who is just fucking awesome period, Amanda Marcotte, Amy Goodman, Temple Grandin (okay not technically “in media” but a writer and amazing woman), Rachel Maddow, Tina Fey, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jessa Crispin, Amy Poehler, Kristen Schaal, and many more — all extremely talented and far more influential and important than many of the young folk on that list. Basically they’re all fucking awesome and women who have informed me, inspired me, and made me laugh.

That’s why I think it really seems more about a pretty photo shoot looking at that list. The women they picked are certainly beautiful — I can’t deny that. I had no idea Arianna Huffington was 61, because I would have said 45, she looks that good. Consider that last sentence an aside, I just really was surprised by that, and that’s fantastic for her. She, though, has accomplished quite a bit, and built a media empire that’s in my top five sites most visited and which I check multiple times daily. Sloane Crosley, however, wrote a bestselling if not well-written collection of essays entitled I Was Told There’d Be Cake. She followed it up with last year’s much funnier and very better-written How Did You Get This Number? I don’t want to knock Sloane, as she clearly has talent and will likely be doing awesome things in the publishing world for quite some time to come. She’s only seven years my senior, and I’ve learned a thing or two about how rough “making it as a writer” can be — she’s made it, I haven’t. So I give her her credit and find her very funny and rarely honest for a writer as young as she.

And yet I find it odd that a publication which aspires to seriousness would rank her above Michiko Kakutani, for instance. Again, nothing against Crosley, yet Kakutani is the most feared, admired, hated, respected woman in all of publishing. Writers tremble at the mention of her. She’s the name you look for first in the New York Times Book Review. Kakutani can make a career or end it short. I agree with her about 60% of the time, but no one can deny that she functions as the arbiter of literary taste in America. She would be top three on my list. Rachel Maddow is essentially the face of MSNBC and easily the most intelligent political analyst on mainstream cable (I would only compare her with Keith Olbermann, who is easily as intelligent as Maddow, but whose zeal gets in the way of his ranting some times, Stewart, Maher, and Colbert — the above, obviously, are men). Maddow consistently and eloquently provides the night’s most incisive political commentary, and is a frequent guest on Meet the Press. Amy Goodman is simply the best journalist in America. Her program, which she essentially built from scratch, is the most reliable source of news about America and the world, and kept my mind active through a couple of rough years. She writes a column for The Guardian and often contributes to TruthDig, the Huffington Post, and — I’m sure — many other sites of which I’m yet unaware. She’s an outspoken and active progressive, yet never hyperbolic and always fair to her ideological opponents. Journalism doesn’t get better than that.

Just to name those three, as the work of those women in particular occupies a good deal of my day. Yet with the exception of Ms. Huffington, they’re not on the list. Yes, I know it’s a list of bachelorettes, which is in itself arbitrary. But if you want to talk about powerful women in media, why, aside from showing women like Ms. Crosley (who is, indeed, quite pretty) make the list restricted to just single women? It’s such a blatantly sexist ploy on The Observer‘s part. And you bet it’ll get read, mostly because men are as stereotypically fascinated by our junk as any Zach Galifianakis film implies. (I find Z.G. hilarious personally).

The whole list features young, slim, and straight pretty women with a few exceptions included to garnish The Observer‘s pretension to relevance. What’s missing are women of color, LGBT women, activists who don’t get on Sunday TV shows, women doing amazing things that impact us all far more than barely thirty pretty publicists. I have nothing against barely thirty pretty publicists, mind you. Yet the entire list seems to objectify young and pretty women for the sake of their youth and prettiness while leaving the actual female movers and shakers in media out for the most part. This benefits only those who think exploiting feminine youth and beauty is cool. Again, nothing wrong with being young and pretty — I’m condemned to being young for a few more years at least, but never have been pretty, though it seems nice. Nothing against any of the women mentioned in that list, but I have all sorts of question for The Observer, none of which are Brett Baier softballs.

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~ by Benji on 16 August 2011.

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