June 19, 2005

An Idle Question Which May or May Not Be Intended to Stir up Trouble

Hey, remember the Pajamas Media launch announcement? I know: I've been trying to erase it from my memory, too. I mean, blech: Here we take the two chief advantages of blogging--namely, the freedom of (a) not having to earn a living by our writing and (b) not having to run our dreck past an editorial board--and what do we do? Search for a nifty new way to screw all that up. Oh, but the money! Yeah, yeah, the money. Can't I just sell Avon or something?

But whatever; some guys are into the idea. And I do mean guys, because this is what I'm wondering: Is there even one woman on that editorial board, or is this--

An editorial board consisting of Glenn Reynolds, PowerLine, Lawrence Kudlow, Hugh Hewitt, Marc Cooper, Wretchard of the Belmont Club and Tim Blair, as well as the founders, is already in place with other bloggers in many countries having signed on as contributors.
--still the way things stand?

Does anyone care? How many integers between 1 and 10 do you think I can recite before someone leaves me a comment to the effect that "I thought you, as a woman on the right, of all people, would understand that obviously Pajamas Media can countenance no such reprehensible concept as affirmative action?"

Go on, pick an integer! Because, personally, I'm betting on 3. Two, if Richard Bennett shows up.

I mean, I don't know, I'm just wondering: Am I the only person who reads that list and thinks "Wow, look, it's a bunch of middle-aged white guys?" Because listen, middle-aged white guys, nothing against y'all, but you do realize: Those of us who are NOT middle-aged white guys have been listening to middle-aged white guys in positions of authority for, gosh, all our lives? It's getting a little old. If you're not a middle-aged white guy, it's a little like living in a world where Ed Sullivan and Walter Cronkite never go off the air. Your names change, your faces change, occasionally your thoughts even change, but the origin remains the same.

Can we just knock it off for a minute and quit pretending backgrounds don't matter? Backgrounds matter. We like to tout the chief virtue of America, the American dream that you can come from any background and still be somebody, and in that respect I'm the loudest cheerleader of them all. This IS what's great about the United States. I'll back that up against anybody, 'specially if they're French.

That said, backgrounds matter. You do not look at life the same way I do, middle-aged white guys, anymore than you look at life the same way Solomon does, or the same way Erica does, or the same way Meryl does. You don't, not because you're bad or sexist or racist or hegemonist or fascist or I don't even know what the epithet du jour is--but none of them are the reason.

You don't look at life the same way because you can't, anymore than you can know what it's like to run on one leg. You can imagine, of course, but that only gets you so far. Neither can I look at life the same way you do. I know what it's like to have a dad, for example, but I don't know, will never know, can never know, what it's like to be a son to a dad. I am always and forever a daughter.

I just know I'm going to get someone completely missing the point on this--saying, for example, that the ideals of freedom and democracy are universal. Yes, certainly, and points to you, Enlightenment Man, for recognizing the obvious, but you are being all left-brained about this at a time when I want you to be right-brained for a minute. Look: It reassures people to see people like themselves. That's all I'm saying.

And I'm not buying any arguments to the effect that "Well, we couldn't find any talented black writers" or "Gee, no women bloggers expressed an interest." Well, no: When you keep the planning of a venture within your own intimate buddy circle composed of guys just like you, I guess that lessens the odds that someone of a different background will just magically show up to diversify the whole endeavor.

Would it kill you to get a non-middle-aged white guy, is I guess what I'm asking, and also: Do you really, honestly not understand that having such a homogenous background makes a difference in how people perceive and respond to you? Because if you claim that, then you're asking me to believe that you're just that ignorant, and based on what I've read by most of you, I don't think you guys on the Pajamas Media editorial board are that ignorant.

Exclusive, maybe. Cronyistic, perhaps. But not ignorant.

Posted by Ilyka at June 19, 2005 11:50 AM in i don't know you tell me

The industry I’m in had almost no women in it when I started many years ago. There are a great many women in it now. They’re not just secretaries or in traditional/outdated/whatever roles. They’re in positions of power and they’re quite often the face of their enterprise. It has been a wonderful development for me. Mine is an industry where way too many things go wrong. The presence of women lowers the temperature. Perspective and background matters but there is so much more to diversity than just that and I’m firmly on board with it.

Posted by: Rob at June 19, 2005 03:11 PM

Blogging and an "editorial board" just don't go together! One of the best things about blogs is NO EDITORS.

Posted by: Lynn S at June 19, 2005 07:51 PM

Yep, you're definitely back.

Posted by: Ith at June 19, 2005 08:28 PM

"Two, if Richard Bennett shows up."


Posted by: Yehudit at June 20, 2005 06:40 AM

Argh. I had hoped that this "Pajama Media" thing would disappear. I hadn't heard of it for a while -- maybe because Tim hasn't said peep about it (to me or on his blog) since the announcement by Roger Simon went out. But here you had to go and mention it.

I don't know what to say about "they're all middle-aged white guys." I do know that Tim is a few years younger than me. Well, maybe one or two. I think.

(The forties are the new thirties. The forties are the new thirties. The forties are the new...)

Anyway, I don't know that this is a conscious omission on their part so much as it's an example of the fact that certain groups of people like to do certain things that just don't occur to other groups of people, for what are no doubt at least partially unfair reasons. It seems that forming groups to run things (even things that don't really need running, that are in fact running just fine by their lonesome) is some of what middle-aged white guys like to do, God only knows why. I'm a middle-aged (forties are the new-- slap!) white woman and the thought of being on some sort of "editorial board" for some sort of journalism/blogging beast bores me even to type about it. And I don't care that maybe it would be better for all my oppressed and ignored sisters of the feminine persuasion for me to take over and knock these silly mens about and tell them that She-Ra is here to run stuff now. I'm not going to do it. I don't care. I won't do it. I'm not interested. For some reason I don't think any other woman is either; at least I haven't heard or read any woman express an interest in this thing, though I could be wrong.

Really, I don't think that women -- or one-legged runners, or whatever -- were deliberately omitted, but in our culture it's usually men of a certain class (that is, middle-class white guys) who do this sort of let's-make-a-structure-with-rules nonsense out of some perfectly fine activity. Thus an innocent pastime involving hitting a round piece of stuffed hide with a stick became the gazillion-dollar industry of baseball. And so on. It's just what middle-aged white guys like to do. People act as if it's some sort of awful oppressive plot to make everyone who is not middle-aged, white, and male miserable, but that's because they are caught up in thinking that there's only one way to get things done, i.e., the middle-aged white guy way. As any blogger who is not at all interested in becoming a Pajama person will tell you, that just isn't so.

By the way, Steve H., who is middle-aged, well-off, and as white as they come, had plenty of skepticism for this Pajama venture. So much for the crushing authority of the Old Boy school.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 20, 2005 06:46 AM


. . . says the woman who linked John Hawkins recently. John Hawkins! I about fell over dead.

Well, he is several rungs above Bennett. But who isn't?

Posted by: ilyka at June 20, 2005 06:46 AM

You're right about Steve H.--I remember his post about the NDA you're supposed to sign when you get on board with it (and I love that he fingered Glenn as the culprit for it. Gee, ya think?). The whole thing stank of overregulation, an odd thing for an ostensible libertarian-conservative like Reynolds to favor, to say the least. And this--

it's usually men of a certain class (that is, middle-class white guys) who do this sort of let's-make-a-structure-with-rules nonsense out of some perfectly fine activity.
--is the gospel truth. In fact I had to limit myself to quoting just that because your entire paragraph there is right on.

So for the fortieth time, Andrea, quit leaving killer material in my rinkydink little comments section. For Pete's sake! It's a waste!

Posted by: ilyka at June 20, 2005 06:55 AM

And therein lies the differance between affirmative action style "Diversity" and reality: diversity does matter, but not as a number. One of the great things about the blogosphere is the variety of authors: I am a white male, but if I want the perspective of a woman, or a black person, or a Cuban immigrant, or an older or younger person, or a gay man or woman, a doctor or lawyer or soldier, or whatever, it's all there. Background shapes perspective, including the way we were born and the decisions we've made since then. I fail to understand why a media group purporting to be representitive of this wouldn't go out of their way to pull in some of those perspectives.

Now, if somebody said to me, "On a board of ten people, you need two women, five minorites, and age ranges from 15 to 100, no matter what, or you're a racist/sexist/facist/etc", I would happily tell them to get bent. But ignoring the variety of perspectives available, especially in such an opinion-based business, is not only bad for PR, it's bad for the final product.

Whatever. I'll stick to surfing the blogs myself and bypass the editorial board, thankyouverymuch :)

Posted by: francisthegreat at June 20, 2005 06:56 AM

Ah, but if I put all the good material on my site, instead of posting about trivia about my teeth and throwing away old concert ticket stubs, I'd be blogging. Can't have that.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 20, 2005 07:00 AM