The Washington Post, for reasons that defy comprehension, published a 1,700-word thought piece yesterday on women in America being dumb, shallow, and
March 3, 2008

The Washington Post, for reasons that defy comprehension, published a 1,700-word thought piece yesterday on women in America being dumb, shallow, and generally kind of pathetic. The author, Charlotte Allen, made her spectacularly dumb case with the kind of nonsense one might expect from a misogynistic child — women are bad drivers, they have physically smaller brains, they’re awful at math, they have bad taste in entertainment, etc.

The problem, it seems to me, is not Allen. Her foolish attack on women is easy to dismiss as petty nonsense, best suited for a He-Man Woman-Hater’s Club blog. Instead, the fault lies with Washington Post editors who thought Allen’s anti-feminist hit-job deserved to be published on the front page of the paper’s Outlook section.

The WaPo’s Outlook editor took a moment to respond to criticism.

“If it insulted people, that was not the intent,” Outlook editor John Pomfret told me this morning, calling the piece “tongue-in-cheek.” […]

Pomfret said that being an opinion article, he’s not surprised readers reacted to it strongly. But added: “Perhaps it wasn’t packaged well enough to make it clear that it was tongue-in-cheek.”

I found it hard to believe Pomfret would publish such tripe. I find it even harder to believe this is his explanation for such poor judgment.

Obviously, humor can be hard to define. “Funny” is in the eye of the beholder. But calling Allen’s bizarre opinion piece “tongue-in-cheek” is just insulting. “Tongue-in-cheek” is defined as, “Meant or expressed ironically or facetiously.” Allen wasn’t kidding. There was nothing in the piece intended as humor, and at no point was the reader led to believe the entire 1,700-word piece should be taken as satire. And since when is the front page of the Washington Post’s Outlook section the proper place for “edgy” humor that attacks women as dumb?

“Just kidding!” is something children say when they’re caught saying something they know was wrong. But for editors at major newspapers, it’s hardly an excuse for publishing a piece that should have offended everyone who read it.

Ezra also had a good item that’s worth reading.

I don’t want to engage with the article because, sometimes in Washington, editors take controversy as a sign of success. “The response is heated, but that just shows we hit a nerve, forced people to discuss an important issue. Namely, whether women are idiots.” So instead, I’ll say this: They should be ashamed of publishing an article of such poor quality.

Quite right. The controversy should not be taken by Post editors as evidence of having published something thought provoking. One of the nation’s leading and most respected dailies ran a lengthy item on the stupidity of American women. The outrage they hear isn’t discussion about the merit of the article; they outrage is the offense that reasonable people have taken to such abject garbage masquerading as a thought piece.

The Post owes its readers an apology.

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