Sunday, February 22, 2009

The sexism at Harper's

We don't go out of our way to attack Harper's magazine here. When the monthly has an article worth noting, we address it but otherwise keep our comments mainly to ourselves.

At the start of the month, Harper's was receiving praise from supposed feminists and C.I. had to offer the 4-11:

No, it is never acceptable for a PIG to call a woman a "witch" and it's a damn shame that Riverdaughter -- and the woman who wrote the post Riverdaughter's commenting on -- are so damn ignorant of Scott Horton's work or Harper's magazine. Find the female blogger at Harper's? She does not exist. Find the women regularly published by the magazine? She does not exist. Count the number of women listed on the masthead. By any measure -- topics, writers, etc. -- Harper's is one of the most sexist left magazines today. Long after the election, the magazine's publisher was STILL attacking Hillary in his Providence Journal columns. Considering the magazine's opinion of her, a blog post comparing Hillary to a witch -- good witch or bad witch -- is not ever going to be a good thing.

And we thought about it and wondered if we'd done enough regarding Harper's? Since September, we've called it out twice. "Arthur Krystal delivers a lesson in exclusion" documented

Krystal's lengthy article that allegedly examined the sixties . . . as if women didn't exist. In addition to that number crunching piece, when reader Marcy objected to Harper's Scott Horton's infamously bad blog post calling Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice witches, we awarded Scott "This week's Bronze Boobs." But maybe we haven't done enough? As C.I. pointed out, an examination of the magazine's masthead will convey how hostile Harper's is to women.


But you really don't need to count all those names and add up the figures. To grasp just how hostile Harper's is to women all you need to do is pick up Submersion Journalism: Reporting in The Radical First Person From Harper's Magazine, a 'book' published by The New Press last September which purports to show off the finest cross section of writing ("reporting") that Harper's has exhibited this decade.

For those not in the know, twelve issues of the magazine are published each year. Out of all those issues beginning with the year 2000, the magazine's senior editor Bill Wasik comes up with fifteen articles.

Now, knowing there are 15 articles in the book, take a moment to guess how many are by women?


That appalling figure would seem a good guess if we were discussing The Nation magazine. Harper's fares even worse: one.

14 articles by men, one by women.

Three articles are filed under "THE ARTS" and you might think a gal could catch a break there, but no. It's three men. Women do appear in the "VICE' section -- as whores. Kristoffer A. Garin writes of the search for the perfect mail-order bride, Jay Kirk visits a brothel and while allegedly looking for tunnels, William T. Vollman finds time to note "the girls" who work outside Hotel Nuevo Pacifico.

Stab Barbara Ehrenreich apparently 'thinks like a man' which allows her to be the Queen Bee, the exception, included in the anthology with an article she wrote in 2001.

Roger D. Hodge is the magazine's actual editor ("editor of the magazine") and he doesn't contribute an article but he does pen an introduction in which he manages to compare The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric to . . . Fox "News." If you're thinking he's called a pox on all network evening news casts, you are mistaken. In this intro to a book published at the end of September, Hodge saw fit only to call out Katie Couric's newscast. It's that sort of never-pass-a-chance-to-attack-a-woman that really shows off the flair for misogyny Harper's can't help sporting.

And they can't help attracting it which is how Adam Davidson brought his "Out of Iraq: The Rise and Fall of One Man's Occupation." This story, it should be noted, about Baghdad in 2003, refutes Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn's "Baghdad is having a real estate bonanza!" claims (Davidson is being asked to pay $100,000 to rent a home in September of 2003, finally one is found that can be had for $14,000 for three month periods). Davidson is covering Iraq for NPR. He tells you, "We were living in the Flowers Land Hotel when I decided I wanted a house." He decided. And who is "we." Some 'chick' named Jen. Or, as he puts it, "Jen, my girlfriend." His entourage also includes "my translator, Muhamed, and my driver, Ahmed." You might be wondering what fool took a romantic partner into a war zone but hang on for that. Jen, working with his translator and his driver, finds a home. And Davidson tells us that they'll share the house with "one other couple, Jack Fairweather, the Baghdad correspondent for Britain's Daily Telegraph, and Christina Asquith, a freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor, among other newspapers." It is only after that, on page five of his story, that he feels the need to add: "Jen, whose last name is Banbury, was covering the war for" Yes, that is how it works at Harper's -- a woman has no last name, a woman makes no decision on moving from a hotel to a home, a professional reporter (in a war zone, mind you) is simply "my girlfriend" and the translator and driver working for both of them are just his. And he, and he alone -- to hear him tell it, picked all future "tenant-guests" but, don't worry, "I tried to be selective . . . I didn't want . . . I might pick . . ." He did picking but the housekeeper (yes, they required a housekeeper) or "Jen" would cook dinner for the nightly "dinner party."

As he repeatedly goes on and on about "my house" (and "Mr. Adam's house" as some Iraqis call it), it's cute to notice that when it appears the house will be targeted for violence, it suddenly becomes "our house." It's not at all cute, it's downright offensive, that he feels the need to write about female correspondents sex lives. The women weren't having sex on their own and he demonstrates no prurient interest in the men's sex lives.

But that's never noticed by "the editors" of Harper's because it's just par for the course.

It's long past time that the magazine took a good hard look at the way it operates and whom they choose to highlight. If you doubt us, pick up the very bad Submersion Journalism and grasp that the editors feel this is the best work the magazines done this decade.

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