Sunday, August 04, 2013

A Tragic Story As Object Lesson

I suppose it would be trite at best to point out that this is awful:
A 35-year-old media executive on a first date plunged to her death Thursday after the railing on her 17th-floor New York City balcony gave way, police said.

Jennifer Rosoff went outside for a cigarette around 12:50 a.m. when she either sat on the railing or leaned on it. Her date told her that she probably shouldn't do it, and then moments later, she apparently fell backward and landed on construction scaffolding at the first floor, authorities said. Police spoke to the man and no foul play was suspected.
It's a tragic story, though I probably wouldn't comment on it if not for a small dust-up about it.

You might want to read over it again quickly.

Perfectly straight-forward reporting, right?

Though the event itself is terrible, it's a story about the reporting that caught my eye.

One L. V. Anderson at Slate's XX Factor writes:
Let’s break this down. According to the AP, the crucial facts you need to know about Rosoff right off the bat are that:

1. She was 35 and single.
 2. She was a smoker.
 3. She invited a man back to her apartment late at night on a first date.
 4. The man warned her not to lean against the balcony, but she did it anyway.

The implication being that this smoking slut totally had it coming. A reader is left with the distinct impression that if Rosoff hadn’t invited her date inside, hadn’t gone outside to smoke a cigarette, and hadn’t defied the advice of the wise and logical man she was with, she would still be alive. According to the AP story’s subtext, the problem wasn’t that Rosoff’s balcony railing was shoddy and unsafe—it was that Rosoff defied gender norms by being unmarried at 35, by being sexually liberal, and by insisting on making her own decisions instead of deferring to men’s logic.
This is what we call "making shit up." It's a blatantly false accusation of sexism. There is absolutely nothing sexist about the original story. It's straight-up accurate reporting. There is no sexism and no hint of sexism in it.

Who, for the love of God, thinks that there is anything in any way notable about someone being unmarried at the age of 35? Or, y'know, any age? Where, in the original story, is there any hint of disapproval about the date? What even vaguely sane person could read this story and think that the conclusion was supposed to be "this smoking slut" [sic] "had it coming"???

This Anderson's essay is flat-out delusional.

It's appalling that people can get away with this type of nonsense. Sexism is a serious vice. And the more serious a transgression, the more serious are accusations thereof. Accusations of bigotry are serious. And irresponsible accusations are correspondingly serious.

Unfortunately, many on the left are extremely permissive about false accusations of racism and sexism. There is often a kind of guilty unless proven innocent mentality. In fact, the only criticism commonly allowed is that false accusations "hurt the movement" by driving people away. It's true that they do, but that is of secondary importance. Of primary importance is that it is wrong to falsely (and/or irresponsibly) accuse someone of doing something wrong. 

I know I harp on this, but there is irrationality on the left that is every bit as deep-rooted and pernicious as the irrationality on the right. It's important that liberals recognize it, reject it and criticize it. What Anderson writes is utter hogwash, and deserves to be widely ridiculed. I have no doubt that it will be ridiculed on the right...but I'll frankly be a bit surprised if it receives the ridicule it deserves from liberals. I hope I'm wrong...

Well, more thing...  How on earth did Anderson write the following with a straight face?:

If Rosoff "hadn’t defied the advice of the wise and logical man she was with, she would still be alive."


Rosoff insisted on "making her own decisions instead of deferring to men’s logic."

Look, you idiot...  As a matter of fact, the guy was right. And, in fact, his advice was not accidentally right, but eminently reasonable. Rosoff should, in fact, not have sat on a flimsy railing on the 17th floor. Nobody is blaming her for it, but it's an interesting feature of the situation that she had just been advised not to do it before the railing gave way. No one is ever going to leave that part out of the story not matter what sex the participants are. The guy was right--men are, sometimes, right, Ms. Anderson. And a good point is a good point, and sound advice is sound advice, even if the person making the point or giving the advice has a penis, and the other person does not. Snarky nonsense about "men's logic" are stupid enough under normal circumstances...but in this case the comments are astonishingly, pathetically idiotic.

 I imagine the following scene:

Fade in on L. V. Anderson smoking while putting gas in her car.

Enter, a male.

Male: "Oh, wow, you do realize that it's really dangerous to smoke while you are pumping gas, right? The fumes can ignite..."

L. V. Anderson: I have had just about enough of your mansplaining! Enough trying to prevent me from making my own decisions by assaulting me with your male logic!

[Suddenly, the fumes ignite, and Anderson is consumed by flames.]

L. V. Anderson: Oh, now I suppose you're going to say "I told you so"? I suppose you're going to try to say that I'd still be un-immolated if I'd have listened to your mansplanation. You think that you were right and I was wrong. Oh, big rational man! Silly woman doesn't know how gas works! Right? RIGHT????  Stop trying to oppress me, shitlord!

Fade out...

Jeez, what an embarrassment.


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