One of my pet peeves, one I will just never be able to fix and should probably have dropped ages ago, is how bourgeois so much elite journalism is today. Yes, I know it’s more than a little “duh,” having elite journalism populated with elites. But there’s a difference between economic station and worldview. You can’t untangle them entirely — or even mostly. But you can try.
And my beef is that a lot of journalists don’t try. In their defense, they have no incentive to. I mean, as horrible and unbearable as it may be to withstand the (caveat-ridden) criticism of a nobody blogger like me, the need to write what your audience and editors want to read is a much stronger motivation. So elite journalists write stories about elites for elites.
Thus do we get weird and depressing articles like this one from Hanna Rosin in Slate, who takes unthinking and elitist self-regard to not quite a new level but a level I’ve been to a few times before and always tell myself I’ll know better next time. The impetus is that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the fact that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. Rosin initially mocked the idea — which makes sense because it’s totally ridiculous — but then she remembered Mayer made a bunch of money (or something) and had an about-face:
Last week I made fun of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for saying in the PBS Maker documentary about the women’s movement that she would not call herself a feminist. Mayer described feminists as women who are “militant” and have a “chip on the shoulder,” which struck me as a pretty unsophisticated portrait. But a few days later I am starting to reconsider. Maybe Mayer’s outdated stereotypes are distracting me from the more interesting question: If someone as smart and successful as Mayer, someone who tours the country speaking to young women, can’t comfortably call herself a feminist, then maybe we need to take her objection seriously. Maybe there is a reason why that PBS documentary was so much better on the history than it was on the modern era. Maybe feminism is a term too freighted with history and it’s time to move on.
Or maybe Marissa Mayer is just a person, a person who happens to make a lot of money, and we need not fundamentally reconfigure an expansive and rich intellectual, political, and social legacy even if a really rich person disagrees. Maybe we don’t need to pay any more attention to what Mayer thinks about feminism than she pays to what Feminist Of Your Choosing thinks about Yahoo? Given her first instincts, I actually think we might be able to sway Rosin on this one. All we need is a self-identified feminist… just so long as she’s really, really rich.