A couple of weeks ago NPR Ombudsman (ha) Alicia Shepard became a hero of mine when she ripped her own institution a new one for its lopsided representation of women’s points of view.
NPR’s On The Media took up the meta this weekend to discuss the issue. Their guest? Clay Shirky, assistant teacher at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. You may remember him from his Rant About Women, in which he helpfully mansplained that these kinds of institutional sexism are all our own fault really, because we’re just not prickish enough in advancing our own agenda. The fact that women can face much worse consequences than men do for behaving in the same ways – that a man gets called a prick for it, but a woman gets called a cunt – is apparently immaterial. At least to him.
The host said something like: “Let’s start by acknowledging the irony of having a man on the program to discuss this issue…” at which point, dear reader, I swore fluently, reached over and turned off the radio. No link, because GRAR. Helpful note to On The Media and to Professor Shirky: that ain’t irony. That’s malpractice. If you give a damn about women’s voices… oh, for Christ’s sake, do I actually have to spell this out? Maybe invite a woman on the show. Can’t think of anyone to suggest in your place, Professor Shirky? Biella Coleman has some great suggestions, to whom I would add… NYU Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication Biella Coleman.
THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE PEOPLE. I MEAN REALLY.
Shirky is also famous for saying: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” Way to walk the walk, dude!
OMFG… why did he accept being on the show then? I do wonder what he said and how the show’s host responded. So do put in the link!
Why did he accept being on the show? BECAUSE IT’S WHAT THE MENS DO. WITH THEIR PENISES. Why can’t we be more like them??? What is WRONG with us???
Okay, fine, here’s the stupid link. I’m not going to listen to it though. You can’t make me. I’m going to go listen to Zoe Keating instead.
I listened to it, and it was terrible. Basically he said women need to be more self-touting assholes and that they’re too worried about what other people will think. The host gave her assenting “uh-huhs” and also explained that perhaps NPR was too lazy to find women commentators. Case in point, it seems. Clay was available, and they were too lazy to find someone else. Yikes.
For example, all that a woman had to do to be on this show was to work out that it was going to happen, put together a pitch to demonstrate that she is a leading expert in this area, and sell herself to NPR, all before NPR got on the phone to Clay Shirky.
Can’t see a problem there! Women experts on women’s voices and Clay Shirky are pretty much starting from the same place in that scenario!
Here’s Ophelia Benson on the topic, who I know has been called shrill in a discussion of prominent atheists – because among all of them, of course the lone woman they list is the shrill one.
It’s not that women need to be more prickish; it’s that we all need to be less prickish. Prickishness contributes to mediocrity. Self-promoting assholes put themselves forward, and lazy shows don’t bother to look beyond the usual suspects. And so we end up having the same tired conversations over and over again. YAWN. The core of my complaint is that self-promoting assholes are boring.
Back to Zoe Keating…
Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but Shirky is becoming the go-to person for anything on any topic whatsoever. Whether or not he’s qualified to pontificate on the subject. And the list of subjects he can pontificate upon – without becoming notable facile – is pitifully short.