2008 The Jong-Taibbi Kerfuffle
posted by April 11 at 17:45 PMon
There’s been a bit of a shitstorm between Matt Taibbi and Erica Jong over on the Huffington Post today.
The background: Jong suggested, in a much longer piece about the media’s misogynistic coverage of Hillary Clinton, that Rolling Stone writer Taibbi and several others are sexist because they writes about Clinton’s physical appearance while ignoring male candidates’. In her typically loopy fashion, Jong suggested that male journalists’ obsession with (and judgment of) Hillary’s appearance stems from “a kind of Oedipal obsession with the bad mother — to counter a boy’s attraction to his good mother.”
Predictably, Taibbi—a hot-shit young Rolling Stone reporter who peddles outrage for a living—lost his mind. In a bizarrely self-centered post titled “Erica Jong Thinks I Want to Do my Mother,” Taibbi argued, somewhat convincingly, that he’s also made fun of male politicians’ appearance. He also called Jong a “hack” and an “eight hundred year old sex novelist.” Jong responded, basically, by congratulating Taibbi for being an “equal-opportunity insulter,” and added, “insults are not arguments.” (If anything, Taibbi is relentlessly lookist and fattist—a point CJR writer Megan Garber makes here)
Things might have ended there, had Jong not ALSO gone on to compare Taibbi’s description of Hillary’s “flabby-armed wave” to the stereotypical depictions of Jews circulated by the Nazis—adding, “Similar caricatures were used against African-Americans. And against women.”
Which, again predictably, gave Taibbi an aneyurism. Calling Jong both “silly” and “hysterical” (way to prove you’re not a sexist!), Taibbi responded that Jong was calling him a Nazi and comparing him to the Ku Klux Klan.
Now, I’m not saying Jong wasn’t off the deep end with the Oedipal stuff; she was. And her use of the Nazi analogy was just retarded. Moreover, Taibbi is hardly the worst of the male reporters covering this presidential race. (Though he did run enthusiastically the myth of Hillary’s “manipulative” “tears” in New Hampshire.) But the fact remains: Had Jong been really trying (instead of just being inflammatory), she could have found plenty of examples of male writers covering Hillary in a way that’s both sexist and fundamentally different from the way they cover male politicians. Jong’s point was dead on; it’s unfortunate that she resorted to pop-psych mumbo-jumbo and Nazi references to do it.
Update: Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann made Clinton supporter Elton John his “Worst Person in the World” for suggesting that sexism might exist.