[Editor's Note: The title of this article was changed because Mr. Williamson objected to being called a "Republican". He did not, however, object to the accuracy of being called a sexist.]
A few months ago, I started getting emails from the National Review. Now, I can’t remember if I signed up for an account to leave a snarky comment and forgot about it, or if someone thought it would be funny to sign me up for it. Regardless, when I received an email urging me, “Let’s Repeal Obamacare!” and “Stop Planned Parenthood!”, I was pretty surprised.
But anyone who knows me knows that I love a good trainwreck, so I never subscribed. That’s why I thought I would be unsurprised when a Facebook friend sent me Kevin Williamson’s article entitled, “Like a Boss” (which I will not link to in this article). After all, I run a sexism blog on Tumblr, I write a few lengthy articles every week about sexism, and defend those articles in the comments section. At this point, I’ve seen it all.
Boy, was I wrong.
Williamson’s article – which is clearly just a trollbait ploy for page views, and a successful one at that – manages to combine the kind of rampant sexism the GOP uses to obfuscate women voting in their own self-interest as naivete and a desire for paternalism, and the constant misinterpretation of evolutionary psychology that must give legitimate evolutionary biologists and psychologists alike high blood pressure. If Williamson were playing sexist bingo, he would have won in the first two paragraphs. He is impressive in his ability to degrade women, and paints them as inconsequential airheads that just need to take a look at Romney’s shiny riches to be distracted away from voting against a man and a platform that has adopted a decidedly anti-woman stance.
I’m not going to link to this trash and give the National Review even more revenue, but there are a few aspects I would like to discuss.
You Can’t Woo Women Voters By Insulting Them
The strategy of Williamson and the GOP at large seems to be straight out of a pick-up artist handbook. His entire article insults women as simple-minded know-nothings who flounce to the polls looking for a mate rather than a leader. Williamson claims that if Romney “owned” the fact that he’s a multi-millionai
Sure, on a sugardaddy dating website, maybe, but I fail to see how that translates to political elections. And Williamson doesn’t stop there. He argues that Mitt Romney having sons is somehow more attractive to women than President Obama having daughters, saying, “Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters… Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.”
Right. Because raising girls makes you a girl. And being a girl is gross and girly, and girls can’t be president.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Kevin: insulting women doesn’t help you get your vote. There’s a reason that women voters trend Democrat. Let’s not forget that women wouldn’t even have a right to vote without the passionate support of Democratic president Woodrow Wilson. And no, conservative pundits, contributors, and shock jocks everywhere, it’s not because they want a “daddy” or a “nanny state” to look after them.
The reason women vote Democratic in US presidential elections is because socially progressive presidents have historically made the greatest strides for women. Women won the right to vote under Woodrow Wilson. Women’s liberation took enormous strides in the 1960′s under JFK and LBJ. President Barack Obama’s first act in office was to sign into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which finally made it illegal to compensate men and women differently for equal work.
An exception of course would be the fact that Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and Title X of the Public Health Service Act were not signed into law until Nixon’s administration. But Nixon, who not only signed those laws but created the EPA, wouldn’t win on any Republican ticket in this day and age.
What have Republicans done for women lately? Besides insulting them left and right, adding abortion restrictions to their platform, threatening to cut the public safety net for young children, vowing to overturn the health care law that prohibits policy discrimination against women, and calling women sluts for using birth control, not a whole lot. But according to Williamson, this party should win the women’s vote, at least “evolutionarily” speaking.
Of course, he got that completely wrong too.
That’s Not How Evolution Works
One of the many issues of Kevin Williamson’s article is that it completely overreaches in its infantile grasp of evolution. This idea that the instincts we inherited from our human and pre-human ancestors – instincts tens of thousands of years in the making – were formed by anything remotely similar to our current society is laughable. Our ancestors survived as hunter-gatherers to pass down phobias of heights, snakes, and spiders because that helped them survive to procreate. Rules of ancient human mating don’t translate to “flocking to successful executives” as easily as someone with no background in biology might think.
And in terms of social history? Western women of all statuses have been exclusively choosing their own husbands for less than two hundred years. Monarchs and nobility were married for political gain, and even the lower classes assembled dowries for their daughters. It’s a relatively recent social development that women have stopped being sold off as chattle – too recent a development to claim that “from an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote.”
Williamson claims that the “Demi Moore–Ashton Kutcher model is an exception — the only 40-year-old woman Jack Nicholson has ever seen naked is Kathy Bates in that horrific hot-tub scene” – but he’s wrong there, too. In fact, more women are breadwinners than ever, and plenty of wealthy women have partners who, regardless of age, are ‘kept men’.
So now that we’ve established that this article is written to the brim with casual sexism that isn’t even based in a scientific reality, the only question that remains is why was this drivel published in the first place?
Trolling For Clicks And Cash
The reason is simple: The National Review wants money. I fully understand this. As one of two people working feverishly on Lawsonry every day, I understand how important page views, visits, and ad clicks are. I completely understand how necessary it is for websites to appeal to potential readers with provocative subjects, innovative ideas, and catchy headlines. As a deputy editor, Williamson was no doubt aware of this strategy when he wrote this unfortunate article.
But baiting people to visit your website by using sexism, bigotry and flat out misrepresentation is succumbing to the lowest common denominator. That isn’t a sustainable business plan, it’s laziness pure and simple. And sure, maybe it paid off today, and maybe the National Review has made an above average chunk of change to pay their staff and donate to the Republican campaign of their choice. But they didn’t work hard for it, and they didn’t earn it.
It’s a lot easier to create a flame war than to actually write thoughtfully and truthfully. My guess is that the National Review’s base is so devoted that in the long run, this won’t hurt their credibility among the people that are already subscribed to them. But as someone who runs a website, writes researched articles every day, and spends a lot of time on the internet, I can tell you that flamebait and Kevin Williamsons are a dime a dozen. They add nothing to the discussion, they obstruct the real issues, and they ultimately have no credibility. They’re shock jocks, nothing more.
At the end of the day, I can say that I’m proud of what I do here. I work hard, I don’t lie, and I don’t stoop to sexism or bigotry to get people to come to my website. The National Review can’t say that for themselves, and they should be ashamed.