Post Classifieds

Sometimes It's News, Not Sexism

By Rebecca Brown
On November 9, 2010

A few weeks ago Gawker.com published an anonymous account titled, "I Had a One-Night Stand With Christine O'Donnell." For those who weren't following the recent midterm election lead-up, O'Donnell ran and lost as the Republican candidate in the Delaware Senate race. Incidentally, O'Donnell is also an unmarried 41-year-old woman who became an Evangelical Christian in her twenties.

O'Donnell ran on a platform that took a hard line on family values and worked to perpetuate an image of a sexually abstinent woman. The account published online, however, depicted a woman who actively sought a "hook-up," if you will, from a man she barely knew while drunk. The man in question didn't mince his words, writing in graphic detail a thorough account of her behavior that night from the bar to the bedroom. They did not, however, have sex. The author of the article went on to note that O'Donnell ended up dating his roommate for several months and he doesn't believe that they ever slept together either.



Once published the article went viral. Women's organizations, pundits, and O'Donnell herself responded angrily. Gawker was accused of sexism, political bias, and, last but not least, a misleading headline. Gender warfare aside, a one-night stand does imply actual sex, which the man admitted did not happen.



I didn't really think much of the original article. Embarrassing details of candidates' personal lives are nothing new at this point, but the response that Gawker published a few days later did make me pause.



Gawker made a fair point in their rebuttal- how can anyone argue that O'Donnell's personal life isn't fair game for the media when so much of her platform is based on an image she cultivated premised on that very thing- her personal life.



Fair enough. After all, though O'Donnell didn't actually engage in intercourse, she did get drunk and naked with a stranger. But then there's the whole "woman" thing. As an editor at this paper and even a lowly intern at publications I have worked for over the summer, I tend to err on the side of "Publish!", but then again, as a female, the idea of, as Gawker called it, "slut-shaming" wouldn't be foreign to any young woman of my generation.



So, did Gawker have a responsibility to protect O'Donnell because she was a woman? If O'Donnell had been a man with a similar platform would that salacious account have been news? If she was a man with a socially liberal agenda would it have mattered? And then, assuming you answer "no" to at least one of those questions, does the media have a responsibility to take into consideration their readers' biases, or, more bluntly, their possible sexism?



So, I thought about it as someone often on deadline, and I thought about it as a female, and I came to the same conclusion: "Publish!"



This isn't sexism. So long as public figures use their personal lives to further their professional goals, it's fair game. The media is more invasive than it was in 1960. Sorry I'm not sorry. The reason for that, in part, is because there is a greater demand for transparency. If you don't like it, do something else. Or stop being a hypocrite.



If O'Donnell had been a man with the same sound bites and the same agenda, this story would have been published. And her defenders did women everywhere a disservice by playing the "sexism" card. Gender inequality exists in this country, but that issue deserves far more respect than being used a cheap ploy when one's back is up against a wall. This wasn't sexist; this was holding someone accountable. As long as the press can find a disparity between a candidate's words and actions, then "Publish!"



As for the "gentleman" in question- he wasn't one. But again, that's on O'Donnell. Not Gawker.



-RSB


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