On “Girls,” internet commenters, and male critics

OK, a few quick things.

Thing 1) Todd VanDerWerff got fed up with the rampant sexism on the comment thread for his “Girls” reviews over at The A.V. Club, and wrote up an impassioned response.

Thing 2) While it’s great that many (including myself) linked to his response, many people seem shocked–SHOCKED, I TELL YOU–to learn that sexist douchery exists on the internet.

Thing 3) Slamming douchebags that spew that stuff online (all in the name of “comedy”, they mewl, when confronted with their idiocy) is fine and noble but misses the point.

Thing 4) The point is to deal with these systemic problems at a root level before the fact, not after the fact.

Thing 5) While we have a few female TV critics doing the heavy lifting of filling in the spaces left far too blank for for too long by male critics, it’s no longer enough to simply link to articles by Mo Ryan, or retweet material by Alyssa Rosenberg, or nod approvingly at the work done by Emily Nussbaum, Linda Holmes, and others. We should be applauded that work, but we should also be ashamed we’ve left that work for them to do.

Thing 6) It’s true that everyone should write from a perspective that is true and interesting and vital, it’s equally true that not every unique perspective need be left alone in order to respective the individual voice. An individual voice within a shared space is one thing. A voice crying out to be heard inside a veritable vacuum is another.

Thing 7) While I have supported these female writers, I haven’t done nearly enough in this regard. They don’t need my help, but their voices shouldn’t exist in a space unto their own, either. I respect them so much that I may have left them unintentionally isolated, and that’s a pretty shitty thing to have done. It’s hard for me to decry sexist shit on the internet when I have done so little to foster an environment in which such discourse doesn’t need to be policed in such a vigilant manner. This isn’t about swooping in to “save” these women. It’s about recognizing how much I have to learn from them.

Thing 8 ) I’ll do better. Don’t know how, or in what form. But I’ll do better, and I hope my other male critics do the same. Accepting things as they are isn’t possible anymore, and it’s up to all of us to do our part to make things better. And then? Make them right.


  1. elena
    Posted May 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Yay! (This made me happy)

    With critics, with TV show writing staff, with showrunners, with network executives…there’s a lack of people of color and women, and it shows in the things that get produced and the things that become popular. I’m definitely for varied viewpoints, and while Lena Dunham’s show might not be for everyone, isn’t it cool that there is a woman who’s sharing her viewpoint with others?

    While it doesn’t surprise me that the comments section is crazy-heated (and crazy-incorrect, some of the time), it does make me sad that people still think those kinds of opinions are acceptable, and not only acceptable, but valid enough to post many, many times, anonymously on an internet site. The internet is easy because it’s anonymous, but that doesn’t make the things said any less hurtful or wrong or sexist or racist or full of shit.

    It’s a symptom, though, of the larger systematic problem of a lack of representation (Glad you pointed that out, Ryan!). I still think it’s good to comment and let people know why their viewpoints are offensive, because maybe you’re the only person who will ever be able to tell them that, but I think all this Girls controversy has really brought to light how important it is to have women in the mix, in the conversation. That’s how we grow, right, by learning from people who are different than us?

  2. Ned
    Posted May 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you do need to do any more. If you a review shows honestly and without bias then you are doing a service to every female auteur anyway. The last thing you want to do is treat female writers, show runners, etc any differently than the male ones, thats every bit as sexist and the idiots who shout obscenities at them.

    As for the morons who make those distasteful comments let them at it. Most people are horrible anyway, there is nothing you can do about it.