Fellow blogger Todd Epp has undertaken a dramatic overhaul of his numerous blogsites, among them SD and Kansas Watch, and created a more “newspaperly” feel with all features on a main splash page of the new Middle Border Sun.
Among the new features for what was “SD’s Most Trusted Blog”–Today’s Babe.
I met Todd at last summer’s SD Blogosphere picnic, and have been following (though not so well recently) his excellent news coverage ever since. When I heard about this overhaul with accompanying “Babe Feature” through fellow blogger Cory Heidelberger at the Madville Times, well–it was like our good liberal District 17 Senator Ben Nesselhuf went to Pierre and morphed into Roger Hunt.
Well, maybe that’s a little over the top.
Heidelberger set out to do a “feminist critique” of Epp’s new blog traffic strategy (which of course added to Epp’s traffic, as this post may do, more modestly), and Epp’s reaction was to respond with an incredibly weak cowpie of a chauvinist defense in another feature: “Today’s Blog War.” Nothing like sex and violence to drive blog hits!
The funny thing is–almost all of the discussion around this new feature has been by men. Heidelberger notes in his post that the estimable Dakota Women bloggers have not commented–though it’s obvious from visiting their site that they have another, more serious matter on their minds–the murder of Dr. Tiller seems more newsworthy than a babe feature.
Heidelberger mostly gets it, though, when he explains:
Men view women in a way women rarely view men. Mr. Epp’s babe posts carry the subtext that women are worth paying attention to only because they are pretty. Even if women have numerous other talents to recommend them, we still too often tie them to their appearance.
I’m accused of objectifying women. Ok, perhaps guilty as charged. But I also appreciate beautiful women–particularly strong, intelligent, and funny women. And if they are South Dakotans, so much the better. Women like my own better half, Mrs./Dr. Middle Border Sun nee South Dakota Watch. Women like Shannon Stevens and January Jones. They are South Dakota women of achievement–and good looks.
Here’s the problem: as Heidelberger points out, too often women’s achievements are tied to their looks, and for some, let’s admit, their good looks are their achievement. But Epp’s feature, purportedly to celebrate South Dakota women of achievement, necessarily leaves out those “women of achievement” who are not so easy on the eyes.
Or it relegates them to another feature, which implicitly casts the judgment that they don’t belong in the “babe” category. They did something worth talking about, but they just aren’t that great-looking, so we’ll toss them in another, not-so-hit-intensive category.
I’d rather be in the “Not-Babe” category–thanks, even if it means not so many hits. Because another problem with this category is its name: “Babe.” While Epp claims he is celebrating, not diminishing women, the diminutive he uses to describe the women he’s “celebrating” tells a different story. He does the same thing, by the way, when describing fellow blogger Heidelberger:
My young liberal friend Cory Heidelberger is a far more enlightened male than I am.
One would assume that the author of DharmaTweets would pursue the sort of enlightenment he assigns to his colleague, rather than smirking at it, and at Heidelberger’s youth.
Epp also provides the “Esquire defense,” featuring an image of the magazine’s cover with a scantily-clad Carmen Electra in pigtails having her bikini bottom pulled off by a dog and an “oh-my-what-is-happening” look on her face:
Esquire magazine has been doing this sort of things for nearly 80 years. Intelligent non-fiction. Cutting edge non-fiction. Poetry. How to be a better man and person. And featuring fabulous babes.
Being a lawyer, Epp should recognize his own bandwagon fallacy, and he should also recognize that Esquire is a men’s magazine–written to celebrate men’s lives, men’s power, and men’s ability to objectify pretty women–even if they have achieved something besides their looks. Is this a good model for South Dakota’s most trusted blog?
And the idea that “…the new and improved Middle Border Sun gives you the option to gloss over what you don’t like and read what you do like” hides the fact that unlike Esquire, or even a regular newspaper, the content of the Middle Border Sun is written and controlled almost exclusively by one author. “Glossing over” certain features on a one-author site does not escape the viewpoint or prejudices of the author one disagrees with.
On a final amusing note, both Heidelberger and Epp use their maleness as a construct in defense of their positions:
And here’s Epp–in a Facebook response to my comment on his “Blog War” link:
I’m a big guy. I can take my lumps from my buddies.
Well, I’m not man enough, and I’m not a big guy, but I am a South Dakota woman of achievement and a feminist who’s not afraid to call out a BS defense of objectification of women on what is supposedly a trusted news blog by a lawyer who, I’m guessing, won’t be getting any clients for sexual harassment suits anytime soon.
See you at the South Dakota Blogosphere Open House!