Smear Tactics in the Feminist Blogosphere

I thought the dust had settled five months ago, after Hillary Clinton gave her rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention urging women to actively support Barack Obama.  While some feathers were ruffled on the left when Clinton was appointed to be Secretary of State, I presumed that feathers on the right would be relaxed and tidy.  The one thing I should have known was that birds of various feathers rarely flock together.

On Sunday, February 8th, I got a series of e-mails alerting me to a blog campaign against a potential candidate to fill the top post at the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.  Actually, the job wasn’t even on my radar.  I’ve been focused on the drama of the stimulus bill.

The candidate in question was Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women.  I had just heard her speak in Washington D.C. about the imperative need to fund 1.6 million women’s jobs.  In addition, I was aware of her long history as a lawyer, fighting for a woman’s right to fair and equal treatment.

Seeking out the back-story on this “call to action,” I traveled from link to link.  I ended up on the site of an organization that characterized itself as a “national non-partisan women’s rights group.”  There, a letter was posted to President Obama stating why they did not believe Gandy would be appropriate for the job.

Radiating out from this page, were links to other blog posts.  Remarks encompassed statements including: Obama was a misogynist, true feminists would support a woman candidate regardless of her views, a reference to a Gandy quote about Larry Summers (later corrected and put in context by the New York Times), angry statements directed at the NOW endorsement of Obama, and assorted accusations against Gandy that ran the gamut of pejorative labels.

Calling George Mitchell!!  Forget the Middle East.  Your services are needed in the sprawling community of women who have different visions of “feminism.”

My concern is the tone permeating the anti-Gandy rhetoric.  Jonathan Alter of Newsweek pointed out at a 2008 new media conference that writers on the web, emboldened and sheltered by the cloak of anonymity, present invective posing as commentary and insight.

Differences are to be expected.  So is civil discourse.

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