Sexism Alive and Well in Journalism: The Tale of Rosie Gray

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Yesterday, Firedoglake published a sexist, crude hit piece on BuzzFeed writer Rosie Gray. Blogger DSWright accused Gray of obtaining information by sleeping with sources, writing that Eli Lake “may be pumping more than stories into Gray.” The outcry was such that Wright later changed the phrase to “may be having a romantic relationship.”

Now, the claimed impetus for the story is that Rosie Gray’s focus on a subject’s father in a recent piece lowers the level of discourse while adding little of value. And perhaps there’s a case to be made that this “takes the politics of personal destruction to whole new level.” But if that’s true, isn’t focusing on someone’s supposed sex life taking the politics of personal destruction to whole new, new level?

Wright must not believe actually this. Because if so, it would make no sense to then double down by not only doing the same thing to Rosie Gray (he digs up dirt on a novel her father wrote) but actually taking the personal attack one giant leap forward with the claims about her sex life and journalism overlapping.

Either the practice leaves Wright “in shock and awe,” as he claims, and he won’t stoop that low, or he would, and it doesn’t, and he’s actually just looking for any excuse to lob sexist accusations at Gray.

This happens on the same day that Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson apologized for disgusting and sexist tweets from one of his writers. Apparently Patrick Howley thought it appropriate to publicly opine, “Not to make an obvious point, but who the Hell would want to pump Rosie Gray?” And then, “‘Pumping’ Rosie Gray must be the most traumatic experience since Somalia.” His account has since been deleted.

Maybe Firedoglake is the Perez Hilton or Christopher Cantwell of progressivism and gets the vast majority of its traffic by lobbing made-up, insane accusations at people other people are actually interested in. Some have made the case that this should be ignored, because giving it attention encourages it. However, perhaps there’s even more good to be done by shining a light onto this darkness.

While the claim that one “slept their way” somewhere could theoretically made about someone of any gender, it is in practice a pretty gendered accusation. It’s the easiest way to attempt to tear down a successful woman to claim that her success is not “earned.” The practice also carries with it some pretty serious slut-shaming and puritanical undertones. The history of journalism is filled with reporters getting information all sorts of ways. What, really, does it matter whether Gray got leads from her boyfriend? Are they correct? If her information is wrong, does it not make far more sense to make a deal out of that? Or is the purpose less to challenge Gray’s credibility and more to shame her while titillating readers?

Studies show that people dislike successful women. Perhaps even for Firedoglake’s progressive audience, there’s no quicker or easier way to attack an unliked, successful woman than to accuse her of sexual impropriety.

Cathy Reisenwitz is an Editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State and a blogger for the Huffington Post and writer for Bitcoin Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has appeared on Fox News and Al Jazeera America.

Photo: Twitter/@rosegray

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