"Can you turn something around for me real quick?" Gambit's editor-in-chief Kevin Allman asked before pointing me toward a Vanity Fair article. Something about Bobby Jindal's spouse Supriya being named one of the most stylish political wives. "It implies there aren't any women among the elected officials."
I clicked the link, all ready to stew in a hot bath of self-righteous indignation. The sexist verbiage did not fail to deliver:
So, just to start unpacking the implications: Headline: "The Good Wives." Really? First line: "Faith in our elected officials may be fading, but of this we’re sure: their wives remain as stunning as ever." As stunning as ever. Because a woman's appearance, not her career or her charitable contributions, is her most valuable and noteworthy attribute. And the fact that our elected officials are men is assumed and implicit. (Although, sadly, that's less of a sexist slip of the pen and more a reflection of reality; see the handy infographic for an accurate picture of the gender breakdown in Congress circa May 2013.)
Now I was really pissed. Who was this Mattie Kahn? What other sexist garbage had he spewed? It only took a few minutes with Google to find out he wasn't a he. Mattie Kahn is a female, 20-something Harvard student, class of 2015. She seems whip-smart and down to earth and not misogynist at all. She could be my intern, in a different world where I have an Ivy League degree and work for a New York-based media conglomerate.
Should I rebuke her in the inflammatory Internet-snark speak that generates so many clicks? Is it anti-feminist for me to criticize a woman for praising another woman's fashion choices, especially when I edit a fashion publication? Does the fact that a male editor asked me to do so make the situation more problematic? Did Mattie Kahn even create the offensive hed herself? Or was she, like me, just following orders?
I don't know the most appropriate course of action to take in this situation. I do know Vanity Fair's writers and editors can and should do better. I also know Supriya Jindal's husband Bobby looks handsome as ever, and that Supriya is to be congratulated for her nonprofit's work to advance math and science education in Louisiana classrooms.