Aug 21, 2009

Sands Time

Thomas Garvey's long-awaited Part III in his Emily Glassberg Sands takedown is here. It takes on the main "news" of Sands' study--that female artistic directors were much harder on women writers than male artistic directors were--with logic that seems to me a bit pretzel-like. Garvey essentially argues that female artistic directors, seeing a woman's name on the title page of writing samples Sands sent out, naturally and defensibly reacted from their own internalized sense of "what plays will succeed." If that's not sexism, it's surely a symptom of it, isn't it?

One bit stuck out as a typically tendentious Garvey touch. He's describing the generally unappealing female characters in Sands' writing samples, and he mentions
a woman dallying sexually with her best friend's college-age son - a controversial form of empowerment, to be sure, and one I can well imagine raising hackles in mature female readers with horny sons of their own.

Hmmm. Sounds like a bit of a reach. Why, I wonder, would this affect "mature female readers" with "horny sons" more than dads with same?

By spending so much time and consideration on this issue, and trying to delve deep into the primary sources behind some contentious headlines, Garvey is doing a valuable public service of a sort. But he's also painting himself into a corner--the familiar I-blogged-something-controversial-and-I-won't-back-down-in-fact-I'll-double-down corner, which I think of as the Megan McArdle and Leonard Jacobs model, as opposed to the I'm-thinking-out-loud-and-revising-my-thoughts-and-admitting-mistakes-as-I-go approach (the Andrew Sullivan and Isaac Butler model). I find the former attitude fascinating, even entertaining, but ultimately maddening and off-putting, and the latter ingratiatingly transparent and inviting, and ultimately better for clear and productive dialogue. Both approaches seem to be uniquely products of, and suited to, the blogosphere, but I'll gladly throw my hat in the latter ring.


Leonard said...

I'd rather be maddening than a waffle, Rob.

If the value of conviction -- the fortitude to fight for a belief -- is so small, so easily cast aside in the face of debate, then what, exactly, is the end of discussion itself?

Thomas Garvey said...

I think you found my logic "pretzel-like" because you didn't understand it. First, I pointed out that the scripts were rated lower by women because of their belief in the existence of sexism and their response to the scripts' "unlikable" female characters (those are the survey results, not me, talking). My point then was that the "unlikable" female characters in the plays - and they are, indeed, unlikable - would likely resonate more strongly with women who believed they were being discriminated against. In a word, if you felt your ethnic group or gender were under attack, you would probably also more intensely resent negative characterizations of your group - particularly by members of your group! If that logic seems "pretzel-like" to you, I'd recommend a course in human psychology.

As for your preference in blogging styles, it's fine, of course, if you prefer Isaac Butler's openly hypocritical, pasted-together-on-the-fly-justification-for-my-latest-self-serving-behavior to my methodical, building-a-case model. Plenty of people prefer dishonesty to honesty, believe me. But just remember that Andrew Sullivan's "admitting his mistakes" method has included admitting that he was mistaken about the Iraq War, and about George Bush, and Al Gore. When I make a single mistake as big as those, call me. Until then, try to figure out a few more of those pretzels.