Saturday, January 31, 2009

Women Do! Hero of the Month: Diane Mapes

I refuse to make fun of this story, because it's sort of heartbreaking. Being a female separatist in America would be sort of like being a vegan trapped in a churrascaria for all eternity, constantly fending off pushy waiters armed with giant sabres full of greasy chicken hearts and trying desperately not to vomit. You can't blame them for wanting to hide behind the salad bar.

Besides, there are worse brands of manophobia. I find the kind practiced by aging lesbians in Alabama communes far, far less irritating than the sort of empty, Hallmark-card female exceptionalism touted by your average Lola reader. The script goes kind of like this: "Women are so much smarter/neater/more hygienic/more psychic/saner/saintlier than those awful smelly clods who think they're Jesus Christ because they pick up the tab at Radius. Smirk! Giggle!" It's not really a kind of feminism, but it plays one on TV.

Which brings me to our Ms. January, Diane Mapes.* Mapes recently walked into a seminar purporting to teach her how to speak "Menglish" to those dim apes, emerged un-converted, and got paid to say so. It is fluff, but by God, it is honest fluff.

I learned that men were bound by duty, obligation and honor (weren't women bound by these things, too?) and that they all went through four basic stages of development, including something called The Tunnel, which either was a midlife crisis or a really bad commute between one stage and another.

Or maybe both.

By that time, I was starting to get a little confused about all the things that men were and weren't. Silly me, I thought they were just people like everybody else.

She ends up sneaking furtively out the side door:

Leaving early meant I would miss the top four ways I could gain a man's affection (i.e., charm and enchant him) thus compelling him to "take care of me, contribute to me, protect me and make me happy."

"Contribute to me"? Is that what those things are for?

I had plenty of respect for Alison's research (even more for her well-oiled marketing machine), but I really didn't care about becoming a queen in my own realm. Nor was I interested in learning Menglish or Portuegeezer or Guywanese.

Cheers to you, Mapes. While you're at it, can you put a stop to brocabulary?

*Tip of the hat to Jezebel.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Want To See Sarah Schweitzer's

Gawker is right: this is not only the worst newspaper office memo ever, it's the worst office memo ever, period. Not even Steve Carrell could be so dastardly.

Nevertheless, I would dearly love to see how the Globe's Fluff Squad would respond.

Also. Dear BU Comm majors: Heed the fucking writing on the wall and stay the hell away from journalism. Seriously.

This Has Nothing To Do With Women Do, But It's Sciencey And Porny, So Here Goes

Knight-in-government-waste-hating-armor Chuck Grassley wants to hold up $3 billion for university science in the stimulus bill. Apparently, some guys [Just guessing--Ed.] at the NSF were watching porn on government time. Maybe Chuck should come blow up my house now; there used to be some mice in it.

Next up: Ranking GOP Senate Finance Committee Member Eliminates FEMA; quoth Grassley; "Those guys are always screwing around on the Facebook."

Women Do Time

Brits are wringing their hands this week over a new report claiming a 22 percent increase in crimes committed by girls 10-17. Girl thugs! "Ladette culture"! Heavens!

Not such a bad story, as measured by the official Women Do! Crap-O-Meter. I give it a 1 for Irrelevance, 0 for Bullshit (they actually counted stuff) and 2 for Perkiness. (Ladettes!) But it scores that magical extra point for this:

Roger Grimshaw, from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, told The Times that there now seemed to be a greater intolerance by police of disorder by women.

"Women are more independent, more confident about going out on the street in groups. When there are, therefore, circumstances in which conflict does occur, they can become involved," he said.

You let the ladies out on the streets without male escorts, like a bunch of uncivilized hyenas, and just look what happens. Tragic.

***UPDATE!*** It seems this worrisome phenomenon has reached American shores.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Women Do Bankers

I should have posted this yesterday. But I hate this story so much and for so many reasons that it has blown a giant smoking hole through my forebrain, thus rendering any insightful commentary on it totally impossible. So sorry.

Girl, You So Feisty!

Fine column by Gail Collins in the NYT, serving up a tasty dollop of context to Lilly Ledbetter's huge victory today. In it, she pays homage to the women who have battled to strike down laws upholding sex discrimination, thereby embettering other people's lives without thought for their own personal gain. (As is their wont.)

And then she has to go and drop an F-bomb in the penultimate paragraph. Why, Gail, why? I swear to God, if a vag-bearing person single-handedly saved the White House from an attack of killer warthogs dripping with SARS, armed only with her God-given courage and a ballpoint pen, they'd call her "feisty." If Chesley B. Sullenberger III had been a woman, the headline would have read "Sassy Pilot Just Doing Her Job," and the reporter would have made a note of her footwear.

I beg. No more. No more "feisty," no more "sassy," no more "you go, girl." I believe it is time to begin compiling the Banned Words List. Submissions, anyone?

(Excuse me. The thought of Chesley B. Sullenberger III being female is making me a little weak in the knees. I must go lie down now.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Few Tidbits

-"A laptop for poor widdle women arms."

-Hooray, Science, Part I: Life officially not over until age 33.

-Hooray, Science, Part II: 23 hungry psych students prove women have feebler brains. It must be the hormones.

-Self-serving observation: In their roundup of vegetable-porn outrage, the SF Chronicle missed this.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Women: They Are So Very Busy

Everybody knows women are so busy. It used to be that they were busy at home. Now they're busy at work, and also at home. Even in these challenging economic times, when everybody else is sitting at home in their underwear playing XBox, women are busy. But wherever their busy lives take them, Heather Staible of the Houston Chronicle will be right there to help them figure out what kind of sweaters to buy. Thank God for that!

Staible's recent story on in-home shopping is possibly the most unintentionally hilarious piece of service journalism I've read since John Quinlan's famous paean to the Olive Garden. It begins with what appears to be a line from a press release from 1952...

Home, these days, is where the shopping is shared by women who value personal service and timeless fashion.

...and just gets better from there. Industry spokesman Neil O'Keefe has this to say:

Twenty to 30 years ago, women typically were at home and busy with family but didn’t have access to the variety of products that exist today..."

Ah yes. Who could forget the terrible '80s, when we spent our days squatting before the family cauldron, stirring the soup with a stick and praying that the mailman might one day bring us the Montgomery Ward catalog.

Today, many women are busy with jobs and the family, and shopping from home is a tremendous convenience. We also can’t overlook the increase in desire or need to create a source of income, especially in these challenging economic conditions."

No, we certainly can't. I have no idea how shopping from home can satisfy my increased desire or need to create a source of income, but by all means sign me up.

Further on, "collection recruiter associate" Lisa Liles offers a Zen koan on the benefits of trunk shows:

"The nice thing about trunk shows is that you won’t see yourself coming and going,"

What does that mean? Anyone?

In this desperate hour at the Houston Chronicle, what a relief it is that Heather Staible is still toiling away at her lonely desk, bravely recycling press releases amid the corpses of her fallen colleagues. Soldier on, busy woman. You're not alone.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Happened While I Was On The Beach

I understand some of you have been extremely disappointed in the recent dearth of postings. I have received several formal complaints. As this blog's senior management, official spokesperson, CIO, ombudswoman and Bwana-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for any lapses in content, and would like to issue a sincere apology--

Whoa. What's that? I'm not getting paid for this? In that case, Dear Reader, you can stuff it. I am currently on vacation, which differs from my usual pro bono activities in that my mom has been buying me lunch every day. Thanks Ma!

In the week or so since I last checked in with the world outside of Humboldt County, a lot has happened. We have a new President, and he's on the cover of Ms., which upset several people. Upon taking office, Mr. Obama immediately did away with his predecessor's loathsome abortion gag rule, prompting some 2,007 news articles; by comparison, Mrs. Obama's smashingly newsworthy yellow dress inspired 4,248.

I missed some alliterative nonsense from Natalie Angier, about how Obama's "geek chic" is going to be good for science-women in some unspecified way. (Memes? Really? How scientific, Natalie!) In addition to befuddling the brains of Ms. Angier, Science has also been hard at work on that age-old question, "How do we unify the three different quantum mechanical fundamental interactions of quantum field theory?" Oops, not that age-old question. "What Do Women Want?" Yep, that's the one. They're close to figuring it out, thanks to voodoo and mechanical fruit detectors.

Meanwhile, it seems not much has changed in Globe-land. The End Times are still upon us. Reporters still can't do math. And that prize-winning noodle kugel from September is still the most emailed story of the day. That one almost made me homesick.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oh, All Right, I'll Take the Bait

Be ye advised: Token conservative Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe has a dream. One day, journalists will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

If the color of Obama's skin is immaterial to his fitness to occupy the White House, surely the color of any other man's skin is immaterial to his fitness to cover the White House.

They better not have boobs, though. God knows those things get in the way of typing.

Meredith Goldstein, Call Your Lawyer

When I founded this blog scarcely two weeks ago, I resolved to stay on message, and not to get my knickers in a twist over the off-topic antics of Meredith Goldstein, the Globe's High Priestess of Inanity. Whoops! So much for that.

Today's sticky little bonbon concerns people who found Twue Wuv on the campaign trail this year. My favorite passage:

One soon-to-be-married couple who couldn't go on the record with their names (he now works for Obama, who apparently likes to keep love on the down low) told me they met while campaigning in New Hampshire. It was a match made in heaven - or, actually, a match made in Manchester.

Does she have any idea what she's implying?

Just so this post will have something to do with Women Do, please enjoy the sensible words of tech columnist Don Reisinger. Glad to have you aboard, Don. We shall overcome someday.

Lauren Clark Shows You How It's Done

Last week, F.O.W.D. Ryan Weaver expressed dismay about the Herald's sassy, schlocky Women Drink Drinks article. I concurred. Can't we get some smart coverage of the Boston cocktail scene up in this proverbial bitch?

Well, looky here!* It's a recent article about the very same Boston cocktail scene, featuring the very same Misty Kalfoken. Only it's well-written, knowledgeable and appears to have an actual point beyond "dude, girls drink something other than melonballtinis."

Proving only, perhaps, that trade mags written for people who actually care about stuff are kicking the newspapers right in their grey, saggy arses.

Nightclub & Bar Magazine: 1; Herald: 0.

*Tip of the hat to UHub.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Things to look forward to

From the Globe's Reporters' Questions:

Are you a recently unemployed dad who's now playing
Mr. Mom at home? We'd like to hear how you're doing. E-mail Joseph P. Kahn at

The Audacity of Hope

Much apocalyptic hay is being made of Michael Hirschorn's article in this month's Atlantic. (No, not the white-anxiety-bait article. That other one.)

Hirschorn claims, with typical hyperbole, that there's a nonzero chance the Grey Lady will be dead by May. I'll leave the dissection of that dire pronouncement to cooler heads than mine. But if you managed to wade through the gloom, Hirschorn makes another intriguing--and oddly hopeful--prediction: that journalism could be saved by severing itself from its dumber Siamese twin, Newsish Fluff.

Under the guise of "service," The Times has been on a steady march toward temporarily profitable lifestyle fluff. Escapes! Styles! T magazine(s)! For a time, this fluff helped underwrite the foreign bureaus, enterprise reporting, and endless five-part Pulitzer Prize aspirants. But it has gradually hollowed out journalism's brand, by making the newspaper feel disposable.

Funding hard news with fluff is a time-honored strategy--done best and most inimitably by Vanity Fair, which is fond of wrapping lengthy investigative news pieces in the pearlescent hide of Scarlett Johansson. Is it possible that its day is done?

...Over the long run, a world in which journalism is no longer weighed down by the need to fold an omnibus news product into a larger lifestyle-tastic package might turn out to be one in which actual reportage could make the case for why it matters, and why it might even be worth paying for. The best journalists will survive, and eventually thrive.

Imagine. A future in which reporters would generate actual news. A day no Women would Do. And forty acres and a unicorn for every unemployed member of the IRE.

The prospect of reading the NYT of a morning without encountering Upper-Class Twits like these is indeed a heady one. But I suspect Hirschorn is drinking his own Kool-Aid. Who is it that's going to pay for the revival of real honest-to-God news again? Advertisers? *coughs* Internet news-readers? *spits coffee all over self* Hirschorn points out that HuffPo has raised a bunch of money. Yep. I think once did, too.

Bear in mind as well that this Received Wisdom is from the Atlantic, whose idea of a clever strategy for surviving the Great Magazine Die-Off is to just keep putting Barack Obama's shiny, hopey face on the cover.

(Then again, the Atlantic is still publishing, while its erstwhile associate, the all-fluff 02138, has kicked the bucket. Maybe there's hope after all.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Change afoot at the Globe?

Is it possible the Globe has abandoned Women Do in favor of Men Do? Look: "Some men have been secretly playing Dungeons and Dragons for decades."

Oh, wait, it's by Johnny "Men Do" Diaz. Never mind.

To the estimable commenter known as qweryzxcvbasdfg: Identify yourself, and I will gladly buy you a beer at the greater Boston watering hole of your choice. Except Shay's in Harvard Square. I believe I am no longer welcome at that establishment.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Live Forever, Manohla Dargis

This is not, strictly speaking, a Women Do story.

But we must show the love. When's the last time the NYT ran a story that begins with the sentence, "Do Hollywood studio executives think that women have a gene for tulle?" and ends with "Die, Bridezilla, die!"?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I am not going to go to town skewering the Herald's story today concerning the tendency of certain women to drink decent cocktails. Why? Because Ryan Weaver beat me to it!

Like me, Weaver is a fan of the good works of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails), who are profiled in the story. I have Misty Kalfoken to thank, personally, for the joy that egg drinks have brought into my life. It's so dismaying to watch people who are good and decent and newsworthy even without their female bits get sucker-punched by a Women Do story. Here's Weaver's take:

...We have riffed with the genius Misty Kalkofen at her former post at Green Street, and rubbed elbows with Toro's Kirsten Amann (the female Scotch drinker in this piece) at Eastern Standard. Which is why we think they deserve better than a very belated Herald's article (which amounts to "dude, girls drink something other than melonballtinis?!")...

...Here's to more coverage of Boston's cocktail scene in general in 2009—in which the women who are the backbone of said scene aren't seen as exceptions, but rather the rule.

Right on.

Also, "Raising the bar"???? That the best you got, nameless Herald headline-writer? Feh.

By Their Works Ye Shall Know Them; Or, How to Spot a Women Do Story

First off, congratulations to Adam Gaffin and Shannon Larkin for their speedy work dispatching the task I set before you all. Also, the vintage (circa 1907) story Adam posted is incredible, and deserves its own entry at a future date. More on that later.

I feel a little business is in order.

It must be said: Not every story about women--not even every story about women doing things--is a Women Do story. It can, at times, be tough to tease apart good upstanding journalism featuring women from the works of the Beast. But that, O Readers, is our task. And with a little natural history, everyone can learn to distinguish proper news from Women Do, as easily as telling a Cinnamon Bittern from a Yellow Bittern in the field. (It's the bar-shaped pupil. Duh.)

Every proper Women Do story has three hallmarks, and they are three, and these are them:

1. Irrelevance. The true Women Do story is not about medical issues, or gender discrimination, or anything properly related to women qua women. Oh no. It is about the shocking spectacle of women doing stuff that people generally do. At its heart is typically an earth-shattering revelation that some women, for instance, like to drive motor-cars or eat ice-cream. The reporter sets about tackling this topic with all the barmy innocence of a two-year-old child, a Betelgeusian anthropologist or a time-traveler from 1769.

(Inside tip: As a rule, reporters and editors are not actually all that amazed that women can do stuff. But they think you are.)

2. Bullshit. You will often read, in the pages of your local News-paper, that some femiphenomenon is "increasing" or "on the rise" or that "more and more," women are doing it. You might be tempted to think that somebody has actually counted something. No! Rarely in your true Women Do story does what Jeff Vogel calls "Science, that cruel bitch-goddess" rear Her quantitative head. Science is indeed hard, and J-school graduates tend to hate and fear Her with a loathing typically reserved for oil magnates and bacteria found in sample bottles at the Macy's beauty counter.

But, because no news editor can possibly bring him/herself to run a story unless something is presently increasing or decreasing or physically on fire, things must be On The Rise. And thus, reporters will duly find a few examples, toss around some vague verbiage and call it a day.

(It's well known among news types that Three Makes A Trend. It is also said that the Plural of "Anecdote" is "Data." You are advised to take these slogans with the mighty grain of salt they deserve.)

3. Perkiness. The perpetrators of the classic Women Do story will inflict on us any number of stale puns, cliches, slogans, witticisms and bons mots. They will lard headlines, subheads, captions and ledes with great glops of insufferable cuteness. They will, in their gormless way, encourage girls to go.

I propose a ten-point scale for evaluating the excrescence of individual stories. Three possible points for Irrelevance. Likewise for Bullshit and Perkiness. And one point at the discretion of the judge, to be awarded if it seems clear that the reporter ought to have known better, if it clearly took space from a more important story, or best of all, if the story actually contradicts some earlier story the paper has run on the same topic.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In Which A Contest Is Announced

I must say, I find the response to this nascent bloglet totally gratifying. It's been very well received. By which I mean that several people I already email all the time emailed me and told me they read it. Thanks, folks! And a hearty thank-you especially to Adams Gaffin and Reilly.

Several correspondents made sarcastic remarks about what might be the next entry in the Globe's 23,987-part series, "Women And The Things They Do." Their prospects were hilariously outrageous. But then again, so was that bowling story. I wouldn't put it past some newspaper somewhere to have actually written these stories. And so, the contest is this, O Readers: Find a story in any newspaper anywhere that has done these stories, or reasonably similar ones, and you will receive...

Hmm. There's a dilemma. As of yesterday, I had $5 of free tacos to give away. Oh yes, that very same $5. In El Pelon Bucks. It's been moldering in my desk since the Dig's flaky former business manager paid it to me, one day when they ran out of petty cash to give to stray freelancers. But it seems that El Pelon has just burned to the ground. So if you win, you'll have to be content with that smugness which, like virtue, is its own reward.

For Fictional Story #1, which informs us that women sometimes drive buses, our correspondent has kindly supplied the headline:
Women at the Wheel
Bus driving has long been a man's world, but that's starting to change

For Fictional Story #2, which concerns women and their big dogs, you have a lede to get you started:
"Mary is only 96 pounds and a meager 5'2". She seems delicate, tiny, when she walks her great dane, Bobo, around Hyde Park. But Mary, like a rising number of women today, are opting for dogs of beast-like proportions rather than the ankle-biters sported by Paris Hilton."

Are these stories too vacantly patronizing to exist? Is anything? I once thought I'd seen the most drivellous pap the news industry had to offer. And then I read about Mommy Dating.

Monday, January 5, 2009

a little backstory

Hello there! Welcome to this cantankerous little corner of the blogosphere. If you are, or happen to know personally, a woman, this site is for you. And if you are perpetually amazed by how perpetually amazed newspaper reporters and editors are that women can do stuff, this site is REALLY for you.

Having begun in medias res, as it were, with a cranky rant about tattooixtresses, I thought it might be proper to give this blog a belated introduction. Far from having sprung fully formed from a fit of pique this afternoon, the Women Do Project has been underway for some years--since at least 2006, when I was toiling in the swamps of the Weekly Dig's Media Farm. There, it came to my attention one day that women go bowling. Amazed by this, I did a little poking around, and discovered that women also shoot guns and DJ. Yea, they even blog. There seemed no end to the stuff Globe reporters would uncover about these preternaturally accomplished she-beings.

In our next Farm column (alas, now lost from the Intertubes), we thrust a skewer of mockery through these nuggets of condescending twaddle, offered $5 worth of free tacos to whoever could put a stop to them, and called it a day. Alas, they kept coming. Soon, women were drinking sake and becoming police officers. (They were even ice fishing, though this is clearly hazardous to their health.) In other, less credulous newspapers, they could frequently be spotted buying electronics. And more electronics. And even more electronics.

I developed a reputation for hurling potted plants across the office whenever a "Women Do ____" story came over the transom. People began to send me particularly egregious exempla of the genre. Adam Reilly over at the Phoenix even got into the game. But to no avail. The Globe just kept right on yammering about women playing football and robbing banks. I left the Dig and went to grad school. Eventually I gave up yelling about "Women Do ____" and found other sources of meaning in life.

Until today. I just couldn't take it anymore.

Mein Gott, it's a tattoo!

And not just any fershlugginer tattoo, O Reader. It's emblazoned on a haunch! A juicy, curvaceous haunch! One belonging to a female person, no less! And--get this--the tattoo artist doesn't even have a penis! CALL YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD GLOBE REPORTER, STAT!

Behold, in today's Boston Globe, a classic example of that eternal evergreen, that trendalicious titillater, that freshly-springing font of copy, the "Women Do ____" Story. Thank you, Yoon S. Byun, for calling to our attention the incredible--nay, newsworthy--fact that the women of Boston are loose in the streets, posing as tattooers and tattooees both.

Like most "Women Do" stories, Byun's paean to female inkslinging contains a splendid specimen of The Pointless Female Exceptionalism Quote (PFEQ). Right up top, too. In case you were wondering what earthly difference it could possibly make what kind of junk the inky wretch carving "MOTHER" into your ass possesses.

"[He] was very chatty and nice," says Priddy. "But Sharon and I talk about girly things: her family, my family, the intricacies of family."

Family chitchat, vagina-Americans and tattooing, together at last!

We also get to meet another stock "Women Do" character, the Post-Feminist Pollyanna (PFP). Here we have the sadly deluded Eva Huber, thinking people will care how good she is at her job or something.

"I would like to think I get more customers because they like my work," she says. "I don't like to play up the fact that I'm a girl in a male-dominated industry. I'd like them to look at my portfolio and a man's portfolio and make a decision on the work, not on the gender."

Bzzzzt! Thanks for playing, Eva! Sure, you can make tattoo needles and tile floors and you're an artist and whatever. But everybody knows your genitalia are your defining characteristic. You can read it in the Globe every day.

As always, gentle reader--"It Is Not Done Well; But You Are Surprised To Find It Done At All."