Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fredrik Deboer on "The Cleverness Ghetto", deleted, but thematically connected to Josephine Livingstone's piece on the scam of womens media at TNR

Deboer deleted it but it seems thematically of a piece with the Livingstone piece I just discussed.
A lot of people are unhappy, because the world is a brutal place. But some people’s unhappiness is embedded in a fierce dedication to living a life of integrity, if not of meaning, and some people’s unhappiness is embedded in cleverness. If you observe social media, you will come away thinking that cleverness is the only virtue human beings have ever valued. The pursuit of cleverness is the white-knuckled endeavor of the gold star kids who grew up to write the world.

What I’ve come to realize is that cleverness has become a ghetto, a ghetto of mind and habit, and that most of the writers inside it are desperately unhappy without knowing why. And I have also come to realize that this is a gendered phenomenon. There is a whole pocket industry of young women whose dictate is to be clever in all things. And while this position might seem temporarily like a place of power, given how reliably its inhabitants sop up compliments from the writing crowd, it is really just another niche that women have been forced into, another prison where they are rendered blunt and unobjectionable. That it all feels so cutting in the moment does not obscure the fact that, from a distance, you can see that they’ve all been defanged.

That guy who started Bustle took a lot of grief, and righteously so. His calculation was gross and cynical and in service to his dullard’s version of capitalism. But in recognizing that women’s media is a constellation of ghettos, he knew the score.

It's not surprising that the post got deleted since to assert that the cleverness ghetto is a gendered phenomenon could be contested, easily.  There are plenty of men who are in whatever the cleverness ghetto may be. 

But the concluding paragraph with reference to Bustle, it seems that there's a sidelong observation that the pocket industry may have done something that is in some ways more damaging to women writers than to silence them, co-opting them and branding them in a way that gives them a niche market which can then be exploited and cordoned off away from anything that might resemble a journalistic mainstream.  What might be sincerely registered as a kind of protest has been assimilated as a niche product. 

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