On my day off from work the other week, I engaged in my first Twitter debate. I was perusing the Timeline when I came across a Tweet from Amanda Marcotte, a writer for Pandagon and one of the leaders of today’s feminist movement. I had been in touch with Marcotte recently, asking her to contribute to my piece on Skirtgate, the Park Slope, Brooklyn sexual assaults contretemps (which, incidentally, inspired my next piece titled Feminism: The Winter of Men’s Discontent, a commentary on the rise of misandry and men’s growing resentment toward feminism). Marcotte tweeted that she was disgusted with the New York Times for giving air-time to Katie Roiphe, who argued in a recent op-ed that sexual harassment in the workplace is an irrelevant, antiquated institution. Or in her words: “When I was at Princeton in the ’90s, the guidelines distributed to students about sexual harassment stated, “sexual harassment may result from a conscious or unconscious action, and can be subtle or blatant.”… If this language was curiously retrograde in the early ’90s, if it harkened back to the protection of delicate feminine sensibilities in an era when that protection was patently absurd, it is even more outdated now when women are yet more powerful and ascendant in the workplace.”
Roiphe is one of the most talked about cultural critics of her generation (her book Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939 was a delight to read, by the way). But Marcotte isn’t a fan. Fueled by her rage at Roiphe’s commentary, Marcotte launched insults at her throughout her response piece, writing things like, “She cashes that NY Times paycheck while doing no real research that could actually upend her baseless assertions” and “I’m looking forward to Roiphe’s denunciation of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, where she scoffs at the idea that pantsing a kid and calling him ‘fag’ on a daily basis should be a matter of concern, and not just a delightful expression of youthful boisterousness that shouldn’t be troubled by the high suicide rate amongst gay teens.” Marcotte considers Roiphe a giggling “hair-curler” who “panders to sexist men for condescending head pats.”
When I engaged Marcotte on Twitter I knew I was in for a wild ride. She is adept at Tweet debating (Twebating?) and dominated our discussion, firing out replies and replies to my replies three or four at a time, leaving me heady and confused as to which reply I should reply to. I’m new to Twitter and am still working on Tweet etiquette and strategies. Perhaps I tried too hard to fit all of my thoughts into one tweet – often substituting numbers for letters and symbols for words, which I now see is not the most couth approach – as opposed to doing it piecemeal like Marcotte.
The question that started it all was based off Marcotte’s response piece, in which she used the word slut several times (she wasn’t calling Roiphe a slut but used the word in other ways). I was curious to know, simply: “Do you have a definition for the word slut?” In recent times, feminists have appropriated the word, wearing it like a badge of honor at various protests, such as the Slut Walks, but I wanted to know how Marcotte actually defined it. Here’s how the debate began (I’ve done my best to reconstruct it):
http://bit.ly/tGiyq3 Fucking disgusting that the NY Times continues to run people questioning whether or not to allow harassers full rein.
@AmandaMarcotte – Hi, Amanda. Curious: Do you have a definition for the word slut?
@NeelySteinberg Yep. A “slut” is someone who has had sex with two more people than the person calling the target a slut.
@NeelySteinberg “Slut”, however, has no relationship to reality. It can’t be measured and basically is meaningless without misogyny.
@NeelySteinberg In other words, to believe in the concept of a “slut”, you must believe women are inferior to men on some level.
@AmandaMarcotte – Can we agree it’s not just a term used toward females? What about misandry – women calling men “sluts”? That happens too.
@NeelySteinberg If you believe that, I have a bridge I can sell you.
@AmandaMarcotte – may not happen as often, but my friends and i have called men “sluts” and “man whores” plenty of times. it goes both ways.
@AmandaMarcotte – Don’t understand how u go from critiquing Roiphe to saying she would scoff at calling little boys “fags.” A stretch, no?
@NeelySteinberg It’s a really nice bridge. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Can you get to the San Francisco area soon with your checkbook?
@NeelySteinberg It’s also made of PURE GOLD. And you can have it for a mere $5,000. It’s an incredible bargain.
@AmandaMarcotte -i had a feeling u would start to belittle my thoughts…a shame…I’m a fellow female who is just trying 2 have a dialogue.
@NeelySteinberg If you believe ironically calling someone a manslut is the same as calling a woman a slut, you have growing up to do.
@NeelySteinberg I don’t really see the point in arguing with people who are being disingenuous, sorry.
@NeelySteinberg And I can’t force you to grow up on Twitter, so what’s the point of engaging you?
@AmandaMarcotte – that’s ur biggest mistake, amanda. thinking that people who disagree w/you r being disingenuous. for the record, i’m not.
@AmandaMarcotte – why is calling someone a man slut ironic? you don’t think women feel grossed out by men who fuck everything that moves??
@NeelySteinberg If calling a man a “slut” with humor is the same thing as calling a woman one sincerely, then I AM selling you a bridge.
@NeelySteinberg If you sincerely don’t believe in irony or nuance or context, then you believe I’m actually trying to sell you a bridge.
@NeelySteinberg You can’t have it both ways. So what’s your offer on that bridge? I’m not mocking you; there is no such thing as irony.
@NeelySteinberg For the record, I do think you’re being disingenuous. The only other option is “really daft”, and I don’t want to think that
@AmandaMarcotte – that’s right. begin the ad hominem attacks.