On Sunday, the Washington Post published a controversial and now-infamous article, “We Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?” The piece met much, much criticism, from myself and others, some outraged, some baffled, some in between. (You can read just some of the commentary on the article here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.) So I was happy to read that its author, Charlotte Allen, agreed to answer reader questions about her essay yesterday afternoon, via a chat on the Post’s Web site.
I was less happy to read her answers, which were frustrating in both their brevity and their dismissive tone. The chat makes a quick read, if you’re interested, but to spare you the repetition (angry-question-terse-answer quickly feels as redundant as it is)—here’s, to my mind, the chat’s most salient moment: Allen discussing her intentions in writing the essay. The piece was not, apparently, intended as satire. It was just meant to be funny. “I wouldn’t quite use the word ‘ironic,’” Allen wrote, “but yes, I meant to be funny but with a serious point—that women want to be taken seriously but quite often don’t act serious. Also, that women and men really are different.”
I’m not quite sure what’s worse—that Allen actually thought her piece was funny, or that she found it necessary to waste time, hers and ours, proving that men and women are…different. But, hey, I guess we should just be happy she managed to get the piece written in the first place. That’s a hard thing for a lady to do. I, myself, once tried to write a humorous essay proving that the world is round—but there was a really good episode of Oprah on that day, so, you know…Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.