MIDWAY : A blog too far

Last weekend, the New York Times magazine’s cover story was written by Emily Gould, a 26-year-old former editor of the Manhattan-based media gossip website Gawker; 6,000 words on the consequences of blogging in fantastic detail about her personal and professional life on Gawker and her blog. The piece was well-written and had a tacky, voyeuristic appeal;

it was both discomfiting

and fascinating to see someone choose to lay themselves so bare. Gould is an attractive woman and the magazine accessorised the piece with a dreamy cover shot of her lying on a bed.

The reaction to the piece when it ran on nytimes.com was immense; more than 1,200 people posted comments, a huge online response with few precedents. A few posts were complimentary, but most were furious. Almost all the critical posters suggested that she was a meaningless human being who should immediately do something worthwhile (“Emily... I recommend you go to Iraq and practise some real journalism... this will cleanse your soul”) and that the New York Times had no business running this kind of article.

A few weeks earlier, writer Philip Weiss published a long piece in New York Magazine about his struggle to be faithful to his wife. He exposed himself in a similar way to Gould and wrote in a very revelatory manner about his wife and their friends. The message boards for his piece (300 comments) are full of thoughtful posts about the nature of modern relationships: nobody refers to him as ‘Philip’.

It seems clear why two such comparable pieces got such different reactions: Gould is a woman. A thread that runs through most of the comments about Gould suggests that because she is a woman, she stands for all women and, as such, she does ‘us’ a disservice. Which is not only ridiculous but something of a heavy burden to bear for any writer.

However, what the Gould episode really shows is that there are still so few loud female voices in the media that when one comes along, she will be taken to symbolise all women, thus enraging those who don’t identify with her. Male writers are allowed to record the most intimate or mundane details of their lives without being defined by them and yet when women do the same, we tear them to pieces.