I'm a political junkie and pretty progressive (okay, practically a socialist), which makes me a member of the target audience for AMERICAblog. I added the site to my blogroll many, many months ago and it's been on my Favorites list on all of my computers since the first time I read a post there.
However, earlier today, John Aravosis wrote a post that called Sen. Pat Roberts "a big girl" because of a statement he made during the confirmation hearings for Gen. Michael Hayden, Bush's nominee for CIA Director. The statement Roberts made - "I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties but you have no civil liberties if you are dead." - was indeed proof that Roberts is a cowardly douchebag. However, by equating being a "big girl" with being a wimp, a coward, and an utter quisling, John offended many readers, including me.
When a commenter expressed surprise at John's use of the term, his initial response was that this was "gay vernacular." Later, he wrote that those who asked him to reconsider his words were a tiny minority of his readers and essentially nutbars: "There are a very loud minority of folks on the left who won't be happy unless they're frothing at the mouth attacking their own for the stupidest, smallest things while the world falls down around them." This despite the fact that many were probably long-time readers and were mostly polite and reasonable in their comments. Here are a few samples:
I personally found John's use of "girl" much more questionable than Snowjob's use of "tar baby." And believe me I'm no Republican. Let's leave the name calling to the bigots. Please apologize, John, and let's get this over with.
I'm a girl and I'm offended that it would be considered some kind of an insult. A better definition for Pat Roberts would be that he is a big ass. But there's no need to denigrate more than 50% of the country's population to make a point.
Girls are not cowards, John. Girls are fighting in Iraq, John. Girls are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, John. Let's try a little harder, John. We're all on the same team here, I think. Senator Roberts is a big COWARD. I don't want him in my gender or that of my very brave daughter.
As I am writing this, all 400+ original comments on the post have been deleted. I assume this is John's doing, but perhaps there was a technical glitch. (Fortunately, Haloscan has a long memory.)
After reading the post, the hundreds of comments, and posting one of my own (less polite than many others), I asked myself: Were those of us who found John's use of "big girl" as an insult being overly sensitive? Were we losing sight of the fact that like us, John is fighting for progressive values? I think the answer to both of those questions is no. As many readers commented, if the term "big girl" was substituted with any number of slurs referring to race, sexuality, or religion, it would have been offensive. If a right-wing bloviator had used the term to refer to, say, Sen. Russ Feingold, it would have been offensive.
It's not okay to insult and demean women, and using "girl" as a pejorative indicates a lack of respect for women. As one commenter noted, if even educated progressives don't care about women's issues, that's a pretty sorry state of affairs.
I'd love to "just get over it" as so many commenters who agreed with John urged. But I'm tired of being viewed as a second-class citizen - because of my skin color and because I'm a woman. I'm tired of being called a bitch when I'm strong. I deserve better than that. All of us do.
I'd like to continue reading AMERICAblog because I agree with much of what's written there, and eventually, I probably will. However, John's dismissive and unapologetic response to commenters who disagreed with his words today made me rethink my blogroll. I want to have links that illustrate not only what interests me or makes me laugh - sites like LA Observed and Dooce - but also showcase my values and the person I am.
To that end, I've removed AMERICAblog from my blogroll, for now. I've also added links to several sites written by women and Latinos, such as Firedoglake and Lotería Chicana. I doubt anyone will notice these changes, especially not John Aravosis, but I think it's important for me to feel that the links I have here on this page reflect what I believe. And what I believe is that I'm more like Patrick Henry than Pat Roberts, and I'm not going to link to someone who seems to think otherwise.