So we’ve reached the point in 2019 where the Twitter mob has declared that the obstacle to female progress in American journalism is the editor of the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg.
A Vox headline complained of Goldberg’s "sexist quote."
At Deadspin, a headline declared "The Best Way for Jeffrey Goldberg To Help Diverse Journalists Would Be To Quit His Job."
The New York Times even found it worth a news article, headlined, "Writing Cover Stories Is Hard. For Atlantic Editor, Talking About Diversity Is Harder."
Goldberg, my colleague at the Forward two decades ago, is someone I know as implacably opposed to bigotry. The magazine under his editorship has tilted left, with articles like "Impeach Donald Trump" and another earnestly complaining that "Sexism infects every kind of courtroom encounter, from pretrial motions to closing arguments — a glum ubiquity that makes clear how difficult it will be to eradicate gender bias not just from the practice of law, but from society as a whole."
If Goldberg is insufficiently woke for the job, it’s enough to make a person wonder just who there might be out there with sensitivities sufficiently exquisitely attuned.
Angela Davis? Elizabeth Warren? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
The New York Times article took note that "11 of The Atlantic’s 15 most recent cover stories were written by men." It didn’t mention that 17 of the 23 most recent New York Times Magazine cover stories were written by men, which, on a percentage basis, works out to pretty much the same as at the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, here in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts is under attack for racism after a complaint by the leader of a school field trip. The complaint was multifaceted, but one element of it, as the MFA describes it, is, "The school group reported that when the students arrived at the Museum, they were told 'no food, no drink, no watermelon.'
The employee who greeted the group recalled relaying as part of standard operating procedures that 'no food, no drink and no water bottles' were allowed in the galleries."
WBUR, a National Public Radio affiliate, reported this with the context that "The 150-year-old MFA has been grappling with the same thing most western encyclopedic museums are reckoning with: a systemically racist legacy. Rooted in colonialism, encyclopedic museums have historically served as preservation tools from a white, western perspective."
Yet the MFA, like the Atlantic, is hardly a hard-right bastion.
One current exhibition, "Gender-Bending Fashion," has promotional copy that advises: "the garments on view can speak more broadly to societal shifts across the past century —including changing gender roles, increasing visibility of LGBTQIA plus communities, and the rise of social media as a powerful tool for self-expression.
"Throughout the exhibition, individual narratives emerge, touching on issues of gender identity and expression, sexuality, race, class, pop culture, activism, social justice, and more."
Another exhibit, about Antarctica, "presents fragments of a shrinking continent and raises questions about the need to document an ecology in peril. . . . an ice-bound landscape under threat by sweeping global changes."
If one runs the Museum of Fine Arts as an employer through the federal campaign finance database, one discovers that the people who work there are donating overwhelmingly to Democratic politicians.
There’s a risk that by hurling allegations of sexism or racism at individuals or institutions that are basically well intentioned allies, the carriers of these accusations end up fueling the backlash against political correctness. Charges of racism and sexism are made so frequently these days that the general public starts to become desensitized.
That’s not to say that even liberal, well intentioned people don’t have subtle biases. They do. And it’s not to say that liberal, well intentioned institutions can’t do better at being fully inclusive. They can. It’s not even to rule out anger about the room for improvement or impatience about the pace of change. Both of those emotions are sometimes warranted.
But if the goal is progress for women and racial minorities, maintaining some sense of proportion, context, and perspective will help the cause. The alternative is a time and place where calling someone or something "racist" or "sexist," rather than provoking gasps or revulsion, just generates eyerolls and a shrug.
Ira Stoll is author of "J.F.K. Conservative," and "Samuel Adams: A Life." Read more reports from Ira Stoll — Click Here Now.
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