|By Goodloe Byron|
The other day my friend Ed Champion wrote and published a prolix screed about the stranglehold on discourse and literary style in the hands of the grossly untalented few in American letters who are rewarded for nonsense and worse by the powers that be in corporate publishing. He amped it up by concentrating his attention in this piece exclusively on some of the female offenders (the pictures alone are priceless), and got in big trouble with the gatekeepers of the status quo. "He's after our womenfolk, circle the wagons!"
In fact, there's a very ugly pile on, and in the din made by those calling for his big beautiful head on a platter, the word "misogyny" is being recklessly bandied about. It's often an absurd charge akin to "Witch!," but in this case it rings especially hollow. Ed is no misogynist, I am certain of it, in fact I'm offended on his behalf, and I'm not easily offended. As charges go it's not only scurrilous, it's unsupportable. Even a cursory glance (or listen) to the hundreds of substantive interviews with women writers available in his archives make that rapidly and undeniably evident.
So why was it reached for, the laziest most convenient and damning slur? Curse you Ed Champion, you're a ..uh...uh...uh...misogynist!
All the usual reasons I imagine--to discredit and demonize him in order to neutralize his critique, which at the end of the day, is powerful! If it were not powerful would Newsweek bother insisting/dictating that he must NOT be engaged with...?
Evocation of the M word is an efficient way to blow Ed away instead of having to deal with him, in this case with his sulfurous furor at being so outrageously excluded from a livelihood in letters, even a meager one, while others in possession of talents far inferior have second acts, third acts, and beyond. I imagine for someone so invested in the possibility of a reformed corporate publishing industry as Ed is (many of us have long ago given up that ghost), watching someone as pathetically ungifted as Gould get another shot at a readership must be akin to watching Dick Cheney resell another invasion of Iraq. Are we really going to lose Fallujah again?
I feel him, not only because he's a friend, but because his cause is just--Ed's got chops in spades, his work is full of vividities such as this one from the essay in question:
"But she’s still the same scabrous and manipulative opportunist that she was when she deflowered a 14-year-old boy at the age of seventeen."
That's a marvelous mouthful spoken aloud, and the collection of words sends a postcard directly to the right frontal-lobe, the site in the brain where humor resides. On the level of vocabulary alone he's formidable--e.g. scabrous. With that one word Ed conjures adolescent knees, injury, and (extending the joke a little further) the freshly fornicated boy skating off on his skateboard with alacrity, maybe checking his billfold wondering why it's now far lighter... But let's face it, Ed Champion could recuperate the entire OED and the score would still be Ed Champion: no way, Emily Gould: yes please. Who's making these crazy-making decisions? On what possible basis?
For heaven's sake Ed doesn't hate Emily Gould personally any more than you or I do; I doubt he hates anyone. But he probably hates, and if so I think rightly, how low corporate publishing has gone in degrading itself. And who better to exemplify that nadir than Gould whose crassness is her trademark (Ed didn't invent or exaggerate that). That's ALL her.
From accounts in the media I gather that the most offending sentence from Gould's perspective was this: "But when a minx’s head is so deeply deposited up her own slimy passage, it’s often hard to see the sunshine."
I love that line--it really makes you think. What's Gould's problem with it? Is it "minx?" Does she want to try and deny that she's an impudent and cunning woman? After all, this is the woman who by her own admission instructed her publisher's publicist to say that she was "the voice of her generation." Sorry, but minx is legit.
What did she think he meant by this term--"slimy passage"--that renders it a woman-hating statement? Slimy has several meanings: 1) covered in slime (I don't think he meant that), and 2) very dishonest, bad or immoral. (I would choose this one given the context of what he was talking about, spreading baseless gossip for profit.) Passage means 1) a long, narrow space that connects one place to another, 2) a narrow space that people or things can move through, or 3) an act of moving or passing from one place or state to another. (No. 3-ding, ding, ding!)
Ed is a skilled and nuanced writer, chances are excellent that he's not even saying the lowlife thing she imagines he is. If I had to put money on it, given the context of the statement, I'd say that he was referring to her lax business practices at Gawker. Her head (meaning her thoughts, her intentions) was focused on how she could move herself forward along her trajectory towards being a well-compensated ($200,000 for her first tome) professional author. The word "deposited" should give us a clue. This is money talk, not body parts. In all honesty I ask, how is this misogynistic?
Okay, one might say there's ambiguity in the statement. He's generous like that, he's not going to insist on any particular reading. But if this is how Ms. Gould reads, how do you think she writes?!
Even if Ed were saying, and I don't think he was, that she's got her head up her ass (a common put down--so and so has his head up his ass, meaning blinded to his own actions) how is this misogynistic?
The only way I can torture this phrase into something woman-hating is if he was saying that she had her head up her twat. But this is a leap, there's absolutely no textual proof! Furthermore, it's totally counter intuitive that Ed, who is in a long-term and loving relationship with a lovely accomplished young woman (with an awfully good head on her own shoulders), and who wishes to advance in traditional publishing, which everyone knows is a female-dominated business, would disparage a vagina by calling it a slimy passage. That's ALL Gould's hermeneutics, you can't put that on Ed, at least not and look at yourself squarely in the mirror without cringing.
And you cannot, you must not, condemn a man, especially a writer who has spent years carrying hot boiling water for Literature, for a crime as truly serious as woman-hating without better proof than that.
Not on my watch.