New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan took freelance writer Andrew Goldman (responsible for the Times Magazine’s “Talk” Q&A column) to task last night for his pattern of asking female subjects about their sex lives, and if they use sex to get ahead. (Here, here, and here. And kind of here.) Do these columns refer to sexism the subjects experience in real life, or are they sexist in and of themselves?
It doesn’t really matter, because Goldman’s much larger offense was his Twitter outburst at the person who first noticed the maybe-trend: Jennifer Weiner (pictured), author of best-selling novels like Good in Bed, voluble defender of chick lit, and enemy No. 1 of male literary pretension. After reading Goldman’s latest, in which he asked Tippi Hedren if she ever considered sleeping with Alfred Hitchcock (to be fair, his sexual harassment of Hedren is the subject of a new HBO movie), Weiner tweeted, “Saturday am. Iced coffee. NYT mag. See which actress Andrew Goldman has accused of sleeping her way to the top. #traditionsicoulddowithout” It was a little snarky and a little sensational, but it hardly merited Goldman’s response.
“Sensing pattern,” he wrote. “Little Freud in me thinks you would have liked at least to have had opportunity to sleep way to top.”
When tweeters like New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum and Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams piled on Goldman for the middle-school-level insult (“You’re just jealous because you’re ugly”), Goldman said that he was being absurd or satirical. (Busted people take note: That defense has never worked.) He later apologized and, putting down the shovel with which he was digging his own grave, disabled his Twitter.
Asked if Goldman would be fired for being rude to Jennifer Weiner, Times mag editor Hugo Lindgren told Sullivan that he stands by Goldman’s work, if not his tweets, and that he is edited by two women and will live to ask another “sensitive,” “frank,” and arguably sexist question. Although it’s heartening to see the New York Times public editor take an active interest in the sexist treatment of the Times’ subjects (naturally, she’s also the Times’ first female ombudsman), I don’t envy the woman who aspires to police all the ugly personal speech in the world. But if she’s going to, can she take on humblebraggers next?