Below the Fold

From the Baltimore Brew crew, a behind-the-scenes look at what we do…

Humor that hurts

Well I argued a bit about it with Mark, slept on it, thought about the women I respect who defended us, thought about the (more numerous!) women I respect who criticized us and did a gut check. “Inside City Hall: The claws come out” didn’t feel good to me.

So I’m changing it and apologizing.

Mark didn’t actually use the term “catfight” but the implication was clear. He intended it as humor but I think there’s a hurtful side that he just couldn’t see . I shouldn’t have signed off on it.

What it reminded me of was the “Powderpuff Football” games they used to have at my high school in the 1970′s. The male football players dressed in drag as “cheerleaders” and the female cheerleaders suited up and played “ football.”

The whole point was for the play on the field to devolve into a kicking, scratching, hair-pulling, rolling-on-the-ground fight – the crowd wasn’t satisfied until they got to witness the proverbial catfight. It was disgusting. At a time when real women’s high school and college sports were getting no money or respect , this dumb stereotype-promoting event was sanctioned.

The person who umpteen years ago led a (very small!) group of chanting protesters at those games (“Powderpuff Degrades Women!”) just can’t stand behind that headline today.

It really bothers me when people dismiss these concerns as “political correctness.” I got into quite a few arguments, when I worked at The Washington Post, over the Redskins team name. (A story we wrote about it in the KidsPost section, quoting local Native American kids who said the name bothered them, triggered a complaint from Tony Kornheiser and a rare talking-to by top management.)

Our ill-chosen Brew headline reminds me of that, as well. ‘Why don’t you get that these Indian mascots are meant to be humorous or a tribute?’ people said back then.

My reply was “Why don’t you err on the side of not hurting peoples’ feelings and perpetuating a noxious stereotype and – even if you just don’t “get” it,  just aren’t capable of getting it – come up with something else!”

Anyway, I get it and I’m changing the wording, lest I have to make a hand-scrawled protest sign and go out in front of Brew World Headquarters and picket myself!

Humor that hurts
  • janjamm

    Thanks for the candid comments and the apology.

  • Jackie Watts

    You annoyed Tony Kornheiser? You should be pleased! Congrats!

  • David Kennedy

    I hate cheer-leading generally. It’s stupid, no, it is not “sport”, and just meant to be eye candy for the straight guy fans, and i guess the gay girl fans in TV land. Uggh.

    • David Kennedy

      I will never be confused with a so-called PC person, but I HATE the name “Redskins”. So flipping obnoxious. How can anyone not see this?

  • robin baker

    It takes a great person to admit when they are wrong. Congrats!

  • Colleen Davidson

    Thank you very much! Baltimore Brew is still my favorite news source in Baltimore!

  • Baltogal

    Thank you for taking your readers’ comment seriously. I do urge you to think about what the Brew wants to be: serious journalism or snarky blogging. I hope the Brew will seek to be a respected news outlet — we need more of those! — rather than a newsy blog that delivers cheap, snarky, hurtful zingers aimed at those traditionally shut out of power — we don’t need more of that.

  • @ecogordo

    On a humorous note, I would like to see more humor about men like “vicious political adversaries come to blows”. I like the Brew approach – news with a punch. We have the Sun for so-called serious. And cable gives us humor, but the Brew gives us something different. Perhaps it is local personality. More than anything the Brew needs eye balls and frankly, controversy in today marketplace is the only way to get there.

  • Usha nellore

    What a stodgy fussy group–save me!

    Give me a break–O please–
    what a stodgy fussy group–
    it’s beautiful to be feline-
    to unsheathe curved sharp claws–
    to arch the back and take long swipes
    at enemies who want to engage
    in power struggles–

    It isn’t good some of you say
    to call two women in combat mode–cats–
    or to describe their fight as cat scratch fever–
    no, no it denigrates all women–
    it is a negative stereotype–

    Give me a break–O please!
    it is the lying in wait
    that cats do so well–
    it is the stalking–
    the patient–soft footed shadowing of the prey–
    the accurate sizing up of the kill yet to happen–
    the length to be run–
    the speed to be mustered–
    the time to start and the time to finish
    calculated well beforehand–
    and then the sprint for the throat–
    there is beauty in all of it–

    Let the snarky metaphors stay–
    don’t bleach the language white–
    when two women fight–
    and they’re called cats–
    don’t bring the protest banners out–
    and when the women draw blood–
    if the chronicler of the event–
    calls the episode cat scratch fever–
    cheer on!

    Arch your back–
    purr and shimmy your muscles–
    if you are a woman–be a sauce box–
    not a lost cause–
    to the stained glass wickedness of words….

    Usha Nellore

  • Tom Kiefaber

    This matter, while quite trivial by itself, is significant in how it further reveals a somewhat dysfunctional leadership *team* behind The Brew’s overall editorial policies.

    As the publication has evolved, what’s been projected is a hands-on, team effort, predominately between Ms. Shen and Mr. Reutter, as a welcome dynamic duo in our otherwise dismal media market dominated by corporate and government *press-titute* outlets.

    The editorial scope of The Brew, however, also seems to have anomalies and inherent bias on occasion, directed and influenced by a single individual, from my perspective. This enlightening *claws out* reversal episode confirms that observation.
    Ms. Shen’s overwrought account displays a systemic dysfunction. While I respect the ambition of The Brew, and its apparent *boss*, I do not respect her washout of conviction.
    The time for Fern Shen to argue with Mark Reutter over the PC implications of the headline had passed. So be it. To surface now, after the fact, with this hand-wringing, retroactive mea culpa is a self-referential act of colleague betrayal, in my world view. It also unfortunately casts The Brew as a publication that backs off when swayed by a tempest-in-a-teapot form of gender-biased, political correctness. That act sullies the publication, and projects leadership guided by something uncomfortably close to a chick-lit mentality, and not that of a professional collaborative effort.
    While the choice of a single headline was admittedly a bit off-kilter, Ms. Shen’s decision to reverse course in retrospect, and highlight the issue while already downstream, reveals that her personal priorities are to her gender and not to her fellow journalistic combatants or the majority of The Brew’s readership.

  • Steve

    We have definitely become a overly sensitive culture. I have to agree in general with Tom K’s comments. To go back and change the article for political correctness or worse for a few whiners decreases credibility. Besides, the cats were already out of the bag.

  • Claudlaw

    As an avid reader, and the mother of a three-year-old girl, I appreciated the turnaround. It’s not a question of “being too sensitive.” Actual journalism is tough to find these days and it doesn’t need to be tarnished with headlines that could appear in the NY Post. The reason is I read the Brew is because I know I will get reporting that allows me to objectively determine the strengths or failings of the people who run our city. Look, I can’t shield even my kid from a barrage of princesses, let alone the realities of women’s degredation on our planet. But if Baltimore’s “real news” outlet perpetuates the problem, then it’s as if we’ve all just given up. For my daughter’s sake, I’m not ready to give up.