Last week, Gloria Steinem authored an op-ed in The New York Times headlined, “Women Have Chick-Flicks. What About Men?”.
It was standard issue male-bashing; biased and badly researched junk, but more interestingly, at least half of it was ten years old, substantially lifted from a piece Steinem wrote for the Women’s Media Center website in 2007. This kind of lazy self-plagiarism is a major ethical breach that respectable publications do not suffer gladly, at least when the miscreant isn’t a feminist icon that their editors worship, or at least feel has earned immunity from those annoying ethical principles lesser mortals have to deal with.
As an aside, it really is a silly op-ed, not worthy of publication the first time, much less plagiarizing now. Some excerpts:
I was on a flight from New York to Seattle when a long delay on the tarmac prompted the airline to offer us a free movie. As the flight attendant read the choices aloud, a young man across the aisle said, “I don’t watch chick flicks!” I knew what he meant, and so did the woman sitting next to me. A “chick flick” is one that has more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects, and whose suspense comes more from how people live than from how they get killed.
Translation: “Men are morons, women are sophisticates.” No generalizations or stereotypes there…
Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics? Suppose Shakespeare had really been the Dark Lady who some people still think he/she was. I bet most of her plays and all of her sonnets would have been dismissed as ye olde Elizabethan chick lit and buried until they were resurrected by stubborn feminist scholars of today.
Two words: Prove it. Since very few great female authors were writing similarly brilliant literature in those periods, Steinem’s bet is rigged. Where are those buried woman-authored masterpieces that stand up as the equals of “King Lear” and “War and Peace”? I’ll make another bet: I bet if those works had been written by women, we’d know it, and they would be just as admired and immortal as the works authored by men. Has Gloria heard of Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre? Frankenstein? Pride and Prejudice? Has she heard of Jane Austen?
But I digress.
The original article published referred to that airplane flight as taken by Steinem “recently.” That word was taken out after Gloria’s cheat was discovered, and this “Editor’s Note” was added:
Because of a misunderstanding by the editors, it was discovered only after publication that this article reproduces in substantial part an essay by the same writer that appeared on the Women’s Media Center website in 2007 and was republished by other outlets. It is not The Times’s policy to print previously published work without attribution. In addition, the article referred incorrectly to the timing of a flight during which “chick flicks” were mentioned. It was not “recently,” the flight having occurred in 2007.
Oh, it’s the EDITORS’ fault that Steinem submitted, word for word, a large chunk of a previously published work, is it? What “misunderstanding’? Foolishly trusting Gloria Steinem not to cheat the Times and its readers? Is that it? Assuming that Steinem knew that “Please write an op-ed for us” didn’t mean “Pull and old one out your trunk’? Was that the misunderstanding.
When New Yorker contributor Jonah Lehrer was discovered to have engaged in self-plagiarism (as well as regular plagiarism), he was run out of journalism. The New Yorker didn’t excuse his dishonesty by saying that it was due to their “misunderstanding.” But then, he wasn’t a feminist icon who deserves a special, blame-free standard:
Rationalization #11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”
One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head. In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others..
Does anyone think that if KellyAnne Conway, Ann Coulter or Sarah Palin has submitted an op-ed similarly recycled, the Times editors would have fallen on their swords for them? Come on, all you “Biased? The mainstream news media isn’t biased!” Jumbo-ites out there. I dare you. Make that case. I can’t wait.
Not that the op-ed isn’t informative, now that we know its history. It reveals the depressinly cynical, partisan dishonesty of the feminist movement, which like the civil rights movement, cares more about partisan loyalty than its own mission and principles. 2007, eh? So Gloria had no complaints about the culture when it was under the stewardship of a Democratic President. This actually makes sense: Gloria Steinem completely debased herself and rejected integrity when she supported the concept of powerful men making sexual advances on their employees in order to give Bill Clinton’s treatment of Monica Lewisky the seal of approval—yup, Rationalization #11 again.
It’s so nice that Gloria is getting the benefit of it herself, now, don’t you think?