That the response to Coulter so often focuses on her looks also deserves some examination. It's not clear why the venom from a blond, leggy snake should be treated any different than the bile Hugh Hewitt spits out, yet rare is the soliloquy on how desperate the writer would have to become to hit the Hewitt. It's a fair point, and I'd extend it by wondering why liberals seem to have so few aggressive female flacks.You want an aggressive liberal female flack? Just give me the microphone! (I sure could use the job.)
In all seriousness, there are still a lot of liberals who are generally uncomfortable with aggressive punditry, who prefer measured debate conducted in “inside voices,” with which I am sympathetic; I’d prefer that, too. But it ignores the fact that our president and vice-president equate Democratic voters with terrorist-sympathizers and GOP senators like to compare gay relationships with bestiality, which is to say nothing of the diarrheic vitriol spewed by their party hacks in the media. We waved bye-bye to reasoned discourse awhile ago, because bullies can’t be persuaded from bullying by dulcet tones.
Liberals who live in this fantasyland where civil discourse is still the norm seem particularly discomfited by aggressive women, as if the last bastion of decency has fallen when a Breasted One utters “the f-word,” which is why I get emails inquiring why a smart girl like me feels the need to “curse,” and why another blogger has been asked why he links to me, since I’m so potty-mouthed and aggressive. You’ve still, in some quarters, got to actually have balls to “have balls.”
The lack of aggressive female flacks on the Left also certainly has something to do with the subjects about which female flacks are aggressive. Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, for examples, are aggressive in their perpetuation of conservative ideals, including no small amount of anti-feminist rhetoric. Not only is a woman who aggressively refutes issues like gender equality and reproductive rights less threatening to retrofuck men than a woman who aggressively advocates them, but she also serves to deflect particular kinds of criticism, like charges of sexism. Male conservatives can then quote female operatives, using the sex of the original messenger as a buttress against similar complaints. (Malkin’s ethnicity works to their benefit in a similar way when she leads the charge against Muslims.) One can’t be sexist (or racist) when one is quoting a woman or a minority, after all. (Not true, of course, but that is the claim.) It is useful to conservatives to have a female face on their sexist positions—and, having turned the culture war into a lynchpin of their political strategy, they need the buffer of female representation more than ever.
Conversely, aggressive liberal women who endeavor to combat sexism as part of their overall politics are just as likely to call attention to the sexism among their own ranks as those of their opponents (and I daresay I don’t need to provide evidence that there is still sexism on the Left). The possibility of a “circular firing squad” created by liberal women who have the temerity to expect better of their brethren leaves them regarded as “loose cannons,” not nearly as reliable as someone like Coulter, who will never accuse a fellow conservative of betraying tenets of equality—since ignoring, unless to ridicule or subvert, said tenets is their stock in trade.
Frustratingly, because liberal women are feminists, it leaves them open to a criticism, when discussing any issue, that conservative women are not. If Coulter is undesirably aggressive, it’s because she’s just “gone too far,” but if I am, it’s because I’m a liberal feminist. There is a stereotype built in to my politics waiting to be played against me, that discredits not only me, but the politics I represent. That the Left shies away from promoting aggressive women for fear of having The Shrill Card played against all of us is indicative of the milquetoast timidity played out in liberal politics again and again. It’s easier to avoid a pitfall which might require some solidarity (and a solid spine) in defense of female flacks by not using them in the first place. The Left’s cautiousness is endemic to all its strategy, and this issue is no different.