Ann Althouse’s Obsession with Jessica Valenti’s Breasts

Several months ago I had this post about the absurd attacks on Jessica Valenti from Ann Althouse. Believe it or not, this dispute has reappeared repeatedly. In brief, Jessica attended a bloggers meeting with Bill Clinton and posed for a picture. She was dressed conservatively but the picture revealed the fact that, as with most members of her gender, Jessica has a pair of breasts under her sweater. Beyond that there was nothing remarkable–not even a low neck line. Apparently to Ann Althouse this remains a crime against feminist beliefs. Another play by play of the whole episode can be found here.

With this event continuing to be brought up, Jessica mentioned it when she had the opportunity to write a column on the blogosphere for The Guardian:

Last year I had my own run-in with online sexism when I was invited to a lunch meeting with Bill Clinton, along with a handful of other bloggers. After the meeting, a group photo of the attendees with Clinton was posted on several websites, and it wasn’t long before comments about my appearance (“Who’s the intern?; “I do like Gray Shirt’s three-quarter pose.”) started popping up.

One website, run by law professor and occasional New York Times columnist Ann Althouse, devoted an entire article to how I was “posing” so as to “make [my] breasts as obvious as possible”. The post, titled “Let’s take a closer look at those breasts,” ended up with over 500 comments. Most were about my body, my perceived whorishness, and how I couldn’t possibly be a good feminist because I had the gall to show up to a meeting with my breasts in tow. One commenter even created a limerick about me giving oral sex. Althouse herself said that I should have “worn a beret . . . a blue dress would have been good too”. All this on the basis of a photograph of me in a crew-neck sweater from Gap.

I won’t even get into the hundreds of other blogs and websites that linked to the “controversy.” It was, without doubt, the most humiliating experience of my life – all because I dared be photographed with a political figure.

It is unfortunate that this experience turned out to be humiliating to Jessica as she did nothing wrong. This view is not changed by Ann Althouse’s response:

And I still maintain that it was absolutely justified to mock that photograph. Distort what I was really saying there all you want, but the fact remains: Cozying up to Bill Clinton is not something a feminist should be doing. You have never responded to what I was really writing about. You have instead chosen to attack me, and you’re doing it again, and you and your friends have leveraged what was a minor satirical blog post for your advantage. You’re exploiting it again and going through the whole routine of trying to ruin my reputation again. It’s an ugly way you’ve chosen to try to build a career as a feminist writer.

I’d love to see you take some responsibility for what you’ve done instead of whining that everyone’s talking about your breasts. I don’t give a damn about your breasts. What I care about is the way feminists sold out feminism to bolster the fortunes of the Democratic Party. But you will never talk about that, because you don’t have anything to say there. So it’s on and on about breasts, breasts, breasts, please don’t talk about my breasts.

First of all, although Bill Clinton did many things which feminists could object to, it is perfectly understandable that a liberal blogger would attend a bloggers meeting with him, and absurd to think that such a blogger would refuse to be photographed with him. Not many people get the chance to spend such time with a former President. Secondly, this is only about breasts because Ann Althouse made it about breasts in her initial post on the subject. Unless she expected Jessica to wear a burqa instead of a normal sweater, there is nothing salacious about this picture.

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