DCFishbowl’s Betsy Rothstein insults all Broads of the Beltway (and beyond.)

So, I was just about to settle into a long afternoon of data entry and mail merges, but then something on the internet pissed me off. Then it began to ignite a Twitter fight, and I dig a good Twitter fight, so ALL BETS ARE OFF.

Today, DCFishbowl‘s Betsy Rothstein posted an article about female journalists called “Females on Campaign Trail go for Sexpot Look.” Rothstein helpfully brings our attention to the fact that “Washington has its own crop of would-be sexy females on the loose. And an unusual trend is developing among campaign and White House reporters of the XX persuasion. They’re using provocative, sometimes sexy photographs of themselves for their Twitter accounts.” (If you don’t know what to think about this, Rothstein throws you yet another proverbial bone by asking two unrelated males in the media what they think. ) As an aspiring journalist and DC resident, my interest was perked.

Rothstein thinks it is super unfair and weird that anyone was even upset by her post. The thing is, she wasn’t actually presenting her opinion at all! Here, she even cleared it up in her Twitter feed for you: “For the record…we presented the issue. There wasn’t a judgment. You critics are the judges here. Deal with it.” And here I was thinking that her post was inflammatory! Because I am not a reader of Seventeen in 1942, I wasn’t totally sure about the specific connotations of the word “sexpot.” (Also, in my own apartment, I keep my sex and my pots decidedly separate.) Urban Dictionary helped with that. A sexpot is “an attractive young woman who is available for a sexual relationship. A sexpot is usually horny, promiscuous, and men probably think they will have a chance with her.” But, Betsy Rothstein, like, TOTALLY didn’t mean that in a bad way.

What I am more concerned about is the fact that “Washington has its own crop of would-be sexy females on the loose.” I am trying to unpack this. These would-be sexy females…what exactly is keeping them from being just regular sexy? It is too late to figure that out, because as Rothstein points out, they are already ON THE LOOSE. Be vigilant about guarding yourselves and your loved ones, folks. There is apparently a bevy of insatiable ladies running around town with their vaginae hanging out. When they finally come to get you, don’t say Betsy Rothstein didn’t warn you first. Naturally, the consequence of these ladies’ sexy sexiness is undermined journalistic credibility.

If that sounds ridiculous, it is because it is. I am so annoyed that we are still having this cultural conversation. And I am so annoyed that Rothstein seems legitimately surprised that readers are offended by her implication that female journalists are horny, promiscuous and sexually available based on their Twitter avatars. I hesitate to even bring their photos into this discussion, because it seems beside the point, but since Rothstein did, I will post them here as well.


(L to R: New York Times’ Ashley Parker, LA Times’s Maeve Reston, and The Hill’s Amie Parnes.)

I am not familiar with the work of any of these journalists, but that is completely irrelevant for the sake of the article. What matters to Rothstein is the fact that they exemplify the “provocative, sometimes sexy” photos of campaign and White House reporters. Um, they look like…human women? Not one looks like she is going to start wailing at the moon or something if she doesn’t get laid THIS VERY EFFING INSTANT.

Here’s the thing, Betsy Rothstein, and everyone else who might wonder if too attractive women might undermine the credibility of serious work – YOU are doing more to undermine the work that these women do than they ever could. YOU are the one who is sexualizing these journalists. (I assume that these women aren’t, say, casually offering to fellate sources in their Twitter feeds, are they?) By suggesting that their appearance might suggest something about their sexual availability is laughable. This places the blame upon women for sexualizing themselves, instead of upon the aggressor who is doing the sexualizing. It’s HER fault that you haven’t been able to focus on a word she’s said about the Iraq War! SHE JUST SEEMS SO PROMISCUOUS. You could probably have a real chance with her. Can she please just stop sexily undermining real journalism?

I am guessing that Betsy R. would counter that I am exaggerating, and would buoy her point with some limp “there is a fine line between attractive/ professional and inappropriate/sexy, and it can be a challenge to know where that line is.” Except that it isn’t. And if such a thing could even exist, that line would not be found by pointing at other professional women and claiming that their sexiness is undermining their work.

Oh, and here’s another stupid defense! Maybe Rothstein thinks that avatar sexiness is a “slippery slope!” If we decide that journalists in tank tops are okay, will they conduct interviews in their bras and panties tomorrow? The labiae might be next, and WHEN WILL THE SEXINESS GET TOO SEXY TO HANDLE???

The truth is, this kind of shit could fall down a slippery slope. If a professional female gets admonished one day for being too sexy, then she might be bullied into being a bit less visible. And, the future of professional journalism was about to bump along forever with its credibility all in tact, but…WAIT. See, someone else’s standard is a bit different. Herb over there STILL thinks Anna is being totally sexy. And that really says more about Anna than Herb, right? (Herb can always be trusted to be a super good gauge of the credibility of journalism.) Anna is really professional, and wouldn’t want her audience to be unwillingly sexed up when they should be thinking about Congress.

No matter how much Anna might be pressured into conforming to an inoffensive appearance, however, Herb gets to dictate the terms of her behavior as it relates to her work (and gets some 120% of her salary, too!) This is the slippery slope we need to worry about. Nothing Anna did was ever the problem, and nothing she can do will ever be enough. If there is a Herb out there to call foul on Anna’s sexy, sexy ways, then the logical endpoint will ultimately be to remove Anna from the public sphere entirely.

I hope that by the time I become a journalist, we will finally be over this crap. Because if people who think like Betsy Rothstein keep getting a platform to make these asinine observations, the integrity of journalism really might be undermined.

Don’t worry about the integrity of this blog, though. Ms. Rothstein would be happy to hear that I am wrapping up this post alone in the dark, patiently waiting for my eggs to be fertilized.

– a sexy Natalie, blogging sexily

About Natalie Shure

literature, life and latte lady

8 Responses to “DCFishbowl’s Betsy Rothstein insults all Broads of the Beltway (and beyond.)”

  1. I’m going to beat the rush and say that your avatar is way too sexy for me to take a word of this article seriously.

  2. Unfortunately, I think it’s even worse in journalism, that women are not just judged on their sexiness, but judged for being women. Case in point – I’ve been a reporter in the UK and now in the US, and I found that emails I sent to officials, think tanks, organizations, and so forth often went unanswered if I used my feminine first name. I’ve had to “mannify” my first name to ensure a response – and I’ve had interview requests abruptly turned down once the subject discovers I am, in fact, a woman (which is why I use email primarily to break the ice, because I find the phone rejection rate frustrating). There is a serious sexism issue on both sides of the Atlantic, unfortunately, and it does females in the business no benefit to have one of their own attempt to cut down female journalists for being too “sexy.”

  3. 1) I agree with your outrage, Natalie
    2) I think Betsy Rothstein should tone down her online photo: http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/files/2010/09/Betsy1.jpg (not really, but it’s no more or less sexpot than any of the other photos.)
    3) She should learn what words mean.
    4) But all that aside, I’m pretty sure she’s just trolling the internet, posting click-bait because rage makes for more hits on the site.
    5) It always saddens me when a woman perpetuates sex-negative views, sexism, and the male gaze herself.

  4. I’m interested to see what happens to Ms. Rothstein – she said a lot of pretty childish and nasty stuff about this on Twitter yesterday. Will she apologize? Quit? Take down the article? Pretend nothing happened? Have the Twitter feed password taken away from her?

    …Ok, I just checked Twitter, and she recently tweeted to the DC Fishbowl feed, inviting people to follow her personal feed @betsyscribeindc for a “more candid conversation.” I’m pretty sure I got all the candor I needed from her in her self righteous lip-pursing at her Twitter-opponents about how she’d be perfectly willing to have a conversation with them if only they’d be rational. But now she’s engaging/not engaging with Amanda Hess on her personal feed, so maybe I’ll stick around for a bit.

    Anyway. I’m off to take a shot of my naked breasts to use in place of this gravatar.

  5. If we really want to talk about the come-hither images of female writers, we can at least extend the conversation beyond political journalists to include women who pen vampire chronicles. http://www.twilightseries.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/stephenie-Meyer.jpg

    Sorry. Point being, Rothstein’s argument was, as Paul said, click-bait. What about Twitter avatars is any different than females being photographed in any professional context there may be to photograph them in? The photos in question seem pretty innocuous to me, and Rothstein specifically targets a technological, 21st-century aspect (Twitpics) that’s too niche to be interesting anyway. Might as well offend some people to spice up the conversation!

  6. Your pic looks pretty good, too, but that probably says more about me than you. And that women like to post pics that make them look good? Go figure. Here’s Betsy’s btw: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2011/7/20/1311150238852/Betsy-Rothstein.jpg

    Kind of a “come-hither” thing going. Again, that’s probably more me.

  7. What could Maeve Reston wear that wouldn’t compel me to come hither?

  8. This is hilarious. As always, Natalie, you are in the right.

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