In case you hadn't heard, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoked crack last year. And has quite the temper. And a history with drugs and alcohol.
And the reason you've heard that is partially the work of Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle, who, along with her reporting partner Kevin Donovan (and almost simultaneously with U.S. gossip site Gawker) broke the story of the video of Ford last May. You've probably seen Doolittle recently on a morning show or on Twitter -- and she'll appear tonight on Jon Stewart -- as she makes the rounds to promote her book on Ford, Crazy Town.
But apparently, there's a right way and a wrong way to publicize yourself, and Doolittle's photoshoot with fashion magazine Flare stepped way over the line -- at least, according to the corners of the Internet who judge what a modern woman can and can't do.
After appearing in a glamourous picture to head up the profile (and looking absolutely stunning), Doolittle received complaints that she was wearing pretty dresses and designer heels. That's not allowed, sayeth those who know.
Doolittle wasn't taking it, though:
Getting emails from women angry I posed for the Flare photo. I can be a feminist & wear heels & red lips. I posed because I felt like it.— robyndoolittle (@robyndoolittle) February 5, 2014
Doolittle's strength is to be admired, without question, as is her lack of apology. Descriptions of her attractiveness take up plenty of the article (as, frankly, one should expect from a fashion publication), but it's hardly her fault she's a good-looking woman, nor should anyone else discount her obvious talent because of it.
This is particularly poignant in light of the harassment Doolittle describes already facing as "the face of the [Ford] story," with her recounting insults like "I bet you're a heroin-using prostitute."
Now, anonymous commenters who rip apart writers they disagree with are by no means confined to gender lines, but it's been shown time and again that when the screen goes up, the not-even-barbed threats toward women come through.
Amanda Hess, a journalist who writes about sex and technology, among other topics, detailed about her own experiences with online vitriol in her piece in the Pacific Standard, "Why Women Aren't Welcome On The Internet." These included threats of rape, murder and general abuse, and hell yes, she thought this was because she was a woman.
So here's a novel idea, and it's especially directed towards the women reading this. How about we try both applauding and criticizing people for their actual work, and not what they look like before or after they write it? It's really easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to someone's appearance, but it takes more time and intelligence to truly consider the writing itself.
And if those pieces of writing happen to come from women wearing red lipstick, all the power to them.
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