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Posted by on Nov 4, 2009 in At TMV, Media, Politics, Society | 22 comments

New York Mag Profile of Nancy Pelosi: Follow-Up

Yesterday, I received a note (on my Facebook page) from Vanessa Grigoriadis, author of the Nancy Pelosi profile in New York Magazine that I critiqued here. The note says:

Hi Kathy,

I read your piece on my piece, and I have to say I think you are misreading this. I never would have said that Pelosi was a shrew myself; I was talking about the way she can be perceived. I understand that you feel the piece was badly done but I cant accept that it is anti-feminist. I do write with a lot of topspin and very aggressively, on every subject. In any case, the beginning of the paragraph with the words ‘shrew’ lays out clearly what the piece is about: the problems people have with women in power. I’m not one of them.


I just sent off a reply, as follows:

Hi, Vanessa. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts on my piece about your piece (really!).

After reading your message, I went back and read the paragraph in question, and it still comes off to me as I wrote in my article. I do take your point about your writing style, and I can appreciate your feeling that I interpreted an aggressive writer’s “voice” as your own point of view. However, for reasons I lay out below, my view is unchanged.

You say (in your note) that “In any case, the beginning of the paragraph with the word ‘shrew’ lays out clearly what the piece is about: the problems people have with women in power. I’m not one of them.”

The paragraph in question begins with this sentence: “There’s a knee-jerk aspect to much of the criticism of Pelosi, of course, because she is the most powerful woman in U.S. political history—and we know what the problem is with that.”

I agree that that sentence signals that what follows is the opinion of people who feel threatened by powerful women, and not your personal opinion — but then comes the second sentence: “But even to liberals, Pelosi can come across as shrill, strident, too rich. Humorless, odd, tone-deaf.” That sentence clearly (to me, at least) implies that what follows is not simply the distorted or biased views of people (men, mostly) who can’t stand powerful women; it’s also the view of “liberals” — Pelosi’s supporters, those who presumably have no problem with women in power. In a word, the second sentence completely undercuts the first. The criticisms of Pelosi you lay out are *not* just the knee-jerk opinions of Washington misogynists; they are widely shared, and indeed have objective legitimacy.

Ultimately, my response to your article is about perception, not factual truth. This is not a fact-checking issue. It may indeed be the case that what you call “topspin” and an aggressive “voice” create an impression that does not accurately reflect your own views. Someone else might very well have a totally different response to the piece (and I’m sure many do). But having carefully re-examined my perceptions in the light of what you say is the approach you take to all your writing subjects, those perceptions remain the same.

I think it’s only fair to you that TMV’s readers know you’ve expressed these views, so I am posting your note to me and my reply in a new post at TMV.

Thank you again for taking the time and trouble to give me this feedback.

Best wishes,

Kathy Kattenburg

I will let you know if Ms. Grigoriadis responds again (and any reply I make).