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Cathy Seipp Calls A Girl A Girl
Fantastic piece by my friend Cathy Seipp in NRO, about Jill Carroll. For the record, I, too, call myself a girl, and my friends, girls, and girls who write to me, girls, except when I change to "woman" or "a woman" to mix things up. Here's an excerpt from Cathy's piece:

Language misuse is one of my own pet peeves, and I've noticed that people get really angry when I refuse to misuse it the way they’d like. Last weekend I was on a Times Festival of Books media panel and made the audience gasp in shock when I called the Christian Science Monitor’s 28-year-old correspondent Jill Carroll—who was kidnapped and later released in Iraq—a “girl.”

Some people thought this was comparable to calling her a slut or a chick, which is just nuts. Most people, when referring to young women, naturally call them girls. I’ve noticed that exceptions are children and young men, who I suppose get it beaten out of them by grim feminists and the p.c. police by the time they're out of college.

I used to call myself a girl until, not being Maureen Dowd, it began to feel ridiculous once I got to a certain age. But the word girl is especially appropriate in Jill Carroll's case, since there was something so Nancy Drew-ish about her entire misadventure—based as it was on the adolescent notion that how strongly you feel about something has any connection with your ability to do it.

Cathy, as usual, goes on to ask the question nobody's asking:

...Perhaps the Christian Science Monitor shouldn’t have lent its storied (but increasingly inconsequential) imprimatur to an inexperienced freelancer whose kidnapping got her translator killed and distracted American military personnel from their core mission. All for a newspaper that few people outside Christian Science reading rooms ever even see.

The Monitor’s respected old name and fabled international reporting is pretty much irrelevant now that we have free and easy access to almost every major paper in the world, not to mention 24-hour cable news channels. The paper’s circulation is tiny—something like 70,000 readers, most of them geriatric. Much has been made of its free website, which gets about 1.7 million unique visitors per month. But that’s just 56,000 visitors per day, less than the blog Little Green Footballs, which has far more enlightening Mideast information.

So was it really ethical for lives to be endangered and lost because some girl is “passionate” (as Carroll's defenders say she was) about Iraq? Especially when the Monitor doesn't have the money that big news organizations have to make sure she had the proper bodyguards?

Actually, I suppose, they do have the money; they just don't chose to spend it. The left-leaning Monitor will never go out of business because it’s not a business but a missionary activity of the not-exactly-starving Christian Science Church, whose founder Mary Baker Eddy thought the paper’s mandate should be to “injure no man, but to bless all mankind.”

So much for afflicting the comfortable—but still, good for them. Maybe in 2006, though, the Monitor should consider relying on major paper reprints and other wire-service material for dangerous stories. Carroll's translator was, after all, murdered, so it seems to me that her adventure injured at least one man.

There was some discontent about my point of view. Karen protested that Carroll had focused on the civilian suffering in Iraq—but I regularly read stories about that angle in major papers and magazines. Could anyone describe any story—or even an item—that Carroll had reported from Iraq? No they could not. So why was her presence there so important?

She became the story in the worst way—not because she was an especially gifted writer, like Ernie Pyle, but simply because her unfortunate situation made her an international incident. There are many arguments these days about whether or not news is free, news is relevant, news is biased, and so on. But I’d hope we can all agree that at the very least, news should be news.

I felt similarly about Daniel Pearl. While he was a seasoned reporter for the resources-rich The Wall Street Journal, he had a kid on the way, and thus had no business being over there. Although I don't have a kid, and don't particularly like many of them, in terms of my views on parental responsibility, I'm, well, just to the right of Dr. Laura. You have a kid? Guess what: You don't get to be a war reporter.

Posted by aalkon at May 6, 2006 11:56 AM

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We let parents be soliders, though.

A few years ago while visiting a friend in the hospital I talked up an elderly woman in the next bed to said something interesting: Until about October of 1943, soldiers from the eastern United States were not sent to fight in Europe if they were fathers. For some reason, California's Fightin' Daddies were deemed more expendable.

Posted by: Crid at May 6, 2006 8:41 AM

Regarding the controversial g-word: It's not a PC thing. It's age. The audience members who gasped were old, that's all. I had lunch with a few young dykes last week up at the UCLA law school, and everyone was referring to the actresses on the L-Word as "girls." The word "queer" was also used, gasp-free.

Posted by: Lena Cuisina, Rock 'n' Roll Nigger at May 6, 2006 10:19 AM

About 15 years ago, I adopted the word "gal" to use in casual situations, and is usually how I refer to myself. It feels generic, like the female version of "guy." I'm about 25 years past reasonably being able to call myself a "girl" and I'll admit I grew up in an era where calling a woman a "woman" was an insult of sorts and it still feels awkward or a bit pretentious referring to myself as a woman. I use "ladies" only semi-facetiously when I'm speaking to a group of women I know well, as in "so which of you ladies is coming to farmers market with me this weekend?"

So what about policemen, soldiers, firefighters, coal miners? They're all potentially deadly occupations; would you ban parents from those as well?

Posted by: deja pseu at May 6, 2006 2:50 PM

I agree with Deja, and not just because I know it will piss her off.

Can we move to current events? The Goss resignation is apparently about moral failings, and this will reflect badly on the Central Intelligence Agency.

That's OK by me. Actually, it's just ducky.

Everyone agree? Good, let's move forward, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Posted by: Crid at May 6, 2006 6:12 PM

To deja: While I do not have actual statistics I would bet that far fewer cops, firefighters and coal miners have died in the past three years than journalists have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That soldier-parents can be sent to a combat zone is immoral, but a consequence of a society that cannot provide a large segment of its working class with jobs sufficient to support a family. And yes, it is personally irresponsible of people like Pearl to go off to a war zone - Daniel Pearl had a responsibility to his wife (widow) and child. But one thing about our personal freedoms is that otherwise bright and good people can be irresponsible and do dumb things.

Posted by: dano at May 7, 2006 9:31 PM

Daniel Pearl wasn't a "war reporter," nor was he in a "war zone." He was killed in Pakistan while investigating Richard Reid and Al Qaeda finances.

I couldn't care less about the "girl" debate, but the attacks on Pearl and Carroll are pretty weak. Other journalists from other news orgs are being killed -- both in Iraq and elsewhere. Why only attack Carroll? Envy? Shock value?

And why "war correspondents"? Logging and fishing are probably more dangerous, not to mention the other occupations listed above.


Posted by: jv at May 10, 2006 3:12 PM

If you have a kid on the way, you owe it to the kid not to be in harm's way. Being in Pakistan investigating Al Qaeda isn't a walk in the park with the NYPD close at hand.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 10, 2006 3:20 PM

What hypocritical crap. Uggh.

Posted by: anon at May 13, 2006 9:15 PM

Which hypocritical crap would that be? I don't have kids, and won't, but I think those who do have a huge obligation to them. I can go be a war reporter tomorrow, but if you've carbon copied yourself, you'd better see to it you take a job where you have a reasonable chance of staying alive.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 13, 2006 10:34 PM

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