I am the youngest of eight granddaughters (no grandsons) on my mother’s side of the family. Each of us eight women is extraordinary, and we each have different passions, dreams, goals, ideals, and a highly unique perspective on life.
Yet I was surprised on Facebook a few nights ago when I saw the name of one of the Eight, Sarah O'Holla, (#3) on Slate.com, connected to a response piece called, “My Husband’s ‘Stupid’ Record Collection. Is That Sexist, Funny, or Both?” My jaw hit the floor.
Sarah O’Holla has been writing the blog, My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection for the past few weeks. The blog chronicles Sarah's adventures as she listens her way through her husband Alex's 1,500 LPs. I’ve been keeping up with her posts because a) Alex has a fascinating music collection, b) I always read everything Sarah writes because I’m proud of her and c) I thought the concept was awesome. I had just seen the infamous record collection last week at their housewarming party. We had just talked to Sarah about how excited she was to blog and learn things about something she wasn’t an expert in. So how was this possibly 'sexist?' How were people already responding so negatively to her blog?
I mean, I’ve been reading her blog since the beginning, and I’ve seen no evidence that Sarah reinforces negative stereotypes about the role of women in the music industry – maybe because I’ve actually read Sarah’s work. Is it because it’s her husband Alex’s record collection, and not her own? So I can’t write anything to do with my significant other because I am somehow setting back the feminist movement? Bullsh*t.
Sarah has also gotten a lot of criticism for the title of her blog. She talks about her reasoning for the title in a recent post following the onslaught of criticism:
“I’ve given a lot of thought to whether I should write a response – my instinct is no, but my heart is telling me that maybe if I write about it, I will feel better. Because I love writing, you guys. Writing makes me feel good, and excited and alive. That’s why I started this blog. I also love learning about new things. I saw this project as a way to learn about music. I also saw it as a fun thing to do with Alex in the evenings, because it’s been a long, cold winter and we have experienced way too many Netflix binges together in 2014.
I decided to call it “My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection,” as a joke. I obviously don’t think it’s stupid at all or else I wouldn’t want to listen to all of the records. Stupid sounded funny to me, because maybe he takes it more seriously than I do. But do I really think it’s stupid? No. I was trying to be cheeky.”
Yeah that’s right, folks. Sarah was trying to be funny and sarcastic in her writing. God forbid a woman has a sense of humor in her writing! It’s the worst thing ever! (That was sarcasm. Get it?)
Sarah does an excellent job in her response post clarifying her intentions and reiterating that she's not aping a music expert; she's more of an explorer. To this particular criticism, I say: does every writer have to be an expert the first time they sit down to speculate? No. Of course not!
The naysayers are holding Sarah to the highest of standards because she dared to write something about something she is learning, with the help of her spouse. If we are supposed to be experts in everything from the get-go, how then do we learn? If Sarah has a partner, like Alex, who "knows music" (he's also a producer of NPR’s On the Media) is she just not supposed to talk to him? How can we be so judgmental of a marriage that allows both sides to learn from the other?
All of this could be cleared up if people actually sat down and read the posts. But instead, they read the headlines and a few key points of a Slate.com article and somehow commenters are suddenly experts on Sarah’s intelligence, her writing, her marriage (oh yeah, people are sh*theads) and her as a person.
I spoke with Sarah following the controversy and asked if she had anything else to say that wasn’t already mentioned in her response piece. I also wanted to know how she felt about the backlash as a female writer.
“I feel subject to a level of scrutiny that a man would never in any circumstances come under. The fact that it’s coming from people I agree with ideologically is even more disheartening. With that said, female journalists experience this kind of scrutiny throughout their careers. It’s unfair that it’s applied to them and it’s equally unfair that it’s applied to me."
I literally couldn’t have said it better myself.
We need to be supportive of female writers and allow them the space and environment to express themselves. We cannot change the world of the Internet and its many trolls, but we can learn the facts and not be so quick to judge someone and their life just by reading a headline. And I think what she’s doing is pretty kickass. She’s even inspired me to go through my parent’s copious record collection and find music I’ve never heard before. We-the-internet-culture need to accept and praise those still willing to try new things, not shut people down based on thin assumptions. We are humans, we are women, we are writers, and we deserve respect.