The Spiteful Sexism of Disagreeable Commenters

Pardon the expression, but a recent commenter sunk to a new low when he found a novel explanation for why I didn't like his favorite restaurant: "Eddie V must have told her that her taco smelled of sea bass."

Um, really? Misogyny is pervasive in the blogosphere, of course, but can't disgruntled diners find ways to disagree with female critics without alluding to their love lives or menstrual cycles?

Let's be clear: I don't expect civility from comment writers. I counted up the comments appended to the last ten reviews published by every paper in our newspaper chain, and discovered the rate of jerky comments - which I'm loosely defining as something your mother would be ashamed to hear you say - was exactly the same for male and female critics. Eleven percent of comments reliably include some curse-filled variation on the theme of "this writer is a know-nothing moron."

But here's where the angry comments diverge: In reading more than 400 reader comments, I couldn't find a single comment that referenced a male critic's gender or sexuality. Female critics, on the other hand, have to deal with comments accusing them of performing cunnilingus on hamburgers.

I don't have a problem with strong opinions or vigorous debate. If you want to talk about why I think Mi Cocina's overrated, I'll buy the margaritas. What troubles me is that these nasty comments aren't fair-game personal attacks, they're anti-female screeds disguised as responses to food reviews. Worse still, nobody seems to mind. None of the sexist comments I came across elicited so much as a "c'mon, dude" follow-up.

This isn't a new problem. But I think it's especially relevant here in Dallas, which is perhaps the only major U.S. city where the morning paper, monthly magazine and alternative weekly all employ female critics.

Dallas' food community continues to develop, and it's up to consumers - not us critics - to determine its character. Let's hope misogyny isn't part of it.

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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin

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