Bigot of the Week Award: September 2, The Huffington Post

2 Sep

Bigot of the Week

This is a rather sad story, for I used to have some respect for The Huffington Post, but it would seem it has now gone the way of The National Enquirer and can only hope to aspire to the tainted standard of yellow journalism. On August 30, 2011, The Huffington Post ran a story by Amanda Fairbanks titled Sex For Tuition: Gay Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ To Pay Off Loan Debt.

As noted by GLAAD, the story is riddled with dangerous stereotypes and shallow assumptions, providing no substantiation for its sweeping generalities. A prime example is this quote from the story:

Unlike in the straight world, many say they find working as an escort on the gay scene to be an accepted, even applauded practice.

provided with no supporting material. GLAAD is asking people to take action:

This level of carelessness is surprising, given the Huffington Post’s track record of commendable coverage of LGBT issues. It feeds into very outdated stereotypes, ignores the broad range of people from our community with many healthy and loving families and uses a few individuals to make sweeping and degrading generalizations about the gay community.   It’s shoddy journalism.

Aside from the dangerous backlash this will have on the LGBT community, Fairbanks seems to be the whore here and will publish a story regardless of facts or of how her need to be published will harm gay men. Obviously, this week’s BWA goes to Huffington Post. Thus far, HuffPo has offered only a weak defense of the story, still providing no journalistic evidence to support the wild and damaging claims. Badly done, Huffington Post. Make this right and publish a retraction now!

6 Responses to “Bigot of the Week Award: September 2, The Huffington Post”

  1. dinkerson September 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Hey Michael. I had shut my blog down for a bit and then reopened it with a bit more of a much needed positive attitude. Hope you’re doing well. Don’t your think that this simply falls under the category of free speech? I mean… isn’t everybody entitled to their own opinions? I agree with you that the editor should have provided some support before publishing, but if they communicate positive perspectives of the LGBT community most of the time, then why not consider this incident as a simple attempt to be balanced?

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

      By all means, I defend free speech. In this context, I take issue with the fact that there is not an even playing field. I believe if you call yourself a journalist, you must also act responsibly. The author of this article has not acted in a responsible manner. While I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with prostitution, save that I hope people practice safe sex, I take issue with presenting a very small portion of gay men that gives our right wing heterosexual counterparts more ammunition to marginalize us; that is the context of this specific post.

  2. Jay September 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I agree the article is sensationalistic, and includes several generalizations that are based on evidence that is, at best, anecdotal.

    However, IF, as the article asserts, sex work and non-monogamous relationships are, in general, more accepted in the gay community than in the straight community, is that necessarily a bad thing?

    I believe that prostitution, if safe, consensual, and regulated, should be legal. To me it seems a logical extension of the notion that sodomy should be legal, and abortion should be legal, and contraception should be legal: adults have personal autonomy, particularly in regard to their own bodies and their own sexuality. I also believe that responsible sex workers should be treated with respect, whether or not their work is legal.

    IF the gay community is, in general, more tolerant than the straight community in these attitudes, that is laudable rather than lamentable, in my opinion.

    In addition, the fear that these attitudes, whether true or false, give ammunition to anti-gay bigots is, perhaps, misplaced: since bigotry, by definition, thrives on distortions and lies, virtually anything is subject to misrepresentation by bigots. To give one example, Dan Savage’s defense of not-strictly-monogamous relationships (which he dubs ‘monogamish’ relationships) strikes me as braver and healthier than if he kept silent in fear of his views being caricatured.

    This is just my perspective–the pain of being subject to harmful stereotypes doesn’t hit me the same way it hits you, Michael, so I understand if you have different views.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 3, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      Actually we agree almost completely on every issue here. My take on this is that there are two separate issues, one about sexual orientation and another about sexuality in general. Yes, I agree that I, and many in the LGBT community, have far more accepting ideas about sexuality, but I believe progress is made in baby steps. First, I would like to see the LGBT community granted full equality in all aspects with equal rights to our heterosexual brothers and sisters. At that point, we can push for eliminating insane puritanical views of sexuality in general.

  3. Jay September 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    I’m glad to hear we are largely in agreement, Michael, and I respect your view that prioritizing issues pertaining to safety and legal equality should take precedence.

    My thinking is that more than one thing can be done at a time, and that multiple methods and strategies are the best way of achieving major goals. Battling misogyny and homophobia and legal inequality can take many forms, one of which is by minimizing the harm done by puritanical views more generally. So the ‘first this, then that’ choice that you present may be unnecessary, as some of the methods of achieving those different goals work hand-in-hand.

    An analogy to battling extreme poverty comes to mind. Some will argue that feeding the children must come first, that preventing immediate starvation must be the first priority. Others prefer to focus on improving agricultural productivity, so that the likelihood of famine happening again is reduced. Yet others will argue that the biggest bang-for-buck is in vaccinations, that healthier children and lower infant mortality is the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Others will focus on clean drinking water. Others will think the key is Jesus, and will proselytize to the very poor.

    Just as there are different ways of approaching the problems of extreme poverty, and most (but not all) of them have merit, so there are different ways of approaching LGBT inequality, and most (but not all) of them have merit.

    I’ll quit my yakking now: I’m sure you’re familiar with these arguments, and this is your blog, so naturally you get to determine the priorities around here. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      Jay, you actually sound like the late Dr. Martin Luther KIng Jr. Dr. King would say you have to attend to all the intersections of oppression at the same time. I agree! Perhaps I have judged the Huffington Post too harshly .

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