For 12 years, I have lived in Asheville, and most of those 12 years I have used the Mountain Xpress to peruse what is going on in liberal Asheville—not to mention what movies are playing. The week of Aug. 29, when I picked up a copy, I felt a wave of nausea as my subconscious visually read the main cover headline, “Tricked Out,” and below that, “Women in Business.” While I didn’t put it together right away, I opened up to the section on Women in Business and began looking at the incredible women who have pioneered their own creations.
While I was feeling encouraged and enthusiastic by increased numbers of women business owners from years past, I turned the last page of these ads to find photos of boys and men in their gangster postures alongside their “tricked out” cars. Pages later, I find the insults of the “Asheville Disclaimer” that is full of supposedly tongue-in-cheek insults about women in business and related sexist jokes. For example, one of the subheads at the top of this page says “This bitch rocks,” which is supposed to be a funny play on the dog nearby the main headline, “Celebrating Women in Business.” A few pages later is a relatively new section in the classifieds called “Adult Services,” which are basically phone numbers where men can call in for glorified prostitution services thinly disguised as “sensuous massage” and “erotic encounters.”
At this point in my reading of the Xpress, it is all coming together, and I am wondering—how conscious was this layout, were these headlines, was this sequencing of what I was seeing right before my eyes: a guide to women hating. Classic, liberalized combinations of female empowerment (showing women making a way for themselves in the world) side by side with a culture of pimping and gangsters (“tricked out”), followed by hostility masked in humor and topped off with pitifully disguised links for continued sexualization of women for men.
For those of you who are already dismissing my points: I am not a conservative Republican infiltrator. And I am not a liberal Democrat. Nor a religious-right fanatic. I am a woman unto myself. And I am offended by the Mountain Xpress’ lack of feminist consciousness in perhaps their continued attempts to be liberal, “hip” and acceptable to Asheville’s “anything goes” crowd and visitors.
I ask the editors of the Xpress for female-honoring consciousness. The “anything goes” philosophy of the liberal left is no more empowering to most women [than] the right’s rigid sex roles. This “Tricked Out” issue of the Mountain Xpress is careless and insulting, at best. And, it reflects much of the larger, liberal culture of Asheville. Liberal “empowerment/celebration” of women is not necessarily feminist, in my understanding of treating femaleness as valued and respected life—free of association with violence, objectification and sexualization. Thank you for the illustration of this point. I hope now you are able to see a little more of what is right before my eyes in your most recent issue, and [that you] will, perhaps, in future issues, bring that to the editor’s table.
— Lisa Garrett
Managing Editor Jon Elliston responds: Mountain Xpress has heard from many readers with strong opinions, pro and con, about the Asheville Disclaimer’s parody of our Women in Business advertising supplement. Perhaps some context will help address the matter: To begin with, Women in Business is an advertising package, not an Editorial Department product. Secondly, our newspaper has agreed with the Disclaimer’s writers that Xpress is not exempt from their parodies and satire, and that includes our advertising supplements. As for the humor (or lack thereof) behind the parody, we’ll defer to Michele Scheve, founder of the Disclaimer and a co-author of that bit. She provided lengthy commentary about her perspective on the matter in last week’s issue [see “What Was She Thinking?” Sept. 5 Xpress]. For still more discussion of the issue, from multiple perspectives, see the comments on our Web site at www.mountainx.com/news/2007/none_of_the_disclaimers_business. As for the “Tricked Out” photo essay: It profiled a vibrant West Asheville business and subculture—having nothing to do with pimps or gangsters but rather cars—and made no slight against women.