The problem with Slate’s Double X Gabfest

I realize that this will apply to a tiny subset of my audience, but I have to put it out there: I can’t stand Slate’s Double X Gabfest. Not that this should be a surprise, as I have criticized it before. Even so, I continue to listen each week in hopes of improvement but come away angry, annoyed and frustrated.

I may have to stop listening at some point.

Today I finally identified the main reason why I cannot stand this podcast.

No, it’s not because Slate’s Double X editor Hanna Rosin manages to find a way to mention her upcoming book each week, though I find this hideously self serving.

No, it’s not because the same Hanna Rosin speaks twice as much as anyone else on the podcast combined, even though this is true.

It’s not even because every other contributor to the podcast seems to pay constant and unwavering deference to Hanna Rosin.

The reason I cannot stand this podcast is because there is never an ounce of push back on the show. The Double X Gabfest amounts to little more than a mutual mind share, with each woman attempting to outdo the next in her universal agreement on the topic at hand.

They use phrases like, “So we all agree?” and “We think this is a good idea, then?” and “That sounds right to me” rather than finding topics to actually debate.

This week the trio discussed the teenage sexual assault victim who named her underage assailants via Twitter after the judge admonished her not to release their names to the public. Not surprising, all three contributors took the side of the victim in the case. I felt similarly, but I couldn’t help but wonder:

What if the underage criminal whose identity was disclosed on Twitter was guilty of breaking and entering rather than sexual assault? Would we feel differently about the victim’s actions? What if the perpetrator had been a fifteen year old boy who had broken into the victim’s house and stolen from her? Would we feel the same about her public disclosure of his name?

What if this had been a case of simple assault rather than one sexual in nature? What if both the victim and the perpetrator had been males? Would this change things in terms of publicly disclosing the names these minors?

What if the crime has been manslaughter instead of sexual assault? A 14-year old boy brandishes a firearm in an attempt to intimidate a teenage girl, and in the process, the gun accidentally fires, killing her the girl’s best friend. The judge seals the court documents in order to protect the identity of the assailant in this case because he is a minor, but the girl broadcasts his name on Twitter in honor of her dead friend.

How do we feel now?

Does sexual assault or rape, for whatever reason, carry a different weight than other crimes? Should it?

I’m not sure about the answers to any of these questions, and I suspect that in the end, I would still find myself siding with Rosin and her colleagues, but they are the kinds of questions that are never addressed on this podcast. On every other Slate podcast, debate is constant, expected and appreciated. Devil’s advocates abound. There are even moments of genuine anger and discord.

This does not happen on Slate’s Double X Gabfest. No one bothered to wonder if we would think differently if the crime had not been sexual assault. No one bothered to play Devil’s advocate on behalf of the assailants and their court-ordered anonymity. No one even bothered to question the judge’s reasoning behind his desire to keep the assailants’ names private. There was talk about the stigma and shame associated with rape, and then all agreed that the victim had acted correctly in this case.

Every topic is handled similarly. Discussion, agreement, consensus, and more of the same, with Hanna Rosin dominating the conversation while finding some way to mention her upcoming book.

I’d like to be invited to join the Double X Gabfest for a week or two, in order to present an alternating viewpoint to some of the issues that they address and challenge the collective position from time to time. While I often find myself siding with the Double X collective, I think it’s reasonable to expect that either someone on the panel be willing to play Devil’s advocate or (even better) find someone whose opinions do not align so nearly with the rest of the panel.

Yes, I could just stop listening. I know this. But I genuinely want the podcast to be better. I want Slate to produce a podcast that addresses issues related to women and feminism, and I want to be exposed to these ideas more often.

And yes, if you haven’t figured it out, I’ll admit that Hanna Rosin bugs me as well, which is odd because I think her husband, David Plotz, is fantastic in his role as both editor and occasional contributor to Slate as well as podcast host.

I can’t imagine how he puts up with her.

In truth, I’m sure that Hanna is a wonderful person, and I don’t doubt her intelligence or accomplishments for a moment. She is a skilled writer and journalist, and I will probably read her book when it comes out.

I just think she stinks as a podcast host.