Breaking Down Elizabeth Bruenig's Dedicated Hatedom
Being a catholic socialist in an industry full of irreligious liberals makes for foes aplenty.
It isn’t a secret that media — especially its mainstream installment — is an institution that resists change, and when confronting a flavor of it so rare, its instinct is to often retaliate. That’s the story of Elizabeth Bruenig, who ran her trials of preaching the gospel of socialism from a catholic perspective on the New Republic, the Washington Post and then most-recently the New York Times–if her opinions are heeded by those who respect the profession regardless of the unspoken compulsion to instead be liberal and faithless, some still see the 2018 Pulitzer Prize runner-up as undeserving of her platform due to her unwillingness to conform.
Putting it in such harsh a term might surprise some people, but it’s true–because American media’s most influential are concentrated along coastal metropoles, they inadvertently push for a particular brand of secular politics and sometimes even girlboss feminism that punishes Elizabeth for being a working Catholic mom who thinks that the liberal fortresses set up around her workplace have little moral meat. Her having kids seems unconscionable for anyone in this profession, religiosity is considered contrary to the prestige that high-level media institutions command, and the absence of much left-politics focused journalism outside of outlets like Jacobin, the Intercept and the New Republic makes it all-the-more-difficult to assume any kind of power in a space that has much to gain from the sustenance of a liberal status quo; all culminating into what must be a hellish reality for the recently-turned thirty writer.
A frustration that Elizabeth has oft-expressed is her inability to court favor from fellow female writers because she refused to reduce herself to the beat of sex, relationships and pop culture that many feminist writers in the early aughts found themselves confined to. Long after the heyday of Gawker-era blogging, a healthier equilibrium seems to be in current formation, but that didn’t make Elizabeth any less fearful of the potentially-poisonous association–that put her at odds with graduates of early Jezebel, Refinery29, Seventeen Magazine, Vogue and the like, making her network of supporters inside the industry all-the-smaller as a result.
Recently in an interview with Matthew Yglesias while discussing anti-natalist arguments in his newly-released book “One Billion Americans”, Vox’s co-founder spoke of ambient chatter expressing unease at Elizabeth’s decision to have children so early in her career, breaking ranks with the rest of her peers. While the evidence there is anecdotal, it follows the line of a bad precedent set by America’s professional class, which is to antagonize those who wish to bear children and acting ostensibly in not-so-feminist ways, despite much claim to the contrary.
That this dissonance continues to exist in media is perhaps its most lamentable characteristic–if integrating women in the workforce brought along it many economic boons, it was also the harbinger of much hostility towards those who resent a man-like demeanor, robbing them the opportunity to become childbearers until a later stage in their career. It is the reinforcement of these norms even in the presence of a supposed feminist fervor against Elizabeth’s choices as sole arbiter of her own bodily autonomy that baffles the most, and it is a possible indication that there may be an even greater conflict at play here; namely of clashing political aesthetics.
The legacy of liberalism in America is one whose most-recent installments have been marked by a reticence to redistribute the nation’s riches, and as Bill Clinton’s successful push for welfare reform in the 90s has proven, there’s little to defy the wish of those who consider single mothers the scourge of human existence–Elizabeth has not shied away from vehement opposition to that sentiment in the past, and that for some portion of her colleagues signifies a commitment to a nationalistic brand of natalism, which as she and her chronic public policy drafter husband have expressed, is not at all the aim of their beliefs. What is merely Elizabeth’s wish, is to see less of her personal life seep into others’ judgement of her as a professional, even as she chooses not to dub resistance to wealth redistribution and family welfare policies as liberals’ own personal pathologies.
This is the fundamental difference between Elizabeth and her most ardent critics–they seem to think her moral stances emanate from a quasi-dogmatic devotion to seeing families thrive as a result of childbearing blues, but Elizabeth’s professed convictions on the topic ought to just be what any wealthy and developed nation should offer its citizens. It is obscene that liberal media figures try to paint it otherwise, and it speaks perhaps to the long road yet in dire need of trotting, to pave the path for her successors to walk it with much greater ease.
Despite being the ivory tower of high-mindedness — or so the media claims at least — petty quibbles have long been the primary fuel of rivalries within the industry. Ms. Bruenig wishes to raise her children in peace, share a fulfilling livelihood with her husband, and continue shedding light on which she deems is most-worthy of attention amid modernity’s utter wretchedness–journalists should relish in their unity of purpose rather than fixate on irreconcilable trivialities. They’re all in search of some truth, and even if few can claim to have ever grasped it, the collective nature of their work should supplant much the need for sparring over the inconsequential.
Speaking for myself as someone who enjoys reading Elizabeth’s work, withstanding the trials and tribulations she goes through to deliver it every single day, I’m often struck by how strident it is in the face of much-predicted backlash–it bears a moral righteousness that very few in the media are left expressing as a tasteless objectivity has come to rule the newsrooms in recent years. As trust in media is ever in limbo, it could stand to be a little more convinced of what it preaches–after all, what is the pursuit of truth if we do not believe in it the slightest? The media would be in a much better state if only it took Elizabeth’s modus operandi closer to heart.