Who is Andrea Peyser?
She’s known as an outspoken, controversial and incredibly opinionated writer. Her column often features subjects of a sexual nature as she offers her stance on relationships, sex, parenting, and a number of other related topics.
According bighollywood.breitbart.com “Andrea started her career in upstate New York with the Associated Press in Albany, then the AP bureau in Charleston, W.Va. She has worked for CNN in Atlanta, and the Tampa Tribune in Florida, before finally returning home to the New York Post, where she started as a reporter. She was named columnist in 1993.” Her biography on the New York Post’s website doesn’t add much more. “A born and raised New Yorker, award-winning columnist Andrea Peyser started her career at the Albany Associated Press bureau, did one lost year in Charleston, W.Va., before working for CNN and the Tampa Tribune. She landed at the Post in 1989 and was named columnist in 1993. Her columns have won awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Newswomen's Club of New York and the New York Associated Press, which named her columnist of the year for 2005. A graduate of the State University of New York, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter”
But once again we’re left questioning what she actually has done. There’s really not much to be said about her as professional. What did she do with the Associated Press? And what were her responsibilities at CNN? When she was given the position of columnist at the New York Post, what was it for? Was the feedback for her reporting that strong? Were people dying to read more about what this woman had to say… and the way she had to say it? And there isn’t anything easily found about her personal endeavors – no donations to major charities, no presence on any boards of any organizations… What I find most interesting is that not one of the articles out of the first hits from Google gives any details about Andrea’s qualifications. Yes, we learn she has graduated from the State University of New York. But there’s not a single mention of what she studied specifically. Which SUNY did she attend? Was she a student of media? Publishing? English? It’s completely unclear.
Click here http://www.nypost.com/columnists/andreapeyser, for an index of Peyser’s columns for New York Post’s website. Andrea is most well known in the blogosphere by readers of Gawker. Click here http://gawker.com/search/andrea%20peyser/, to find a collection of Gawker’s breakdowns of and responses to much of Andrea’s writing.
Although entertaining to read, Gawker’s breakdowns of Peyser’s columns are lacking in critique and analysis. I’d like to sift through a few of her articles and give back some my personal opinions…
On September 14th, 2010 Peyser wrote an article entitled “Giving off the wrong signals,” about sports reporter Ines Sainz. It appears that Sainz reported being harassed by the Jets during one of the games at which she was present in the sidelines. Andrea digs into Ms. Sainz, claiming that she has “routinely exposed cleavage and brutally tight jeans…" She somehow manages to be both sexist and racist in one sentence, going on to explain that on TV Azteca, the Mexican station for which Sainz works, a woman’s place as a legitimate member of the news team is matched only by her “willingness to pose nude.”
Peyser continues to berate and discredit the claims made by Ines regarding the objectification she felt at the hands of the football players. She doesn’t quite go as far as to say that “she was asking for it,” but she might as well have. I have no respect for anyone who believes women who are harassed, tormented, abused and even raped are at any fault because of the way they dress or carry themselves. I don’t care if Ines Sainz was wearing a bikini on the field while reporting about the game – it is never alright for a man to make a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened. Peyser calls Sainz an embarrassment to journalism, a publicity whore, and demands that she “grow up.”
With bullying and sexual harassment being such media hot topics at the moment (see: http://www.wsbt.com/news/wsbt-notre-dame-silent-on-teens-dea-112110,0,2697429.story), I believe it’s Peyser’s responsibility to tread lightly on the topic. The fact that she is a woman with such opinions about Zainz’s situation truly boggles my mind. How can she not relate to Sainz in any way?! I just cannot wrap my mind around how jaded one has to be to completely disengage from such a story, to go so far as to blame the victim for the situation, and to then attack their credibility as a journalist because of their personal appearance. It’s just not fair.
What I find most interesting is the fact that she is consistently contradictory in her views towards sex and sexuality. One minute she’s chastising a woman for dressing too provocatively, and berating people for their sexual preferences. But then she goes off in a separate article about how people aren’t having enough sex, and are completely disengaged from one another… Well Andrea, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t question why college students aren’t sex crazed but then write about how there’s too much sexuality in our popular culture. It just doesn’t make sense. Interestingly, in the article entitled “Give it the ol’ college shy” from November 15th 2010, Peyser hints at an interesting and greatly discussed problem.
She argues that young people today are too consumed by their electronic devices, too overwhelmed by the pressures to succeed, and are therefore falling short in their social exchanges. I agree completely. I find it overwhelming how dependent we’ve become on social networking, how focused people are these days on their digital footprint. It’s a shame that technology is taking away from our every day interactions with others and therefore harming our interpersonal relationships. But again, it’s Peyser’s delivery which makes me cringe, and could lead any reader away from the main point she’s making. She’s offensive, cruel, and overly opinionated. I’ll give her some credit. She is concerned with the breakdown of “normal” relationship building. “Walking through Columbia the other day was like strolling through a blank-faced village of the damned. No eye contact was made. No words spoken.” Well-said Andrea. I agree, it’s becoming a major problem. But times change and this is becoming the norm.
The problem with this article is the indiscriminate generalizations she makes regarding the social deterioration of college campuses. She says, literally, nobody speaks to one another as they make their way across campus. Well, of course they don’t! She’s focusing on Columbia University; a prestigious and large city based educational institution. She refers to the campus as “sweeping.” Well, yes… It’s a college based in a city. Columbia, NYU, Fordham and Hunter are spread all across Manhattan and even have some buildings in outer boroughs. So, in that vein, it should be a given that socializing is difficult. It’s hard to reach out to others and maintain solid connections when your roommate takes classes 30 blocks away from you, and your classmates could live “on campus” when you might be out in Brooklyn. She continues making bold statements that hold no bearing for someone who isn’t a member of a college community. She goes on about “…pimple-faced awkwardness has won a major victory over the "Animal House" bacchanalia of days past.” I’m sorry, but last I checked, Animal House was a movie. A film. A fictionalization and dramatization of college life. If you recall, the film took place at a college where most students lived on campus, and focused on the life in fraternity houses. It was set at a school not situated in the middle of a major city, but instead at a university where the ONLY social life revolved around fraternity parties. It was not someplace where you have the world at your fingertips and aren’t limited to keggers, dorm mixers, and school organized events. Andrea, it is a widely known fact that the “bacchanalia” you so fondly remember does still exist. However, it is simply less significant and popular at city based colleges and universities. Try visiting the University of Wisconsin, Lehigh University, Syracuse and Washington University in St. Louis. These places are rife with parties, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. If you’re going to focus on a place like Columbia, maybe you should try looking a little harder.
Andrea – I promise you I know what I’m talking about. I graduated college almost two years ago, and still have many friends enrolled. I myself went to a small liberal arts college, but have visited and experienced the social scenes at MANY different types of institutions. I can swear to you, the party hasn’t stopped yet. What I have most issue with is the fact that she claims this is an epidemic and a crisis. I’m still wary of internet dating, and become incredibly annoyed if my dinner mates spend an excessive amount of time on their mobile devices… but this is what every day life is like these days.
Today, December 2nd, 2010 Andrea wrote an article regarding the predicament in which Alexis Stewart (Martha’s daughter) has found herself in. Alexis has wanted to have a child for quite some time, but has had trouble conceiving. She has been very public and open about her struggle, which I fid incredibly brave and strong. It has recently been announced that she is planning on having a child through a surrogate. Peyser is having NONE of this and has many harsh words for Alexis. This is one article I’d like to break down piece-by-piece, sentence-by-sentence. Lets start at the beginning. “The rich don’t reproduce like you and me” Sorry Andrea, but you’re all well publicized writer for one of the biggest newspapers in the state. You are rich. “Martha Stewart's only child, Alexis, this week became the latest narcissistic demi-celeb to behave as if she's the first person on earth to try to birth a baby, an act performed with minimal effort by younger lights, from Britney Spears to Bristol Palin.” As far as I can tell, from reading reports about Alexis and interviews done with her, she’s been handling herself maturely and professionally with this very personal matter. And please, don’t let me go on and on about the hypocrisy of the “narcissistic” comment. Judging others from one’s own ugly high horse is the epitome of narcissism. Andrea continues with her judgment. “After wasting hundreds of thousands on unsuccessful fertility treatments -- and thumbing her nose at donor eggs and adoption -- Alexis is going the Frankenstein route.” Fertility treatment and the resulting expenditures are not at all wasteful. For many women conceiving naturally (for whatever reason afflicts them) is incredibly difficult. And again, Peyser makes statements without backing with any reliable source material. I can believe that Alexis favors having a biological child over adoption, but it is doubtful that she would thumb her nose at other options. It seems logical that she’s considered all the possible ways in which she can become a parent, and for her, surrogacy is the best choice.
Within the first three paragraphs Peyser rips into Alexis. Along with the cold “Frankenstein” comment, she continues with phrases such as “rent-a-womb,” and claims that Alexis is spreading the message to women that after “draining all available medical resources, you, too, don’t have to settle for a used kid.” I am all for adoption. I think it’s a beautiful and honorable thing for a family or individual to take a needy stranger into their home to make them part of their lives. But the cruel and horrifying way in which Peyser advocates this choice is just painful. She opens the article by berating a woman, and continues to poke at her weaknesses along side quotations from the Alliance for Children agency and parents who have chose adoption. Anyhow, Andrea continues on. “Alexis, 45, squandered her baby-making years. Not because she was too unstable, broke or unable to conceive. She told People magazine, with the urgency of one suffering from a hangnail, that she and equally self-absorbed ex-hub John Cuti were "completely ambivalent" about kids… That ambivalence cost her upwards of $27,000 -- a month! -- over the last three years for procedures that left Martha grandchild-less. And the rest of us relieved.” I’m sorry, but last I checked, people who have children yet are ambivalent about them either put their children up for adoption themselves, are terrible parents or completely uninvolved parents. Alexis’ choice with her then husband was smart. She didn’t squander her time away. She made a mature and ethical decision not to have children until she was ready – emotionally, physically, financially, whatever. Peyser’s blatant disregard for this fact is just simply ignorant. I’d rather not have a parent if one or both of them were ambivalent about my presence! Shame on you, Andrea, for implying that this is the better option.
She goes on to say that Alexis could have gone down the same road as Angelina or Madonna, and adopted a needy child. Yet she calls them “fellow egoists.” Once again, nothing is good enough for Andrea. She calls Alexis an egoist for not adopting a child, but then attacks Angelina Jolie for being egotistical for choosing adoption? Please, make up your mind. You’re confusing and upsetting the rest of us. Moving on… she continues to dig at Alexis on a very personal level, pointing out that she is on antidepressants. What does that have to do with anything? As far as I can tell it’s simply a device Peyser is using to make Alexis seem unlikable or unstable. She uses this little trick again by making Alexis’ decision out to be reckless. “It's unlikely Alexis considered potential hazards. Dangerous multiple births can result from surrogacy procedures. If Alexis is lucky, she'll get twins, like surrogate-hirer Sarah Jessica Parker. If she winds up like Octomom, she'd face the Solomonic choice of which embryos to abort -- and risk saving the budding serial killer while flushing away a future president. People are out of work. Children are alone. But rich, neurotic women spend cash, work out mommy issues, and grab attention by having kids.” Wow. These are some incredibly strong and hurtful statements. I can’t even really begin to process all the horrible assumptions regarding Alexis’ lack of parenting skills, let alone the interpretations of her statement regarding abortion. I don’t exactly know why this article has hit me harder than the rest. But something about it feels so cold and heartless. Peyser has no sympathy for Alexis’ situation, and criticizes her for decisions and actions she hasn’t even made yet.
Here’s an interesting response to today’s influx and so-called “glorification” of single motherhood. The last line “Men may no longer be necessary, but they come in handy. Put down that turkey baster” is enough to make my face flush with anger. Thanks, Andrea, for pushing women’s rights back a couple decades with that one. Or we could look into this article which is laced with not so subtle hints of homophobia, like how her daughter’s school has been “shoving a ‘Gay is OK!’ agenda” down the throats of children. I’m sorry, but I think it’s the responsibility of those molding the minds of today’s youth to make them as aware and understanding as possible to different lifestyles, choices, and types of people. Her point that programming children watch might not always be the most appropriate is overwhelmed and forgotten in lieu of her obvious bigotry.
I could easily break down and rip into each and everyone one of her articles. But instead I’d rather focus on the larger issue at hand – Andrea Peyser is a guilty party in the breakdown of the print media industry. It is because of “reporters” and “journalists” like this that younger and more qualified writers are losing opportunities. Magazines are failing, newspapers are making budget cuts, and news writers no longer have anything substantial to say. Entertainment reporting has itself become entertainment. News has become gossip. Facts have been pushed aside in favor of opinion.
One of my biggest problems with the media today is the unprofessional nature of most writing. I don’t claim to be any more eloquent or educated than anyone who may be a published writer or not. However, I do believe that as a reporter or columnist, individuals have the responsibility to express themselves in a professional, and somewhat objective, manner. Personal opinions and casual delivery should be left to the blogosphere, and in fact, many of the blogs I enjoy reading are incredibly relatable and down to earth. But as a professional employed by a New York City Newspaper, I believe Peyser has a responsibility to uphold a certain standard of writing. From what I’ve read, her articles are all conversational, informal, and often very biased.
While I understand that the New York Post is not nearly as far reaching as the New York Times of Wall Street Journal, it is still read by many. People use print media for building knowledge, and, consciously or not, often use this knowledge as a starting point for forming their own personal opinions, ideals and beliefs. For a newspaper that doesn’t claim to be a tabloid, but instead a source of viable and legitimate information, I find it offensive that these publishers and writers find it “okay” to spread messages of hate and bigotry. But what to me is even more admonishable the fact that this is done in such a blasé manner.
Just because you have opinions and a place to voice them does not make you a reputable journalist. It makes you a power drunk narcissist, a bully, and a generally questionable writer.
On a personal note, I fully acknowledge that this little opinion piece of mine won’t necessarily win me any friends. I also know that it could come back to haunt me should I ever become a writer at any sort of professional level. But I’m not ashamed of my beliefs, particularly when it’s regarding something I feel strongly about. The legitimacy of the entertainment and media industries is something I’ve witnessed evolve and change over the years, and just because I’m young does not mean I’m not entitled to my own understanding and respect for them. So I look forward to any feedback, any backlash, any thanks or messages of hate. That’s the beauty of this medium. I can say what I want and reach whoever wants to see what it is I have to say. I don’t air out my opinions in a widely absorbed public forum. Whoever reads what I have to say must actively seek me out. Unlike Andrea Peyser I acknowledge that I what I say may or may not hurt others. I back up my statements with facts or reasons. And most importantly, I think I try to see the light side of whatever it is I might not believe in or agree with. Even if I hate a movie, I can elaborate on why. I can even find something effective or successful about it. Peyser cannot. And if she can, she chooses not to.