Washingtonienne update

April Witt attempts a sympathetic portrayal of Jessica Cutler — a.k.a., Washingtonienne — in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and halfway succeeds. In the story, Cutler comes across as much less calculating than much of the press coverage of her earlier in the summer. She’s also sounds more self-deprecating than in her previous interviews. On ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

April Witt attempts a sympathetic portrayal of Jessica Cutler -- a.k.a., Washingtonienne -- in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and halfway succeeds. In the story, Cutler comes across as much less calculating than much of the press coverage of her earlier in the summer. She's also sounds more self-deprecating than in her previous interviews. On the other hand, she also appears to be aimless, immature, and confident that her looks would open doors for her despite a checkered resume (and, to be fair, she was correct about this). Like others before her, she also foolishly believed that her blog would never be read beyond her circle of friends. Read the whole thing. This part is particularly interesting:

April Witt attempts a sympathetic portrayal of Jessica Cutler — a.k.a., Washingtonienne — in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and halfway succeeds. In the story, Cutler comes across as much less calculating than much of the press coverage of her earlier in the summer. She’s also sounds more self-deprecating than in her previous interviews. On the other hand, she also appears to be aimless, immature, and confident that her looks would open doors for her despite a checkered resume (and, to be fair, she was correct about this). Like others before her, she also foolishly believed that her blog would never be read beyond her circle of friends. Read the whole thing. This part is particularly interesting:

She posed for Playboy in a pictorial that will run this fall, just in time for the election. Book agents pursued her, and a literary bidding war netted her a six-figure book deal. “It’s more than I probably deserve,” she says. “Ha! I’m sure a lot of people will agree.” The tittering hordes vilified Jessica even as they pursued her, denouncing her online, around office coolers and in commentaries from the left and right. Jessica thinks she knows why. In a culture increasingly nervous about its own values, numbly sinking into the sofa at night to watch trash reality TV shows and wondering if our own 14-year-old sons and daughters are casually “hooking up,” it’s satisfying to have a bona fide blog slut to flog. “I was watching the movie ‘Scarface’ the other night, and I was like, Oh my God, this is exactly how I feel,” Jessica says. “There is that scene where [the gangster played by Al Pacino] was in a restaurant. He was all coked up. He gets thrown out. He tells everyone in the restaurant, ‘You need me. You need me. You need me so you can point at me and say that’s the bad guy.’ ” Jessica Cutler, the mouse-clicker that roared, is a smart, subversive waif with a certain South Park charm. She’s 5 feet 2, weighs about 100 pounds, wears hoop earrings as big as her fist and has a higher IQ — she says she’s been twice tested at more than 140 — than the average medical student. Jessica was officially fired for misusing an office computer, but the men she wrote about kept their jobs. What they lost was their privacy. Jessica’s blog identified them only by their initials. But amateur Internet sleuths who read the blog searched electronic databases looking for likely suspects, then posted names and photographs on the Internet. Jessica still refuses to name the men publicly. “I feel really bad for the guys,” Jessica says. “They didn’t deserve this.” As for herself, she tries to look on the bright side. “I was only blogging for, what, less than two weeks?” she says. “Some people with blogs are never going to get famous, and they’ve been doing it for, like, over a year. I feel bad for them.” Sitting in a corner table at the Palm one recent afternoon, she twists a strand of her long dark hair as she contemplates her place in the universe. “I was the one writing on the bathroom wall” with her online diary. “A lot of men have bad things to say about me,” acknowledges Jessica, who has been Googling herself to read anonymous diatribes from online critics. “I really upset them. I think it bothers them to find out that girls really do, you know, get together and laugh about guys’ [anatomies] all day.” (emphasis added)

Looks like Miss Cutler has been reading the blog. Witt is surprisingly frank about her motivations in yesterday’s washingtonpost.com Q&A:

What about the men? There were several reasons I wanted to do this story. But one of them was that I was fascinated that so many people were attacking Jessica and giving the men a free ride, so to speak. If Jessica is a skank for having hotel quickies with a married Bush official who gave her cash in an envelope, then what is he? Might he be someone who in his day job preaches that gay unions are a major threat to the institution of marriage, then skips out at lunch to cheat on his wife? His behavior is not only a threat to the institution of marriage, it’s a threat to the health and life of the mother of his children. The reaction to Jessica’s blog proved this if nothing else: the double sexual standard for men and women is still pervasive…. I see that as one of many very depressing aspects to this story.

Interestingly enough, a later contributer to the chat posted the following:

People who say that the guys in this mess are not getting blamed are completely wrong. While Cutler’s identity is more public, the guys she slept with are getting plenty of their share of the blame, albeit not as publicly as Cutler since she has chosen to be the face of this controversy for personal gain. Sure, the guys haven’t been officially “outed” but their identities and pictures are well-known for the people on the Hill and if you ask around, they are being treated as pariahs and lepers.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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