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Deborah Needleman Sparks Twitter Fest

Within minutes, a tweet from the new T: the New York Times Style Magazine editor had inspired its own hashtag and hundreds of mocking responses.

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NEEDLEMAN’S TWITTER FEST: Deborah Needleman is tired of Internet trolls and feminists, yes, feminists, making fun of her friend, the essayist and professional contrarian Katie Roiphe. So on Monday, Needleman, recently installed at T: the New York Times Style Magazine, plugged an upcoming reading by Roiphe by referring to the writer on Twitter as “sexy (sorry, feminists), smart, sassy.”

The response on social media was swift, and apoplectic. The New Yorker’s TV critic Emily Nussbaum retorted: “Did you write that tweet from 1963?”

Roiphe specializes in vaguely academic cultural criticism, published in the pages of Newsweek, Slate, and Needleman’s former WSJ. magazine. In a piece in the September issue, Roiphe concludes: “Even in our pleasantly postfeminist era, in which pretty much everyone wears jeans, the predominant image of a fashionable, dressed-up woman is still a feminine one.”

RELATED STORY: Deborah Needleman Settling in at T >>

Roiphe is the frequent object of ridicule by female writers and, to be fair, many male ones. She has a habit of drawing broad conclusions about American culture from her own life. Now Needleman was suggesting objections to Roiphe’s writing had to do with her sex appeal and feminists’ apparent lack of one.

Within minutes, Needleman’s tweet had inspired its own hashtag and hundreds of mocking responses. “Just came back from Pilates class #sorryfeminists,” wrote Jezebel.com founder Anna Holmes. Ann Friedman, the former executive editor of Good magazine and a Columbia Journalism Review online blogger, also created a Tumblr dedicated to the comment.

Needleman is still not widely known outside media circles, even with the recent spate of coverage about her appointment to the Times. Slate, which is run by Needleman’s husband Jacob Weisberg, had to add a correction in its post on the kerfuffle because it incorrectly referred to her as an editor of T. instead of editor in chief. If there’s some upside for the newly minted editor, who is still getting “settled,” according to a Times spokeswoman, it’s that, for better or worse, hardly anyone will forget her title now, or her association with #sorryfeminists.

Needleman later answered critics: “Hello twitterers in knicker twist: JOKE!!”