Society Tells Men That Friendship Is Girly. Men Respond by Not Having Friends.
American men are starving for friends, writes sociologist Lisa Wade in Salon. Or, more precisely, adult, white heterosexual men have fewer friends than any other group. The friendships they do form are often superficial, involving less support and “lower levels of self-disclosure and trust.” The sad part is that surveys show that men desire closeness and intimacy from their male friends, just as women do. So why don't they have it? Around the age of 15 or 16, Wade suggests, friend-like traits such as emotional openness, vulnerability, supportiveness and caring become risky for boys to show; these qualities get suppressed in favor of self-sufficiency, stoicism and competitive fire.
Wade sifts through the work of researcher Niobe Way, who interviewed high school boys over four years about their evolving same-sex bonds. One kid, Justin, said this about his best guy friend:
We love each other… that’s it… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. It’s just a thing that you know that person is that person… I guess in life, sometimes two people can really, really understand each other and really have a trust, respect and love for each other.
Three years later, Justin came down to earth:
[My friend and I] we mostly joke around. It’s not like really anything serious or whatever… I don’t talk to nobody about serious stuff… I don’t talk to nobody. I don’t share my feelings really. Not that kind of person or whatever… It’s just something that I don’t do.
Alleged Victim of the “Knockout Game” Was Actually a Victim of Domestic Violence
As my colleague Emma Roller reported previously on Slate, the "knockout game," in which young black men randomly hit white people in an effort to knock them out, is not a real epidemic. That didn't stop an explosion of media stories, often based on the thinnest of evidence, chronicling this supposed trend in November. Now one of the alleged victims, a St. Louis woman named Ashley DePew, who claimed she was attacked in a "knockout game," has been exposed for lying. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other local outlets, police say that what really happened is that her boyfriend hit her and she borrowed the popular urban legend in order to cover for his crime.
You couldn't come up with a better encapsulation of how American perceptions of crime are skewed. Domestic violence has gotten more media attention the past couple of decades, but it's still a chronically underreported crime and most people remain unaware of how widespread the problem is. Victims like DePew routinely conceal what's really going on. In contrast, of course, you have the outrage and hysteria over an imaginary crime that seems dreamed up for no other purpose than stoking racist anxieties. And the fact that the media and its audience buy into it allows real criminals to borrow these myths about black violence to get away with their very real crimes.
“It Was Like a Pile of Kleenex”: Women Writers on Reading Literature's "Midcentury Misogynists"
In 2007, the literary magazine n+1 asked a group of writers to engage in a dialog about the formative books in their lives as young readers. The exercise returns this month with the pamphlet No Regrets, which recruited a cast of exclusively female participants to talk about the books they read (or didn’t) early on. “I knew that women speak to one another differently in rooms without men,” moderator Dayna Tortorici writes. “Not better, not more honestly, not more or less intelligently—just differently, and in a way one doesn’t see portrayed as often as one might like.” The result is a fascinating exploration of the development of female readers, from their disillusionment with manly canonical works, to their discovery of books that speak to a female experience, and toward a complicated understanding of how both sexist and feminist works have influenced their view of the world.
For many of these women, the reading experience begins from a place of seething rage. Take Sara Marcus’ initial impression of Jack Kerouac: "I remember putting On the Road down the first time a woman was mentioned. I was just like: 'Fuck. You.' I was probably 15 or 16. And over the coming years I realized that it was this canonical work, so I tried to return to it, but every time I was just like, 'Fuck you.'" Tortorici had a similarly visceral reaction to Charles Bukowski: "I will never forget reading Bukowski’s Post Office and feeling so horrible, the way that the narrator describes the thickness of ugly women’s legs. I think it was the first time I felt like a book that I was trying to identify with rejected me. Though I did absorb it, and of course it made me hate my body or whatever." Emily Witt turned to masculine texts to access a sexual language that was absent from books about women, but found herself turned off by their take: “many of the great classic coming-of-age novels about the female experience don’t openly discuss sex,” she says in No Regrets. “I read the ones by men instead, until I was like, ‘I cannot read another passage about masturbation. I can’t. It was like a pile of Kleenex.”
Stephen Marche Floats a New Reason for Why Men Shouldn’t Do Housework: Women Are Crazy
In the amount of time Stephen Marche must have spent writing his elaborate, 2000-plus-word excuse for why men can't do housework for an op-ed in the New York Times, he could have just cleaned his house. Twice.
In "The Case for Filth," Marche, previously famous for complaining women don't worship men like they used to, ponders housework's persistent gender inequality with unbearably pretentious twaddle like, "Even the most basic housework proves ethereal on inspection," and, "Like everything in marriage, the division of domestic duties ultimately boils down to sex, the fundamental struggle to achieve regulated passion." Please keep that in mind next time you want your husband to wipe down the counters. Marche's thesis essentially boils down to this: "Yeah, women do more around the house, but that's because women are crazy."
Women Can Rise on Wall Street If Husbands Stay Home. This Is Not Progress.
One of the fallacies of what I think of as corporate feminism is the notion that once women are in positions of leadership and power, they will make corporations more family-friendly. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg writes that it’s equally important for women to focus on tearing down internal barriers as it is for women to “get rid of the external barriers once we achieve leadership roles. We will march into our bosses offices and demand what we need … Or better yet we’ll become bosses and make sure all women have what they need.” I was reminded of this fallacy when I read Sunday’s front-page story in the New York Times: “Wall Street Mothers, Stay-Home Fathers.”
The basic premise of this article is that many of the most successful women on Wall Street have stay-at-home husbands, just as their male counterparts have stay-at-home wives, so that they can focus 100 percent on their jobs at all times. They have convinced their employees, and maybe themselves, that they don’t have any responsibilities beyond mergers and acquisitions. As one woman told co-writers Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, a potential employer was thrilled to hear her husband had a low-paying, flexible job, because that meant she’d never be pulled away from work for parenting.
Nelson Mandela Expanded Government Health Care. Rick Santorum Uses His Death to Attack It.
That many on the right would rush to be seen praising Nelson Mandela in the hours after his death was so predictable that journalists had the "actually, Republicans fought him tooth and nail every step of the way" pieces ready to launch. As is his wont, Rick Santorum really outshone the competition by trying to appropriate Mandela for his own ends it the most mind-bogglingly ignorant way possible. While on Bill O'Reilly's show, Santorum hijacked Mandela's legacy to whine about social welfare programs. Mandela "was fighting against some great injustice," said Santorum, "and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”
Man Asks Internet to Hunt Down His Lost Crush
Last year, 25-year-old New Zealander Reese McKee was celebrating New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong, traipsing among the brilliant lights of the city, when he happened upon an American woman crying alone on the side of the road. He told her jokes. She laughed. They drank. They danced. They reconnected with the friends she had lost earlier in the evening. Then, they parted ways at 6 a.m. But not before this sad, attractive mystery woman left Reese with two fateful words: “Find me.” The next morning, Reese awoke and examined the clues. He knew her name was Katie, that she was from Washington, D.C., and that her email address “had ‘kitty kat’ in it.” Now, he’s enlisting the Internet to help track her down. What happened next is a Manic Pixie nightmare.
Best Science Picture Books of 2013
From bones to engines to mechanical fish, this year was good to children’s scientific imaginations. I wrote in October about Bone by Bone, a brilliant picture book that asks kids to wonder what their bodies would look like with different configurations of bones, and in the process lays the groundwork for sophisticated ideas about evolution. Bone by Bone remains a top pick for the year, along with the gems below, all of which nurture the substratum of wonder that can pave the way for later scientific thinking.
How the Meteorite Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland. Objects in museums are often presented matter-of-factly, as if they’ve always been there. But this book charts a meteor’s course as it sails from outer space, over Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, until it crashes into a Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, New York. From there, it connects the people who deal with the meteorite—from those kids are already enchanted with, like firefighters and police officers, to those they will come to know, like the geologist, the curator and the cosmologist—all rendered in cartoon whimsy.
When the Target of Sexual Assault Doesn’t See Herself as a Victim
In Texas Monthly, Jenny Kutner writes a long and arresting account of her eighth grade year, when the 14-year-old Kutner met the 23-year-old middle school history teacher Trace Lehrer (a pseudonym). Mr. Lehrer talked with Kutner after class, invited her to eat lunch in his classroom, told her to call him “Trace,” touched her shoulder, rubbed her neck, tracked down her cell phone number, drove her around in his pickup, asked her to sit in his lap to steer while he manned the pedals, rubbed her thigh, came over to her house when her parents were away, and finally, entered her bedroom.
That year of Kutner’s life ended up aired in court and splashed across local TV stations, with Lehrer identified as a “villain” and Kutner his “victim.” But the lived experience was “more complicated than that,” she says. When she looked in the mirror, she “saw Trace Lehrer’s accomplice, not his victim.” Even now, when she talks about the incident, she uses this construction: “I had an illicit affair with my eighth grade history teacher when I was fourteen.” And: “I still cannot determine when I would have become a victim, because I’ve never believed that I did.”
Is the situation actually “more complicated” than it appeared on the surface? It is and it isn’t. The power of Kutner’s story is that it lends insight into a particular type of victimization—the kind that happens when the victim doesn’t see herself as one.
This Smart Bra Will Stop You From Eating Your Feelings. Ladies, Rejoice!
My sisters, something wondrous has happened. Researchers at Microsoft are developing a smart bra that alerts women to their stress levels, so that they might avoid “emotional overeating.”
According to the BBC, the blueprint “contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood.” The bra takes your EKG and feeds it to an app on your phone, which then counsels you to avoid the refrigerator, because you’re stressed, or to go ahead and cross the kitchen threshold. (You’re calm! You can handle it.) What a sign of progress that technology now recognizes the holy trinity of womanhood, emotional instability, and concern for food and weight. These researchers totally “get” us! (Please let the bra be pink.)
My one tiny concern is that I am not actually sure I need my underwear to tell me when I’m anxious—I JUST KNOW, OK?—in the same way that I don’t need my breasts to notify me when it is already raining. On the other hand, sometimes you think you know what you’re feeling but you really just need your bra to brasplain it to you, otherwise you will eat all the things.