Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013, at 4:40 PM
Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
The season finale of FOX’s The Mindy Project aired on Tuesday, and it was a deeply emotional episode for me. The primary emotion I am feeling is relief. After following Mindy Kaling's impressive writing and acting at NBC's The Office, I’ve spent the 2012-2013 television season desperately trying to like The Mindy Project. I have failed. How did one of the most subversive figures on network television end up making such a bad show?
In a TV landscape dominated by white men, Kaling is the rare woman of color to create, write, and star (as New York obgyn Dr. Mindy Lahiri) in her own network sitcom. White men fill a unique role on Kaling’s show, too—they appear in the form of Mindy’s constantly refreshing stream of man candy, who Mindy beds (and usually, discards) at breakneck speed. This week, Rachel Sklar called the show “subversive and sexy” for its depiction of a single woman who “unapologetically hooks up with a parade of adorable guys” with none of the sexual shaming or cloying melodrama that accompanies most depictions of single ladies on television. And as Nisha Chittal recently told Jezebel, “it's really interesting that Mindy Lahiri dates white men,” which she sees as a “conscious decision to refute the stereotype that South Asians only date other South Asians.”
Theoretically, The Mindy Project’s take on hooking up does sound radical. If only it weren’t so boring in practice. On the Mindy Project, men come and men go, but they never go anywhere interesting. Take the guest appearances of the Meyers brothers: In the show’s second episode, Mindy meets-cute with a charming architect played by Seth Meyers. The pair plan a date, but we don’t see it; in fact, we never see Seth, or hear about him, ever again. Later in the season, Mindy flirts at a bar with another charming guy played by Seth’s brother, Josh Meyers, who turns out to be a prostitute. He, too, gets one episode, then disappears. With the right comedic tone, Mindy’s quick turnover of love interests could play out like a fun–or even dark—inversion of rom-com tropes: No, Mindy doesn’t end up marrying the handsome architect after a series of clutzy romantic blunders; she unwittingly falls into a Pretty Woman situation with a guy who looks eerily similar, and that doesn’t work out like the movies, either. But ironies like those aren’t given any space for exploration on the show. Every time Mindy presses the reset button on a new dude, her thin character development resets, too.
It’s potentially subversive that Mindy doesn’t get too emotionally invested in her sex partners. The problem is that we don’t get invested in Mindy herself, either. Occasionally, The Mindy Project will make a bid to insert some emotional heft into Mindy’s romantic life, but these moments also feel like stunts as opposed to stories. For instance, the show clumsily hints at a brewing attraction between Mindy and her coworker, Dr. Danny Castellano, by arranging for them to inadvertently touch hands on a bumpy plane ride.
Maybe the problem is Mindy’s inability to dig deeper inside herself. When one of Mindy’s past partners unexpectedly resurfaces on her birthday with a thoughtful gift, Mindy tells him that after their hook-up failed to materialize into a relationship, she “cried every night.” But we never actually saw Mindy cry. Is she even capable of it? The attempt to bolster Mindy’s unapologetic hook-ups with these melodramatic touches doesn’t feel sexy and transgressive—it feels disjointed, even oddly sociopathic. Even Mindy’s friends and coworkers feel similarly disposable and largely stereotypical. When Mindy’s initial married-with-kids BFF proved boring, writers threw in a new, single (also boring) BFF to pick up confidante duties. The show’s first season also traded in a woman in a wheelchair whose main shtick is acting inappropriately sexual, and a black nurse who communicates largely through singing.
This isn’t Louie, where Louis CK’s constant romantic interactions form the absurd set pieces for his existential anxiety. It’s not 30 Rock, where stereotypes are pushed to absurd limits for comedic effect. The Mindy Project is a potentially subversive take on modern love, shoehorned into the outdated trappings of a run-of-the-mill wacky workplace comedy. It is bad. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. At the end of the season finale, Mindy articulates her character’s main romantic tension: “No guy has ever wanted to commit to me before, because I work too much, I’m kind of selfish, I’ve never voted, and usually a guy figures that out, and then they leave,” she says. Then, she rushes to the hospital, unzips her party dress, wipes off her lipstick, pulls on her scrubs, and delivers triplets. That was the sexiest moment on the show this season, and it had nothing to do with any random guy.
Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013, at 1:07 PM
Photo by MICHAEL MATHES/AFP/Getty Images
Rep. Michele Bachmann is always happy to spread whatever garbled rightwing conspiracy theory is trending. Her ravings are often a wall of meaningless paranoid noise, better ignored than engaged with. Still, her latest rant, reported by Atlantic Wire, deserves a little attention, because she's inadvertently hurting conservatives in her stampede to paint all Democrats as genocidal hell beasts.
Here's her theory, with each high-level-conspiracy bolded. The House Oversight Committee's hearings on Benghazi spooked the White House so much that they decided to take advantage of "a Friday dump day" (Bachmann's words) to "confess to such a flagrant misuse of politics and power" (World Net Daily's) as the IRS investigation of Tea Party groups. But what really worries Bachmann is that the IRS, which is largely responsible for administration of Obamacare, will use its new-found partisanship to "deny or delay access to health care" for conservatives.
According to WND, Bachmann said, "It now is an entirely reasonable question for the American people to ask: Will Obamacare be so politicized and misused?" In other words, she's running around scaring conservatives by telling them that the IRS will be targeting conservatives and denying them their health care benefits. How they will do this is not explained, but I'm guessing she's implying that the IRS will be monitoring insurance claims now. (They will not. The IRS's only role in Obamacare is to levy a tax on those who don't have health insurance.) Those of us in the reality-based community who have friends and family that have been sucked into the Fox News/Drudge vortex know what this means: More panic-based communications where our loved ones insist they're about to lose their health care coverage and we have to explain patiently that they are going to be just fine. We will try to be patient and not angrily insist that it's ludicrous to claim that legislation that's supposed to get Americans into health insurance plans is actually a secret plot to take away health insurance, but it won't be easy.
I beg of you, right wing pundits and politicians, cut it out. You may not believe your own nonsense, but sadly, your audience does. When you tell them the evil black President is going to take away their health care, they don't just chuckle knowingly and pass along the rumor. No, they often freak out, understandably. Not having health insurance is scary. That's why it was so critical to pass legislation to make sure people have it.
We all know how the game is played at this point: Conservatives invent half-baked conspiracy theories and faux scandals to get all bent out of shape about, in order to rustle up votes they couldn't get with a sober-minded examination of policy differences between the parties. Birds got to fly, fish got to swim, etc. But for the love of Reagan, could you do that without causing your own people to fear for their very lives? These folks give you their time, their money and their votes. The least you can do for them is not cause them to stress out for no good reason.
Posted Thursday, May 16, 2013, at 10:41 AM
"Bye, mom! See you in an hour!"
Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
This Saturday is the fourth annual "Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day."
The idea is that at around 10 a.m. parents take their kids to—as you might expect from the name of this holiday—their local park. And then they leave them there.
Not if the kids are babies, of course. Not even if they're toddlers. But if they're at least seven or eight years old, why NOT leave them there with the other kids gathering? It could be their first chance to finally do that thing we did as kids without thinking twice: Play.
And by "play" I mean: Stand around, get bored, wonder what to do, wish there was an Xbox around, feel hungry, feel a little too hot or cold, feel mad at mom for not organizing something "really" fun, like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, feel bad all around, realize the other kids are feeling bad too, and then—in desperation—do something.
Start a game of tag. Or basketball. Or fairies versus witches. And suddenly, those bored kids who were desperate to go home don't want to go home at all. They want to KEEP playing— with any luck, for the rest of their childhoods.
Playing is that powerful. It's addictive. It's what children have done since the beginning of time...till about a generation ago, when we decided, as a country, that letting kids go outside on their own is just "too dangerous."
Do you know how many kids play outside on their own these days? One study I read said that in a typical week, the number is down to six percent. That's kids ages nine to 13—the sweet spot for goofing around and, incidentally, becoming independent. But instead of exercising their bodies and minds and ability to organize ANYTHING on their own, including a couple hours of free time, most kids are either supervised in leagues or stuck inside, usually with a screen.
One reason for this lockdown is that parents today are so scared of predators. They believe—or so I've been screamed at—that if Saturday is "announced" as kids-outside day, predators will celebrate by circling the parks in white, windowless vans.
The fact that we are enjoying the lowest crime rate in decades has not gotten through. A Pew Study on gun violence released just the other day said: “Firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.” That’s right—gun crime is down to the level it was BEFORE COLOR TV.
The Pew study added that most Americans (especially women) believe crime keeps going up, even though the crime rate is now LOWER than when most of today's parents were kids.
What's higher is the number of times you will see the Cleveland kidnapping victims on TV. Desperate for ratings, the media bombard us with the most searing images it can find. And no matter how rare these heart-sickening stories are—the Newtown tragedy, the Marathon bombing—if you see them for weeks and weeks on end every time you look at a screen, it starts feeling as if they're happening all the time. On TV, they are.
But it is actually safer for kids to play than not to play. Play is good for the brain—it makes kids into problem solvers. Play is good for the body—it makes kids less obese. Exposure to dirt builds the immune system. And don't obsess about accidents: More kids go to the hospital from falling out of bed than trees.
So this Saturday, take your kids to the park...and leave them there.
Sunday, they can bike there on their own.
Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2013, at 2:42 PM
Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Game of Thrones is one of the most outrageously enjoyable shows on television right now, not least because of its incredible roster of female characters, from medieval Girl Scout Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to court manipulator Lady Olenna Redwyne (Diana Rigg). But what's incredibly not-fun is how much stupid writing the show has inspired about female television watchers, and what we like or don't like.
The latest attempt to explain Game of Thrones in relation to All Ladies comes courtesy of Thrillist's Renata Sellitti in a piece entitled "Why Girls Hate Game Of Thrones: The reasons she throws shade on your medieval man show." Her arguments include such gems as "We hate gross things. Know what's gross? Screwing your sibling," in reference to the relationship between twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister, girl-trolling like "It’s hard to follow," or nerd-baiting, including "It reminds us of the kids that used to play magic cards in the cafeteria. And people who go to Renaissance festivals." At least Sellitti has the originality to attribute new obnoxious ideas to all women who watch television, though she doesn't reach the heights of originality scaled by the New York Times' Ginia Bellafante, who suggested when the show premiered in 2011 of the incest and prostitution plotlines "that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise."
This kind of treatment of women as if they're narrow, fantasy-averse, or pervy, makes me want to slowly and carefully lower my forehead to my desk repeatedly in imitation of Mad Men's Peggy Olson (to use a Sunday night prestige show reference Bellafante might appreciate). Bellafante may not have ever met "a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed toThe Hobbit first," and Sellitti may believe that "Eating a giant drumstick and drinking out of a goblet is cool, just not every Sunday night for three months straight." But there's something bizarre about the inability to imagine that some women dig stories about swords and sorcery, even to the extent that we'll strap on custom costumes ourselves, not just gather in front of the television on Sunday nights to watch other people wear them.
Did it occur to Sellitti that some of us tune into Game of Thrones precisely because it is like a soap opera, except with a wider range of roles available to women? Or that, for the straight ladies, the show offers up an unusual amount of man candy, particularly in its third season? Maybe we're actually interested in what will happen when Danaerys Targaryen starts liberating slaves and conquering cities. Maybe want to know if Tyrion Lannister can find a way to pay off the Iron Bank of Braavos, or whether Arya Stark will actually get revenge on the people who murdered her friend, killed her father, and brainwashed her sister? Perhaps we're curious about things other than traditional lady business—what Sellitti calls "the romantic crap" in her advice to men to get the women in their lives on board
I'm fine leaving them with their Lorrie Moore volumes and their Mad Men episodes—in point of fact, liking The Hobbit and Game of Thrones doesn't preclude me from reading fiction by women or crushing on Ted Chaough. I just wish they wouldn't get so perturbed by those of their fellow women who like to spend a little time in Westeros.
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 6:05 PM
Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images
From a healthcare perspective, Angelina’s Jolie’s case is pretty clearcut, even if her personal decisions were fraught and complex. Her insurance presumably paid for her breast-cancer gene tests because her mother died of ovarian cancer.* When women like Jolie appear to be at higher than usual risk for breast cancer, their risk factors are punched into a mathematical model and out comes a magic number that helps us make health care decisions. A first-degree relative with breast cancer is pretty much a slam-dunk, and most insurance companies will pony up the cost for Myriad’s monopoly-priced diagnostic panel.
For the rest of us, figuring out risk is trickier. The standard breast-cancer model, the Gail model, tends to underestimate risk, and doesn’t take into account all sorts of well established risk factors such as obesity, alcohol consumption, exposure to radiation, use of hormone replacement therapy and family history of breast cancer in relatives more distantly related than a sister or mother. As a baseline, the average risk of U.S. women is 12.2 percent, or the risk of one in eight women getting breast cancer if they live through old age.
When my doctor used the Gail model, my risk was slightly higher than average, about 14 percent, but neither of us found that reassuring. That’s because I have two grandmothers and a great-grandmother who died of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, which is genetically related to breast cancer. My doctor referred me me to a genetic counselor, who ran a more sophisticated risk model called the Tyrer-Cruzick that upped my estimated risk to 19.8 percent. That’s two-tenths of a percent lower than the risk that triggers the use of “high-risk” detection tools like regular MRIs in addition to mammograms. Welcome to the gray zone of risk assessment. Both my counselor and I thought I should get tested for the BRCA genes, but my insurance carrier firmly disagreed. At over $3,000, Myriad’s test is too expensive for me and most other women to get, regardless of what they and their doctors may think.
So why didn’t I just cough up the money? Isn’t my health and life worth it? A couple of reasons. For one thing, I learned that our fear of breast cancer is clouded by misconceptions. We tend to think of breast cancer as a heritable disease, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s not. Straight hereditary factors only account for about 10 percent of all breast cancers. And while the BRCA genes are the well-known poster children of risk, they get more credit than they deserve. In families with histories of breast and ovarian cancer, about half do not have BRCA mutations at all.
Given my family history, I could have a genetic flaw like the one that originated on a BRCA2 gene in 16th century Iceland. Or my grandmothers could have inherited one of the 700 other distinct “founder effect” mutations on BRCA genes discovered in Dutch, German and Pakistani populations, among others. But it’s just as likely they had totally different genetic variants that can cause breast cancer, including TP53, PTEN, STK11/LKB1, CDH1, CHEK2, ATM, MLH1, and MSH2, or ones that are as yet undiscovered.
I decided to opt for a much cheaper panel that tested for several known genetic mutations, the dominant BRCA ones excluded thanks to Myriad’s DNA-grabbing patent. When that panel came back negative, I was relieved. Many companies offer these tests, including 23andMe, which does it for $99.
Using the models, tests and screens made me feel like I was doing something, but ultimately, they’re not terribly meaningful. It’s not even very helpful to know your magic risk number for breast cancer. Most women with lots of risk factors will never get breast cancer, and many without the big risk factors will get it nonetheless. In other words, many of the standard risk factors (early puberty, late menopause, obesity, older maternal age, obesity, smoking) are fairly useless. The reason is that we still don’t know really know what causes breast cancer. But at least most of us don’t have Jolie’s BRCA gene (it occurs in 1 in 500 people), and for that, we should be thankful.
Correction, May 14, 2013: This post originally stated that Angelina Jolie's mother died of breast cancer. She died of ovarian cancer.
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 5:28 PM
Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
It’s that time of year, folks. Winter coats are being stored away, blossoms are dappling the trees, and before long, the annual summer parade of skinterns will begin.
Skintern is a term I first heard from a male colleague who disapproved of the yearly ritual of scantily-clad young women showing up to do summer internships at our company. (This was before I started working at Slate.) Every June there would be a new batch, just as clueless about appropriate office attire as those from the year before. Think dresses so clingy they leave nothing to the imagination, tops worn without a bra and tied together with string, daisy dukes, sheer harem pants, and cleavage straight out of a men’s magazine.
But don’t worry, ladies. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to help.
I spent most of my early 20s is a state of panicked confusion about what was appropriate professional attire. And I get that when it comes to office wear, summer is the worst of all: It’s hot outside, you want to look good, and often there’s no clear company dress code. But fear not! Follow the tips below, and I promise you won’t get fired—or the intern equivalent—for your sartorial artlessness. (No luck if you’re terrible at your job, though. The perfect A-line skirt can only do so much.)
Nothing see-through. No sheer shirts, dresses, or pants. If you are wearing anything that doesn’t block light, you should wear something that fully covers you underneath, like a full slip or cotton tank top.
Your bra and underwear are your business only. When it comes to thongs, lace, and patterns, to each her own. You rock whatever garments make you feel great. However, no one at the office should know anything about your preferences.
Save your skin. Mini-dresses, mini-skirts, short-shorts, halter-tops, and half-shirts should not be worn in a professional setting. (When in doubt, if the article of clothing has a hyphen in it, it is probably off-limits.) More than a hint of cleavage should be avoided—and no bare backs. Showing skin in the office does not make you look sophisticated, it makes you look naked.
Shoe choice matters. I’m less bothered by sneakers and flip flops than laceup, over-the-knee boots and sexy four-inch heels. You may have picked a wonderfully appropriate skirt or dress, so continue the winning streak by saving the glittery platform sandals for another occasion, like pole dancing class.
The shorts conundrum. I am unable to offer you a hard and fast rule about shorts. I wear (appropriate-length) shorts to work. My boss does too, because “What else are you supposed to wear when it’s 90 degrees outside?” Slate’s HR manager, however, says shorts are a no-no—though she would not stage a shorts intervention unless the offending culottes were “distracting.” Since opinions vary, this brings me to my next point.
When in doubt, ask. I hire and manage some interns during the summer, and exactly one intern has asked me what was appropriate to wear to the office—and I respected her for asking. A friendly HR manager, internship coordinator, or person you report to should be happy to give you a few guidelines specific to your office, especially if it means she won’t be getting an eyeful en route to the coffee machine.
Now that you are armed with this essential knowledge, go forth into the workplace and impress everyone you meet with your hard work and keen intellect. Ladies, I will see you on the other side of the glass ceiling.
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 1:30 PM
Photo by Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
When Media Matters counted all the guests to appear on 13 cable evening news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox in April 2013, their mission was to chronicle what the face of an “expert” looks like. It turns out it looks disproportionately white and male: Caucasian men made up 58 percent of cable news guests, although they are only 31 percent of the population. This problem persisted across the networks. CNN had the biggest diversity issue—62 percent of its guests were white men—but MSNBC did only slightly better, inviting white, male guests 54 percent of the time.
The researchers broke down the results by show. On all 13 programs, male guests outnumbered women. On 12 of the 13 shows, white people were overrepresented. All In with Chris Hayes was the only exception. According to the Census, non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the population, and they were 59 percent of Hayes' guests. Hayes did better than his competitors and colleagues on gender diversity as well, with 41 percent of his guests being women. (On that front, Rachel Maddow was his closest competitor, bringing in 37 percent female guests.) God only knows how much worse it would be if reproductive rights weren’t constantly demanding media attention.
The white maleness of the cable news circuit creates a self-perpetuating cycle. When most of the “expert” faces we see are white and male, white maleness gets associated with the concept of expertise. This, in turn, makes it harder for the producers of the shows to strive for diversity. Consciously or unconsciously, the people who book guests may worry that if they don’t deliver enough white male faces, audiences won’t perceive their shows as expert-heavy. So they bring on more white men, continuing the process by which white maleness and expertise are strongly, and wrongly, associated.
One way for producers to throw a wrench into this cycle is to set diversity as a deliberate goal. It also helps to cover more stories that hold special significance for women and people of color. But the real trick to it may just be thinking of women and people of color as potential experts on all sorts of issues—on tax rates, congressional budgets and foreign policy, for instance, as well as on poverty, racism, and reproductive rights. If cable news leads the way, the imagined link between white maleness and expertise can be broken.
Posted Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 10:01 AM
Photo by Alistair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Today, Angelina Jolie published a piece in the New York Times about her decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy last month. As a carrier of a gene mutation called BRCA1, Jolie cut her chances of contracting breast cancer from 87 percent to under 5 percent by undergoing the procedure. I felt so honored to read Jolie’s detailed first-person account of her experience, as well as her advocacy for all the women around the world to gain access to the too-expensive tests and procedures that have empowered her to fight for her own life. Those warm feelings were soon deflated by some of the unexpectedly nasty commentary that pooled around her story. Commenters snarked that Jolie had received a “boob job.” Some suggested that her medical emergency was just a tabloid ruse to cover up elective breast implants. Others morbidly asked after the whereabouts of the breast tissue removed from her body. “RIP Angelina’s boobs” was a typical ignorant comment. Said one commenter on a Jezebel post about the op-ed, “How many guys stopped reading as soon as they realized Angelina Jolie has no breasts—she's dead to me!"
I’d like to dismiss these commenters as trolls, but their attitudes are unfortunately pervasive in our culture, and they don’t just represent a personal affront to Angelina Jolie, a veteran of such inappropriate body commentary. These comments affect every woman who has undergone a similar procedure—every woman who has overcome the pain, the fear, and the constant and casual reminders that her breasts are more valuable than her life. Really, these comments affect all women who have seen their bodies reduced to mere objects for others to consume. As scholar of the stars Anne Helen Petersen says, “Remember: What we talk about when we talk about celebrities is, as ever, ourselves.” Some of us are not speaking very highly of the women in our lives today.
Jolie, for her part, addressed aesthetic concerns straightforwardly in her op-ed. (She also made a worrisome reference to "wonderful holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery," which I can only hope won't steer readers away from the valid medical treatment they may need). “There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful,” Jolie wrote. “On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” It’s powerful to hear Jolie own this choice as beautiful. But I’d go further to say that, regardless of the aesthetic aftermath of breast cancer surgeries—and the individual choices every woman makes in how to deal with them—the results of these procedures are necessarily and breathtakingly beautiful. Not only does this procedure not diminish a woman’s femininity in any way—it highlights her humanity. As Jolie put it, “Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.”
And yet, perversely, some fans feel as if a part of Jolie has been stolen from them. One well-meaning but misguided commenter told me on Twitter yesterday: “Happy to hear she's giving herself much better odds. As a guy, I will miss her lovely curves though.” (The reconstructive surgery she described presumably restored her curves.) I can tell you from experience that when a person you love makes it through that surgery, they have never looked more lovely. I don’t mean that in a strictly emotional sense—it registers physically, too. The way that they look at you when they wake up. The breaths they take. Their smile. The way they move through space. You don’t miss anything: You are reminded of all of the wonderful things that you are not missing. It's gorgeous.
Posted Monday, May 13, 2013, at 6:24 PM
Kermit Gosnell is guilty
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty of murder for the deaths of three babies who were born, and then killed, in his hellhole of a Pennsylania abortion clinic. From Fox:
“Prosecution experts said one was nearly 30 weeks along when it was aborted and it was so big that Gosnell allegedly joked it could ‘walk to the bus.’ A second fetus was said to be alive for some 20 minues before a clinic worker snipped its neck. A third was born in a toilet and was moving after another clinic employee grabbed it and severed its spinal cord, according to testimony.”
That’s all you need to know to welcome this verdict. There is nothing controversial about finding a man guilty who killed live babies. Gosnell was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a patient who died of an overdose in his care. Her death is a reflection of the abusive, repulsive scene of his clinic, a place of unspeakable conditions. The grand jury report that laid out the charges against Gosnell is excruciating to read, a document of horrors visited on poor and desperate women and innocent newborns. So are the accounts of the Pennsylvania agencies that dropped the ball on investigating and catching this man.
We can debate whether Gosnell’s trial got enough press coverage—whether the mainstream media shied away from putting it on the front page for fear of putting abortion in a bad light. But Gosnell’s misdeeds aren’t about legal abortion. They’re about killing babies after viability—after they could live outside their mothers’ wombs. In Pennsylvania, abortions after 24 weeks are illegal. It’s important to remember why women were driven to Gosnell’s clinic. But you can fully support a legal right to abortion—and greater access to it—and simultaneously applaud this guilty verdict. The women and babies of Pennsylvania are safer with Gosnell facing many years in prison or the death penalty. That is front page news.
Posted Monday, May 13, 2013, at 4:55 PM
The Millennial generation, too busy with their narcissistic self-involvement to fight for a better world.
Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images
Elspeth Reeve at the Atlantic Wire has some fun dismantling Joel Stein's "get off my lawn" Time article, in which Stein denounces the millennial generation as a bunch of self-satisfied narcissists. (It's behind a paywall, so this famously broke generation is unlikely to find out what mean things Stein is saying about it.) Reeve objects to Stein's evidence, but the real meat of her post chronicles the long history of articles like Stein's—essays in which a member of the older generation dismisses the youngsters as self-involved. The WWII generation did it to the Boomers, the Boomers to Generation X, and now Generation X to the Millennials.
What becomes apparent in all these articles, which go back at least to 1907, is the egotism not of the accused generation, but of the writer. The writers invariably fancy themselves part of a generation that, unlike the youth of today, has deep thoughts and knows the value of hard work. Stein even starts off his piece by saying, "I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow." But even though he knows it's unlikely that every generation is less awesome than the one before it, he's going to plow right ahead and say it anyway.
If one bothers to step outside of the cycle of whining, the more honest conclusion is that today’s kids are pretty great people, especially compared to the rest of us screw-ups. Millennials are more liberal than the generations before, suggesting a shift away from the politics of resentment and toward a politics of generosity and social support. They're pretty responsible, too. They're the ones who managed to cut the teenage pregnancy rate by 42 percent since 1990, and even though there are as many of them as there are Baby Boomers, they managed to come of age without creating the same massive spike in the crime rate. Even though they're starting out their adult lives in an period of economic crisis, they're an optimistic crew. Frankly, as someone from the tail end of Generation X, my main problem with this generous, optimistic, tolerant generation is that all their goody-two-shoes stuff is insufferable. I'll just be sitting in the corner with my punk records and inability to say anything that's not drenched with irony, secretly glad that such good people are taking over the world.