These days, most men's movie roles feature hard-talking, heavy-hitting leads. Or self-conscious, awkward types bumbling through social relations. Or there are the sweet-hearted slacker dudes glued to the couch--and maybe their bongs--allergic to steady jobs but true to their friends. Sometimes the men are a combination of two of these types, as in the new bromance comedy I Love You, Man.
From the pages of every mainstream women’s magazine—between the list of 43 things every confident woman knows and the six-week ab-blasting plan—the ads beckon. Conditioners enriched with vitamins vow to make each strand 10 times stronger. Undereye concealers containing white-tea antioxidants claim to combat the cellular damage that deepens those oh-so-unsightly dark circles. Pricey foundations promise to rejuvenate the face at the molecular level with the new Pro-Xylane compound, carefully extracted from Eastern European beech trees.
Perhaps you know about Emily Gould’s cover story, “Exposed,” in the New York Times Magazine last May. Even if you didn’t take in all 8,002 words on the former Gawker editor’s gains and losses from blogging about her personal life, it would be hard to miss the criticism of the piece elsewhere. From the Huffington Post to the Philadelphia Weekly to an untold number of blogs and listservs, the backlash challenged the magazine for peddling narcissistic Dear-Diary diatribes as a worthy journalistic cover story.
Shortly before the birth of my first child nine years ago, while browsing the bookstore for mommy wisdom, I discovered Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and fell in love with the author and the book. More than any parenting truisms the book might have contained, it was Lamott’s writing style—funny, self-deprecating, and brutally honest—that kept me reading. The big mommy insight I gleaned from Operating Instructions was that I wasn’t quite as neurotic as Anne, so my kid and I would probably be all right.
Dora the Explorer, eponymous Latina star of the animated Nickelodeon series, is a bilingual problem solver who confidently traverses unknown territory in every episode. In “City of Lost Toys,” a typical episode, Dora sets out to find her missing teddy bear, Osito, and other toys her friends have lost. She’s helped along the way by her sidekick (a monkey named Boots), her trusty map, and a group of magical stars she and Boots catch. The first landmark Dora reaches on her journey is a Mesoamerican-style pyramid where she must complete basic counting and arithmetic problems.
The New York Times Book Review has never exactly embraced passionate advocacy—unless it was promoting Pynchon’s and DeLillo’s place in the postmodernist canon. Even worse, it has become the place where serious feminist books come to die— or more accurately, to be dismissed with the flick of a well-manicured postfeminist wrist.
British scientists have uncovered the truth behind one of modern culture’s greatest mysteries: why little girls play with pink toys. Is it because toy companies flood whole store aisles with the color? Or because well-meaning relatives shower girl babies with pink blankets and clothing? Nope. According to the men in lab coats, it’s purely biological.
We were under attack. It was late on an August night. I was trying not to come down with a cold and just about to go to bed. But I was also guest-blogging at Feministe that week, so I logged on to check my e-mail and moderate comments one last time before I turned in. I was already overwhelmed. Between writing timely posts, separating the trolls and spammers from the innocents in the moderation filter, and trying to maintain a civil debate between polarized commenters on my threads, I was marveling that anyone could do this week in and week out and still keep a day job.
Then I got word that a loosely organized cybermob known as Anonymous was attempting to crash feminist sites, including Feministe, flooding comments sections with misogynist rants and threatening feminist bloggers with rape and other violence. This had happened before, but never with such organized force. Privately, we worried about our safety and strategized about how to defend our sites and ourselves. Publicly, we decried these attacks in blog after blog. We knew our attackers wanted to silence us, and we refused to give them that satisfaction.
It turned out that we were wrong. Wrong about what their goals were and wrong about what our response should have been.
In an era when it’s possible to turn on the television on any given night and see a clutch of bikini-clad women crawling over their male prey (ABC’s The Bachelor), a sex-toy demonstration (HBO’s Real Sex), or a 9-year-old showing off her moves on her parents’ personal stripper pole (E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians), Wendy Shalit’s assertion that modesty has made a comeback seems a little, well, optimistic.