Should we believe the recent New York Post assertion that Brooklyn women are the nation’s pickiest? I’m suspicious if only because this claim manages to cram three of the trendiest of all trend topics—single women, online dating, and, of course, Brooklyn—into a 250-word article. I was shocked that they didn’t manage to squeeze Miley Cyrus in there as well. That was a missed opportunity. But the brief article does offer the standard picture of outer-borough dating with entitled women, lazy men, and the obligatory use of the word “artisanal.” Lurking beneath this generalization is the assumption that single women are a problem and that this problem is the result of our heightened expectations. Why won’t we just respond to the dudes sending us unsolicited dick pics on OKCupid? Why won’t we be chill and engage in a commitment-free non-relationship with a guy who takes voting advice from Russell Brand? What’s wrong with us? Don’t we know that our ovaries aren’t a renewable resource? Haven’t we read the statistics about marrying after 40? Yes we do, and yes we have. But, perhaps, shockingly, some of us would still rather be happy than be married. Continue reading
Here’s one thing I’ve never said upon exiting an action film: “Those accusations of sexism were totally unfounded.” Because I always think they’re founded. One of the hazards of listening to about ten pop culture podcasts is that when a new movie really hits, you better believe all ten podcasts are going to discuss it in NPR levels of detail. By the time I see most films, I’ve already heard arguments about sexism, racism, appropriation, and homophobia, and I’m basically writing my thesis as my popcorn hits the bag. So I was entirely prepared to be incensed by Alfonso Curón’s Gravity after hearing Josh Larsen of Filmspotting describe George Clooney’s character as a mansplaining Buzz Lightyear with Jiminy Cricket pretensions. But upon exiting this particular action film, all I could think was, “Those accusations of sexism were totally unfounded.”
Larsen leveled the charge of mild sexism against Gravity because of the supposedly patronizing nature of Clooney’s Matt Kowalski—a space hero always eager to rescue space newbie, Ryan Stone—played by Sandra Bullock (a.k.a., the queen of 2013). Normally, I’d be totally on board with this accusation, but Kowalski’s defining characteristic is his seniority. Not only is the man seriously greying, but the film reminds us at least four times that he’s breaking the record for time spent in space. He’s literally been doing this job longer than any other living being in the known universe—EVER. Stone, on the other hand, is on her maiden voyage. And she isn’t even a real astronaut. She’s a scientist who happened to end up in space after a series of unfortunate events. Despite the fact that she’s clearly coded as competent and highly intelligent, she also frequently comments on how much she’d really rather not be in space right now. And, honestly, who can blame her? So having the veteran Kowalski teach the rookie Stone how she can ultimately save herself doesn’t seem so much sexist as the basis of every cop movie ever made—if you change one of those pronouns, of course. Continue reading
On the day Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Slate culture writer Stephen Metcalf tweeted, “On Slate, Elizabeth Gilbert defends EPL by intimating sexism within the lit establishment. Minutes later, Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize.” Although I normally nod along with anything Metcalf says, this comment made me throw a little shade his way. One prize—weighty and Scandinavian though it may be—does not negate the very real sexism still prevalent on the pages of the New York Review of Books and its ilk. This is like arguing that Meryl Streep’s continued appearance on Oscar night accurately represents the ease with which aging women find work in Hollywood. One example does not, in fact, disprove all other counterexamples. And, as fellow Canadian lady-writer Margaret Atwood noted, Munro was herself the victim of the literary establishment’s dickishness when her early fiction was criticized for being too domestic, too small, and, obviously, too female.
Munro may be a self-effacing Canadian, who likely wouldn’t enjoy engaging in a battle over literary sexism, but she shouldn’t be used as a token example of talent trumping discrimination. Because her quiet and unassuming fiction is all about the seemingly invisible limitations imposed on women’s lives. Her form of social critique isn’t showy, and it doesn’t involve preaching. Instead, it’s about giving voice to a different type of woman: working-class women, older women, mentally-ill women, those women who normally appear only as tropes or stereotypes when they appear at all. So she isn’t a token. And she isn’t some apolitical stylist. She’s kind of a badass. And we shouldn’t forget it. Continue reading
Millennial courtship is markedly different from that social ritual previous generations called dating—and not just because of the advent of smartphones and Snapchat. We’re basically the first generation in which men and women weren’t raised to believe that the opposite sex was some separate species only to be approached during peak mating season. Regardless of your chromosomes, if you grew up in a middle-class home in the 90s, then you probably have quite a bit in common with most other middle-class 90s kids—male or female. We were all forced to play soccer. We all thought oversized pants were fierce. And we’ve all seen at least ten episodes of Saved by the Bell (and at least two episodes of Saved by the Bell: The College Years). So the old When Harry Met Sally cliché about the impossibility of male-female friendships is no longer self-evident—except when it is.
Because all of this commonality and friendship often leads to a whole lot of confusion that really wasn’t an issue when heterosexual men and women had nothing in common except intercourse. You now have all kinds of blurry relationships. You have a work boyfriend, who you flirt with from 9-6 but rarely see outside the office. You have a straight male friend who shares your love of Girls. And you probably have a significant other with whom you watch Mad Men and mock congressional Republicans. So what differentiates these relationships? Not much. Except sex, of course. But the blurred boundaries invite a whole lot of questions about why it is you’re screwing one of these guys and not the other two. Continue reading
Nothing sets the feminist Internet abuzz quite like sexism presented in a bulleted list. Whether it be the Craigslist “worthy gentleman” with his fondness for misplaced quotation marks, the New Jersey surgeon who went to five—count them five—universities, or the newest entry, the racist, sexist gem known as “Sleepless in Austin,” these troglodytes are comic gold. We make fun. They go away. And everyone is happy. Because we assume they are merely an aberration or an unfortunate throwback to the days when people thought reading made women infertile. But these entitled men with their laundry lists of physical requirements keep popping up because we’ve raised a generation of men who believe that it’s totally acceptable for a man to dictate how a woman should look. Sure, most men have a bit more self-awareness and empathy than this unfortunate Austinite. But they’ll still tell their girlfriends exactly how much pubic hair they’re allowed to have. So “Sleepless in Austin” isn’t a joke. He’s like 75% of the unmarried men in New York City.
Humans, both male and female, have always had physical preferences, but heterosexual young men suddenly feel that it’s socially acceptable to voice these predilections to the women lying naked beside them. Although I‘m normally opposed to blaming every 21st-century ill on Internet porn, I’m making an exception in this case. Because porn, and media saturation in general, is clearly a big part of this problem. When a young man spends countless hours a day directing one nondescript girl after another to perform at his command, it shouldn’t be surprising that he considers it reasonable to tell his girlfriend that her upper arms are flabby. When 99% of the women he encounters in the media have been curated to meet his specifications, why wouldn’t he expect his girlfriend to follow suit?