Every morning, msnowe sweeps through the “papers” (i.e. the online newspapers) to catch at least the bare minimum of the day’s headlines. Today was no exception, except, well, within 15 minutes, between stories of revolt in various Middle Eastern/African countries, there were four different stories, from the NYTimes & NYMag, that she couldn’t help but become obsessed with. In no particular order:
Let me break it down for you.
#1 Gridiron Girls
Article Summary: OMG, women are watching football, and they enjoy it! Even despite the rapists, dog fighters, and reports of brain damage, women represent at least 34% of viewers!
Why is this? Because the NFL is actually filled with “stories.” And women LOVE the “soap-opera aspect of the NFL.” The women loving on football also all watch Real Housewives, Intervention and Jersey Shore, which is basically the same thing. Oh, and they all look like these models.
Analysis: Clearly, it’s those clever marketers tricking women into liking football, the manliest of all manly sports. msnowe won’t underestimate the power of marketing here–perhaps, just perhaps, there are a few women who fit the description this article lays out before us like a play book. But I’ll tell you one thing–you can bring Febreeze and Pink Ribbons to just about anything–but that doesn’t translate into women sitting down and enjoying the damn thing you’re sponsoring. msnowe may only be able to speak for herself, but she watched baseball way before there were any sparkly pink hats available for purchase, and now she still doesn’t want one. The “crude archetypes” of females as clueless twits aren’t really overcome by this article–we’re still treated as though there must be some other hook, some hook other than the pure enjoyment of the thing itself. It’s like the age-old question about the G-spot–it just keeps shifting around to best suit those who need to find it (or it disappears).
#2 Wikipedia’s Gender Gap:
Article Summary: Only about 13% of Wikipedia’s thousands of article authors are women. Isn’t that horrible! No wonder it’s always HIStory–women don’t even bother to contribute, so you can’t say companies, etc., are just being biased–they’re “running up against the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men** and, some say, uncomfortable for women.” Of course!
Analysis: msnowe actually perused the report, and let’s remember, folks–this was a sample of the Wikipedia population–a little over 176,000 people responded to the voluntary survey. (msnowe would like to compare this to a survey on how many people of either sex usually respond to surveys). 126,701 men responded to the survey, reporting themselves to be either readers or writers of Wikipedia. Only 42,191 women answered the survey. (904 people did not tick a gender and responded as “Other.”) So right off the bat, you’re starting with a skewed sample. Oh, and this was a world-wide sample. As much as msnowe would like to say that everywhere women are freer and just as educated and able to contribute to Wikipedia in their spare time, they’re not. The leading country that had respondents for this survey? Russia.
But no matter what the article gets wrong, it does say one good thing–more women should write about what they care about on the site.
**”The obsessive fact-loving realm” dominated by men? Sounds a lot like how men describe the NFL in order to exclude women, if you ask msnowe…
#3 More Conflict in Childcare Equality:
Article Summary: This article basically debunks its own premise. You just have to read it carefully.
“Despite those crazy media headlines, Dr. Schoppe-Sullivan explains that the study did not examine the quality of the couples’ relationships or their parenting beyond the two staged videotape periods, or anything about the children’s development; it also did not distinguish between men who took on childcare duties from day one and those who started to do so just prior to the study. But what it does do is add powerful evidence to the idea that childcare task sharing alone does not necessarily correlate with a harmonious co-parenting partnership.”
Analysis: Basically, it means we’re at square one–anyone’s guess. You can be just as un-harmonious if only one parent is taking on the brunt of the childcare grunt work. It’s about finding that compromise between parents, and what works best for your own family. One route doesn’t necessarily lead to martial bliss. The author’s emphasis on “power-sharing” was, well, powerful.
#4 Porn and Men, But Really How Porn Affects Women:
Article Summary: This about sums it up–
“And so a conundrum emerges. Men, over-saturated by porn, secretly hunger for the variety that porn offers. Women, noticing a decline in their partners’ libidos, try to reenact the kinds of scenes that men watch on their computer screens. Men, as a result, get really freaked out. They don’t want their real women and their fantasy women to inhabit the same body.”
Analysis: Ah, the eternal problem: Men objectify women, look at shit-tons of porn. Men lose interest in banging real women who don’t have hydraulic tits. Women scared and worried that men are totes over them, and try to compensate for their flaccid breasts and thighs by throwing in some dirty talk. Chaos ensues. I’m pretty sure Aeschylus wrote about that, a lot.
A. This report is highly anecdotal.
B. msnowe needs to barf.
C. This report assumes that most women don’t watch porn, but then assumes that they can “mimic” porn stars.
D. This report also assumes that women are just objects of your imagination, trying harder and harder to be your fantasy.
E. The whole concept of the article is based on one sexuality counselor/blogger’s notion that more men were complaining of “delayed ejaculation,” on how the author “read about a University of Kansas study that found that 25 percent of college-age men said they’d faked orgasms” (he didn’t even read the actual study it was based on!). Then the author made the intellectual leap that somehow this was connected with porn (because he looks at porn), and then he interviewed…wait for it…DOZENS(!) of porn consumers. Wow, dozens!
F. msnowe would run out of alphabet if she kept going.
G. Oh yeah, and the report is really, really offensive to men, too.
All these articles were written in the hope of high page views and “most emailed” rankings. And in effect, msnowe is helping that along. In itself, there is nothing wrong with using a snappy title to hook people. But there is something wrong when data is skewed in favor of some imaginary claim that the title makes.
Each of these articles (perhaps with the exception of the childcare equality piece) describes how women are clearly just reacting to something that men are causing them to do–whether it is learning to love football because men decided to give them NFL apparel and pink ribbons, working extra hard to care about the “facts realm” that really only men know how to navigate, or women noticing men have lost interest and therefore getting raunchy and porn-tastic in the bedroom. msnowe calls bullshit. These are all viewed from what big strong hetero men want or expect from women, or reinforce how men want women to view them. For whatever reason, women who do something that is culturally “male” are encroaching, and no one, especially journalists, will stop from letting us know that this is highly unattractive, or at least try and explain it away.
New York Magazine says that we’ve been sleeping all these years. If anything, our culture, laws, politics, etc., do nothing BUT remind us we’re women. Hypersexed women. Dowdy asexual women. Grizzlymama women. Feminazi women …. There is never a time we are allowed to be anything but women. So to suggest we’ve collectively forgotten is laughable.
Waking Up from Waking Up from the Pill
Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote the cover story, “Waking Up From the Pill,” in New York Magazine’s latest issue. As an occasional reader of the mag, msnowe picked it up (hoping it would impart the same kind of interesting tidbits that say, the recent article/N+1 excerpt on hipsters did a few weeks prior).
No such luck. For a magazine that hopes to keep us up on the current trends of the NY intellectual world and beyond, this article was disappointing, and fraught; fraught with the Lilliputian musings and inductive logic that one would come to expect from right-wing wonks. This story on contraception was more a study in contradiction.
As any good critic of US politics will tell you, when you start waving around the rhetoric of Fear by invoking Freedom as a misused and misunderstood privilege, you can get into trouble, not to mention land wars in the Middle East. But this article begins with the simple byline:
Fifty years ago, birth-control pills gave women control of their bodies, while making it easy to forget their basic biology—until in some cases, it’s too late.
Freedom, Complacency, and Fear. There you have it–the accusatorial and sensational triumvirate of scare journalism.
As the article rightly summarizes—the pill was developed and made legal 50 years ago for reasons completely separate from the woman’s hope of greater personal sexual control (it was more about population control and Cold War eugenists’ fears of developing countries and their growing populations). But as we often see (perhaps to a larger extent today), unholy alliances between divergent groups (like feminists and McCarthyist wackos) are how some things that are actually good for society get passed.
msnowe doesn’t know what 20-somethings Grigoriadis was looking at when she wrote that “women’s twenties are as free and fabulous as they can be, a time of boundless freedom and experimentation, of easily trying on and discarding identities, careers, and partners” (please don’t say “the girls in Williamsburg”). But you would be hard pressed to find women of that description outside of reality television. You know what? We’re in a recession. msnowe has been in NYC for a sizable chunk of her twenties—and not to get overly anecdotal here (because that is, after all, what we’re accusing the author of being), but msnowe’s friends are in publishing, they are accountants, law firm lawyers, and public school teachers. Some were laid off in the past few years, but most are just worried about being laid off. My peers and I might enjoy the sexual freedom that comes with experimentation and youth, but most are not so carefree as it may seem to this journalist—many are trying to climb up the precarious professional ladder (at a mere percentage of a male peer’s wage). Many have trouble paying for birth control, which although it is now included in many insurance prescription plans (and coverage only started in the early ‘aughts, due to backlash from women’s groups when they saw that HMOs immediately added newly approved Viagra to their plans), it can still cost a woman up to $60 a month to refill the prescription.
(“The cost of birth control pills, and lack of access to them for some women, also plays a role in the unintended pregnancy rate in this country. While a fair number of insurance companies today do cover oral contraceptives, there are often big co-payments or high deductibles involved, making the pills unaffordable for some,” Source)
It is incredibly presumptuous and elitist (i.e. moneyed, “keep your hands off my government” elitist, not necessarily culturally elitist), to accuse the greater number of women, even if you’re only looking at NYC, of being so cavalier with a decade of their lives. This article starts with a gala at the Pierre, and truthfully, it doesn’t ever leave the champagned ballrooms of privilege.
msnowe will concede the point that the Pill does, in some cases, aid in a loss of the basic personal biological cycles unique to each woman–because that is exactly what women are signing on for when they prescribe to the pill–it is one of the benefits, along with less premenstrual pain. But that does not allow women to forget that they are in fact women, capable of childbearing for a slightly varying window of years. To say that women are not reminded of it, or don’t know it themselves is clearly beside the point. The article says:
“It [the Pill] changed the narrative of women’s lives, so that it was much easier to put off having children until all the fun had been had (or financial pressures lessened).”
All the “fun”? That parenthesis is larger than the author would like us to believe, while the inflammatory statement in the beginning is what we should take home, according to her non-research. The advent of the Pill brought with it the increased expectation that women were no longer allowed the benefits of being the reproductive gender. It was if businessmen the country over, independently in their corner offices said to themselves: “now that the women in my company have the cheap-ish and easy ability to never get pregnant or go on maternity leave, if they really value their position, they wouldn’t compromise their careers by doing something as foolish as getting knocked up—that is for some other company’s women to decide.” So the Pill might have given women more sexual choice, but it narrowed her professional choice. In the early Pill days, before the business world had readjusted to the “equal opportunity” career woman, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor took off time to have a family and then worked her way back up to the highest court in the land (she also graduated at the top of her law class at Stanford, but still no one would give her a job except as a secretary). Today, that path has been blocked completely by the presumption that any “serious” career woman would be committed entirely to work, with no time made for children/family (as exemplified by our two newest, childless justices). msnowe isn’t saying that the past business model was better for women (it was worse, for sure), but unfortunately, we have traded in that one for the mirage of parity—this is just an inequitable plan parading as a solution. The Pill was and is a good thing—society twisted the freedoms the Pill made available into a whole new form of oppression divorced from any hormone treatments. If ANYONE forgot that women are fertile for a certain number of years, it was the outside societal forces telling women to work harder and longer (perhaps harder and longer than men just to get recognized as a value), not women forgetting their own bodies.
Of course, that leads msnowe back the long section on IVF covered in the article. As the journalist reports, IVF costs, on average, “$15,000 per cycle including medication.” The median household income for NYC a few years ago was around $38,000. You adjust that salary for the incredibly high cost of living in the city (average monthly rent for a studio apartment in a crappy part of Manhattan is probably around $1,500), and there is no way that most women could afford these treatments. As the income gap has widened between rich and poor, so has the ability of the richest of the rich to hope for and purchase more ridiculous things, such as babies that they froze 20 years ago as eggs and sperm. These treatments, and costly adoptions, are only for those at the drug galas, and perhaps Gossip-Girl type characters 25 years down their fertility roads. The author claims that freezing women’s eggs in their twenties to have babies in their late thirties and early forties “may be the world to which many are heading.” The affluent myopia of that statement is almost laughable—as if the whole world of women could be carried to that world on their salaries. msnowe says almost laughable because sadly, there is some type of women who think this type of IVF is a solution and they are the very same ones writing articles like this—disregarding the greater population of women.
It would be remiss of msnowe not to mention the incredibly snide and harsh tone of the article, on top of all errors it contains. Here’s an example:
“Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect.” (my italics.)
First off, the threat of pregnancy, for a woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant, is a concern. But to say women “gobble down” a Pill, and then run out to a drug store in their underwear at 3AM like some half-assed version of Bridget Jones’ Diary is another thing altogether. To escape reading this paragraph without imagining chickens running around with their heads off is almost unavoidable—and besides, the women that Grigoriadis is talking about would never do such a thing—they would send the doorman or their wide-eyed lover to discretely purchase what they needed. To say women have a “new set of obsessions” implies not only that they are all unhealthily attached to their “scary” fertility (a modern-day version of “hysteria,” where women’s wombs float around and bump into other organs and cause fits of unintelligible havoc), but that they are always filled with irrational obsessions—it’s just that this evil Pill has given them a newer one.
My parting question is this: What, exactly, does this author propose to be the answer? Is she saying we should stop the Pill, and all rely on the rhythm method, or whatever this “Fertility Awareness Method” is? Because that, dear reader, would set us back 50 years. Discuss.
For further reading on this lovely journalist, check out her NYTimes wedding announcement!
OMLG, they met at Burning Man! (aka druggie fest!)