Monday 16th July 2012

by sophie

After discovering earlier this year a really simple way of avoiding the New York Time’s (very) loosely implemented firewall (which I am not going to tell you, since I am a supporter of the press and really there are quite a few dozen ways to avoid it) I’ve been following the Opinion pages on a regular basis, especially the “Room for Debate” section, which features different responses to a central question. Usually, these debates are well-rounded and bring me some faith back into the intellect of the human species. Occasionally, though, there is a really unfortunate WTF moment. Case in point, this recent discussion centered on the question “Are Modern Men Manly Enough?” Seriously, the description alone is enough to make me vomit: “Are men spending too much time at the spa and the gym in lieu of grittier, manlier pursuits? And if so, is this making them less masculine?” Really, NYT? Really?

Now, this wouldn’t have been so bad, if there had been lots of great, insightful responses debunking gender stereotypes etc. Instead, we get pieces titled “Where are the Meat and Potato Men?” and “Rediscovering the Don Draper Within“. Seriously. I’m pretty confident the latter is satire, though, thank Goodness, since I’m crossing my fingers that no one would say “I got messed up by my feminist mom in the 1970s, who taught me that gender was a social construct” with a straight face. But the Meat and Potato Men one looks to be serious, and seriously alarming. Natasha Scripture ends her piece, basically a description of personal dating preferences and how she was turned off by a date that cried to mourn the loss of Maurice Sendak by stating “I hope we don’t become so much like each other that we end up essentially morphing into one androgynous being. That would just be plain weird”. I’m a little weirded out myself.

Listen, gender, image, masculinity, and dating are all great topics that are truly worthy of discussion. But do we really need to revert to Mad Men stereotypes (as gripping of a show as that may be) to do so? And if we must, can we at least do it in an enlightened way?

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