Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

On gender...

There were several items in the news that interested me. The first is the death, at 58, of feminist Andrea Dworkin. Folks like Camille Paglia may despise Dworkin, but the self-described "radical feminist" is important for her efforts to stop violence directed against women. Dworkin's desire to be -- unabashedly -- herself is also welcome. In this age of Dr. Atkins diets, "The Swan" and Botox, I laud Dworkin for her nonchalance regarding her looks. It reminds me of a Mike Royko column in which the master ridiculed those who felt squeamish about seeing Mary Pickford, wrinkles and all, at the Oscars. Everyone gets old, he reminded them, and we shouldn't put it behind the Potemkin village of a face lift. (That's my mixed metaphor.)

Secondly, my former Harvard classmate Jennifer 8. Lee of the New York Times has written an article about a phenomenon that she calls "man dates." Lee defines this as "two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports," or "two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman." Examples of this might include a visit to an art museum or dinner at an expensive restaurant. Lee adds that the prospect of being perceived as homosexual would make some men wary of their behavior on a man date, or even make them shun the practice altogether; however, given the busy nature of people's lives in the Internet era, most men see the development as unavoidable. Indeed, say some gender studies experts, "Before women were considered men's equals ... men routinely confided in and sought advice from one another in ways they did not do with women, even their wives."

This is all so silly that I don't even know where to begin. Lee proceeds from the assumption that all men conform to the stereotype she depicts in her article: Final Four-watching, beer-guzzling, power-lunch-grabbing lunkheads who don't go for more, shall we say, refined pursuits, and certainly not in the company of another man. I am guessing that her experiences in Cambridge and New York would have convinced her otherwise. Secondly, a look at the Western canon could have proven what these gender gurus say: Strong male friendships have existed for hundreds of years. Witness Hamlet talking about Horatio: "Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice/And could of men distinguish, her election/Hath seal'd thee for herself." Or Benvolio and Romeo; or, in "The Importance of Being Earnest," Algernon and Jack.


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