28 March 2006
I can’t blame the boy’s attack on men’s mags by Stefani Marsh (see bottom half of the linked page.)
It was about the time that a 14-year-old schoolboy jumped me around the corner from work one afternoon that I began thinking about the evils of men’s magazines. I’d been walking along happily when the kid decided to do an impersonation of a rutting dog and deposited some of his DNA on the back of my dress. He scuttled off but, being rather chubby, did not stand a chance against a passing jogger who had no trouble fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition of single-handedly apprehending a sex offender. Standing there holding on to the boy’s ear while the police came, I had the opportunity to watch a budding sexual deviant burst into tears several times, howling like a child — which, of course, he still was.
“You’re like my sister, I swear,” he remonstrated, to which I replied: “Do you normally simulate sex with your siblings?” He didn’t know what siblings were. He hardly knew what sex was.
The whole thing sparked off a period of introspection. Wasn’t the incident a symptom of what the feminist writer Ariel Levy calls the “raunch culture” — the sexualisation of our society by the editors of men’s magazines and the models that they put on their covers? I decided it was. How could a boy in hormonal flux not be confused by Ann Summers window displays and Jordan’s plastic jugs?
I’m sorry to say that it is this kind of unsubstantiated logic that often passes for “feminist thinking” these days. In Maureen Dowd’s new book, Are Men Necessary? (If I tell you that she blames society as a whole for the fact that she’s single, can you guess the answer?), the New York Times columnist claims that feminism is dead on the basis that she can’t get any dates. All men want is pneumatic airheads, she says, which explains why successful, attractive women (like, well, her) remain unattached. She backs it up with some random statistics and quotes from back issues of Cosmopolitan.
Turning a personal experience into a generalisation is a peculiarly feminine trait, and although the book is terrible I’m sure that it will sell because, like many hypotheses of this kind, it taps into what women are good at, better even than most gay men, which is belligerent self-pity. It’s true that FHM is vulgar and that younger women have fewer crow’s feet, but that doesn’t fully explain why Maureen Dowd is single or why I was leapt on.
In the end my teenage assailant admitted that it was an argument with his (single) mother combined with the sight of one of my shoe laces that inexplicably set him off. He’d never read FHM.
posted by Duncan Idaho @ 5:49 PM