Thursday, May 14, 2009

double x

Slate's new feminist magazine is pretty good.

Favorite links:

Get your kid off your facebook profile picture

The new language of feminism.

Make feminism work!

Feminism's problem with race

Katha Pollit's "Still the Second Sex"

Linda Hirshman, being Linda Hirshman, on "The Problem With Jezebel." Smack your forehead, agree grudgingly with some points, disagree with others, question the overall tone if not the underlying argument.

A post-feminist opt-outer's critique of feminism's "responsibility" ethos gets a resoundingly cold, harsh, entirely appropriate dressing down for the callow writing: "If your future's that bright, maybe you need shades."

The unwitting subjects of the inane NYT Modern Love columns answer back!

And re the last link, there's a reason why I try not to write anything about my significant other that's more detailed or intimate than "we argue about whether or not to wear shoes in the house and we have intellectual disagreements about domestic policy" No drama is relayed, nor do I share any insights gleaned through adversity (which I probably lack, not writing Modern Love columns). Eeesh!:

What's true for immersion journalism is clearly not true for Modern Love. My ex's essay wasn't fictional enough to warrant changing gory details—the pet name "Froky" was plenty real, as is my little-used first name "Diana." Yet it wasn't factual enough to warrant fact-checking or objectivity; to mention that I was never consulted, warned, or interviewed about the piece is stating the obvious.

From my perspective the article uses a sprinkling of facts to decorate a work of fiction. The essay skews timelines and words, takes events out of context, and characterizes things in a way that could be described as...creative. The overall effect was a complete rewriting of our relationship as I had lived it.

I learned that baby talk had killed our relationship the same way everyone else did—by reading about it in the newspaper. You wouldn't know it from the essay, but my ex had never specifically mentioned this to me as a problem while we were together. The fact that he told the readers of the New York Times more about why we broke up than he had told me left me reeling. But I could hardly write to the Styles editor. Surely my objections would be dismissed as the rants of a scorned woman (a risk I obviously run by writing this article).

To truly attain peace, there was only one thing to do: Write the author. So just as he had done for thousands of strangers, I did just for us: I sat down and wrote my heart out. I revealed things I had never shared when we were together, and I paid homage our past love. I conveyed my shock at his decision to blindside me with the article and my opinion that he had not told the whole truth.

Surprisingly enough, my ex wrote back within the day. He was cool, civil, even kind. He addressed my concerns about the truth by admitting forthrightly: "Of course, my essay is not the truth. It's a version that is emotionally truthful for me...The essay isn't about you or me, and wasn't written for either of us, but only about how people struggle with these things."

As his smooth prose flowed on, it was almost enough to make me doubt my gut. But then I realized: He wasn't writing to me as a man to woman, but as a published writer to civilian reader. He was a professional now, with a nice clip from the New York Times to prove it. He had told his story, and his story had sold.

When the article was first published in 2005, Facebook was just for college kids, Twitter was a gleam in its founder's eye, and "I Bang the Worst Dudes" was a private lament, not a public blog. Today our online personas, blogs, tweets, videos, and Flickrs have made millions of us into semi-fictionalized stars of our own long-running docudramas. As a culture, we all have to reckon with how much is too intimate—and too fictional—to share about ourselves and our loved ones.

It would make a snappy ending to say I've built a fantastically mature relationship with an amazingly playful man. But the facts are messier than that. I thought my relationship with my writerly ex would give me a marriage. Instead, I got dueling essays, which at the time, felt emotionally devastating and now seems darkly hilarious. As much as I told myself I dodged a bullet by ending things with someone who would so brazenly make his private life public, his piece played on my deepest fear that I was so flawed as to be unlovable. And while I knew I never wanted to have the kind of relationship where I had to get my intimate romantic news from the newspaper again, it was hard to forgive myself for letting it get to that point in the first place.