The Conversation

Responses and reverberations

Brigid Mullane
Sydney, Australia

When The Atlantic gives a woman writer a cover story, she’s almost always writing about topics that are considered female ones: marriage, romance, feminism, and babies.

Jessica Grose
Excerpt from a Slate DoubleX blog post

Women writers are capable of tackling the kind of “hard” economic, political, and foreign-policy cover topics that tend to go to male writers.

This is pretty clear, and I think [Jessica] Grose covers it pretty well. The flipside is that even though these sex/marriage/babies topics that women writers tend to get assigned are generally less “prestigious” than the old “let’s interview powerful people and write down what they think” kind of stories, family life is actually really important. And roughly half of the people having sex, getting married, and having babies are men. Their perspective is important too! I think part of taking women more seriously has to be assigning more women to write about things like the Iranian nuclear program and Mitt Romney’s quest for the presidency. But the other part has to be taking “women’s issues” seriously enough to assign male “star” writers to ponder parenting and family life.

Matthew Yglesias
Excerpt from a blog post

As a 51-year-old gay man in a monogamous relationship for nearly 20 years, I strenuously object to Kate Bolick’s statement that “gay men have traditionally had a more permissive attitude to infidelity.” Her article is chock-full of supporting comments, references, interviews, etc., for virtually every other comment she offers to rationalize her singlehood. And then out of the blue she makes this remark about the “attitude” of gay men! Shame on your editors for letting this slip by in your otherwise usually well-balanced magazine.

Andrew B. Simmons
Chicago, Ill.

I got real lucky and married a wonderful woman, and we have been together for 25 years. That said, with society, marriage laws, and the courts the way they are (anti-male), why would any sane man with means get married today? Just as women have choices, so do men. Men can adopt, have babies through surrogates, etc., all without a wife. The woman holds all the cards in a relationship. She chooses whom she will date, whom she will have sex with, whom she will marry, whom she will have children with, and when she will divorce him (and get a big payday). TV tells a woman she does not need a man. The “it takes a village” crowd tells her she does not need a man. The courts tell her she does not need a man. Until she hears her biological clock loudly ticking in her ears, she does not think she needs a man.

For the past 40 years, women have been making their bed, and now they are starting to worry that men don’t want to sleep in it.

onlyabill comment


For The Atlantic’s November issue on Brave Thinkers, James Fallows praised President Barack Obama for saying “Go” despite the risks of tracking down and taking out Osama bin Laden. He compared the situation to the failed Desert One mission to save the American hostages in Iran during the Carter administration.

James Fallows writes: “Jimmy Carter doesn’t put it this way in public, but his view of the 1980 election must come down to this: one more chopper, one more term.”

In fact, on at least one occasion, Jimmy Carter did put it just that way in public. I know because I was there and asked him that very question.

President Carter spoke at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, on September 1, 1989, and asked for questions after his prepared remarks. I was an eager high-school student, and I hustled up to the microphone to ask him what one thing he would have done differently in his presidency. He answered that he would have sent one more helicopter on the Desert One mission, allowing the mission to go forward—exactly as Fallows described. He speculated that a more successful operation would have tipped the balance of the election, which was closer than commonly remembered.

I still remember the hush that fell over the large auditorium, as the crowd considered how an entire presidency could depend upon a single helicopter disabled in a desert halfway around the world. And then he moved on. “Next question, please.”

Jeff Morrill
Milton, Mass.

The Atlantic’s e-mail inbox bulged with reader commentary in 2011, as did’s comments section. Here are last year’s most-responded-to articles:

1. “All the Single Ladies,” by Kate Bolick (November)

2. “The Tragedy of Sarah Palin,” by Joshua Green (June)

3. “The Ally From Hell,” by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder (December)

4. “The Shame of College Sports,” by Taylor Branch (October)

5. “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” by Lori Gottlieb (July/August)

By the Numbers

Hundreds of readers responded to Kate Bolick’s cover story, via e-mails and online comments. The gender breakdown of that response—31 percent female, 69 percent male—was revealing … of what, we’re not sure. (This log does not include readers who didn’t indicate their gender.)

After Kate Bolick appeared on the Today show, NBC polled viewers about whether women can be single and happy. More than 4,000 people responded, and the answer was nearly unanimous: 91 percent said yes and 9 percent said no.

Pick-Up Tweet of the Month

true story: @ThorHighball sent the @TheAtlantic story on single women to a girl and she asked him out. him, “It worked!”


Story Update: The Ally From Hell

In December, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder reported on the delicate relationship between the United States and its supposed ally, Pakistan, whose government sponsors terrorists who attack American troops, and attempts to hide its growing nuclear arsenal from the U.S. at the cost of keeping that arsenal less than fully secure. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly denounced the story as “pure fiction, baseless and motivated.” In a statement, the ministry said: “The surfacing of such campaigns is not something new. It is orchestrated by quarters that are inimical to Pakistan.”

However, just days after The Atlantic published this story, Pakistan announced that the military is training 8,000 people to protect its nuclear weapons. “Pakistan rarely reveals details about its nuclear program or the security around it,” the Associated Press noted. “The announcement by the Pakistani military … could be seen as a response to the [Atlantic] magazine article.”


“How Walmart Is Changing China” (December) mentioned an essay in Walmart in China by Derek J. Davies. Davies’s first name is David. November’s Brave Thinker profile of Lydia Cacho Ribeiro stated that Cancún is Cacho’s home state. Cancún is a city in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

To contribute to The Conversation, please e-mail Include your full name, city, and state.

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