The Conversation

Responses and reverberations

Maybe Bolick and her single friends should trot their Jimmy Choos down to the rallies and take these men out to dinner (OK, not the ones whose hardworking wives wouldn’t appreciate the gesture). As Bolick points out, the women who are coping best with the new order are those most willing to recalibrate their expectations.

Meghan Daum
Excerpt from an LA Times op-ed

It seems that we may be experiencing a perfect storm of generational inheritance that allows men to get away with way too much. Maybe it’s because American men today have rarely experienced privation or danger. My parents’ generation had World War II. My generation had Vietnam. The risk of the draft gave us a certain amount of urgency about establishing our lives and responsibilities. It could be the well-documented current trend of parental indulgence that is keeping young men from achieving. Decades ago I had firsthand experience of the benefits of feminism. Women came into their own and could live a life not dictated by men. Of late I’ve observed men’s attitudes regressing in their treatment of women, both sexually and culturally, and that is a sad thing.

Brian O’Neil
El Cerrito, Calif.

Historically, we’ve treated marriage as a proxy for the regulation of reproduction and child care. But now that it’s possible for women to support themselves and their children, we may no longer need an institution that gives special rights to men in exchange for the support of their own children. Without marriage, as long as children were well cared for, adults could have whatever relationships they liked. As a society, we would not accredit particular household configurations, any more than we would establish a particular religion. And Kate Bolick would not have to feel uneasy about being single; it would no longer be a meaningful concept.

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.

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