what is he doing in here?

For some unfathomable reason, they let an irritating New York Times columnist into this week’s New Yorker. As if avoiding his printed words in one outlet were not enough, I now have to confront them in my favorite magazine. The worst part is, I actually read his article– such is my faith in the New Yorker to not assault my brain with stupidity, that I assumed a stroke of intelligibility hit said columnist that must have convinced the editors to run with it. Oh woe: how wrong I was.

I don’t know why this columnist irks me so much, except that I’ve seen enough of his columns to convince me that he never has anything worthwhile to contribute. This article, though, reached new lows.

First I will say that the cartoon illustration was a perfect cartoon illustration of the article: I should have looked at it, cringed, and turned away. It shows a male figure and a female figure facing each other across a candle-lit table, with the man’s thought bubble containing pictures of a female ankle, a bosom (why has this word gone out of fashion? why?), and hips, and the woman’s containing pictures of a big-chested man, a house, and a hand-holding couple with 5 children.

For those of you who want to stop reading words, I direct you to this webcomic to get the gist of what follows.

He basically misuses studies of human behavior to create a walking stereotype of Man (don’t worry, ladies– Woman makes an appearance as Wife of Man) as a ‘social animal’. It’s like you’re reading about David Brooks– I mean a sympathetic character– I mean Man and learning about the latest in scientific research at the same time.

A portrait of a lady:

Human babies require years to become self-sufficient[…] She [a Pleistocene woman] was compelled to choose a man not only for insemination but for continued support. That’s why men leap into bed more quickly than women. Various research teams have conducted a simple study. They hire a woman to go up to college men and ask them to sleep with her. More than half the men say yes. Then they have a man approach college women with the same offer. Virtually zero per cent say yes.

Wow, Mister. Way to completely ignore the presence of cultural norms surrounding sexual behavior. Or are you just equating college kids with instinct-driven prehistoric humans? Either way, the leap of logic in that paragraph is magnificent.

And this: ‘Study X found that people in more social jobs are happier, ergo everyone everywhere is happy if and only if they are surrounded by people 24/7.’ I have news for you, dear columnist: Study X did not find what you thought it found. I know that because you can’t write breezy, chatty articles about research findings. I defy anyone to make research less headache-inducing. It’s headache-inducing because it’s inherently complicated: it’s only true given certain assumptions and under certain conditions. And thank god for living in a complicated world, otherwise we’d be living in Davidbrooksland, where everyone is Average, nothing is left unexplained, and everyone conforms to a white, middle-aged, privileged dude’s expectations.



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