Once upon a time the world was run by preppy Wasp men and well-tended sylph-like women. The rules were clear: casual was OK for men so long as they had a crocodile sewn over their hearts, and desert was OK for women, some known as “social X-rays” -- once a month, if that. Lisa Birnbach, co-author of The Official Preppy Handbook (1989) tells the Wall Street Journal, “Once upon a time the Lacoste shirt was really the only sporty shirt that you would wear,” the “you” not intended to include me and most of my friends but better-muscled chaps known as “Chip,Trip, or Kip” -- names selected by the Journal, not yours truly. Times surely have changed. For one thing, sporty shirts are no longer worn only for a round of tennis or golf with country-club buddies after a hard morning at father’s investment bank. For another, what the Journal calls “the shirt that started it all,” now has competitors that dare to innovate with such features as four- rather than two-button plackets.
Meanwhile, wraith is out, and even illegal for French, Spanish, and Israeli models. As a glance at the stars in any sitcom shows, rotund is in for women. Which is bad news for Spanx the company, no financial lightweight with its $400 million in annual sales of what the New York Times calls “body-sculpting bras and bodysuits.” The company is “gasping” to remain relevant in the age of shifting “body ideals”, yoga pants, once more under- than over-garment, and “athleisure” apparel, which I think but am not certain includes something called “jogger pants”, which Google’s analysis of six billion data points shows to be “trending”. And which data analyzed by the Wall Street Journal suggest are worn more for “leisure” than for “ath.” Fat-shaming, compression and squeezing are out, comfort for “real bodies” is in, which explains. Thin is out, “diversity” in body shapes is in. And sex is out: troubled retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has announced that it is abandoning sexy ads and the hiring of models based on “body type or physical attractiveness,” and is re-labelling its sales staff “Brand Representatives” rather than “Models.”
Now, men in loose-fitting, Hawaiian-flowered, untucked, belly-covering shirts are free to take their non-Spanxed wives and dates for a drink at some of the more modern, democratic eateries and clubs. O tempora! O mores!
We're living in a transgender moment in America -- which is a little odd, when you think about it. For transgender people are not exactly new to the news: The British travel writer James Morris became Jan Morris as long ago as 1972, and the ophthalmologist Richard Raskind became tennis pro Renee Richards in 1975. Nor are they new to American celebrity culture: A young ex-GI named George Jorgensen traveled to Denmark in 1951 and, after surgery, returned home as night-club entertainer Christine Jorgensen.
Until Hillary Clinton decided to destroy 33,000 allegedly personal e-mails, all was quiet on the document-retention front in her selected home State of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo was quite happy with the secrecy provided by his own refusal to send written memos or e-mails, and the practice followed by his staff and state agencies (at his insistence) of destroying e-mails older than 90 days. No footprints. Which is the way the famously secretive Cuomo likes it.
The Council of the Princeton University Community voted on Monday to gut due process for students accused of sexual misconduct. The week before last it was the turn of the faculty to genuflect as the hearse bearing the remains of due process rolled past. This unsavory episode highlights two parlous issues. First, there is the problem of sexual misconduct on campus, which was always at unacceptable levels and appears to be getting worse. Second, there is the dangerous license federal agencies have to rewrite law.
Florida Polytechnic “University” (it isn’t accredited) is making headlines this week by opening a bookless library. Instead of checking out traditional codex books, students will be forced to read class material on tablets, e-readers, and/or laptops. According to the middle-aged librarians and bureaucrats who run the school, a bookless library will appeal to the youth.
Islamic State terrorists, formerly known as ISIS, have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority in and around the city of Sinjar and taken hundreds of women as slaves. Some of the victims were buried alive. Their only crime: not being Muslims.
In an interview with President Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, President Obama said that "a lot of young men of color aren't doing well." He also talked about his own childhood, growing up without his father in his life.
This week the Factual Feminist takes on the “rape culture” panic that is riling college campuses with help from the media, radical feminists, and too many politicians. Just as in the shameful panic over alleged child abuse at day care centers that sent innocent people to prison in the 1980s, false statistics, mob tactics at public meetings, and disregard for the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” hold sway among today’s accusers.
Richard V. Reeves has written in The Atlantic a confident and illuminating account of the state of marriage in America today. College-educated American men and women “are reinventing marriage as a child-rearing machine for a post-feminist society and a knowledge economy.” On this front, the Americans have once again shown their superiority to the Europeans, who, in their socially self-destructive way, remain ambivalent at best about the value of being married. But a European might respond that only an American could be content with such a self-consciously mechanical view of a relational institution. It’s easy to hear the French man Alexis de Tocqueville laughing between the lines of his deadpan description of American men describing marriage in terms of “self-interest rightly understood.”
Harold Ramis died on Monday morning. Having written, directed (or written and directed) five of the funniest movies of the last 40 years, I think it's safe to put him on the short list for Funniest Guy of His Generation.
In an article published a couple days ago, Time magazine endorses "Polyandry," which Merriam-Webster defines as "the state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time."
"It Makes Economic Sense for a Woman to Have More Than One Husband," reads the article's headline. The sub-headline reads, "By pooling male resources, polyandry improves household incomes and combats child poverty."
Amiri Baraka, New Jersey’s controversial one-time poet laureate, died yesterday, aged 79. The poet, essayist, and playwright’s body of work will be remembered, if at all, as among the least humane in the history of American letters. An early 9/11 denier—a notorious 2002 poem suggested Jews were responsible for the attacks—Baraka embraced many of the last century’s worst ideologies.
The federal agency that oversees the Voice of America is seeking someone to produce a TV entertainment show to be broadcast in Iran in the Farsi language that includes "Hollywood news" and "other interesting aspects of life on the West Coast of the United States." The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), whose board members include Secretary of State John Kerry, is