Archived Story

Signs from the Times

Published 9:00am Saturday, September 8, 2012

Last weekend, The New York Times Magazine published a cover story focusing on several Alexander City families who attend First Baptist Church. The story was titled “Who Wears the Pants In This Economy?”

It worked well as a comedy, not so well as fact.

In fact, I laughed out loud twice as I read it, once almost choking as I tried to keep from spraying my iPad with coffee and milk.

The author, Hanna Rosin, is a senior editor at The Atlantic and at Slate, not a New York Times reporter. The article, which I found very biased, was adapted from her new book titled “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” which I find very biased … based solely on the title, which is as much as I plan to read of it.

So I – and everybody else who bothered to read the intro about the author in last weekend’s Times Magazine – knew going in that she’s writing from a feminist point of view.

She wrote the story in a very un-journalistic manner. She went in search of an example to back up her point – that men are in downfall while women are rising in the business world. And then stretched it.

I’ve got one word for Rosin’s story: Hogwash.

At least that’s one word I can print in a family newspaper.

Some of the others I might choose “just ain’t fittin’,” as we say down here. Which is what I’d say about Rosin’s type of writing, too.

She emasculated the men in her story, elevated the women – which is pretty much the definition of feminism and not a surprise – but then filled the story with all kinds of ludicrous observations.

Here’s a nice bit of comedy concerning Sarah Beth Gettys, who was rightly portrayed as a successful business woman, and her husband Charles, who at one time was national sales manager for fabrics at Russell Corp. and now runs a construction business.

“He is usually self-deprecating, so he doesn’t quite put it this way, but it’s clear that he experienced his time at Russell as his glory days, when as the head of sales, he took trips to New York and stayed at the company’s Midtown apartment and saw Broadway plays and ate delicious rolls that don’t quite compare with the crumbly corn bread served at church suppers.”

I was happy to see that Rosin let us know that she’s making this up ( … he doesn’t quite put it this way), but I’d be willing to bet that nobody ranks eating rolls among the highlights of their “glory days” in New York City.

And I can name a dozen women here in Alexander City whose corn bread would beat the pants off any New York City dinner roll.

Sarah Beth told me the photo of she and Charles that ran with the story – she standing tall with a put-out look on her face while a dejected Charles sits below her – took about four hours to make.

As a professional photographer, that really makes me laugh, unless photographer Ann Weathersby intentionally tried to wear down Charles and Sarah Beth so she could capture a picture of male defeatism. I’m sure that it was what I would call an “outtake,” a poor image shot without warning that would normally never even make it past a thumbnail review, but in this case used to drive home the author’s point.

Reuben got similar treatment.

Rosin wrote that when she spoke with Patsy Prater in the family room of the Prater’s house, “she forbade Reuben to come downstairs, because he can sometimes dominate conversations. She quarantined him on the second floor, and I caught glimpses of him carrying a basket of laundry.”

Amazing. Reuben told me that Patsy has a bad back, so he carries most of the heavy stuff in the household. That’s what every good spouse should do.

Here’s a feminist one-two jab at the entire membership of First Baptist:

“At a Sunday Bible-study group I attended for teenage girls, the mother who was teaching had the girls hold hands, march in a circle and say: ‘My husband will treat me like the princess that I am. He will be the head of my household.’ But the girls’ own ambitions seemed at odds with that vision … I got the sense that relying on a man was not what they considered their best option.”

The story was bad enough that Forbes magazine published a piece by Lisa Hickey this week titled, “It Doesn’t Matter Who Wears the Pants: A Response to Hanna Rosin and The New York Times.”

It’s a better read … but not as entertaining.

These are tough times. Yes, sometimes the breadwinners’ role changes in a family. Sometimes wives who worked (hard) to raise a family wind up going to work outside the home and find success. But that doesn’t signify the end of men. People do what they can do to survive and there’s no shame in that.

As Hickey wrote in Forbes, “Men do not need to be emasculated every time a woman takes a step forward. If it is OK for a woman to be a woman, surely it is OK for a man to be a man. Let’s allow both to succeed.”

Hanna, I don’t care what kind iron-clad pants you like to wear, it’s time you pull on your big-girl panties and apologize to Alexander City’s men. Despite your best efforts, the good folks over at First Baptist Church aren’t going to start passing the plate for a low-testosterone ministry anytime soon.

And don’t mess with our cornbread.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.