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.

  • lamoncrief

    This reminded me of another biased book that came out recently from a sporting viewpoint and from a cultural viewpoint.

    Larry A. Moncrief

  • hushhhh

    I have to take issue with your review of the Hanna Rosin article in the New York Times Magazine. If I had to guess, it seems that you might have felt a little personally challenged by her take on things.

    Having grown up in Alexander City I know well the concept of the husband being the head of the house. I also know that there’s as much myth as reality associated with the teaching. My mom, for example, would have told anyone that my father was the head of the household. Any other answer would bring down the wrath of the church folk! But, let’s look at reality – mom handled the finances, paid the bills, balanced the checkbook, managed the household, managed to harvest and either freeze or can the produce from a garden that was over an acre large, made sure the kids were dressed and ready for school (and, took them to buy the clothes) AND held down a full time job, often 3rd shift at the mill. She cooked all the meals, made lunches, cleaned house, handled all of the insurance policies . . . while my father worked the same amount of hours at the mill, kept the cars in running order, cut the grass and did some garden work.

    So that he would know what to do after she died, she had made intricate lists and notes detailing where insurance polices were, and how to handle this and that. And, interstingly, she didn’t leave the note to him, she left it to her daughter-in-law – because she knew she would be strong enough to handle it all.

    What I read, in this article, was an outsiders peek inside the Southern family and town. Sometimes the view from the outside is clearer than from the inside. I think she conveyed a pretty accurate picture of things.

    I can absolutely see the exchange happening where the wife “forbade” the husband to come down because he sometimes dominated the conversation. This is the kind of thing I saw all the time with my mom and have seen all my life in the homes of friends in the South and elsewhere. It speaks to the close relationship of the couple – and, I am sure probably happened much like that, but with humor and a tongue-in-cheek metaphorical wink. Chances are, he had already told her that he would prefer not to be a part of the conversation! (That’s the way I would have handled it).

    Most strong Southern women know how to let men think they’re in control when in reality, they’re not. Let me use my mom as an example again. Now for reference, my parents are (mom is deceased) lifelong members of a local Baptist Church, my father a deacon and my mom was a Sunday School teacher and member of the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU). My father, was promoted to a management position at the mill. It was not a high position, but over time he had proven his worth and dedication and was moved up, a couple of times, actually. It was only in later years, in a long conversation with my mom before her death that I learned that a couple of years after his promotion, she was also offered a promotion – however, her position would have techically been higher than his – even though in different parts of the mill. She turned it down. In fact she turned it down more than once over the years. She told me, “I knew your father wouldn’t be able to handle me having a better job than him, even if it meant we were making more money overall – so, to keep the peace, I never took the job.” She knew him well.

    What I saw in this article was really good journalism – she wasn’t proclaiming the end of men in Alexander City, she was simply recognizing a overt shift in things. Some of us have long known that covertly, the women were for the most part the strength of those families, but hard times sometimes make that which was a secret come out to the open.

    And, when it does, some people can’t handle it and resort to using out of place (and date) terms to prove their manhood. “Put on your big girl panties”??? Seriously? Real men don’t have to make sexist statements like that to prove their superiority. In fact, real mean don’t have a need to be superior.

  • lamoncrief

    “Put on your big girl panties” is not a sexist phrase or statement. Atleast not according to the “House Wives of New Jersey” where the northern “ladies” use it against one another all the time. Miss Hanna typifies the northeastern liberal journalism aroma.

  • wildflower

    Isn’t it interesting how your view of the world is colored by the glasses you wear. I have to say that I agree with parts of each commenter’s narrative. Maybe I am missing something, but I did not take offense from the article or from the subsequent comments.