Esquire Completes Transition Into Complete Piece Of Shit Misogynist Rag (That Also Publishes Charles Pierce)
Charles Pierce is one of the fiercest takedown artists working in contemporary American political writing—just see what the man can do to David Brooks on any given Friday morning—but I’ve found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with the disparity between the both the quality and content of Pierce’s writing and the piece of shit misogynist rag he writes for.
The difference between Pierce’s polemics, which always side with the oppressed and the disenfranchised, and the extent to which Esquire scores most of its points off the backs of women became garishly obvious this week as the magazine published two pieces that made its retrograde view of women unavoidable (literally, if you follow them on Facebook).
The first was Stephen Marche’s “The Contempt of Women,” from the September issue. The title kinda says it all, but below are some choice lines anyway; if you’re really into the red meat, skip to the part about how women keep whining about rape even though it isn’t even a big deal anymore:
In the constantly progressing and deteriorating and rapidly revolving kaleidoscope of misunderstanding and disgust and hunger that constitutes gender relations in the twenty-first century, a new gesture has emerged to define us: the sneer, the female gaze of contempt.
Feminine contempt is suddenly everywhere, subtly and invidiously panoramic, in public life and in private life, in the bedroom and on television and in bookstores and on the campaign trail. The sexuality of the moment is all about contempt. In Lena Dunham’s hit show Girls, which has succeeded so admirably in providing American critics with a moment of convenient generational definition, the men are pitiable and grotesque. Whether rough or tender or vanilla, they fail. In Sex and the City, the women commoditized men, often in the most banal way, but at least they liked what the men had to offer: cocks and money and status and sometimes even support. In Girls, sex is to be endured, the subject of a shivering, melancholy fascination.
[…] Eventually, the sexual always morphs into the political. Contempt for men has become so widespread and acceptable that it’s a commonplace for politicians’ wives. Michelle Obama loves to describe her husband’s morning breath and struggles with smoking and failure to put away his socks. Her pull quote: “He’s a gifted man, but he’s just a man.” Got that, boys? You can be editor of the Harvard Law Review, first African-American president, director of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, loving husband and father, and an innovator of “absorption marijuana ingestion” to boot, but in the end “just a man.” […] This is what the political operatives call “humanizing the candidate”: Contempt for men is what ordinary women understand.
[…] In the portions of the country where, through culture and money, something like equality between the sexes is being achieved, the differences between [men and women] collapse. Women’s biological clock? Unmarried young men aspire to have children more than unmarried young women do. The violence of male sexuality? In parts of the United States, rapes have declined to such a low number that they can’t be charted. Feminine compassion? Violent crime among women is spiking to an unprecedented degree. That old La Leche League idea that once women were in power there would be no more wars? Women in power are not meaningfully different from men in power.
It goes on (and on) like that; Marche even somehow finds a way to include Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin in his complaint.
Lindy West, who’s worth about twenty sad-dick Esquire scribes, thoroughly eviscerates the piece in a line-by-line rebuttal at Jezebel:
Some ladies are making fun of you on the TV? Well, at least they’re not legislating your genitals, and talking to you like you’re a baby, and passing you over for promotions, and treating you like sexy livestock, and taking you less seriously by default without even thinking about it. Men have regarded women (uppity women, anyway) with contempt for generations. Dishing it out, meet taking it. FAKE. PROBLEM. GOODNIGHT.
The second article of Esquire‘s was “You Gotta Love Olivia Munn,” which, needless to say, fails to enforce the demand of its title:
The actress who started not-so-fortuitously with roles as “Girl No. 1” and “Asian Mob Girl,” then progressed to a gig as “geek sex symbol” on Attack of the Show and too many magazine covers, is now friends with Jon Stewart and a regular on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. And the strangest thing of all is that she’s never seemed more likable.
Olivia Munn’s also most known as a permanent Maxim fixture, though I’m sure that has nothing to do with her being deemed likable. Lest these two articles fail to accidentally comment on each other, the Munn piece makes it absolutely clear how women on TV are supposed to act:
Her role as Sloane is almost absurdly flattering, and as preposterous as anything on the show: She’s an economics Ph.D who’s fluent in Japanese and “doesn’t get” men. But it’s also clear why she’s there — as MacKenzie McHale tells her early on, she’s got great legs. And Munn plays the character with a goofy and guileless charm that everyone else in the cast apparently lacks. The more she’s on, the more you want her to stay there.
So on one page, shows like Girls and accomplished women like Michelle Obama are derided for their “contempt,” here read as failing to show the proper level of obsequiousness; on the left, an encomium for Munn’s acquiescent and therefore “likable” roles (also, tits). What’s amazing is I doubt the two pieces were coordinated. Esquire has so internalized its model of proper female behavior that two of its writers can encourage and chastise independently of each other.
Now: if these two articles appeared in a single issue of, say, the Weekly Standard, what would Charles Pierce have to say about them? Thought so. William Kristol would be dangling by his testicles by the time Pierce would be done with him.
It’s too bad Esquire gets a pass on all this merely by employing one of the writers best capable of criticizing it. I’ll admit to not having paid much attention to Esquire outside of an occasional glance at the Best Bars List and other anodyne listicles; for all I know, the magazine was a model of gender blurring until six months ago, and this is all the work of some new editor with an anti-vagina ax to grind. But somehow I doubt it. And while I will continue to drink Pierce’s blog with a water back every day, I will find it harder to swallow the sincerity his tonal aggression on behalf of the American underdog: in an age when women are fighting the battles over birth control, abortion, equal pay, anti-discrimination protection, and everything else, largely by themselves, any definition of “underdog” that excludes them is worthy of, well, contempt.
Pierce needs to dedicate one of his patented takedown efforts to his own publication. If they fire him, he can always come write for me.
UPDATE: I spoke too soon! Apparently Stephen Marche has no problem with the female gaze of contempt when it’s directed at men he doesn’t like halfway around the world. So, sorry about that.