- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Traditional roles

"The war on terrorism, like wars in the past, is shaking up gender expectations.

"Since September 11, the gender gap in public opinion on military force has narrowed dramatically, and American ideals of masculinity and femininity have become more traditional.

"Right after September 11, more men than women favored military action. By Oct. 8, after U.S. forces had begun bombing Afghanistan, the gender gap had disappeared. Support was equal, at 87 percent from both genders.

"As the gender gap closed and the country's unity solidified, discussions of gender ideals and gender conflicts shifted. Putting aside the traditional, divisive gender battles on topics such as abortion and affirmative action, media discussions addressed the accomplishments of men in traditional roles and women in nontraditional ones.

"Conservative writers are celebrating the new respect for masculine males the firefighters, cops, and special-forces soldiers who rush in when others are fleeing. John Wayne-style masculinity has looked particularly attractive to them, given the dot-com crash that had deflated Bill Gates-style masculinity. Meanwhile, liberal writers have celebrated women's roles in the U.S. military and the liberation of Afghan women. The war has something for everyone."

Joshua S. Goldstein, writing on "John Wayne and G.I. Jane," yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor

Suburban blues

"Among the attitudes that seem required of American intellectuals, loathing of the suburbs ranks high on the list. Since they can be despised for so many (if often incongruent) reasons, suburbs offer a target for writers with quite disparate agendas: The suburbs are racist and exclusionary; their fleshpots blunt the activist impulses of minorities who move to them; they destroy families; they distract from communal concerns by making family the focus of life; their oppressive conformity stunts individualism; they isolate the individual from the community; and on and on.

"That many Americans of all races continue to move to them in droves is a reminder of the irrelevancy of much of this chatter to the way people decide to shape their lives.

"American novelists have done their bit to swell the chorus of lamentation. As Catherine Jurca notes 'As a body of work, the suburban novel asserts that one unhappy family is a lot like the next, and [that] there is no such thing as a happy family.' One typically finds the suburb served up as 'the parodic antithesis of the good life, where gratification on every level is nonexistent.'"

Tom Peyser, writing on "Commuter Virus," in the January issue of Reason

Admit the obvious

"It's hilarious to hear the harrumphing and denials and shock from senior CNN honchos over the recent promo CNN aired for Paula Zahn. The promo for Zahn's new 'show' went as follows: 'Where can you find a morning news anchor who's provocative, super-smart and oh just a little sexy?' Apparently, the sound of a zipper being unfastened overlaid the voice-over.

"The higher-ups professed shock and horror, and maybe they were shocked and horrified. But wasn't this the television version of a gaffe that rare moment when networks say publicly what they mean privately?

"Television, after all, is a visual medium. The most powerful visual symbols are sexual. The notion that you can have successful television without sex is simply utopian. In a highly competitive environment, the premium on sexual imagery is going to be even higher. Hence the prominence of a Paula Zahn.

"The idea that Zahn has been hired for her crack journalism skills is ludicrous. This is the woman who put psychics on her show to search for Chandra Levy. The tele-bimbos may be competent at what they do but if they weren't sexy, they simply wouldn't be there. Why can't television executives just admit the obvious?"

Andrew Sullivan, writing on "Zahn's Zipper," Wednesday in www.andrewsullivan.com

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