Directing all my rage at Slate’s logrolling of “The End of Men”

19 September 2012

I’m having one of those weeks. I’ll spare you the details, except that I somehow managed to orchestrate a perfect storm of incoming papers from students, crazy bad news about tenure decisions for important friends, and a long delay in getting reimbursed by my university for moving expenses. 

In response, I’d like to direct my rage at Slate.com. Why does this online journal feel it necessary to play such a major role in logrolling the new book, The End of Men, by its own editor-writer Hanna Rosin? Does it feel no conflict of interest considering that Rosin’s husband is the journal’s senior editor, David Plotz? Does this journal, owned by the Washington Post, have no journalistic credentials to uphold?

Here’s how it looks for the past 6 days:

  • Friday, Sept. 14: Alyssa Rosenberg (why, Alyssa?) writes “The End of Men, Fall TV Edition.”
  • Friday, Sept. 14: Rosin’s friend Emily Bazelon writes “Why Feminists Fear The End of Men,” an angry retort to a highly critical review of the book in the NY Times Book Review by historian Katherine Homans. (That’s right: let’s blame feminists, which is Slate’s bread and butter.)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 18: Rosin posts three separate pieces entitled, “What Happens When the Wife Earns More?” drawn from the book.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 19: Rosin appears on the Slate podcast, “The Slate Culture Gabfest,” to discuss the book with colleagues who, although ordinarily quite dependably intelligent and critical, refuse to ask hard questions.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 19: June Thomas writes “The End of Men, TV Titles Edition.”

That’s right: 6 days, 7 articles. (Two of which appeared before noon today.) If only the rest of us who write books had the ability to transform one’s professional journalistic job into an in-house publicity machine.

Let’s not even mention the many other times Rosin has received logrolling attention from its staff for the same material in the past, including plugs by her husband on the podcast “The Slate Political Gabfest,” plugs for her public talks including a TED talk, plugs for her original and controversial Atlantic Magazine article that earned her the book contract, and on and on.

I can barely stand to read her arguments, which all too often take some kind of anecdote — the story of a couple in Alabama who have seen the husband’s income decline as the wife’s grows — and then extrapolates this as some kind of world-historical shift. Even worse, she cherry-picks hard evidence such as employment figures and ignores other evidence in order to hammer it into the shape of her overall argument. And worst of all, her title: The End of Men, as reviewer Homans puts it, is not a title but a sound bite utterly misleading about her argument.

After spewing all my righteous bile about Slate’s failure to act professionally with regard to one of its own editor/ writers, perhaps I should add one tiny note of relief: at least Rosin is engaging in political-cultural criticism, unlike Monday’s article about how hard it is for women with small waists and big breasts to find a bra. Seriously. Slate: the online journal equivalent of listening to teenage girls’ conversation at the mall. Kill me now.

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12 Responses to “Directing all my rage at Slate’s logrolling of “The End of Men””

  1. Becky Says:

    Why do you read this rag? I think it is the equivalent of watching Fox News, which is an oxymoron if you think about it. If misery loves company, then it might help to know I am having the exact same kind of day, but for obviously different reasons. I just told someone that I needed to find a focus for my free floating rage. Maybe this could be it!

    • Didion Says:

      Oh Becky, why do I continue to pick at this scab? This is, truly, the question. I think it’s because I find their writers so alternately interesting and, then, utterly enraging.

  2. eteokretan Says:

    I don’t even want to start thinking about the End of Men cesspool. I fear it will be a waste of energy and will just leave me frustrated–though I really feel I ought to grab my hipboots and wade into it.

    Right now I’m puzzling over that Slate story you mentioned at the end. The trouble of finding a bra for women with small waists and big breasts: what the hell does your waist have to do with your bra? I keep imagining hell-bras that go from your hips up to your actual breasts.

    I care enough about words that I really get annoyed at sloppiness and shortcuts like this. They just couldn’t get a cute title any other way. And that’s before we get into the idiocy of the article itself.

    It sounds like the sort of article the Onion would come up with to exemplify triviality in journalism.

    • Didion Says:

      Argh! I’m not kidding: the article complains that she can’t walk into a department store and find a bra in size 28G.

      It truly is Onion material.

      But please don’t let yourself go down the End of Men rabbit hole — it’s so not worth it.


  3. A very disappointing moment for Slate.com.

  4. Cara Says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one annoyed by this nonsense. Don’t forget the September 6 Double X Podcast during which one of Rosin’s colleagues “interviewed” her.

    Slate has promoted other writers’ books during podcasts but not like this. Did you catch Emily Bazelon’s remark to David Plotz during last week’s Political Gabfest that they could do all of this to promote her forthcoming book? It was mild but I was glad to hear it.

    • Didion Says:

      Yes, exactly! I’d already grown exasperated with all the attention to her Atlantic article, but the flurry of the last 6 weeks has been so crazy and unprofessional. Every single Political Gabfest lately has brought it up, but when even my favorite snarky types on the Culture Gabfest were dragged in … how long before June Thomas’s After Word podcast needs to interview her, too?

      Slate is terrible when it comes to logrolling in general — in fact, they do it so often that my own frequent use of the word “logrolling” comes from seeing it on that site or hearing their various podcasts make reference to it. But to do this much for someone who has twice the pull with the editorial staff — that is, she’s both an editor and married to their senior editor — is just downright shameful.

      • Didion Says:

        Another thing to hate about Rosin’s book is its crazy claim that the rise of women’s economic power will result in “the end of rape.” None of which is backed up by evidence one can check. So another scholar has done the work and sums it up here in an essay at Sociological Images titled Debunking Hanna Rosin’s “End of Rape” Claim.


  5. [...] Directing all my rage at Slate’s logrolling of “The End of Men” [...]

  6. Miriam Says:

    This is so ridiculous. I get that it’s a hot topic right now and that it’d be reasonable to post a review (heh) of the book, but 7 different pieces in less than as many days? And I love how it seems that not one of those perspectives is critical. THAT’S the part that makes it obvious that this is a breach of journalistic ethics, because there are plenty of intelligent critiques of that book to be made.

    Sidenote: have you considered sending this post to Slate’s editors?

    • Didion Says:

      Thanks, Miriam! I’ve thought about writing to Slate, because even for them this is over the top — I think I will. It’s not exactly a self-aware institution the way other news agencies are; it feels more like a club of friends who edit one another. But it’s worth letting them know that someone has noticed and is offended.


  7. [...] Slate has been promoting the crap out of its own editor Hanna Rosin’s (supposedly crappy) new …The End of Men, publishing seven non-critical pieces about it in six days. Goodbye, journalistic [...]


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