Ms. takes a look at men and asks if they get it Progress: The message is being heard, if not always supported.


December 07, 1997|By Cynthia Dockrell | Cynthia Dockrell,BOSTON GLOBE

I'm still trying to find a women's magazine worth reading. As usual, Ms. is the only one that comes close.

Its tone is heavy-duty, to be sure, but somebody has to talk to women as if they were more than the sum of their beauty-tipped parts. Ms. has long understood that women care more about getting along with men than getting in bed with them; this month it asks the guys themselves if they've been getting the message.

Michael Kimmel writes about the decidedly small proportion of men who don't simply pay lip service to feminism but actually participate in it. Virtually everybody these days believes in equal rights, Kimmel points out, but "Some men declare themselves feminists just a bit too effortlessly, especially if they think it's going to help them get a date." A friend of his describes this as "premature self-congratulation." Sound familiar?

Pro-feminist men, on the other hand, walk the talk. They share the housework and child care; families come before careers. "Call them Ironing Johns, not Iron Johns," Kimmel writes. "These are the quiet expressions of a quotidian revolution, without much ideological commitment, and fewer speeches and books -- men simply struggling to live lives of equality and intimacy."

Similar themes are expressed in the second of three pieces here, a book excerpt by Allan G. Johnson that asks men to take responsibility for the patriarchy. He has strong words for the men's movement a la Robert Bly: "Men come out as hapless victims at the mercy of women and a range of social forces. Apparently, male dominance isn't a privilege but only a burden men must bear."

Finally, a round-table discussion among seven participants, ages 25 to 56, addresses that feminist chestnut "Do men get it?"

In a word, there's hope.

Silent man

And now for some more conventional guy stuff.

December's Esquire profiles Robert De Niro, or tries to. The actor so famously detests the celebrity-mongering media that he reveals next to nothing about himself in interview after interview. Knowing this, Mike Sager plumbs every file story he can get his hands on and canvasses De Niro's neighborhood for tidbits about his subject's life in preparation for the 30-minute one-on-one he's been granted. De Niro is like God, Sager claims: powerful, inscrutable, inaccessible. And here I thought he was just a darn good actor with a penchant for privacy.

That's the point, of course. The God business is a silly conceit that fails to mask Sager's real agenda: indulging De Niro with philosophical questions about celebrity worship, which animates him a tiny bit, which in turn makes Sager look better than all those other nosy journalists, or so he thinks. In the end, though, De Niro has given away nothing.

NTC Literary and down to earth

How refreshing it is to pick up a showcase for fiction, poetry, drama, and art that doesn't take itself too seriously. Call Rosebud the little literary magazine that could.

It's published in Wisconsin, which could be why it's so down to earth. You won't find much writerly razzle-dazzle here (exception: an Allen Ginsberg poem in the winter issue); these are workaday stories by the poor and unfamous.

A breezy yet history-filled piece by Tristine Rainer in this same issue explores the evolution of autobiography, from the pharaohs' pyramid-scrawled stories to what Rainer dubs the new autobiography. She shows how fact and fiction have always been inseparable in this kind of storytelling; today's memoirs, which rely as much on imagination as on memory, aren't the heresy they're made out to be in some quarters. New autobiography, she writes, "having moved into the literary arena of poetry and fiction, is now concerned with the larger truths of myth and story, which permit, and sometimes require, imaginative reshaping."

Book publishers: Are you listening?

Mostly image

Which came first, the short attention span or the medium that feeds it? This is what you wonder when you look at Sports Illustrated for Kids.

A graphic designer's dream (or nightmare), this mag won't do much to promote slow-and-steady reading habits -- like almost everything aimed at kids, it forsakes words in favor of the loud and flashy image -- but the December issue, at least, has a pull-out poster of pro basketball player Dawn Staley that's about to go up on my 10-year-old's bedroom wall. "At least there's a woman for a change," proclaims said 10-year-old.

Indeed. Such a woman-warrior pic is worth a thousand words.

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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