Are men necessary?

The male of the species is having a hard time of it in the media this week.

Topics: Broadsheet,

That’s the question one might wonder, given men’s recent short shrift in the the press. First, on Sunday, the New York Times Magazine ran a feature by Emily Bazelton on single-by-choice mothers who “forgo romantic and sexual relationships for extended stretches.” Shrugging off dating as an inevitable casualty of motherhood, the women instead rely on fellow solo moms for social and emotional (if not sexual) support. Not that the women seem to miss it much — one woman refers to the men of her pre-motherhood life as “deadbeats,” another considers the quest for a mate “like adding on a big mess to something that’s comparatively stable.” And, according to the author, all the women in the story expressed satisfaction with not having to share their parental authority with another person.

Perhaps they’re sensing the bad vibes coming from their partnered friends — witness the furor this week over Parenting.com’s atomic screed “Mad at Dad,” which Broadsheet writer Abigail Kramer previously discussed. In it, writer Martha Brockenbrough acknowledges she gets “furious” at her husband over his parenting style — and finds she’s far from alone. Reading through Brockenbrough’s litany of women’s complaints — their spouses’ devotion to their TiVos and video games, their inability to pull together a meal or get their kids in mittens — one would have to wonder if no dad is better than that lump on the couch.

I don’t for a second dismiss the choice of any working single mother to opt out of the dating scene. And I’ve got your back on the charge that a lot of dads phone it in. For what it’s worth, I’m no apologist for nuclear families. I was raised without a father and managed to grow up reasonably sane and secure.



But I don’t quite see how this notion of men as optional is good for any of us — men or women, boys or girls. My kids have a dad who is flawed, forgetful and who, for the record, worships them and enriches their lives in a thousand ways I’d never have come up with on my own. Men — friends, fathers and lovers — aren’t expendable. They’re part of the world in which we raise our kids. Some of them are duds, but guess what? So are some of us, ladies. And isn’t the notion of dismissing one gender as hopeless fuckups just a little … sexist?

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

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    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

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    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

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    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

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    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

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    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

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    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
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    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

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