Letters to the Editor

Faludi's wrong -- men are doing fine! Plus: Misunderstanding singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn; moms defend right to sleep with their infants.

Published October 7, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

What's ailing men?


Are there no happy men or women? It seems every time I turn a page or
browse my favorite Web site I hear of the atrocities forced upon
women and men by a wicked cultural empire. I'm constantly told about
the evils of society which have forced women to
live up to cultural standards. Or the "overachiever" requirements men
must endure because the all powerful media requires it.

But I have to say, at the end of the 20th century I'm a truly happy
man. I feel like I have more options and choices than at any other time
in history. If I don't want to be a father, no one thinks I'm not
fulfilling parental duties. And if I want to give up my career and
stay home with the kids, no one thinks less of me. (In fact, there are
several women in my office with similar situations.) And women also
seem to have more options than ever before.

Oh sure, I have an occasional bad day when I'd like to strangle a
co-worker. But is that really because I was forced to play with G.I.
Joes as a child, which led to an overactive fascination with violence?
Or is it just a part of being human?

Maybe the world hasn't fully responded to the requirements of
equality for all. But it sure seems like we're moving in that direction
and I plan to do everything I can to help us along.

I just want to stand up and be counted as a happy man -- as a man who
didn't get screwed, who takes full responsibility for his life, who
understands that bad days, trials and tribulations are just a part of
life, not the fault of someone else or something else.

-- Jeff Paris

If men are taking Susan Faludi seriously, then we really are in trouble. That men tend to ignore silly feminist blather is a gauge of their collective mental well-being. And while it is a bit unnerving to see a male friend's coffee table covered with Power Bars and Men's Health magazines, most men don't read those girly men's magazines unless they are waiting to get their hair cut at the barbershop.

Have you noticed that the only men talking about this "malaise" are those sensitive ponytail types you knew in college? They will put up with any abuse and prostrate themselves before any theory, as long as it is put forth by some loudmouth broad who should have taken a few courses in an actual discipline.

What should men do about Susan Faludi? What they do with any nagging woman: ignore her. She'll stop soon enough. Men have had to put up with the incessant flapping gums of hysterical women since the beginning of time -- why should this generation of men have it any better?

-- Howard Hewitt

The cute review by Jonathan Miles just underscores
the worthlessness of "Stiffed." You can make any social hypothesis appear
sound by presenting it in a void in which symbols and stereotypes float
freeform in space connected only by the writer's imagination. A case in
point is Faludi's statement that the "fifties housewife [has] morphed
into the nineties man." The stereotypical '50's housewife was an
invention of '50s television, then became the focal point of feminist
anger. The struggle of real women in the '50s, even the ones that lived in
little boxes, was radically different from the popular image.

To use one old false icon to support a new false assumption is the hallmark of most popular
investigations into the malaise of society and any of its constituents.
Instead of taking apart the intellectual jungle-gym that clouds our
understanding of the human condition, she has built more bars on top of this
dizzying maze of psychobabble and clichi. The fact that she can hang from these bars and do tricks
is nothing to celebrate.

-- Richard Young

Who said "Yes"?


Even if popular accounts of Cassie Bernall's "martyrdom" were true,
Bernall was hardly a strong candidate for sainthood.
On April 26, ABC News broadcast a report on the troubled childhood of Bernall, who "dabbled in witchcraft," and
whose parents eventually forbade her to see friends or use the phone.
They allowed her to go only to church and weekend religious retreats,
which reportedly "changed her life." In a videotape made two days before
her murder, Bernall says, "I really can't live without Christ. It's like
impossible to really have a true life without Him."

This is not real religion. Juvenile behavior has simply been replaced
with juvenile belief in religious dogma -- in this case, one which
casually dismisses all non-Christians as "not having a true life." We
see the same sort of thing in wife-beaters who "find Jesus," and the
re-closeted poster kids for "conversion" from gay to straight. They view religion
mainly as a form of therapy, and as something which is much more about
how not to live than how to live.

It is this kind of lurch into cheesy spirituality that is typical of
"not having a true life." Bernall's murder was tragic, but let's
recognize her for what she was: a confused girl (with even more confused
parents) and not a martyr for any cause.

-- Chris Ott

The reason the media avoided the true story of Cassie Bernall is obvious
-- after all the pious posturing over the body of this poor girl, there's
no elegant and sensitive way to say, "um ... never mind." This could
serve as a warning to the media to tone down the endlessly sanctimonious
coverage following these all-too frequent shootings.

I'm glad the story of Cassie Bernall has been debunked, however. Not
because I wish ill upon her or her family, but because this fiction was
instantly transformed into a recruiting tactic by the religious right.
Instead of celebrating this girl's faith, they bashed her corpse over
our heads while congratulating themselves on being morally superior. If
they hadn't used her story in this way, its veracity would never have
been challenged.

Cassie Bernall is no less a victim now that she is no longer a martyr.
Maybe she can now rest in the peace that comes from the truth.

-- Bernard Gundy

San Francisco

A worm in the Apple?


The essence of Apple's success was a genuine concern for the
non-technical user. We could actually feel it. They lost it in an
orgy of self-congratulation and degenerated into a bunch of
insignificant warring fiefdoms. They nearly destroyed the company.

For a time it appeared that Jobs would salvage the situation by
returning to genuine concern for the non-technical user. But it's
dicey. We are now feeling the drive of technocrats to please

I did not buy a computer to learn computing any more than I bought a
refrigerator to learn refrigeration. I bought both to use them. I
have almost reached the point of upgrading nothing further. I cannot
afford the time it takes from my work to make them operable.

Obviously I am disappointed. But people like you can do much to diagnose the
illness and make it's cure obvious. I sincerely hope that you will continue to do just that.

-- Dick Rumage

I must be the smartest friggin' person on Earth! The first time I tried the
QuickTime 4.0 Player I totally understood and mastered the interface. What
is the problem with everyone else? I have Nintendo games that make the QTP
interface look like a Fisher-Price toy.

For me, QuickTime became exciting again. I wanted to download movies just
to use the new player. I wanted to fill up the favorites drawer and then
bring people over to watch me open it up and start my favorite clips.
I fail to see any reason for criticism of the new QuickTime Player. So what if it's not the exact same thing we used six years ago? It's better!

-- Doug Boehner

Apple seem to have completely lost their way in hardware and software
design. The latest Finder versions seem to be attempting to emulate their
inferior imitator on the Windows platform
with each successive effort becoming more crude in design and
inconsistent in function.

The new G3s are more reminiscent of designer suitcases than functional
computers -- and impossible to stack with anything else. And what about
that new spherical mouse!

The Mac has been a much-loved source of income and pleasure for
me since the days of the original Mac Plus, but I am concerned that the
present company policy will bring about the ultimate demise of the product. The company seems to me to be out of touch, inconsistent and totally inconsiderate to the thousands of loyal users
who have been faithful to the platform through the many ups and downs of Apple's fortunes.

-- David Roland

I believe that Apple is making a huge mistake by making parts of their
OS look or act like physical objects. Computer interfaces should be designed as a direct link between the human brain and the operating system so that a minimum amount of
physical activity is required. That's why the one-button mouse has
worked so well for the MacOS. By designing the interface to look like a
physical object, the brain now expects additional touch feedback, such
as picking up the Quicktime 4.0 player to rotate the volume control.
(How do you rotate a thumbwheel without a thumb?) But because there
isn't a physical object to pick up, you are now forced to think as if
there was. This slows you down and everybody knows how frustrating that
can be.

I have been buying Macs and supporting Apple for the past 13 years
because their OS was logical and intuitive. To me the next logical step
would be to reduce the use of the mouse even further by incorporating
voice commands (IBM's ViaVoice technology) into the operating system.
But if Apple drops the finder from MacOS X instead of refining it even
more, I will be forced to drop my plans to buy a new G4 system next

Why build faster computers if you're only going to force the users to
slow down their thought processes? If Apple continues to turn their OS
into a Qucktime 4.0 interface, they will lose their loyal consumer base --
including me.

-- Keith Parobek

Musician in a dangerous time



Doesn't David Bowman know that Bruce
Cockburn has been writing and recording musically excellent songs since the
'70s? Even some basic research into his subject
would have avoided the clichid question "Where did you get your musical start?"

And to say that Cockburn "even ventures into biblical terrain" is to miss
out on some of the critical thought-provoking reading and reflection that has fueled
some of his greatest songs. His search for meaning into this life and the
after life have led him to great religious writers, including Charles Williams and
Harvey Cox, as well as his exploration of the Bible.

Too compare Cockburn with any "pop" musician is to miss the point of his
artistry. David - try listening to the words of "Maybe the Poet" -- maybe you'll
get it.

-- Randy Lawrence


Get out of my bedroom!


Based on my own and other parents' experiences co-sleeping with our babies,
I believe Peggy O'Mara is right about it being safe, nurturing and an aid to
breast-feeding -- but we'll never know until someone actually studies the
question instead of panicking over anecdotal evidence. Where are the
statistics to back up the CPSC 's claim? What percentage of the babies who
sleep in family beds are dying? One-tenth of a percent? One-hundredth of a percent?
No one knows because I doubt anyone has done a true scientific
study. The deaths of those 64 babies are tragic, but is there proof that
they were caused by co-sleeping? Were their parents drug- or drink-impaired?
Is it possible the babies really died of SIDS but were misdiagnosed? Give
me facts, not hysteria.

-- Karen A. Kasper


Peggy O'Mara, in her rant regarding the Consumer Product Safety
Commission's recommendations against babies sleeping in parents' beds,
raises the specter of the AMA and the AAP as evil agents of government
influence or cat's-paws of crib manufacturers, hell-bent on breaking up
her mom-baby dyad. After all, parents know best, right?
Certainly better than we dumb doctors.

As an AAP member, I'd like to respond. Peggy, do what you want to do.
However, when parents come to me for advice, I point out that some researchers believe that many cases of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) result from smothering in the family
bed, and that I frequently see infants who have fallen from parental
beds in the Emergency Department.

The "crib manufacturers" have yet to give me any money, believe me. I
have no interest in coming between moms and babies, and I'm not going to
try to stop a determined mom from practicing whatever (non-abusive)
form of parenting she feels is right -- especially not one so heated up as O'Mara.

-- Michael Treece, M.D.

The CPSC has done some valuable work figuring out some risks to babies:
wedging, getting stuck under pillows, etc. If that information isn't
hidden under inappropriate doomsday rhetoric, it can readily be assimilated
and used by parents as we plan how to safely sleep with our babies -- in
itself a safe and healthy behavior contributing to infant survival.

-- Elise E. Morse-Gagne

Swiftwater, N.H.

Thank you for a touch of common sense and rationality
with respect to parenting and co-sleeping! Somehow separate
sleeping arrangements for infants has become common in this country over
the last century or so, and with it a rise in sleeping disorders and
"crib-death." I think people forget to take the long view of parenting,
and fail to realize that doing something artificially (like formula
feeding or separating yourself from your baby during sleeping) needs
lots of proof that it's better for the child than doing what's natural
and instinctive. I defy Consumer Reports to find one instance of a baby
dying while sleeping with the parents were 1) the parents weren't drunk
or on drugs, 2) the parents weren't extremely overweight, or 3) the baby
wasn't placed face down on a comforter or pillow. You're right -- we
haven't heard about any of these deaths for a reason.

As a soon-to-be first-time mom, I've done lots of
reading and research and talking to relatives and friends. Co-sleeping
is the best for the baby, from what I've found. The synchronous brain
wave patterns of mothers and infants while sleeping together is very
telling research. Unfortunately, there are too many pediatricians that
still recommend separation from the baby during the night, and bottle-feeding over breast-feeding or pumping. Mothers aren't getting good information, or are getting conflicting
information. What are they to do? Consumer Reports should stick to
reporting on consumer products, and stay out of the parenting arena.

-- Pati Smith

Peggy O'Mara made many valid points in her article, but she
invalidated her logic by invoking the myth
of the "noble savage" -- that because of the simple and natural way they live,
people living in developing countries are purer, wiser and better than the "civilized peoples."
Never mind the high infant mortality, never mind the fact that wife beating is much more
prevalent in non-industrialized societies, never mind the child labor, etc.
Communal life in "rural" countries is not practiced because it is more noble, more worthy -- it is a fact of life where there is no other option!

She should keep in mind that these babies who serenely sleep with their
parents, will remain sleeping with their parents, and their brothers and
sisters, most likely their grandparents and possibly their aunts and uncles until
they are grown to the point of marriage. Should this also become practice in the
United States?

-- Jennifer Fr|hbauer

Jonesing for my Coke high


Thank God that someone has finally addressed the "last"
dirty little addiction. As a "Tab-oholic," I am constantly
quizzed in the office, "How many cans have you had today?"
I could scream every time a newcomer sees me carrying my
signature pink can and exclaims, "I didn't think that
they even made that anymore!" or "My mom" or even worse, grandmother "used to drink that all of the time!"

-- Catherine Hartmann

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