Letters to the editor

Frat boys aren't stupid Plus: Zoetrope zingers par for the course; keep your name, change your religion, but don't blame the Catholic Church.

Published February 25, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Alpha male epsilon

I must have dozed off between working out and reading my Abercrombie & Fitch catalog! When did it become good journalism to separate, label, and attack a segment of American society? Is the next article going to expose the evils of those "sneaky gays," "whiny career women" or "sorority snobs?"

However, since you've expressed an interest in printing this kind of thing, I'm attaching an article I wrote titled "Beta male blamethrowers: B-grade journalists who never quite got over the fact that they didn't get into a fraternity and always got picked last in sports."

-- N. Root

Having spent the last three and a half years editing my fraternity's quarterly magazine, and the last six months producing a comprehensive feature on the topic of frat guy images in the media, I share Andy Dehnart's fascination with how pop culture has adopted the frat guy as both its prince and its jester; as I read his essay, however, I felt like I was reading yesterday's news. Yes, lots of people assume frat guys are rich and snobby and smirky (and I've met some that are), and yes, lots of media creatives depend on the "frat guy" moniker to sound disapprovingly in touch with the current culture. But that's not really a revelation.

Had Dehnart completed the essay's most interesting thought -- "It doesn't really matter whether a frat boy has ever pledged a fraternity or even considered it" -- the piece would have been incredibly refreshing (no matter what it found). But Dehnart bails out, opting predictably for the condescension of those who have written before him.

-- Stephen Schenkenberg

Editor, The Magazine of Sigma Chi

The frat boy obsession is nothing new at all. I think it is ancient, and a phenomenon we share with many other species. Certainly wolf packs do not have frat boys, but the term "alpha male," borrowed from animal behaviorism, invokes ideas of instinctual and primitive attraction to a leader that is common to most social, mammalian species. This leadership position is a social role that is evolutionarily selected for.

We select our alpha males using many instinctual cues -- good looks, height and physical well being are all key characteristics. In other words, we are instinctually attracted to those members of the species that are strong, in good health and have the genetic health that good looks imply.

Frat boys are a self-selected group that just so happens to have membership criteria that are almost identical to society's selection criteria for our alpha males.

-- Josh VanderBerg

Frat boys represent to me much of what is wrong with politics and this country in general.

These are the people we went to college to get away from, and there they are, cruising through school. We think they'll go away after college, but lo and behold -- there they are as schmoozing account managers, playing golf with their customers, goofing around at work, ogling the secretaries and droning on and on about the latest sports event.

These are the politicians who invented the non-apology and the non-answer. Why should they apologize for anything? They never have before. And for that matter, why should they have to answer questions from the nerds in the press -- everyone hates nerds, right?

I hope that the American people can see this arrogant sense of entitlement for what it is.

-- David Isbister

Hissy fit now


Laura Denham's article about Zoetrope's site is in most parts a very accurate representation of what has taken place there. However, it is extremely biased towards the site that some of disgruntled members created, Author, Author. Some members did follow them to the new site, but found that the bickering, the free-for-all, and the ego flame wars continued and very little writing was being discussed. Neither site is perfect, some people will like one over the other. But don't think that all the ailments of Zoetrope were solve with the creation of Author, Author.

-- Luis Nunez

Sadly, Zoetrope sounds very much like any newsgroup out there. Writers seem to be an egotistical lot, little more than the absence of an emoticon able to start a major flame war. Heaven forbid you find yourself the new person to the group. You have to meet the approval of the Head Queen Mistress of the Clique Cabal before anyone will respond to your posts or treat you with more than disdain.

When do any of these people have time to write when they are so prolific in smacking the heck out of a list member who dared to disagree with them?

-- Alita Fortune

Laura Denham has presented a very interesting one-sided view of Zoetrope. Although most of the banned members Denham has quoted sound quite sane, that was not the case when they were still present on the Zoetrope boards insulting whoever they pleased for whatever reason they desired. The actual number of members banned from Zoetrope surely falls below 10. This on a site with 10,000 members. The discussion boards that Denham had so many problems with have since been eliminated but even at their most active rarely had more than 100 or so people post at any time. The great majority of Zoetrope members use the site to submit and review stories only. The problem was the seduction of the discussion and Denham was absolutely right about that, they were seductive. And except for the few people who saw fit to use the boards as a place to insult, swear and threaten, the boards were a wonderful source of inspiration and creativity.

Many of us did not come to the boards for a discussion of writing. We were there to interact with other writers and to spark our creativity. That doesn't always happen in a scholarly discussion about the use of adverbs. But the point is moot now, as is Denham's article since the public boards no longer exist.

I would hate to see an article saying Zoetrope was perfect. It's not. But Zoetrope has connected me with talented writers from all over the world. By submitting and reviewing I have learned in two years what might have taken me 10 years to learn on my own. When I threw down my pen and said "I'll never write again" I got a letter from Zoetrope: All-Story Extra offering to buy a story which is currently in the February issue. The encouragement from fellow writers is priceless. Without Zoetrope, I would not be writing.

-- Felicia White

Don't call me Mrs.


Donna Cornachio converted from Catholic to Episcopalian because of one secretary's remark and an administrative error (made by the same secretary)? I'm Catholic, my parish has several couples with mixed names, and none of them have converted. We have a better secretary, so our faith hasn't been so severely challenged, if you'll pardon the sarcasm. Legitimate doctrinal differences I can respect as reasons, but not a tart secretary.

-- Steve Coffman

It doesn't matter what the parish secretary in a Westchester, NY village says, the Catholic Church does not require any member to abandon her surname and to call herself Mrs. To say this is simply not true. The Catholic Church has no position, official or unofficial, on the use of surnames after marriage.

-- John M. Boland

I live in the Southeast -- not a place known for bucking tradition. Both of the Catholic churches in my small town of Athens, Georgia, have no problem with the fact that I have a different last name than my husband, or that my husband isn't even religious.

The most trouble I've had with getting things properly addressed to separate names (outside of my husband's side of the family) has been through organizations like Mother Jones, Public Citizen, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, NOW, and all those other organizations who have bought my name from some sort of "liberal" mailing list. I understand it is just computer-generated, but if the local Catholic churches can figure out how to address our mail, you'd think the DNC and Planned Parenthood would figure out Mr. Theresa Flynn is a mistake.

It's everywhere, and if you always take it personally, your life will be very busy with nothing much ever accomplished.

-- Theresa M. Flynn

Lindbergh family bashes biographer

I would like to address some of the charges that appeared in the article written by Craig Offman of Salon.com on February 7, 2000, based on his interviews with me and with Reeve Lindbergh concerning my new book, "Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life."

First of all, I clearly informed the Lindbergh family at the beginning that my intent was to write a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Mrs. Lindbergh told me directly that she had ambivalent feelings about my project, yet she continued to invite me, again and again, to her homes in Connecticut and Switzerland and permitted me to record and tape her thoughts and memories. Her daughter Reeve was equally aware of my intent and in fact encouraged her mother to meet with me. My letter of January 12, 1990 to Mrs. Lindbergh, after I had conducted several interviews, well illustrates that we both understood the nature of my project. As I wrote then: "My intent in writing this biography is simple: to trace the genesis of a female writer through an examination of your life and work."

[ ... ] I find it a bit disingenuous on the part of the Lindberghs to say that I wasnt writing a biography of Anne. Who else, under any circumstances, would have been the centerpiece of my study? Who else would deserve the place of honor? It is my belief that both Reeve and Mrs. Lindbergh encouraged my work because they believed I was an honest and serious scholar. I believe I have fulfilled my bargain.

[ ... ] It is difficult to know what the Lindberghs motives were in denying me the right to quote from the published diaries, given that A. Scott Berg was granted access to all Charles and Anne Lindberghs private papers, and had already, at least in their minds and his, revealed both intimate and potentially embarrassing personal relationships and facts. Perhaps they truly sought to protect their mothers supposed wishes that a biography not be published in her lifetime. It is likewise possible that they found my interpretations of their parents political views offensive. Based on meticulous research and documentation, I gave a direct, hard-nosed account of their involvement with the German Reich and their activities and speeches for America First. Unlike Bergs biography of Charles, my book defined Anne Lindberghs views and her role during this pre-war period, confirming both her support and participation in his work. Furthermore, Berg had omitted Charles six-year extramarital relationship with another woman which I was able to verify, describe and substantiate.

-- Susan Hertog

Bush's missed opportunity

George Bush lauds his little brother for marrying "a girl from Mexico in my own family." Regardless of where the woman is from, I'm not sure George should be proud that his brother married a relative. If George is evidence of the genetic evolution of his family, you'd think the Bushes would want to avoid further inbreeding.

-- Kevin Tudish

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