Gray lady goes platinum

It's Sunday in the New York Times.


Rebecca Traister
April 3, 2006 4:00PM (UTC)

Put politely, it was a bleak Sunday for scintillating women's coverage in the New York Times. But since I've made a habit of running down the "highlights" for Broadsheet readers, here goes:

In the magazine, there was a a story by Julie Powell about the comforts and loneliness of cooking for herself after separating from her husband. There was an interesting piece about poet Elizabeth Bishop in the Book Review. And in the Arts & Leisure section, Karen Durbin interviewed Mary Harron, director of the upcoming "The Notorious Bettie Page" biopic, about the titular pinup legend. In it, Harron made a very smart observation about the relationship between class and careers as sex objects.

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"Today, people think who you are is all about internal psychology and what your parents are like. But it's also about your era and where you were born and your class, too," Harron told Durbin. She continued, "Bettie and all those sex goddesses were poor girls -- Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and all the strippers. Grace Kelly was not a pinup! So I think that's part of what made them interesting: what sex made possible for them. Girls could make a fortune. Bettie didn't get a scholarship to Vanderbilt, so she became a secretary, making very small money. And she couldn't make it as an actress, so she becomes a pinup queen."

The Styles section included a piece on why men's shopping magazine Cargo folded this week. (There are conflicting opinions about whether or not men like to engage in girly activities such as shopping, grooming and playing with stickers. Yay stickers.)

Also in Styles was a grim, grim article about the teenage rush to lose weight before expensive spring break trips. This piece, chock full of examples of physical self-loathing, ill health and self-destructive, self-defeating behavior, will make you want to curl up in a ball and cry about the fact that young women who have so many opportunities -- like, for instance, the ability to take off for holidays on the Yucatan while still in high school -- remain crippled by a warped sense of how they should look and how important it is to be looked at. It's also a variation on the "news cycle" riff that has been all the rage for a couple of weeks: horrible things that happen to young women when they go on spring break.

Every paragraph of this piece was heartbreaking, but perhaps most so the final anecdote, about a young woman just back from her vacation, looking at pictures of skinny, tan, scantily clad compatriots on Facebook. "All these guys were commenting on the pics: 'She is so hot!' or 'wooowww!!' Stuff like that. Seriously, that's what I want," the Times quotes the 19-year-old as writing on her blog. "This just makes me want to lose so much weight and then have those guys see me ... I hate boys, I hate my body. Goodnight."

And, in a case of irony impairment, the cover of the Times' City section was a piece called "Golden Girls," featuring a photo of some buttery tresses falling from above to below the fold. (On the Web, the photo is captioned "Blondissimus.") I read the story, front to back. And here's what I learned: Many New York City women are blond, some not naturally. It's difficult, and very pricey, to maintain classy-looking blond tresses. Those who complete this process successfully -- shelling out upward of $250 biweekly to be "really chic" -- are called New York Blondes. Poorer women, the kind who "lighten their hair over the bathroom sink or have it highlighted at a salon that doesn't serve cappuccino" are just "New York blondes." No caps. Hey, at least they still count as New Yorkers! It's unclear if brunettes and redheads and, presumably, any women of color -- no matter how expensive or frequent their preening routines -- can qualify to be New York Non-Blondes.

That's it, folks! All the news that's fit to print.

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Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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