Slipped through the cracks

Roundup: Are women wired to reject ugly babies? Plus, the secrets of celebrity fabloids

Published June 26, 2009 11:13PM (EDT)

The first week of summer brought with it generous doses of chaos, death and deception. The world watched Neda's murder as Iran's stability worsened, all while Obama praised the courage of women and we learned of the country's surprisingly large transsexual community. Beauty icon of the '70s Farrah Fawcett passed away after a long bout with cancer but grabbed headlines for only a few hours as Michael Jackson's sudden death eclipsed all. As the fate of the King of Pop's children remained uncertain, Gov. Mark Sanford doubtlessly breathed a sigh of relief, his steamy affair rendered old news already. In a Broadsheet digital round table, we considered the reaction of Sanford's shamed wife. We responded to the Supreme Court ruling on strip searches and Chris Brown's guilty plea, but that doesn't cover the half of it. Here's some of what we missed this wild week:

The customer is usually wrong: Customer satisfaction ratings reveal a bias against women and minorities, according to a new study.  Three groups of college students were shown clips of a bookstore interaction between a customer and a variable employee: a black man, a white man and a white woman. Though each clip used identical scripts, settings and camera angles, the performance of the white man was rated highest. "Everyone -- white, black, men, women -- think the white man is more valuable. Someone needs to call customers out on their biases," said David R. Hekman, the study's lead author.

Breaking news, celebrity mags make things up: Though its revelations may be obvious, this exposé of weekly magazines like OK! and In Touch provides some insight into the shadowy editorial dealings of what is dubbed "The Brangelina industry." In tracing ongoing narratives like the Brad/Angelina/Jen saga, publications go from stretching the truth to disregarding it altogether, with one staffer admitting, "The question is: how can we construct a story around a set of emotions that our readers are going to relate to? It can come from a genuine tip, or a photo. Or it can come out of our ass."

A face only a mother could love?: Findings in one new study detailing "how beauty can affect parental attitudes" show that women are more likely than men to be influenced by the facial attractiveness of babies, possibly due to "an evolutionary-based need to provide limited resources only to healthy offspring." According to the study's author, "Women may be more sensitized to aesthetic defects and may be more prone to reject unattractive kids." Full text of the study is available here.

A woman's role in history: Sarah Dunant pens an insightful essay about her love of historical fiction and the intellectual evolution that accompanied her years of writing and studying the past. For so long, she writes, "history had been shamefully empty when it came to recreating the lives of half the human race," and the big question loomed: "Did women have a Renaissance?" The answer, for Dunant, meant a life of mining the "untapped gold mines" of women's histories.

John Edwards aide shops tell-all book: As an employee and lifelong friend of John Edwards, it was Andrew Young who was picked to lead the coverup of the Rielle Hunter situation. Now, the Daily Beast is reporting that Young is shopping his memoir to New York publishers, complete with "photos of Edwards with the alleged love child."

Once and for all, women are funny: It has been over two years since Christopher Hitchens took to the pages of Vanity Fair to explain "Why Women Aren't Funny," but apparently it still stings, because both Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead and this list of the funniest ladies of McSweeney's strongly beg to differ.


By Joe Coscarelli

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