Slipped through the cracks

To wax or not to wax? Plus: Women are more religious than men, and the New York Times dives into the cougar trend

By Jessica Roy

Published October 17, 2009 12:30AM (EDT)

It was damn near impossible to miss the bizarre balloon-boy saga that unfolded yesterday afternoon, and the story just keeps getting weirder. At Broadsheet, we took a closer look at storm-chaser dad Richard Heene's misogynistic TV and YouTube clips. We also caused a kerfuffle with a post that claimed GQ had Photoshopped its voluptuous January Jones cover, but -- oops! -- the mag's photo editor, Dora Somosi, e-mailed to assure us it was all tricks of the light. We weren't the only folks tripping into controversy: Over at DoubleX, "Friend or Foe" columnist Lucinda Rosenfeld caused a ruckus with some pretty bad advice to a letter writer. Meanwhile, Meghan McCain fought back against the haters who deemed her a "slut" after she posted a picture to Twitter displaying her cleavage, going on to write a Daily Beast column about positive body image. (But was the backlash real?) The fashion industry could take a tip from McCain, after Karl Lagerfeld dished that "no one wants to see curvy women" on the runway. Considering this week's maelstrom of absurd news, it's understandable that a few stories slipped through the cracks.

Why are women more religious than men?
A recent study conducted by Trinity College found that a sizable gender gap exists between men and women believers, with 19 percent of men ascribing to atheism compared with only 12 percent of women. Reasons for this phenomenon range from belief as an evolutionary imperative to scientific research demonstrating that women's brain chemistry may allow for easier acceptance of the divine. The study is particularly interesting considering how pervasive sexism is in many of the world's religions, and as Lauren Sandler wrote in DoubleX, "It's hard not to compare women sticking with faith to wives confined to bad marriages: They’re so committed to the institution that they'll willingly shrink under mistreatment just to maintain their own status quo."

And the army marched on ... in miniskirts and boots?
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Mao's victory over Chiang at a parade a few weeks ago, the women of China's People's Liberation Army donned miniskirts and sexy knee-high boots. Luckily the uniforms were for a parade, not a battle, because it might be tricky to fight the enemy in skirts that short. But the sartorial choice does raise an interesting question about female sexuality in the military. The U.S. Army seems apt to squelch femininity with the kind of bulky, functional gear integral to performing a soldier's duties; why does China seem to embrace their female soldiers' sexuality, and is doing so a good or bad thing for these women?

Cougars will not go gentle into that good night
On Wednesday, the New York Times Styles section tackled the cougar trend again. Though many anticipate that the cougar character will quietly slip from the media's view by 2010, the article argues that cougars' current popularity represents "a real demographic shift, driven by new choices that women over 40 are making as they redefine the concept of a suitable mate." With women waiting longer to get married, and many men still dating younger women, it seems like a natural progression for women — who already have higher life expectancies — to seek out younger men. But not all women happily embrace the "cougar" nickname. "[Demi Moore] has been described as a cougar," the author writes, "but so have sex-starved women slinking through bars for young men to satisfy nothing but physical needs." It's this latter cougar stereotype that many women take issue with, the predatory imagery conjuring an air of pity that shames instead of empowers.

Wax on, wax off: The great Brazilian debate
Nerve editor at large Jack Harrison and writer-turned-lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel debated the pros and cons of Brazilian waxing in a surprisingly satisfying, counterintuitive he said/she said exchange. Wurtzel defended her painful beauty regimens (waxing, facial peels), while Harrison pushed for a more bohemian bodily embrace: "I've found myself complaining that my girlfriends showered too much or felt shy about having sex during their "time of flowers" (as it was called in the Renaissance). To me, those weren't bad things because they were part of her."

Jessica Roy

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