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Hog Heaven: Ariel Levy on Female Chauvinist Pigs and the Rise of Raunch Culture

You'll recognize the female silhouette that leans against the title on the cover of Ariel Levy's new book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. She's the girl who in recent years has made the move from the mud flaps of big rigs right into pop culture, gracing trucker caps, baby tees, and gold necklaces as an emblem of sexy, empowered ­womanhood. Or at least that's what she'd like...

Laughing All the Way to the Polls: Do Female Politicians need a New Punchline?

Once upon a time, politics was serious business. These days, however, presidential merit is measured as much by frat-house standards as by traditional approval ratings (apparently, American ­voters would rather have a beer with Bush than with Kerry), and a well-timed joke can sometimes sway public opinion more effectively than a reasoned argument. Thanks to the advent of television as a force...

Queen of the Night

It didn’t matter that the outcome was predictable, that Beth Hogan would invariably be crowned Miss America. We competed fiercely, as if we expected to win. A year earlier, when we were in fifth grade, we held séances, but now we staged beauty pageants as if our lives depended on it, as many as four or five a night.

We’d rearrange the furniture in our hostess’s living...

Ode to Joystick

How can you not love Ms. Pac-Man, a woman for whom power pellets, peaches, and pretzels constitute a steady diet?

This is how I feel about her now, but my love for the little yellow gal with the red bow began when I wore bows myself—when I was around 11.

Each summer, my mom would drag me to Atlantic City, New Jersey, under the false pretense of visiting my older brother so she...

The Accidental Jock

I’m not an athlete. I’ve always disliked team sports, with their conformist, vaguely fascist associations. While as a child I longed to be a tree-climbing tomboy, I had to admit a preference for tea parties, dress-up, and long afternoons at the library.

Then one summer night, three years ago, I played my first game of bike polo. It’s an elegant game: With mallets in...

Sims Like the Real Thing

The Sims is a game that consists of little more than creating characters and pushing them through the day, making sure they eat, sleep, stay clean, make friends, advance in a career, and buy stuff. The bodily functions are tedious and the rest is everything I hate about life in a capitalist society. So how to explain why I own all seven expansion packs for the first game, as well as Sims2 and...

Board of Education

Each semester in my American popular culture class, my students and I spend a night playing board games. I start them off with games for small children, like memory cards or Strawberry Shortcake adventure games. They play self-consciously, giggling at the losers who can’t master a game for preschoolers, but loosen up enough to start looking beyond the activity for the deeper meanings....

Muddy Daughters

The year my oldest daughter turned 4, her little sister was born, and that spring, in desperation, I let her play more or less unsupervised in the neighbors’ yard. When I came up for air from the endless diaper changes and nursing sessions, I’d catch a glimpse of her through the family-room window. Sweaty, dirty, and wild-eyed, she ran behind the neighbors’ pack of crazy, good-natured,...

We Were Here, We Were Maybe Queer: New Historical Biographies Tell Us to Get Used to It

Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers—and most infamous tyrants—were getting down with other men. Or so some folks would like us to believe. Historians and posthumous biographers have of late been venturing into the relatively uncharted territory of sexual historiography, exhuming some celebrated corpses to uncover the steamy, secret queer lives they once lived. Tom Cruise and Jodie...

Student Counsel: Talking Sense with <em>The Education of Shelby Knox</em>’s Creators and Star

Everything’s bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes, and that may be truest in the realm of sex-education controversy. Texas, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, has also been at the forefront of abstinence-only education in public schools since 1995, when then-governor George W. Bush signed the curriculum into law. Since...

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