« Comments Redux | Main | Sportswriting »

In the Magazine

Kathleen woke up with a sore throat, and decided to take a sick day. I seem to be doing the same, by association.

In case you've thrown away the weekend's Times Magazine without opening it, here are links to two unusually interesting pieces. The first is Yale Law School professor Kenji Yoshino's essay proposing a replacement of jurisprudence of equality with one rooted in liberty. Where the former seeks to redress the inequities of the patriarchal culture from which we are emerging (a movement that Islamists have resolved, for the time being, to resist), the latter simply refuses to recognize any patriarchal values. Mr Yoshino's primary concern, as his title indicates, is "The Pressure to Cover," where "covering" is the tendency of individuals in outsider groups (black, lesbian and so on) to minimize their deviations from mainstream behavior and appearance. Current jurisprudence encourages covering by refusing to uphold discrimination charges brought by employees for, say, having been fired for wearing a skullcap while in uniform.

When I lecture on covering, I often encounter what I think of as the "angry straight white man" reaction. A member of the audience, almost invariably a white man, almost invariably angry, denies that covering is a civil rights issue. Why shouldn't racial minorities or women or gays have to cover? These groups should receive legal protection against discrimination for things they cannot help. But why should they receive protection for behaviors within their control - wearing cornrows, acting "feminine" or flaunting their sexuality? After all, the questioner says, I have to cover all the time. I have to mute my depressions, or my obesity, or my alcoholism, or my shyness, or my working-class background or my nameless anomie. I, too, am one of the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation. Why should legally protected groups have a right to self-expression I do not? Why should my struggle for an authentic self matter less?

I surprise these individuals when I agree.

The other piece, not intentionally related but oddly inverse, is about hikikomori, or the withdrawal of as many as a million Japanese teenagers and men from all social contact. Maggie Jones's "Shutting Themselves In" describes a disturbance that has taken root in Japanese culture, which presses young men to succeed while discouraging their parents from acknowledging failure. The "solution": to withdraw to one's bedroom. I was about three fourths of the way through the text when I realized that a friend of mine suffered from something very similar after a bad job experience (and, for all I know, he still does).


TrackBack URL for this entry:

I am a kottke.org micropatron

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2