Don’t Be That Guy: Nir Rosen

Oh, Twitter. Without you, how would I listen to the innermost, most obnoxious thoughts of the masses? Kanye. Bieber. Kim Kardashian. Nir Rosen.

Who’s Nir Rosen? Oh, just a journalist and foreign policy scholar who tweet-bitched after the news broke of Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Egypt that she’d get a bunch of attention and become a martyr. Logan, a foreign affairs correspondent for CBS, has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan –not just by talking about them, but by being there, often reporting in the midst of violence. She was doing just that, reporting from a protest in Egypt, when she was separated from her crew and brutally assaulted earlier this week.

In respect to Logan’s privacy, very few details of the attack have been released. So Rosen figured she had only been groped, like thousands of other women during the protest. He also “joked” that Logan just had to outdo Anderson Cooper, who was punched in the head during a protest in Egypt two weeks ago. “It would have been funny if it had happened to Cooper too,” Rosen tweeted. It would have been funny if Anderson Cooper were sexually assaulted?

Rosen has since resigned from his NYU fellowship, lost a consulting job at an NGO, and gone on a media campaign to express his remorse and clear his name. He does so almost eloquently. His writings on, in fact, make him seem remorseful, thoughtful… and even more like a jerk.

What to do after you make an enormous gaff? Cower. Apologize profusely. And stop talking.

Rosen has taken this opportunity not just to apologize, but to explain what he was thinking, which was something along the lines of: If such an assault had happened to a regular ol’ Egyptian, not a pretty white reporter, it never would have made the news. I suppose that may be a fair point. But it’s not something you bring up during an apology. An apology is about sincere remorse. It’s an attempt to recognize the pain you caused. It’s not the time to advance your cause.

I don’t want to hear Rosen explain himself. His immediate train of thought, which he carelessly splashed on Twitter, showed knee-jerk cynicism and heartlessness. He can be commended for apologizing for both, but he goes on to say they resulted from his experience reporting from war-torn countries. He also points out his staunch support of women’s rights and gay rights. In fact, he does a lot of self-promotion during these apologies. He also makes sure to point out that he’s long considered Logan a “war monger.”

Just because these paragraphs occur after the few he spends self-flagellating doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate placement. It’s not the right time. It’s not the right place.

One reason he made those “tasteless tweets,” he said, is because he was afraid that the attention showered on Logan would overshadow the stories of suffering Egyptians.

Let me get this straight: Rosen caused a news story by tweeting obnoxiously. Logan made the news when something happened to her. And Rosen, who’s appearing on Anderson Cooper tonight, keeps talking.

Who do you think is detracting from the story in Egypt more?

–By Tara Cavanaugh

We need middle-sized models

Compare Crystal Renn now...

Crystal Renn has made headlines again, not for showing off her plus-sized figure, but for actually looking like a model.

Before her December photo feature in Harper’s Bazaar, Renn wrote a book about her struggles with eating disorders as a teen model. She later graced the catwalk as a plus-sized adult for designers such as Chanel. Her journey from anorexic to plus size has been a controversial one, with supporters and naysayers on all sides, and here’s another twist to keep people talking: now she’s back to thin.

Renn’s bounce from model-thin to plus-size and back again shows just exactly what’s wrong with our eyes, and the fashion industry: there is no healthy middle.

Women who want to become models either have to shave off as many pounds as possible, or, if they want to go the plus-size route, often have to put on pounds in order to fit the bill. Jennie Runk was actually given this choice by a modeling agency. She opted to add 12 pounds, instead of lose 30. Why couldn’t they take her as she was—5’10” and a size 8? You could argue adding weight was the lesser of two evils, but adding weight is never healthy, unless you’re pregnant or underweight. Crystal Renn then. "Ultimate embrace of curves"-- are you sure about that?

You could also argue that plus-sized models aren’t really plus sized, which is often true: Many of the models are a 10 or 12. Those sizes aren’t plus-sized. In fact, they’re among the most-purchased sizes by women in America. (I think the most-purchased size is still a 14.)

So Glamour or French Vogue will showcase so-called plus-sized models on occasion and pat themselves on the back about it, and then let the rest of their content and ads be riddled with photos of coke-snorting anorexics.

For once, I’d like to see a model who didn’t have to lose or add weight to get a job. Instead of showing models who are 5’9” and 110 pounds, let’s see models who are 5’9” and 140 pounds. Let’s see a woman who is actually a size  8. Let’s see a woman like Runk, who was healthy just as she was.

–By Tara Cavanaugh

Parenting is the new Pinnacle of Human Experience. [Team Mommy vs. Team Cosmo, psych edition]

The old hierarchy of needs

At some point in your education, you’ve probably come across the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a pyramid that shows the most basic of needs for human beings, the bottom showcasing physiological needs like food and sleep, and the higher levels showcasing less basic needs like social acceptance and self-esteem.

But the pyramid has undergone some changes recently. A group of psychologists decided to replace “self-actualization” with “parenting” as the highest of human needs.

The obvious problem with putting “parenting” at the top is that not everyone can, or wants to, be a parent. Putting parenting at the top casts a kind of scorn on those who cannot or don’t prefer to engage in parenting, as if these people will never actualize their full potential as human beings. There’s an inherent value judgment with that placement, and it’s not inclusive. Anyone can engage in excretion, friendships, or creativity. But not anyone can or will become a parent. And this inherent judgment value will be taught to the students who encounter this pyramid in their high school psych classes or their liberal arts requirements in college. It will also help form the assumptions under which some psychologists study us and report on us.

So why the change? A psychologist in the academic journal Perspectives on Psychological Science explains it this way:

“The new pyramid is based on the premise that our strongest and most fundamental impulse, which shapes our day-to-day desires on an unconscious level, is to survive long enough to pass our genes to the next generation. … In other words, aside from our powerful brains, we’re pretty much like every other living creature.

Given that we humans like to think of ourselves as special, this new pyramid will surely encounter strong resistance. But it could also become a shorthand way to clarify the often-misunderstood concepts of evolutionary psychology, which, its advocates insist, are not as meaning-denying and ego-deflating as we might think.” [as qtd. in New York Times]

He goes on to say it’s not just a matter of becoming a parent, but engaging in the process of parenting—of caring for and raising a child. The group of psychologists who later made the official change recently told the New York Times that they are not promoting the “right” path to take in life, they’re just explaining why we act as we do. But in explaining why we act the way we do, they make the assumption that parenting is the ultimate and most worthwhile motivation behind our actions and quest for survival (unless you think survival isn’t that big of a deal).

This assumption could be particularly frustrating for women, who are forever pulled in two directions. Our culture tells us to go to college, play sports, and have “girl power.” At the same time, our culture stalks celebrities for “baby bumps.” We have gads of mommy-bloggers and women who create email addresses as “Mommyof(Kid’s name).” Not to mention Palin screeching about the power of “mama grizzlies.”

As a woman, it can feel like you have to pick a side: Team Mommy, or Team Cosmo.

There are plenty of options under these two camps, and they come with all sorts of value judgments. So some become mothers, and some don’t. Some mothers make mommyness their identity, and some don’t. Some non-mothers become anti-mother (Samantha wincing at the thought of children, anyone?), and some don’t.

But: If you’re a woman, you will become a mother or you won’t, and it will in some way affect how you and the world identifies your “self.” There are tricky inherent judgment values that come with those decisions. A group of psychologists sauntering along and going with Team Mommy doesn’t make the choice any easier.

Like many young women, I’ve felt the pressure from both sides. I have no interest, really, in raising kids. But I consider it, and marriage and all that, sometimes when the comments start to get to me. Like a comment from my boss about how I “better hope for a ring” from my longtime boyfriend.  Or a comment from a well-meaning cousin about how I ought to consider passing my genes along (he’s getting his PhD in biostatistics). And I hesitate to tell people that I’m staying in one city, not exploring career opportunities in other cities, because I’m living with my boyfriend. I don’t want to hear the follow up questions from the traditional camp (“So you think you’re getting married?”) and I don’t want the scorn of the non-traditional camp (“You’re limiting yourself!”) either.

But I can’t forget that the pyramid explains existence for both men and women, so parenting was also the ultimate goal for men. Men have—as history and literature and television tell me—not always been encouraged to be as involved in parenting as women. This may mean that these distant fathers would be labeled by the psychologists as somehow incomplete. But you don’t have to look at the miserable (and miserable parent) Betty Draper to know that parenting might not be the goal of human experience, and that her kids might not be well-equipped for survival. Sure, her kids will survive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sally blew something up someday, and uh, eliminated another kid’s chance of survival altogether.

I prefer to think that the authors didn’t just mean that “parenting” should be at the apex. I prefer to think they realized that only focusing on “finding yourself” could be a selfish and lonely endeavor. If you find yourself, what does it matter if you have no one to share that self with? It’s important, sure, but I think what matters more in life is the relationships you create with others. “Parenting” may have been a step in the right direction. Raising a child is a particularly life-altering experience. I haven’t had any kids of my own, but I can see how parenting does bring out the best in some people, and makes them act for more than just themselves.

But at the same time, parenting a kid doesn’t necessarily mean that you create a healthy relationship with the kid. Committing the act of parenting doesn’t mean that you can foster healthy relationships with friends and family. Parenting doesn’t necessarily mean helping someone else be a better human, or becoming a better human yourself.

If you choose not to produce children, it doesn’t mean that you’re not supporting the human race. You may dedicate your life to teaching or science or policy or development, and thus support the strength of the human race by making it better connected and more resourceful. “Consider,” cracks New York Times, “that Beethoven had no children.”

I get that self-actualization should be replaced by now. And I get the premise of evolutionary psychology: that humans need to survive like any other animal, and our psychological needs reflect that need. I also get that the field of psychology isn’t the ultimate authority. After all, homosexuality was removed only a few years ago from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a bible for the field of psychology. And its recent overhaul caused many to decry its slew of new disorders and ask who could possibly be normal. So these standards don’t always mean much.

Still, as standards, they set powerful guidelines  to evaluate or explain human behavior. In the case of the evolutionary psychologists, I think they took a step in the right direction when they chose to revamp Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But they’re not quite there. Not yet.


Barbie Joan gets cut down a size (or 4)

Barbie Joan

Mattel has created a Mad Men collection of Barbies, which makes the six-year-old in me squeal. Once upon a time, I had THE baddest Barbie collection in the neighborhood. And I bet pink plastic heels are still stuck in the orange shag carpet of the basement.

But the Internets tell me something’s wrong with Mattel’s version of Joan. The notoriously voluptuous character has been slimmed down, causing quite the uproar in blogs and pop culture sites alike.

Mattel’s answer? They were trying to capture the essence of the show, not the proportions.

This raises some questions: What would have happened if Mattel had made a whole new Barbie for Joan? It’s not like Barbie is known for her diversity in sizes. Should Mattel have made a new bustier and hippy-er mold for one character? Would people have reacted negatively a Barbie Joan who was noticeably larger than the other characters in the cast?

This makes Mattel look about as tolerant as Janice is towards the America’s Next Top Model contestants. But I wonder if Mattel could have made the public happy with whatever mold it cast for Barbie Joan, no matter the accuracy.

I suppose at the end of the day, Barbie is just Barbie. She doesn’t grow, and she doesn’t change. And besides, Mattel refuses to give the dolls any of their naughty accessories anyway—no cigarettes or martini glasses allowed, GASP!—so how realistic can we possibly expect the dolls to be?

–By Tara Cavanaugh