The Personal Lives of Men

I’m not often a fan of the “if this had been a woman….” line of argument because it’s nearly impossible to prove, but: If this article about Benjamin Millepied being made the new director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet had been about a female choreographer landing such a role, and that female choreographer was married to an Oscar-winning Hollywood star that she met while choreographing one of his movies, that would have been mentioned in the first two paragraphs. And the fact that they have a kid together would have been mentioned as more than an aside.

None of these are perfect comparisons, but from today’s Style section alone: Rita Ora is, in the first paragraph, “the prized protégé of Jay-Z.” Slightly lower down in the Jenna Lyons story is her partner, Courtney Crangi, “the sister and business partner of the jeweler Philip Crangi, and the woman whom she starting dating after separating from her husband of nine years, the artist Vincent Mazeau.” There are further details of Lyons and Mazeau selling their lovely Park Slope townhouse, and anecdotes about the kid, of course.

It’s not that one’s personal life shouldn’t be mentioned if it’s relevant. But it always seems to be more “relevant” with women than men. Millepied is a very important figure, but in the U.S., Natalie Portman is much more famous (and arguably more interesting to U.S. readers). I think the Times was right to mention her without going into unnecessary details — the article, after all, was about Millepied. I just wish they’d give female subjects the same treatment.

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7 comments for “The Personal Lives of Men

  1. moviemaedchen
    January 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    This. What I find equally tiring is the need to describe the hair/clothes/attractiveness of any woman being discussed in any article, in any context, within the first two paragraphs. Whereas I rarely see that with articles about men. If any explanation of who the man is is needed, it tends to be about his works/occupation/noted professional relationships. Whereas women are often defined by their physical characteristics and familial relationships. Arg.

    • karak
      January 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      I feel this acutely when it comes to Michelle Obama. The news worked itself into a tizzy over her hair and clothes, but not her husband’s.

      The interesting, and slightly shameful, part of this to me is when I saw photos of the Inauguration, my very first thought was, “Michelle Obama did something with her hair!” Not anything political, not anything significant, I zeroed in on that hair.

      • amblingalong
        January 25, 2013 at 8:21 am

        I feel this acutely when it comes to Michelle Obama. The news worked itself into a tizzy over her hair and clothes, but not her husband’s.

        So I totally agree with the broader point, but this seems like a weird example, because the position of First Lady and President are so clearly different. The First Lady is, among other things, a style icon, and (I think) in a very conscious way; the President decides if we start a thermonuclear war.

        I don’t know, maybe this is just as bad as all the other examples, but it strikes me as less egregious. When we have a female President, I look forward to hearing a lot about the First Gentleman’s suits (I can always use more suit tips).

    • January 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      This grates on me also – a music magazine I subscribe to, when reporting on female artists, nearly ALWAYS includes remarks about their looks, dress, attractiveness etc; whereas with male artists it totally focuses on their musical abilities. In the latest issue the results of last year’s readers poll include an entirely female ‘Heartthrob’ category, though no similar male category. Quite apart from being sexist and patronising, it’s not what I buy a music magazine for: clue, MUSIC magazine.

  2. catfood
    January 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    This morning’s NPR story on yesterday’s Senate hearings made sure to talk about Hilary Clinton’s “emotional” response to some stupid-ass questions from Republicans. Ya know?

  3. Colin
    January 25, 2013 at 2:25 am

    I guess if Benjamin Millepied was a woman, the article would look more like this:

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