Of Men, Women, Essays, and Cannibals

The gender divide in contemporary non-fiction

The New Press recently published Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person. It is a great anthology, chock full of fantastic articles originally published in Harper's magazine.Scan the list of contributors and note the names. Fourteen of the fifteen are men.The Harper's anthology follows in the wake of Ira Glass' The New Kings of Non-Fiction (note the title…and all but two contributors are men), and Robert Boynton's The New New Journalism (all but two contributors are men). I have written about the gendering of non-fiction elsewhere so I will not repeat that argument, but the Harper's book provides more evidence that narrative non-fiction of the ilk Harper's and Ira Glass celebrate is a male-identified genre. Women, it seems, do not get to be radical first people.If men have cornered investigative reporting, immersion journalism, submersion reportage-whichever label you prefer-women seem to have a better chance in another subset of non-fiction: the essay. Or, more precisely, the personal essay.The essay is a literary genre (often referred to as the "fourth genre," after fiction, poetry and drama, and definitely in that order) best understood as a meandering rumination that prizes individual insights large and small (what one wore on a first date, the meaning of life, how the two connect). It is anti-teleological, and an essayist need not adhere to one consistent point of view or develop an argument.Michel de Montaigne gets props for originating the essay, and a look at his Table of Contents shows the range of his ruminatory mind:-OF CUSTOM, AND THAT WE SHOULD NOT EASILY CHANGE A LAW RECEIVED.-OF THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.-THAT FORTUNE IS OFTENTIMES OBSERVED TO ACT BY THE RULES OF REASON.-OF CANNIBALS.-OF WAR-HORSES, OR DESTRIERS.-OF DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS.-OF AGE.-OF DRUNKENNESS.-OF GLORY.-OF PRESUMPTION.-THAT WE TASTE NOTHING PURE.-OF THUMBS.-OF THE RESEMBLANCE OF CHILDREN TO THEIR FATHERS.-OF REPENTANCE.-UPON SOME VERSES OF VIRGIL.-OF COACHES.-THAT TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY IS TO LEARN TO DIE.-OF VANITY.-OF PHYSIOGNOMY.-OF THE FORCE OF IMAGINATION.-OF EXPERIENCE.In "On Cannibals" Montaigne describes the sixteenth-century European reaction to encounters with the New World. Through his introduction to a cannibal, he comes to better understand Renaissance European mores: "Each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice," he writes, and later, "I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him roasting a man bit by bit, in having him bitten and mangled by dogs and swine (as we have not only read but seen within fresh memory, not among ancient enemies, but among neighbors and fellow citizens, and what is worse, on the pretext of piety and religion), than in roasting and eating him after he is dead."Montaigne speculates, snickers, pontificates. He ends his essay, absurdly, with this line: "They don't wear breeches" (and sends the reader off to check out what he has to say about thumbs.)Back to my point (one is required to ramble when writing about Montaigne). If non-fiction has been divvied up between boys and girls, and the girls are left with the essay, must those essays always be so resolutely personal? So small? As Christina Nehring has convincingly argued, contemporary essays are "damned boring." They risk little. Like good girls, they stick around the house.Maybe us girls best crank up the essay, and give those submersion journalists a run for their first person money. (And yes! there are other arguments to be made-about the need for women to do more submersion journalism, and for editors to better value non-investigative non-fiction, and a raft of gender biases undergirding all this. I am just plucking one point out of many for today). There is a rich lineage of authors to draw upon, from Montaigne to Emerson to more contemporary women essayists, including Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Rebecca Solnit, Cynthia Ozick, Lauren Slater, to name just a few. We need more.Some wear breeches.

This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

via WFMZ / YouTube

John Perez was acquitted on Friday, February 21, for charges stemming from an altercation with Allentown, Pennsylvania police that was caught on video.

Footage from September 2018 shows an officer pushing Perez to the ground. After Perez got to his feet, multiple officers kicked and punched him in an attempt to get him back on the ground.

Perez claims he was responding to insults hurled at him by the officers. The police say that Perez was picking a fight. The altercation left Perez with a broken nose, scrapes, swelling, and bruises from his hips to his shoulder.

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