When we think innovation we think: powerful ideas. For all the talk about how American ingenuity—and our ability to innovate—will solve the myriad, complex and seemingly impossible problems we face, you see little evidence of that in the new issue of The Atlantic. The “Ideas Issue” with it’s oh-so-clever 14 and ¾ Most Powerful Ideas of the Year, is possibly the lamest “ideas” magazine ever to hit newsstands. What a bunch of disappointing nonsense.
From Ky Rissdal (host of NPR’s Marketplace) whining about how well-intentioned green marketing is doing squat to solve the huge problem of climate change—the “idea” here is It’s Too Easy Being Green (is that actually an idea?)–to the oh-so-yesterday “idea” from Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute that Information Wants To Be Paid For (rather than free, as was Stewart Branch’s mantra at the dawn of the Internet Age), these ideas are non-ideas. They are clever headlines. Just look at Deficits Matter or Boredom Is Extinct. Really? Extinct? I’ve got a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old four days into summer vacation who can make mincemeat out of that claim.
Perhaps most disappointing in this issue is Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men: How Women are Taking Control of Everything.” Rosin is one of my favorites usually but this article is just a collection of study and survey statistics interspersed with quotes from feminists Rosin either knows (I can’t think why else she would mention Katie Rophie) or admires. The whole thing feels, well, lazy. Why is it to get a sense of how women are outpacing men in so many aspects of life—employment, college, overall having-your-shit-togetherness–Rosin visits only Kansas City, deciding somehow that city should be the poster child.
She quotes Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress (who I have interviewed before and admire), which is clearly a left-leaning organization, but we hear nothing from a think tank that might oppose her premise. (And I say this as a card-carrying liberal feminist.) The studies feel old (2007, 2008) the books she quotes are dated (1991, 2007, and the movie Office Space from 1999), even the trends she cites have already been well-covered (“mommy track” morphing into “flex time.”)
By the end you’re completely unconvinced any of the progress we’ve made as women—hitting the 50% mark in the labor force last year, slowly increasing our numbers in the C-suites of America, and our heightened presence in law schools and MBA programs—has substantively changed much, except for the fact that now middle-class women don’t seem to have much need for husbands.
Rosin hammers home her points, at the end of the piece, with the recap of a commercial from the Superbowl for a Dodge Charger, where the male characters lament having to put the toilet seat down and carry their wives/girlfriends’ lip balm. Is this really supposed to be damning evidence that the tide is turning? Because my ex-husband kept the seat up, and so does my son. And no one but me carries my lip balm. I think women may be on the way up, but—unfortunately–we’ve got a way to go before we take over the world.