For those who were fortunate enough not to hear the interview with Caitlin Flanagan I referenced yesterday, some of the choicest bits are recounted here. I remember thinking, as she was starting to promote her first book, that she couldn’t be as bad as she came across in her writing, that there had to be some reason that major national publications were competing for her services. Her Colbert appearance disabused me of that. As yesterday’s interview makes clear, she’s actually more mean-spirited, reactionary, and uninformed than you would expect (and that’s not easy.) There really is someone being paid handsomely by a prominent national magazine in 2012 explaining that the success of women should be evaluated based solely on their ability to maintain sexual “purity” as teenagers and on their ability to be servile spouses and child-rearers as adults. She really does seem to believe that there’s no sexual middle ground between remaining wholly ignorant about human sexuality and giving blowjobs to random strangers. She really does seem to think that young women should regard a successful Harvard-educated journalist as a cautionary tale rather than a role model. She’s like a character in a draft of an Alan Ball script but one that he rejected for being too heavy-handed and unfair to suburban mothers.
As to the question of why on earth the Atlantic continues to give her a platform, I think Amanda got it right a while back. As for the idea that she’s some sort of wonderful prose stylist, leaving aside the fact that I don’t think that’s much of a defense for writers of non-fiction essays I dispute the underlying premise.