Money and sex

Correction appended

Though Li’l Hyde Parks have been somewhat redeemed by a memorable statement on Choose Life’s resurrection (“Stay classy, pro-choice crowd,” Commentary, February 4), they might be a wrong turn for The Daily’s current-events journalism.

They have been confrontational and heavy on ideology – roughly equivalent to full-size Hyde Parks. Samantha Burton’s ordeal was recounted angrily and succeeded in inspiring anger at Americans, represented by Floridians, who treat women not as “a human being but a shell around a fetus.” The next li’l guy briefly mentioned the Supreme Court decision on campaign funding before proclaiming the U.S. “a country where the Congress is already composed of plutocrats who by and large rose to power on huge piles of cash.” (“Three big losses,” Commentary, January 28).

“True enough,” we say – after that, there isn’t much to say. So the bigger problem with this genre is that for as much discussion as the articles should raise, there won’t be any, because you just don’t argue “for” a pregnant woman being confined to bed rest, a Supreme Court order to let politicians have more money from corporations, or Howard Zinn dying. There are issues here, buried inside, but stating your belief and some bad news to back it up will not get at them.

Money has been a hot topic. The first line of the piece on the Supreme Court ruling proclaimed: “Corporations are not people and money is not speech,” which is nice and easy to remember. But in a very real sense, corporations are some of our parents. Because of my parents’ jobs, I’m at McGill, writing about this stuff – money is talking in The Daily right now.

If we’re going to take a stab at money, we had better do with a realistic understanding of its place in our other goals. Daily authors have demanded money for education, arts, health, and the environment, among other things, and these will not pay for themselves without the help of a global economy. “Montreal hosts Haiti aid talks” (News, January 28) quoted sources criticizing U.S. involvement while also quoting sources that called for more aid dollars, and so showed a situation where money, with all its unseemly entanglements, is indispensible – a natural disaster.

The past fortnight’s additions to The Daily’s sex oeuvre have been uninspired. Moderate sexual novelty, which drove us to read on in spite of the truly horrifying illustration that accompanied “Make the next decade sexier” (Mind and Body, January 20), no longer suffices to float a Daily article.

This is probably for the better. The more risqué articles, like the call to go kinky, seemed out-of-touch at places. People have been doing kinky stuff since the dawn of time, or at least since the sixties, and the authors’ depictions of “kink” as appertaining to a particular category of people was entirely counterproductive to the article’s ostensibly missionary – haha – aim. The Daily excels at making simple things more complicated and obscure, but this strategy has proven itself incompatible with sex-help writing.

Other articles have tended to make simple things out of complicated issues. “Binary is for Computers” criticized a Los Angeles Times article for mentioning the gory details of gender reassignment surgery (“Mind your own business,” Commentary, February 1) with the author expressing their personal exasperation with frequent questions about transsexual sex and identity. At one point the author reports: “Our society cannot conceive of a man being pregnant.”

Perhaps it cannot – until recently, men did not have babies. Until recently, a penis could not be created out of a thigh. Some people are revolted by these ideas; other people can get over them. But if we are truly walking into a brave new world beyond gender, then everybody will be curious, and according to us, everybody should be. If activist authors don’t deign to address the mainstream concerns related to their theories, or are tight-lipped about their details, then they will be assured the public’s disinterest (or otherwise its antagonism) when it comes time to put their ideas into action.

Privacy is another issue entirely, and it’s big, very personal kind of like “freedom of expression.” The two are not dissimilar – Western worries about China’s Google situation, for example, are spurred by concern for both. There have been smart articles dealing with each but these have been drowned out by a mass of lesser attempts. Longer columns are not always better, but even the most perfectly-written 300-word letter “on the nature of free speech” will be necessarily full of platitudes and vagaries – we have all the time in the world (two and a half months) to give each issue its due, and we should make full use of it.

Mike Prebil is The Daily’s public editor. He lives and breathes reader-response. Send him your thoughts:

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the original text of this article read ‘“Montreal hosts Haiti aid talks” (News, January 28) criticized U.S. involvement while also quoting sources that called for more aid dollars.’ It now reads: ‘”Montreal hosts Haiti aid talks” quoted sources criticizing U.S. involvement.”