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Comments: Week of March 11, 2013

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1. “For gay couples, the promise of marriage is still so new and incomplete that the idea of matrimonial courts, equitable settlements, and all the rest barely registers,” wrote Jesse Green in a story about the very tangled world of gay-­divorce law and the many couples already caught up in it. “How do you process the undoing of a bond that until a moment ago in history you were not allowed to form?” (From ‘I Do’ to ‘I’m Done,’” March 4). “It’s a great article that explains why ‘gay divorce’ is as important a rights issue as ‘gay marriage’ for our community, even if we don’t really want to talk about it,” wrote Scott at Gay Marriage Watch. At Above the Law, David Lat suggested the problem was only going to get bigger—and more profitable. “As any tax lawyer can tell you, lawyers thrive—and make the most money on—complexity. So the world of gay divorce could be a gold mine, given the complexities still associated with gay marriage. Lawyers, whose jobs often involve picking up the pieces when things fall apart, know better than almost anyone: stuff happens.” And one commenter at nymag.com asked whether the right to marriage was the step forward most take it to be or even worth all the trouble. “The thinking used to be among the sophisticated that the best thing, if not the only good thing, about being gay was that you didn’t have to marry!” he wrote. “Gays are throwing away this glorious freedom from the state for what? For gay males to voluntarily entangle themselves in presumably monogamous marriage behind a white picket fence, then for heaven’s sake what is the point of being gay males? Sure you may want companionship. Then live together. In freedom.”

2. Of all the readers of Steve Fishman’s account of the reign of embezzling St. John’s dean Cecilia Chang, who committed suicide after her fraud was confirmed in court, it was the school’s alumni who took the story most personally—and who placed blame not with the dead but the living administrators still running the college (The Dean of Corruption,” March 4). “I am outraged and embarrassed by this story,” wrote one on nymag.com. “There is no way Cecilia Chang got away with such a massive fraud for so long without collusion on Father Donald Harrington and Rob Wile’s part. I know Harrington is still president and Wile is still listed in the administration area on their website … how is that possible? How have they not been removed from their positions by the Board of Trustees?” Another commenter echoed the call for action: “I would hope that out of this mess comes the understanding the Board of Directors of St. John’s have to provide governance and the first thing that the Board must do is take charge.” One reader had doubts that would help: “I am not surprised in the least by this tale,” he wrote. “While the university has done much to preserve its mission of educating the working class, the typical see-no-evil-etc. culture of priesthood has endured.”


3. On the occasion of his retirement, his 80th birthday, and an upcoming documentary about his writing life, we asked a motley crew of literati to assess Philip Roth’s achievements, his notoriety, and his problematic treatment of women (Literary Caucus: Goodbye, Colossus,” March 4). We solicited commentary from more than 150 writers and critics, and could only include those who responded, but our final survey featured its own problem with women—only 5 of them, against 28 men, a fact that generated a heated response. “I appreciate Roth as much as the next Jewish lit major,” wrote Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel. “But this is insane.” At Salon, Roxane Gay agreed: “This gender imbalance, one that is relatively insignificant given the context, only continues to ensure that far too many cultural conversations, both significant and insignificant, take place in a vacuum or, perhaps, a void—one where the same kinds of people chatter endlessly to themselves, saying very little.” One particular response, to one particular question, generated the most condemnation—novelist and n+1 editor Keith Gessen answering “Is Roth a misogynist?” by saying, “If you hated women, why would you spend all your time thinking about fucking them?” “Don’t worry, I explained ‘misogyny’ to Keith,” tweeted Gessen’s girlfriend, Emily Gould, in response. “There’s a simple reason why one might hate women even while spending all his time ‘thinking about fucking them,’ ” wrote Amanda Marcotte at Slate’s XX Factor blog. “If you believe that women exist to cater to male desires, including the desire for sex, then a woman’s relentless insistence that she is a full human being with needs and desires of her own—which can include a desire not to have sex with you now or ever—must be very frustrating. It’s like being told by Let’s Go that the foreigners in the country you’re visiting are all accommodating and gracious and then finding out when you get there that they’re abrupt and uninterested in helping you with anything. You’re going to come home and complain to everyone you meet about how terrible that country is, and feel swindled. But hey, I’m just a foreigner, so what do I know?

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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