We recently had the most exciting week ever in Brokelyn land: a story by newbie writer Quiana Stokes about how and why she passes the time as a SAHG (Stay At Home Girlfriend) set off a firestorm of discussion, dissent and some downright nastiness internet wide. Readers questioned why we would run such a thing: on top of the regressive nature of her feelings about gender roles, the post wasn’t our usual mix of entertaining-but helpful journalism. Commensurate with the talkback were calls for any stay-at-home boyfriends to out themselves: after all, that seems more in line with the trends of our age. Magazines and blogs are rife with tales of men receding into a habit of perpetual adolescence as women outrank, outflank and outnumber them more and more, especially in New York; dyed-in-the-wool male ego is losing ground to cold economic reality.
Then I thought: if we did run a SAHB piece that had the potential to generate the same level of controversy — let’s say the SAHB argues why you should stay at home ironing your working lady’s panties instead of going to watch the game — who would be the dude blogs leading the charge of apoplectic indignant rage? What sites would whip up foment of masculine ire that a poor, misguided (Ms.-guided?) bro in Brooklyn was devoting himself to domesticated doldrums?
The answer, I realized, is that there aren’t any.
First, you have to understand the scope of the response to the SAHG piece from the female blogosphere. It angered people, but in terms of internet metrics, it was our Avatar. Within hours, SAHG became our most-popular post of all time. Linkbacks and comments poured in from all corners of the internet. Nick Cannon’s producers asked if Quiana would come on his radio show (side note: Nick Cannon has a radio show?); Kathie Lee and Hoda even whittled away a little nook in their towering mountain of intractable Today Show blather to opine on the topic.
Putting aside the irrefutable data of a smash hit-blog post, the content wasn’t really my cup of tea. The author certainly had an interesting perspective from her first-person experience living this kind of lifestyle, but I kept wondering if the ghost of Betty Friedan would be haunting our interwebs, preparing to strike our site with a volley of hijacked Viagra and Cialis ads (which did happen, btw, though we are still unraveling the mystique of the cause).
Nor was it the cup of tea of many of the major blogs that focus on women’s issues: the post got picked up by Jezebel, Gawker, The Hairpin and The Frisky, most of which took time to deliver an extended riff on the topic. You could sense furrowing brows through the intertubes:
The Hairpin‘s response was simply: “LOL is this a joke?” Gawker: “It could be a tongue-in-cheek kind of jokey type thing, right? A humorous essay chronicling the silly misadventures of a young woman stepping into more ‘traditional’ domestic duties while her live-in boyfriend is at work and she’s looking for a new job. But… it’s just not. It’s really just not.” Jezebel: “But let’s face it: the tone of this is…troubling. Not least because when one is in the author’s situation, it’s not that straightforward: one often doesn’t feel good about oneself, lacks confidence and doesn’t feel like the equal partner you once were.” The Frisky (Who, after declaring this story was linkbait, went on to link and write extensively about it): “Could I live like Quiana Stokes? Probably not. I’d get bored.”
These blogs come from varying points of view but all tried to contextualize the response of smart, skeptical women across New York City and the country. I read all these sites regularly for exactly this kind of viewpoint. But there’s nothing out there on par that curates dude opinion in the same way.
Think about it: What are the leading dude blogs out there today? I can’t think of one, and I’m a dude who blogs for a living. Switch that question around and I could name you some really top-notch sites that cover lady issues. The Hairpin, for instance, has lodged itself firmly in my regular blog rotation, not just for its entertaining looks at all things with a women-related tilt (see: stock photos of women laughing alone while eating salad) but also for its insightful commentary and its quiver of smart writers with honest takes on issues the modern, educated girl faces (see: Emily Gould’s open letter on what it means to have a 14-year-old magazine editor).
Jezebel traffics in celebrity gossip, but it also puts together serious projects and — gasp — actual journalism. Right or wrong in their conclusions, Jezebel‘s recent expose on the Daily Show being a boys club (aka “The Male-y Show”) involved serious reporting, interviews and planning, much more so than just posting a listicle or a news item and dashing off some snarky comments.
Slate‘s blog The XX Factor keeps a running tab on key issues related to women (Lara Logan, the lack of women published in lit mags, etc.). I would have also pointed to Heartless Doll, the acerbic and bitterly hip women’s blog run out of SF Weekly until it was shuttered in May. And there’s more. None of these read like an issue of Glamour, either: I can click on a Frisky post about Feminist Coming Out Day, for instance, without feeling like I’m eavesdropping on a grade school slumber party.
So what are the dude blog equivalents? Go ahead and try to think of some, because I’m more than willing to learn. The only dude blogs that come to mind are the supremely superficial ones: Guyism (tagline: “Hot Girls, Humor, Videos, Photos, Sports, Beer, Celebrities”); Asylum, which also shuttered last month, leaving as its swan song an Andrew WK interview, in which he announces his intent to go into outer space; Thrillist (unofficial tagline: “WHATTUP BROSEPH?!?!”), a repository of what to do and buy now that your frat activities director isn’t around (I site for which I apparently don’t meet the bro standard; I got rejected from a job there last year).
There’s AskMen.com, with its watch brand reviews, and Esquire‘s website, with its “what she wants you to wear” huffy insistence on swarthy materialism as the preferred style. Or Brobible, the voice of the “Brommunity,” a site that should speak for itself (but I’ll speak for it too: the words “Big Boob Bonanza” currently appear on the homepage).
Even when these sites are at their best, they lack a sense of humor about their subject matter, and about being a dude in general. Those sites exist in the old archetype of the “men’s” magazine that hasn’t changed much in decades: fashion, understanding your lady, the sexiest women in X field (because we never expect successful women to be succesexxxy too!). Those media are for “men”: 9-5ers, execs, suit-wearers, dads, old-fashioned bros clinging to their Axe body spray, wooing pearl-clad ladies in Leer Jets soaring above pristine Caribbean waters on weekend getaways.