Aubrey Hirsch’s “Abandoning Feminism” in The Toast
I’ll admit that I first came across this piece before it was published, when my colleague Aubrey Hirsch read it at her final reading before leaving Pittsburgh—I loved it then, and looked forward to reading it when it came out in her column, “Loco Parentis.” The premise is simple: a satirical response to men who suddenly discovered feminism once they had daughters. Hirsch used to hate these so-called “think pieces.”
“I used to consider myself a feminist. I thought women and men should be equally respected, equally compensated, and have equal opportunities. As a woman myself, I viewed the world with limited vision, only thinking about what would make my experiences here on planet Earth more comfortable and fulfilling.”
Then Hirsch had two sons, and just like these fathers, her perspective changed. “I look at my beautiful, silly, amazing boys and I realize that they do deserve to be paid more than their female counterparts in the workforce. They have both X and Y chromosomes and should be compensated accordingly.”
I love the way satire walks the line between hilarious and troubling, and this piece certainly does. It’s a quick read, well worth the time. Laughing and cringing in turn, you might find that, like Hirsch, your “concerns about the prevalence and persistence of rape culture just float away on a summer breeze.”
Eileen Favorite’s “On Fertility” in The Butter
Since Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced their pregnancy and disclosed their multiple miscarriages, a lot of articles and essays have come out on the topic. While it’s great to see this subject coming out from the shadows, it’s also refreshing to read a miscarriage memoir that appears to be wholly untied to this news cycle. “On Fertility” is a captivating essay that weaves family history and religion into the author’s story of enduring multiple pregnancy losses and eventually giving birth to two girls.
Be warned: this is a highly detailed account of a miscarriage, but it is as graphic as it is beautiful. The miscarriage described occurs on a family trip to Ireland to the author’s ancestral land. The imagery and sensory details she evokes of the Irish landscape are marvelous, as are her metaphors of this now-fertile landscape once bearing witness to barrenness and famine. In answer to the scene of her miscarriage experience, we are treated to the scene of the birth of the author’s first child—but this isn’t your typical “it’ll happen for you if you just relax,” self-help story of overcoming infertility.
“Sometimes I wave away those ten years of “trying” to get and stay pregnant with a cavalier flick of my hand. I’m old enough now to wave away an entire decade and still have years to spare. Nobody wants to hear about those dark-night-of-the- soul years; those years of despising other people’s Christmas cards; years of boycotting baby showers (as advised by my therapist); years of looking on the bright side (I can travel! Go out whenever I want; Get a master’s degree); years of feeling as if I were being punished. … Sometimes friends trot my story out as an example of hope for others struggling with infertility. I don’t want to be an example of anything.”
Rachel Stone’s “A Compendium of Bullshit: Nonfiction that wasn’t” in The Awl
Listicles are popular in online publications. Most are banal, but “A Compendium of Bullshit: Nonfiction that wasn’t” by Rachel Stone in The Awl is a list of a different sort. Stone gives readers eleven memoirs, all of them with a deliberate lie at the center. Right there, she creates a beautiful irony. As well, she cuts to the center of a long-standing debate about the line between nonfiction and fiction. Nonfiction, memoirs especially, use the techniques of fiction (dialogue, character development, narrative arc) to make the boring, quotidian details of a life palatable for a reader. If that’s so, then how is any memoir true? As far as I can tell, the rule for memoir is staying true to one’s own memory, even though—as we know from research—memory is fallible.
But Stone is not dealing with the vagaries of memory. She’s targeting memoirists who deliberately lead readers astray in order to advance their careers. James Frey makes the list, for example, as does Greg Mortenson. Of Herman Rosenblat’s false memoir about the Holocaust Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived, Stone wisely observes that the fake Holocaust memoir “has become practically a genre unto itself.” The same can be said of the online list. It is a nonfiction genre unto itself. I’ve seen a lot of lists that are bullshit. Stone’s isn’t one of them.