May 12, 2012
"Are You Listening, Boys?"


The Atlantic, America’s oldest continuously published magazine, is also one of its most distinguished, having published everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to John Updike and Christopher Hitchens. When the magazine was established in 1857, its founding editor, James Russell Lowell, promised that “The Atlantic Monthly will be the organ of no party or clique” and vowed to publish writers of different perspectives. By most counts The Atlantic has succeeded in doing just that. However, as with most establishment, general-interest publications, early contributors were—with some notable exceptions (Edith Wharton, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Emily Dickinson among them)—mostly male. The readership was also mainly male, with male subscribers outnumbering female subscribers by three to two.

Perhaps as a consequence, when it dealt with divisive cultural issues like what used to be known as the “war of the sexes,” the magazine did not seem to be particularly sympathetic to the feminist perspective. Although some women, such as Sandra Tsing Loh and Caitlin Flanagan, wrote about gender, the issues were addressed from a more conservative angle. Many of the articles, like Christina Hoff Sommers’ “The War Against Boys” (which became a controversial book in 2000), approached what many viewed as a triumphant moment for women’s rights in terms of what it meant for men, rather than its significance for women. While her call for empowerment for boys drew praise from conservatives, critics on the left were condemnatory. One of them, Karen Houppert, writing in The Nation, said, “It’s hard to tell whether Christina Hoff Sommers is the darling of the far right or whether she is doing penance for some great sin committed against her conservative brethren.”

A decade later, in July 2010, Hanna Rosin broke the mold. Rosin, who had recently been made an Atlantic senior editor, wrote an article titled “The End of Men” that expressed a very different message and inaugurated an era of major changes in the publication that has positioned The Atlantic at center stage in the national gender debate…

The new New York Review of Magazines discusses the emergence of a female dominance in The Atlantic's editorial roles.

I’ve begun to like The Atlantic more and more in recent years; could I have subconsciously picked up this shift and liked it? Hmm…doubt it.