Ivanka plays dumb about Russia a lot to the media, telling ABC News that she knew “almost nothing” about the negotiations to open a massive Trump Tower in Russia that continued, as we now know, long into the general election campaign. But as Dan Friedman of Mother Jones has detailed, the evidence suggests otherwise. It was Ivanka who emailed Cohen in 2015 with a lead she thought could produce a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure the deal. She also reportedly suggested an architect for the Moscow tower. The building plans included a spa named after Ivanka and a notation that “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities” were to be approved by her.
Last year, Sacha Baron Cohen used various disguises to pull off the most startling political humor of the Trump era on the Showtime series “Who Is America?”; and on Comedy Central’s “Nathan for You,” Nathan Fielder turned elaborate real-world stunts into unexpectedly emotional and intricate narratives. These artists expanded the ambition of the prank show while still clinging to its queasy-making juvenile roots.
The latest sneaky star of this new wave, the comedian Jena Friedman, introduces a gonzo feminist perspective in her Adult Swim show, “Soft Focus With Jena Friedman” that doesn’t just crack jokes about misogynist violence. It offers the giddy pleasure of payback.
Last year, Friedman, in character as an unflappable news reporter, did a biting segment on campus rape in which she persuaded three college frat brothers to drag around life-size female dolls called Cannot Consent Carrie. And in a bracing episode last month she built a more elaborate mousetrap involving sexual harassment in online gaming. The bit’s conceit was, If men knew what being victims of sexual harassment and abuse felt like, would that change anything?
Morally questionable humiliation has always been a part of the prank show, and the newer versions often make explicit a meanness that was always a part of “Candid Camera” and “Punk’d.” No one parodied this more brilliantly than Dave Chappelle when he imagined a show called “Zapped” in which, adults prank their kids by, for instance, having a doctor soberly tell them their parents are dead. Stop crying, toddlers, you’ve been zapped!
Prank comedy has been dominated by men tapping into their inner Jerky Boy, and Fielder and Cohen have been criticized for making women the butt of their jokes. Friedman not only flips this script, she also represents a departure for Adult Swim. In a 2016 investigation about gender disparity at the channel, Splitsider’s Megh Wright reported that it had never run a series solely created by a women. Responding to a thread on Reddit on the resulting controversy, Mike Lazzo, an executive at Adult Swim, wrote, “Women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict, so that’s probably why we (or others) have so few female projects.”
Friedman makes a mockery of this sentiment. She has always gravitated toward conflict, whether arguing politics on Twitter or turning deadly serious subjects like Ebola and rape into stand-up fodder. Like Fielder, she maintains a flat equanimity, but also employs a slippery charm to ingratiate herself with subjects and her audience, sometimes glancing at the camera, Ferris Bueller-style, as if to say, “See what I just did?’
One researcher found that fraternities were embracing “a more inclusive form of masculinity,” based on equality for gay men, respect for women, racial parity and emotional intimacy... Americans demonize fraternities as bastions of toxic masculinity where young men go to indulge their worst impulses. Universities have cracked down: Since November 2017, more than a dozen have suspended all fraternity events. But I spent more than two years interviewing fraternity members nationwide for a book about what college students think it means to “be a man,” and what I learned was often heartening. Contrary to negative headlines and popular opinion, many fraternities are encouraging brothers to defy stereotypical hypermasculine standards and to simply be good people... “Because masculinity is a status that men prove to other men, simply being in an all-male group may exacerbate pressure to uphold masculinity,” the study said. An East Coast junior put it this way to me last year: “We want the high-fives.”
But it’s wrong to assume that every all-male group is toxic.
.. Boys still face pressure to be “traditionally masculine.” In a 2018 survey of more than 1,000 10-to-19-year-olds, two-thirds of boys reported either that society expects them to “hide or suppress their feelings when they feel sad or scared” or that they’re supposed to “be strong, tough, ‘be a man’ and ‘suck it up.’” As boys reach late adolescence, they tend to disconnect from their emotions and their peers. Yet they long for the close male friendships of childhood, said Niobe Way, a psychology professor at New York University. They increasingly worry that opening up, seeking intimate friendships and showing affection are perceived to be feminine behaviors.
.. Eric Anderson found “a more inclusive form of masculinity institutionalized in the fraternal system: one based on social equality for gay men, respect for women and racial parity, and one in which fraternity men bond over emotional intimacy.” A member told him: “We expect our brothers not to partake in that macho jock mentality. We want to stand out as being intellectual and athletic, but also as being kind and respectful.”
.. they interviewed 50 young men who had challenged stereotypically male norms. These students, who came from 44 campus chapters, “consciously acted in ways that sought to disrupt sexism, racism and homophobia.” They confronted brothers who exhibited those attitudes and developed strong platonic friendships with women, as did many of the brothers I interviewed.
.. Professors Harris and Harper called these behaviors “productive masculinities” because they have been linked to better health and school engagement for college men. “Moreover,” they wrote, they “contribute to a safe and affirming campus community for all students.” The study participants said they behaved this way partly because they wanted to live up to the values of their fraternity.
.. Brothers in several fraternities described to me a weekly ritual called, “Good of the Order,” “Good of the Fraternity,” “Good and Welfare” or “Gavel Sessions,” during which brothers are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings. An Iowa junior told me that in his chapter, which requires each brother to say “Love and respect” after his turn, a member confided to the group in 2017 that he was depressed and feeling suicidal. During the ensuing conversation, an older brother told the group: “It’s O.K. to cry. It’s O.K. to open up. You don’t have to ‘be a man.’ That’s just a societal thing that shifts people’s views and promotes harmful stress.”
.. Fraternities that demonstrate a pattern of bad behavior should absolutely be shuttered. But what about the good actors? Few universities — or media accounts — distinguish between what academics refer to as high-risk and low-risk fraternities. Both exist. In a 2015 Sociology Compass article, Kaitlin Boyle, a professor at Virginia Tech, noted that on measures of sexual aggression, hostility toward women, and drinking frequency and intensity, members of low-risk fraternities did not differ significantly from non-Greek students. She concluded, “It is only the groups easily named as ‘high risk’ by students that contain the values, norms and practices that increase women’s risk of sexual victimization.”
Those are the chapters we see in the news, though they do not represent most fraternity members, many of whom told me they were sick of the stigma of being associated with what they called “rapey” students.
Colleges’ push to eliminate all-male groups is indicative of higher education’s overall dismissal of the needs of boys and men. Universities glorify the masculinity embodied in men’s athletics, largely ignore the emotional needs of their male students and then denounce “toxic masculinity.” But most aren’t providing the spaces or resources to encourage boys to learn about healthy ways to be men.
In a 2010 study, Professors Harris and Harper wrote that “student activities, resources, and courses offered on ‘gender’ are almost always about rape and sexual assault, empowering and protecting the rights of women.” You can’t prevent rape and sexual assault, however, without talking to, and about, men. Jason Laker, an education professor at San Jose State University, called “college masculinity” a “linchpin issue,” but said that student-affairs professionals are not “trained in this aspect of student psychological development, which is where the trouble is.”
In a 2011 call to action, the education experts Jim O’Neil and Bryce Crapser pointed out the fundamental problem: “The real challenge of the profession is to fully accept vulnerable college men are a special group that need our help and support.”
Today’s young men are coming of age at a time when we are renegotiating what it means to be a man, which presents new challenges, reopens old wounds and creates additional reasons for students to seek out brotherhood.
.. To promote a healthier campus culture, colleges could stipulate that all-male groups make their membership more racially and socioeconomically diverse, perhaps by offering scholarships to cover dues, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. Schools could require fraternity members to attend a several-week course about healthy masculinities led by an outside party and workshops on violence and sexual assault prevention, which studies have found are more effective in male-only groups.
..Rather than assume that every all-male group promotes misogyny, schools could support those that don’t. Examples abound. Christian Milano, a junior and member of Alpha Sigma Phi at Seton Hall, is working with a sorority sister at his school to create a sexual-consent education program for Greeks nationwide. Mr. Milano said he has “spoken with brothers numerous times on how to be active bystanders, how drinking culture plays a critical part in fostering an environment that encourages assault and how to be empathetic to victims of assault.”
Some chapters are going as far as they can to treat women as equals. In 2018, a Pennsylvania chapter of a Jewish fraternity changed its bylaws to start a “nonmember recognition program” that includes women, though national rules don’t allow them to attend chapter meetings and rituals. “I consider myself a feminist,” said Adin Adler, a senior and brother who championed the program. “We feel like, rather than a fraternity, we are a community of people.”
How tensions in the leadership of the protest movement burst into the open.
After the divisiveness of the 2016 election, the Women’s March became a major symbol of unity. But two years later, a rift in the movement has grown.
Accusations of anti-Semitism against leaders of the Women’s March organization are overshadowing plans for more marches.
Much of the recent controversy has centered on one leader’s ties with Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam.
As a result of the conflict, two competing protests of the Trump administration will be held in New York City on Saturday.