It is a radical upheaval, a national reckoning with massive social and political implications. Across classes, and races, we are seeing a wholesale revision of what female life might entail. We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.
This reorganization of our citizenry, unlike the social movements that preceded it and made it possible — from abolition and suffrage and labor fights of the 19th and early-20th centuries to the civil-rights, women’s, and gay-rights movements of the mid-20th century — is not a self-consciously politicized event. Today’s women are, for the most part, not abstaining from or delaying marriage to prove a point about equality. They are doing it because they have internalized assumptions that just a half-century ago would have seemed radical: that it’s okay for them not to be married; that they are whole people able to live full professional, economic, social, sexual, and parental lives on their own if they don’t happen to meet a person to whom they want to legally bind themselves. The most radical of feminist ideas—the disestablishment of marriage — has been so widely embraced as to have become habit, drained of its political intent but ever-more potent insofar as it has refashioned the course of average female life.
On a recent morning, after checking out a pile of books at the Mid-Manhattan, I headed over to the Schwarzman to sit at an elegant wooden desk in the Allen Room, my work spread out under a pretty green-shaded desk lamp. Before long, someone’s phone pinged and the room grew tense, and I found myself missing the grubby comfort a block and a world away.
What makes swear words so offensive? It’s not their meaning or even their sound. Is language itself a red herring here?
If you’re looking at contemporary France from the outside, by means of the distorting prism of media, you could be forgiven for understanding Paris as a city structured entirely around two conflicting poles. On the one hand, you have the Fox News view of the City of Light turned lawless City of Darkness, a warzone overrun by fundamentalists and dotted with “no-go” areas of hard-core Islamist control, run by Daesh-inspired imams. On the other, you have the vision of the city propagated by films like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, where the city and its heritage exist primarily as a plaything for white, Western elites who spend their never-ending vacations squandering trust funds on lavish meals and illicit affairs while pursuing kitsch quests for the Lost Generation.
The real Paris, as experienced by the vast majority of the French capital’s 2.2 million inhabitants, is considerably more mundane than these polarities suggest. Paris can be a place where extremes collide, as they did, shatteringly, at both the start and the end of 2015, but it is not a city of extremists. For the most part, Paris is a place where radical differences coexist. Watchwords generally include tolerance, cooperation, and “just getting along.” These efforts might not always take place harmoniously, not even necessarily completely respectfully (as the worrying support for the political extreme right in France demonstrates), but most people are, as they are in London, Tel Aviv, and Seoul, just trying to get by, and live their humdrum lives as modestly as possible in the context of the machinations of late capitalism. Belleville, a district in the northeast of the city, is a perfect case in point — it has a large Chinatown, but is also home to significant Jewish, Arab, and Berber populations, living cheek by jowl as they have done for decades, all contributing to the unique, vibrant texture of the local community.
Ramen bloggers aren’t just passive observers of the noodle soup phenomenon: to be a ramen writer of Kamimura’s stature, you need to live in a ramen town, and there is unquestionably no town in Japan more dedicated to ramen than Fukuoka. This city of 1.5 million along the northern coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is home to 2,000 ramen shops, representing Japan’s densest concentration of noodle-soup emporiums. While bowls of ramen are like snowflakes in Japan, Fukuoka is known as the cradle of tonkotsu, a pork-bone broth made milky white by the deposits of fat and collagen extracted during days of aggressive boiling. It is not simply a speciality of the city; it is the city, a distillation of all its qualities and calluses.
Indeed, tell any Japanese that you’ve been to Fukuoka and invariably the first question will be: “How was the tonkotsu?”
From the vantage point of a 19th century lighthouse, a small, slow ship would appear every few months on the horizon. A woman, her husband and their children might look out at the glistening sea in anticipation from their tower: the shipment was finally here. They’d haul supplies from the boat; cleaning rags, paint, milk, and possibly the most awaited item: a thick wooden carrying case with brass hinges, filled with books.