Economy/Economic Policy

Rough Week for 'Stox,' Riots and Even My Junk Mail

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The riots in England, the S and P downgrade and the volatility of financial markets made it a shocking week. What didn't help: The thought of Elizabeth Warren no longer in Washington fighting for the middle class.

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"Crazy stox, like a hooker's drawers, up, down, up." That's how New York Post headline writers chose to characterize the scene this week. Stocks might be crazy but that sexist headline was even crazier. Some of those words were printed across the legs of young woman shown in the cover shot inhaling cigarette smoke and doing her best to look like film-noire vamp. What kind of newspaper puts out a front page like that?

One of our summer interns told us a man on her subway ride that morning had folded over his front page, apparently embarrassed by it. Taking matters into her own hands, our intern called up the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post and lodged a complaint.

I could only think the New York tabloid was envious about its cousin over in London getting all that phone-hacking attention. All tabs need attention, after all. Even if it's the kind that turns you into a joke for Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

Anyway, there I was this week, with all that ugly mail tossed out.

Small satisfaction; given the torrent of ugly news flowing from almost every conceivable corner.

Focus on England's Riots

The story that many of us in the office were focused on this week was the riots in England. We can't see the gender-impact of these events quite yet, but we're looking.

One BBC TV film clip of a hooded young man smashing a flat-screened TV outside a looted store just might seize my memory as the sour image of summer 2011. I don't favor ransacking small shopkeepers or terrorizing and killing people who are trying to stand up for their communities. Who could?

But I do favor asking how we, as societies and mass-media marketers and broadcasters, can keep bombarding people suffering through a long hard recession with images of luxury goods and celebrity lifestyles and not expect some really bad behavior to erupt. To think otherwise is to harbor an inner Hosni Mubarak.

Meanwhile, people who are suffering what turns out to be the shockingly long stretches of unemployment make those of us who still have incomes look lucky.

In June, the average length of unemployment in the United States reached almost 40 weeks. That's the longest since the Labor Department started keeping track in 1948, according to The New York Times.

Compared to people suffering through that, concerns about the long-term viability of Medicare and Social Security remain just long term, at least for right now.

Whatever the rights and wrongs and deeper implications and consequences of England's riots, it's impossible not to see them as a reminder of the bad employment scene confronting young people everywhere, from Cairo to New York.

And that's affecting plenty of young women. One of our summer interns is about to head back to college for her senior year. She told me over lunch this week that she would normally be feeling "stoked" about starting her working life after she graduates next spring. But right now all she sees in her future is uncertainty.

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Corinna Barnard is editor of Women's eNews.

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