WNYC asked Longform to pick great stories as background reading for our 30 Issues in 30 Days series. These are stories that help illuminate and humanize the important issues this election year. Part Five of 30 Issues looks at "social issues" -- from abortion to gay marriage, race, guns, and gender. See all the guides here.
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Who Wears the Pants in This Economy?
Hanna Rosin | The New York Times Magazine | August 2012
How the Great Recession affected the gender gap.
While millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last decade, jobs in health, education and services have been added in about the same numbers. The job categories projected to grow over the next decade include nursing, home health care and child care. Of the 15 categories projected to grow the fastest by 2016 — among them sales, teaching, accounting, custodial services and customer service — 12 are dominated by women. These are not necessarily the most desirable or highest-paying jobs. But they do provide a reliable source of employment and a ladder up to the middle class. It used to be that in working-class America, men earned significantly more than women. Now in that segment of the population, the gap between men and women is shrinking faster than in any other.
Why Women Still Can't Have It All
Anne-Marie Slaughter | The Atlantic | July 2012
Slaughter's controversial essay on the difficulties of balancing work and life - and the policy solutions that can help women. After you read her original essay, read the Atlantic's full collection of responses and context.
I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.
Jill Lepore | The New Yorker | November 2011
Planned Parenthood finds itself at the heart of a political firestorm.
The fury over Planned Parenthood is two political passions—opposition to abortion and opposition to government programs for the poor—acting as one. So far, it has nearly led to the shutdown of the federal government, required Republican Presidential nominees to swear their fealty to the pro-life lobby, tied up legislatures and courts in more than half a dozen states, launched a congressional investigation, and helped cripple the Democratic Party. What’s next?
Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives
Mimi Swartz | Texas Monthly | August 2012
An assessment of Texas's strict new abortion law, eighteen months in.
Houston Representative Carol Alvarado strode up to the podium. There could have been no clearer contrast: her pink knit suit evoked all those Houston ladies who lunch, its black piping setting off her raven hair. Her lipstick was a cheery shade of fuchsia, but her disgust was of the I-thought-we’d-settled-this-in-the-seventies variety. “I do not believe that we fully understand the level of government intrusion this bill advocates,” she said tersely. The type of ultrasound necessary for women who are less than eight weeks pregnant is, she explained, “a transvaginal sonogram.” Abruptly, many of the mostly male legislators turned their attention to a fascinating squiggle pattern on the carpet, and for a rare moment, the few female legislators on the floor commanded the debate. Representative Ana Hernandez Luna approached the back mike and sweetly asked Alvarado to explain what would happen to a woman undergoing a transvaginal sonogram. “Well,” Alvarado answered helpfully, “she would be asked by the sonographer to undress completely from the waist down and asked to lie on the exam table and cover herself with a light paper sheet. She would then put her feet in stirrups, so that her legs are spread at a very wide angle, and asked to scoot down the table so that the pelvis is just under the edge.” At this point, if there had been thought bubbles floating over the heads of the male legislators, they almost certainly would have been filled with expletives of embarrassment or further commentary on the carpet design. “What does this vaginal sonogram look like?” Luna asked, ever curious. “Well, I’m glad you asked,” Alvarado answered, “because instead of just describing it, I can show you.” And so the state representative from Houston’s District 145 put both elbows on the lecturn and held up in her clenched fist a long, narrow plastic probe with a tiny wheel at its tip. It looked like some futuristic instrument of torture. “This is the transvaginal probe,” Alvarado explained, pointing it at her colleagues as she spoke, her finger on what looked like a trigger. “Colleagues, this is what we’re talking about. . . . This is government intrusion at its best. We’ve reached a”—she searched for the word—“climax in government intrusion.”
The Road to Gay Marriage in New York
Michael Barbaro | New York Times | June 2011
The political and personal appeals that led to the final Senate vote.
The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed. But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition. And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap.
The Red and the Black
Makkada B. Selah | Oxford American | March 2011
On Black Republicans.
My mom spends a lot of time online. There, she’s not only found links to groups like the Frederick Douglass Foundation, but she’s also found at least a few other people who share her politics via blogs, such as Elizabeth Wright’s “Issues & Views,” which Wright describes as “a black conservative’s place for independent thinking and common sense—a little oasis for those who got caught up in the momentum of the civil rights movement, but failed to discern the false from the true.” But few African Americans would see the “momentum of the civil rights movement” as a major problem today. African-American Republicans, then, in an irony of history—an irony that my mom, for one, would certainly be uncomfortable with for all the special status the word minority implies—may be among the smallest minority of all minority groups in America today.
Fear of a Black President
Ta-Nehisi Coates | The Atlantic | September 2012
On the promise and reality of Obama's first term.
The irony of Barack Obama is this: he has become the most successful black politician in American history by avoiding the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear, by being “clean” (as Joe Biden once labeled him)—and yet his indelible blackness irradiates everything he touches. This irony is rooted in the greater ironies of the country he leads. For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government. In warring against that paradox, African Americans have historically been restricted to the realm of protest and agitation. But when President Barack Obama pledged to “get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” [in the Trayvon Martin case] he was not protesting or agitating. He was not appealing to federal power—he was employing it. The power was black—and, in certain quarters, was received as such.
For President, a Complex Calculus of Race and Politics
Jodi Kantor | The New York Times | October 2012
An Obama biographer describes how President Obama walks the racial line.
Vigilant about not creating racial flash points, the president is private and wary on the subject, and his aides carefully orchestrate White House appearances by black luminaries and displays of black culture. Those close to Mr. Obama say he grows irritated at being misunderstood — not just by opponents who insinuate that he caters to African-Americans, but also by black lawmakers and intellectuals who fault him for not making his presidency an all-out assault on racial disparity.
Jill Lepore | The New Yorker | April 2012
America arms itself.
The idea that every man can be his own policeman, and every woman hers, has necessitated revisions to the curriculum: civilians now receive training once available only to law-enforcement officers, or the military. A six-hour class on concealed carrying includes a lesson in “engaging the threat.” N.R.A. Basic Personal Protection in the Home teaches “the basic knowledge, skills, and attitude essential to the safe and efficient use of a handgun for protection of self and family” and provides “information on the law-abiding individual’s right to self-defense,” while N.R.A. Basic Personal Protection Outside the Home is a two-day course. A primer lasting three hours provides “a tactical look at civilian life.” This raises the question of just how much civilian life is left.
The Secret History of Guns
Adam Winkler | The Atlantic | September 2011
Gun control hasn't always been a Right-Left issue.
Indisputably, for much of American history, gun-control measures, like many other laws, were used to oppress African Americans. The South had long prohibited blacks, both slave and free, from owning guns. In the North, however, at the end of the Civil War, the Union army allowed soldiers of any color to take home their rifles. Even blacks who hadn’t served could buy guns in the North, amid the glut of firearms produced for the war. President Lincoln had promised a “new birth of freedom,” but many blacks knew that white Southerners were not going to go along easily with such a vision. As one freedman in Louisiana recalled, “I would say to every colored soldier, ‘Bring your gun home.’”
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