Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« Drug policy FAIL: LSD for cluster headaches | Main | GOP-linked PR flack charged under the PATRIOT Act for air rage »

October 14, 2009

Contrarian Double-X hires sociopath as friendship expert

The self-proclaimed feminist website Double-X shrewdly hired noted sociopath Lucinda Rosenfeld to write its friendship column. This is precisely the kind of fresh, contrarian perspective we've come to expect from the Slate/Double-X brand. 

Double-X racks up a lot of hits by hiring anti-feminists to diagnose the ills of contemporary feminism. Retaining a psychopath as a friendship guru is the logical next step.

Before taking the gig at Double-X, Rosenfeld produced a substantial body of anti-friend literature, including a novel about friends who despise each other (the official website even lets you stick pins in a flash voodoo doll!). She's also the author of How to Dump a Friend (2001) and Our Mutual Friend: how to steal friends and influence people (2004). Clearly, she's perfect for the job.

On Monday, Rosenfeld answered a later from a woman who woke up in the gutter after someone spiked her drink. She later learned that her friends ditched her after she went to the washroom and didn't come back. These same friends later refused to pick her up at the emergency room:

Later, when I called them from the street, sobbing in hysterics and asking for help, they told me to go back to the club and that they would have an ambulance pick me up there. When my mother—who lives 2,000 miles away (and hopped on a plane the next day to be with me)—later called these two friends of mine to beg them to join me while I was recovering, they refused. It wasn't until I told them that the hospital wouldn’t release me until I had someone to drive me home that they came to pick me up. They then angrily drove me to my car, and I drove home alone. By then, it was the next morning.

If the letter-writer were asking me, my utterly predictable, non-controversial response would be to tell her to get some new friends. Plodder that I am, I'd repeat the received feminist wisdom (/ethical person wisdom) that it's very, very wrong to shrug off the abrupt disappearance of a friend.

As for the ER, well, I warned you that I'm really boring. Basically, if you know me well enough to remember my number, drunk off your ass in the middle of the night, I'll come get you at the hospital. Heck, if my number is even in your phone, you can bet I won't just leave you at the county general. Then again, I was raised by hippies and steeped in annoyingly traditional values like loyalty and community. Snore.

Rosenfeld isn't afraid to turn the conventional wisdom on its head. Her advice: Harden the fuck up, loser. Don't expect anyone to rescue you from the ER unless you're related by blood or exchanging other bodily fluids on a regular basis. Please understand that if your rational, self-interested friends seem a little hostile, it's only because they sense it's your fault:

Wow, that’s a tough call. A spouse or even a boyfriend? Yes, it would be his or her duty to haul ass to said hospital at 4 a.m. But your single female friends who are already, presumably tucked in their beddy-bies? I have to admit that, if I got a call like yours (or your mother’s) in the middle of the night, I’d do what I could from home, but would be hard-pressed to jump in my car until morning. [...]

Here’s a little secret. BFFs are great when you’re upset about a boy/sick cat/whatnot. But there are limits to friendship—limits that don’t apply to our romantic partners or close family members. What I fault your friends for is not driving you all the way home the next morning, or at least following you there to make sure you got through the door on two feet. I also wish they’d been a less critical of what was, by your account, a freak incident. Why were they so unforgiving? I’d wager a guess that they think you’re lying about the mickey, tales of which are sometimes used as a cover for irresponsible behavior. (Only you know the truth.)

Being a sociopathic advice columnist is not without its challenges, however. Rosenfeld is perplexed that so many readers are sending her angry emails.

[HT: Jezebel, x-post at ObWi]


Yes, people are being mean to this poor sociopath. I mean, it never occurred to her that the letter writer could have been sexually assaulted! How could you expect someone to put together a spiked drink and waking up alone in the gutter with the possibility of rape? That's like looking at someone with a bicycle, wearing cycling shorts and a helmet, and thinking they intend to go bicycling.

(And yeah, if someone calls and asks for a ride home from the hospital, I'm on my way. Especially if I was stupid enough to ignore their disappearance a few hours before.)

I swear to God, that columnist is trolling the internet. In her follow-up, it says it never occurred to her that the letter writer might have been the victim of sexual assault. As the commenters painstakingly point out to her, 95% of people would pick up friends at the emergency room at 4am.


Rosenfeld's website has a wonderful page on "More About Friendship," which presumably provides solid, textual evidence for her claims that friendship is rubbish, pointless and soul-destroying. She offers spare summaries of classic texts on friendship, beginning with Aristotle, who, she tells us, "takes the position that true defined by a mutual desire for goodness." Rosenfeld concludes her summary with this quip: "whether there are any friendships that actually live up to this description is open for debate!" Aside from the fact she completely ignores Aristotle's concept of "desire" here--that we must always strive for such goodness and that effort is good--she then goes on to offer entirely literal readings of everything from Austen to Amis. Simply because a writer represents a flawed friendship must mean, in her mind, that all friendships are flawed. That's just bad logic. _Emma_, of course, could not possibly be offering some moral instruction to its readers and it's convenient that Rosenfeld completely ignores the fact that Emma has changed by the end of the novel.

Honestly, I feel sorry for her. To move through the world confined to such limits (mental and social) must be very sad indeed.

Thanks for the sharp analysis. I haven't had the nerve to even finish reading that column.

When I heard Slate's XX Factor was becoming a stand-alone magazine, I was excited; I even considered applying for a job there. But from the minute it debuted, it seemed to combine one's fears for an online women's magazine rather than one's hopes. Yes to snark and "contrary" antifeminism and stomach-turning PINK and narcissism; no to careful watching of the scene from the realities of our lives.

Read the Lucinda Rosenfeld article in the morning yesterday. By shear happenstance I was reading up on Hawkwind and came across this on youtube.

If you want to cut to the chase, pick it up around 4:00 minutes in.

Its the first time I ever heard Lemmy (of Motorhead) talk about how he was exited from the Hawkwind. Watch it and consider what role, if any, personality and gender play in this situation.

Just food for thought

Why are all your commenters men?

Actually, Chris and MEA are women.

It's called "perpetuating rape culture" that is. Friends shouldn't notice when someone is missing in the bathroom? They shouldn't care when someone calls them crying and desperate in the middle of the night? What the hell is Lucinda's definition of "friend"?

"perpetuating rape culture"

Would that be Rape or would that be Rape-rape? I get so confused.

The whole thing is disturbing. Why didn't they notice she'd disappeared - why didn't they care?

It's true there are degrees of friendship. But:

If you go out for a night's drinking with someone and they disappear halfway through the night and then call you from the emergency room... I'd say you show up if you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

The only exception I can think of, which Beyerstein hints at, is if this person is in the habit of getting drunk and calling from the emergency room at 4am, in which case anyone might eventually run out of patience. But nothing in the facts says that this was the case.

I've noticed that personal dislike often undermines feminist solidarity. So their choice of a nasty piece of work like Ms. Rosenfeld to lecture on friendship has me wondering what kind of feminism the Double X people espouse. I've heard of "do-me feminism." Apparently, these are "fuck-you feminists." In other words, not really feminists at all. Because you can't be a feminist without supporting women.

SERIOUSLY, check out the Hawkwind link, above. See the thing that comes across is the needs to see more context in certain cases before passing judgment.

Like the drugs. Lemmy did a lot of drugs people and furthermore people spiked drinks all the time (guys as much as women both spiking and getting spiked), it was just part of that scene . People wandered off all the time. When the guys came out of the roadhouse and saw Lemmy was gone, they were probably like "OK there goes Lemmy, again off on some adventure." So he really couldn't get but so mad. And in the end that wasn't the thing that broke them up. They ended up kicking HIM out right because of the speed he was smuggling into Canada. The extra context (plus one look at Lemmy's face) makes a world of difference.

So BESIDES Gender, what makes Lemmy's situation different than this young woman's in our minds. What assumptions are we making?

Mark me down as one of those weirdoes that would get up at 4 in the morning, and has, to just sit with someone who was having a bad trip. If they'd called me from the hospital, I'd have broken land-speed records.

I was appalled.

I'd just as soon remove Slate and Double-X from the entire planet.

That there are a lot of men who slip things into women's drinks in order to incapacitate and assault them. Also, that friends - even friends of Lemmy - are soulless, lazy, self-absorbed assholes if they can just shrug off their friends disappearing and calling them in hysterics from street gutters and emergency rooms.
I suppose you're arguing that this is reverse sexism?

Good God. I've been known to get up at 4am to deal with medical emergencies for people who are barely even acquaintances. If you can identify me well enough that you or someone else can contact me (even if it's as "that girl who lives down the hall from me - the one in the corner room"), the odds are I'll take you to the hospital, take you home from the hospital, hold your hand while we wait for the ambulance - whatever it is you need.

Last I checked it was called "being a decent human being".

I suspect Lucinda's been down on friendship since the first grade. Who'd want to be a friend of that bitch, aside from someone like the hapless writer who discovers her friends aren't friends and proceeds to give them another chance by asking them to pick her up from the hospital.

I suppose it never occurred to Lucinda that by aligning herself with the shitbags in the writer's story, she self-described her own inability to be a friend.

Thank you! To all of you who recognize this as sociopathic behavior. I think there is a pervasive "hip" culture that is barbaric and stripped of humanity. LW's friend, Lucinda Rosenfeld and those who support her at XX perpetuate this culture.

And for the record, I too, would be and have been the friend, or simply acquaintance who would run to the hospital at 3AM if somebody called -- out of common decency.

I have long puzzled over the fact that people with whom one does business are not treated as fellow human beings. ("Don't take it personally, it's only business.") Maybe Lucinda Rosenfeld represents the rebound of the absence of application of the Golden Rule from business back into friendships.

I don't even read Slate's Double X now going on several months. I noticed that they started being the joke of women's thought when they argued that having a short wedding dress was a courageous choice in a whole editorial and that taking a man's name, after going years without taking it, was a way to "gain a family."
Like that's between you and a divorce and your kids wandering in the streets wondering who their real mommy was.

Their editorial position continues along the path of Ladies Home Journal circa 1958, where women have hen parties and secretly hate each other and one up each other on how submissive they can be and it's all about the babies and wifery. They don't understand the difference between the heat of a smart original writer and the heat of "we fucking hate this writer." Fortunately, there is a choice in content on the internets and we don't have to read theirs.

Funny because I like the writings of some of the regular Slate writers. But they moved DoubleX into a separate area - they need to kill it altogether and move their investments into great writing.

So, she wants to limit duties to "spouse or even boyfriend ... romantic partner or close family member." In other words, track those genes and the hell with everyone else. I've always suspected Ev Psych is an attempt to naturalize sociopathy, but it's odd to see it confirmed so openly.

Reminds me of my college dorm mates, who bailed when I was very depressed and feeling suicidal. I ended up withdrawing from that school, taking a gap year and transferring.

It was one of the big Ivies.

The only reason to not jump in your car and go to the hospital is that you may still be drunk from the night of drinking, and you too could have been drugged. I would think the good friend and responsible thing to do would be to call a cab to take you to the hospital, pick up the friend, call another cab to take you both to the friend's place, get you friend settled, then call another cab to take you back home.

The comments to this entry are closed.