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WHERE TO BEGIN!
Esquire magazine dropped a real humdinger of a cover story this week for its March issue focusing on the life of an American boy at 17 years old, which will be part one of an ongoing series about growing up in America today. But not any American boy, mind you, but a white, straight high school senior named Ryan from West Bend, Wisconsin-—a clearly very under-represented slice of the country.
Ryan likes video games, sneakers, hunting, and his girlfriend Kaitlyn; who he has been dating since the eighth grade. He doesn’t subscribe to cliques or go to parties and generally tries to keep his head down. A moderate conservative, Ryan also supports President Donald Trump, and doesn’t understand what the big deal is with feminism, or the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements.
“Everyone hates me because I support Trump?” he at one point asks the interviewer. “I couldn’t debate anyone without being shut down and called names. Like, what did I do wrong?”
I also ask him about Trump’s reputation as a misogynist. “He is respectful towards his wife, as far as I know,” he says. “I don’t think he is racist or sexist.” Then again, he thinks the president tries to piss people off a little too much. “Sometimes I think it’s funny,” he says, “but I guess it’s really not that funny in the end.”
It’s unclear why they chose this boy in particular—a picture of white male privilege who is entitled enough to not just be unaware of the issues facing the world today and how they affect his peers, but lament about how this makes him an outsider.
Although Esquire will ostensibly feature a more diverse sampling of teens in future installments, the fact that this issue, in particular, dropped right smack in the middle of February, Black History Month, seems particularly glaring.
As such, the piece was immediately dragged on Twitter by people pointing out the fact:
*inside Esquire conference room*
Esquire CEO: “we should probably do a cover story for black history month, any suggestions?”
Editor: “there’s a white boy in Wisconsin who’s sad”
Esquire CEO: “run it” pic.twitter.com/g4XN5AB6TP
— Father Sean Misty (@seanieviola) February 12, 2019
Because you know what we don’t discuss nearly enough? The white male experience. 🤦🏾♀️ pic.twitter.com/HTbq4wK1TJ
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 12, 2019
dropping this during black history month is just *chef’s kiss* pic.twitter.com/0N2qLyKoHw
— Zach Stafford (@ZachStafford) February 12, 2019
— Deb Jannerson (@DebJannerson) February 9, 2019
— Alicia Hannah (@aliciamhannah) February 12, 2019
I get what Esquire was going for here but ooooooooooooh boy talk about failing to read the room pic.twitter.com/OUzy3GJdI1
— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) February 12, 2019
i'm sorry, but i think this cover is very brave pic.twitter.com/G7VAF3TJrM
— Erik Hinton (@erikhinton) February 12, 2019
Esquire Editor-in-Chief Jay Fielden defended the choice in a separate piece about the problems with “ideological echo chamber,” in which he praised Ryan for his courage in speaking so openly about his life.
“I know what I can’t do,” he says, with some understandable frustration, at one point in the story. “I just don’t know what I can do.” I suspect that although quite a few adults would agree, not many would have the guts to say it out loud.
The struggle is real, etc., etc.
Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.