The Other Charlotte and I went ballistic on Friday over Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan’s nasty–and obviously politicized–take on the dressy pastels that Jane Sullivan Roberts, wife of Supreme Court nominee John R. Roberts, chose for herself and her small children on the occasion of President Bush’s formal announcement of her husband’s nomination, on a day on which both temperature and humidity in Washington exceeded 90. (See TOC’s “Robin Givhan Strikes Again–It?s the Roberts Children This Time” and my “Necco Wafers,” both July 22).

Givhan’s review dripped contempt, as she compared the three to Necco wafers and Jelly Bellies and complained that the pink-clad Jane Roberts was merely playing hoity-toity Jackie Kennedy-style by dressing little Jack in a short-pants blue seersucker suit and Josie in a yellow frock with socks and Mary Janes. TOC and I deemed the trio perfectly attired for a summertime solemn occasion.

Inky reader K.W. weighs in:

“Robin Givhan is a mean woman and her attack on the Roberts family just shows that. However, I have to say that I was privately horrified by that blue sissy suit on the little Roberts boy. As much as I revere Jackie Kennedy those short pants still make me cringe.”

Please don’t cringe, K.W: The kid is only 4 years old! Sure, if his mom had put him in a pink suit instead of a blue suit, or decked him out in Little Lord Fauntleroy lace and long curls, he?d look like a sissy. But little boys aren’t men, and dressing a little boy like a tiny version of a grown man is just as inappropriate as dressing a little girl like a tiny version of a grown woman. What Jack was wearing was a classic Eton suit, with short pants and no collar, which is correct dressy attire for pre-adolescent boys.

You are perhaps influenced by the revolting new Bridezilla custom of dressing ring-bearers at weddings in miniature tuxedos–which makes them look to me like organ-grinders? monkeys. Remember that boys large and small wear shorts all summer for play these days–so a switch to a short-pants suit for dressy occasions shouldn’t strike them as girly.

Speaking of Roberts, reader-blogger Book Worm responds to my take on the National Organization for Women’s hysterical web-page threatening that women will die if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. (See “Filibuster This,” June 20.) The NOW web-page contains photos of seven women (is that all?) who supposedly died in illegal abortions since 1929–even though two of the women perished long after Roe was decided. Book Worm, who is pro-choice but anti-hysteria, notes that she blogged on this very topic a couple of weeks ago. Here’s an excerpt:

“My point is that, as long as NOW and NARAL, and all these other abortion groups ground their arguments in pre-1973 sensibilities about the stigma of unwed motherhood, we will never have an honest debate about abortion in this country in 2005. And for them to hide behind their hope of liberal judges to avoid that debate is just, well, lazy, shocking and dishonest.”

Bookworm’s implicit point is that if Roe is overturned, Americans will finally have a chance to decide through their legislatures which kinds of abortions they deem acceptable and which kinds they don’t. And that is that very kind of “choice” that NOW and the other abortion fanatics want to deny women. 

Reader “Annette” comments on our ongoing discussion of the newest Grand Theft Auto video game containing an easily unlockable explicit sex scene (Warning: Watch out!). The Entertainment Software Ratings Board refused to switch the game’s rating from “M” (for “Mature”) to AO (for “Adults Only”) until several large retail chains announced they wouldn?t sell the product containing the scene. (See “Here’s What the Entertainment Industry Deems Suitable for Kids,” July 21, and the Mailbag for July 22.)

Says Annette:

“First, GTA was not developed for kids. It was developed for the older folks who play video games. If children play this (and I consider kids under 16 children) game, then the fault lies with the parents who will not review the games that they play.

“I am a mom of a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old, and I have played all of the games that they currently are now playing and I keep abreast of the new games as they are released….

“There are so many games out there that are suitable for kids that there is no reason for anyone under the age of 16 to be playing this. The key here is that a “M”-rated game is just that–mature, not meant for children, and parents need to step up to the plate and make sure that they are aware of the games, music, books, movies, and other entertainment available today. It is a difficult and time-consuming job, but one that comes with being a parent.”

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Annette, about parents’ obligation to exercise eternal vigilance over what their children are exposed to in our sex- and violence-drenched media culture–and I congratulate you for taking your responsibilities seriously.

Nonetheless, parents ought to be entitled to rely on a ratings system to guide them in selecting appropriate video games for their children. And the ratings ought to mean what they say. If a product is suitable only for adults, it should be labeled “AO.” And even teen-agers shouldn’t be exposed to titillating scenes of casual sex offered as a reward for heroic behavior. The game manufacturers, however, clearly shun the “AO” rating in the way that movie distributors shun an “X” (or whatever its sanitized new initials are these days). Family-oriented stores such as Wal-Mart and Target won’t distribute such products–so the game manufacturers try to slip as much as they can under the “M” door–and you get something like Grand Theft Auto, a game that no teen-ager of mine would ever be allowed to watch in my home. So we essentially have a video-game ratings system that can’t be trusted.