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Did A Man Write That?

In honor of the recent Selena Gomez ‘Vogue’ profile, take our quiz to see if you can figure out when a man is writing about a woman, a woman is writing about a woman, or Rob Haskell is being a horndog

Yesterday, Vogue revealed its April cover story, a profile of Selena Gomez after a three-month mental-health break. In classic Vogue cover story tradition, the article is written by an older man — Rob Haskell, the man previously responsible for writing that Cara Delevingne's bisexuality was a "phase" — who is, somehow, simultaneously patronizing and pervy toward his young female subject. According to Haskell, Gomez is a delicate vase on the verge of shattering into a thousand pieces, a "doll-like" and "startled" (but, like, in a hot way) womanchild who does not know how to tie her own apron, a depressive whose sadness and "enchanting incongruities" (not, you know, her work) endear her to her millions of fans.

As is often the case when old white dudes write things about women, the story reveals more about Haskell than it does Gomez. Somehow, over the course of a couple thousand words, Haskell manages to both infantilize and sexualize Gomez, insult Emily Dickinson's legacy, imply that Gomez's fame is "mystifying" to anyone over 30, work in a reference to Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, make up meaningless phrases like "battle-ax laugh," and force Gomez to cook him cheesy potatoes to prove that she's "real." Here's the skin-crawly passage, though, that truly made me battle-ax die:

"As I slip an apron over her mane of chocolate-brown hair, for which Pantene has paid her millions, and tie it around her tiny waist, I wonder whether her legions have felt for years the same sharp pang of protectiveness that I’m feeling at present. Even as she projects strength and self-assuredness, Gomez is not stingy with frailty."

I'll give Haskell this: "sharp pang of protectiveness" is certainly the most creative way I've ever heard a man describe his raging hard-on.

Near the end of the profile, Gomez shares her experiences with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a mental-health technique that she says has changed her life. Whether incidentally or because she noticed Haskell's throbbing pang of protectiveness, Gomez describes the pressures she'd previously felt to fit into a certain female stereotype — the kind forged from decades of magazine profiles and scripts and novels written by men about women. "We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who’s down," she says. "We also need to feel allowed to fall apart."

Vogue isn't the only glossy magazine guilty of this sort of thing — sending a white-haired male (rather than, I don't know, just spitballing here, a woman?) to profile a beautiful young actress and then publishing some kind of low-key Lolita sequel. In the spirit of having a nice battle-ax laugh, let's revisit some standout profile passages of yore and see if we can figure out whether they were written by a man or a woman, about a man or a woman.

1. "There is always, with X, an air of naughtiness mingled with an air of surprised pleasure at X's own naughtiness. Is it a public accommodation, almost reflexive at this point, to the three years of prurient attention that have accompanied X's star turn opposite X in the film adaptation of X, as well as its two sequels? Or is that amused titillation — the taste for a sex joke, and really any joke — among the qualities that earned X the role of X in the first place? ... We are now sitting at lunch at a restaurant in West Hollywood, in a room where a preponderance of the women sport lacquered lips and pronounced curves. Amid such overtness, X's cool-X looks don’t register. And yet very likely most people here have seen X naked. A lot."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

2. "X's language bursts with metaphor. Sometimes it seems X has an infinite number of ways to describe a single thing — just in case X hasn’t already been clear, which, almost invariably, X has. X calls Xself a midwife delivering buildings to their mothers, or a shaman manifesting in the real world elements of the spirit world. X calls architecture the art of turning fiction into fact; X inveighs against mausoleums of the status quo. Paola Antonelli, an architecture-and-design curator at the Museum of Modern Art, won’t go so far as to call X a showman, though X certainly is one."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

3. "X gives me a longer, closer hug than I’m expecting, but then we did jump out of an airplane together; we did free-fall at 120 miles per hour together ... Slight and deceptively low-wattage, X is the most X in the room whom you might not even notice at all. (And though X starts shooting the next week, X is far from a bursting physical specimen; X flexes X bush-league biceps and laughs.)"

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

4. "X's musings have something to do with the fact that X has been reading The Surrender Experiment. 'It's about the basic notion that we are only in a good mood when things are going our way,' X says. 'The truth is, life is going to unfold as it's going to unfold regardless of your input. If you are an active participant in that awareness, life kind of washes over you, good or bad. You kind of become Teflon a little bit to the struggles that we self-inflict.' ...This here — this stuff about surrendering, letting life unfold, taking the leap — this is why X wanted to go skydiving. It's why that sixteen-year-old took the leap and did the summer in New York; it's why X took the leap and turned down the nine-picture deal; it's why X got Dodger. Surrender. Take the leap."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

5. "X is 26 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way but in a minor knock-around key, a blue mood, a slow dance. X is blonde but dark at the roots. X is tall but only with the help of certain shoes. X can be sexy and composed even while naked but only in character ... X wandered through the room like a second-semester freshman, finally at ease with the system. X stopped at tables along the way to talk to friends. I don’t remember what X was wearing, but it was simple, X's hair combed around those painfully blue eyes. We sat in the corner. X looked at me and smiled ... I asked X about the sex scenes …. We sat for a moment in silence. X was thinking of something; I was thinking of something else."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

6. "X talks like a X who knows things, who understands the physics at play. Drawn from instincts developed as a high-level athlete (twelve years spent on the British national diving team), lessons learned working the stony streets of London, axioms earned while living on thick and rubber-banded cold rolls of cash, everything X says stinks of truth. Not the truth. Not core truths, necessarily. A truth. Shit X's father taught X. The college of You Gotta Get By. Inarguable, really. Everything declares: X wasn't made in the Hollywood Hills. X came from elsewhere, and it doesn't bother X all that much to remind people of that. It's a real past."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

7. "It is X's full-time job to make you feel privy to X's secrets — that you are getting to see (or gently squeeze) a very special part of X's enchanted world. X's the progenitor of a new kind of fame. While a celebrity, X doesn't have the luxury of an actor to request that X's personal life remain private, because X's personal life is what pays X's bills. X deploys radical transparency about X's life not just because X wants to, but because X has to; the continued viability of the X brand demands it. As a result, X is working wherever X is, whatever X happens to be doing, because being X is X's vocation. And X is very professional."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

8. "I turn my tape recorder off and I stand up, but X doesn’t. X shakes X's head again, X's hands clasped together, and X hangs X's head. I sit back down and we talk some more because I finally understand that X isn’t here as someone who needs to explain X's side in a PR battle; X is here as someone who is still crushed by the end of a relationship. So we sit and talk for a while. We talk about how relationships go sideways, how the ripples of a breakup can still pin you to a wall even months later. We talk about heartache. We talk about sadness and healing. We talk about what it’s like to love and what happens when the object of that love withdraws but all your love is still there. We talk about how those things can really change a person. The world will chip away at your optimism, and you just have to fight back. You have to be someone who is still full of joy and full of love, who can still use a word like 'obsessed' about porridge. You have to be bold and open. You have to be honest."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

9. "But you can't take your eyes off X. X is the only person here worth watching. Tall, wearing an X, X hair, a smile that you believe …. X puts X's mug down and smiles some more, and X claps the awkward clap again and crosses and uncrosses X's bare legs. It's beautiful and heartbreaking — X glows up there, but she's way overdressed for the party ... (X has long fingers.) X talks while X tinkers. Sometimes it looks like X is talking to the apples, but usually X stops cooking when X is making a point, then returns to seasoning X's fruit … X jams a few fingers into the hot apples and licks them."

Written by: Man or Woman?

About: Man or Woman?

10. "X is a homebody. Even when X is touring, X tries to sleep in X's own bed, picking the shortest distance to one of X's three residences and flying home in X's private jet after shows. 'It’s not a bad gig,' X deadpanned. You might not know it from X's public persona, but X is funny; X has a dry, ready wit. I told X about the strange man who was seated next to me at the concert the night before. He looked to be in his early forties and was wearing a X T-shirt covered with X pin-back buttons. He announced that he was alone and had driven to Nashville from Oklahoma for the show; he filmed the whole concert on his phone, mouthing every word to every song with unnerving intensity. 'He’s probably in a file somewhere,' X said."

Key:

1. Rob Haskell/Dakota Johnson

2. Rob Haskell/Bjarke Ingells

3. Rob Haskell/Alicia Vikander

4. Maximillian Potter/Chris Evans

5. Rich Cohen/Margot Robbie

6. Tom Chiarella/Jason Statham

7. Caity Weaver/Kim Kardashian

8. Taffy Brodesser-Akner/Tom Hiddleston

9. Ryan D'Agostino/Blake Lively

10. Jody Rosen/Taylor Swift