Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Public Shaming of Harmon Lee

The longer I'm exposed to discussions of it, the more I see the subject handled by the media, the more I'm convinced "mail-order bride" is one of those phrases that instantly either sends a person into an ideological fit or reduces their intelligence by half.

Harmon Lee, a reporter with the Sacramento News & Review, may arrive here some lonely night when he googles himself for company. If so, he will see that's he is a part of the latter group, or one can only hope -- because that would suggest growth, wouldn't it? The realization that he done did it wrong?

Mr. Lee wrote an article on the "mail-order bride" industry. His editor probably said, "Write an article about mail-order brides," and so Mr. Lee spent an hour or two online, kept the ball game on mute, and wrote this in between bites of cold pizza. It is immmersion journalism, I guess, the writer pretending to call up a marriage agency to see how easy it is to find a wife.

After several rings, a tired-sounding woman with a Russian accent answers.

“I’d like to wed a Russian bride now!” I yell into the phone. “Can I get one delivered next week?”

“Uh, it’s a matter of the agreement with your bride if she wants to come here and live in North America.”

“Can I get more than one?” I whine.

“Yes, you can get many. The more you get, the more you order addresses.”

“But do I have to choose only one bride?” I clarify. “Can I marry many Russian brides?”

“I do not think that is possible,” the woman states flatly, popping my bubble.

“Then choose a bride for me!” I demand. “Now! Choose one now!”

“I don’t know your taste.”

“Red hair!” I blurt.


“Can you get me one with red hair? I WANT A BRIDE WITH RED HAIR!”

“Red hair? We have many girls--aaah, I think--with red hair.” She checks. “Not really red, but reddish.”

“Reddish hair ... OK, that works,” I whimper. “But if she doesn’t like me, do I get a refund? Or, if she doesn’t like doing housework, do I get my money back?”

“It’s a matter of the girl’s likes and dislikes.”

“But there’s no money back if she doesn’t like doing my housework?”


If I were an editor, I would have kept the first line. The rest -- I would have sat Harmon down and said, "Harmon, sit down. We know you're ignorant, but must the article be? Let's get at this with an intellectual fortitude that is not quite presidential, but at least greater than a high schooler dissecting a really good fart joke. What do you say? Can we do that?"

If you want to read more, go here.

I promise a more engaging read in the coming days. A play has been written on the subject of mail order brides, and from the excerpts I've read online, I can only say I wish I was in New York City so I could see a performance.


Russian Brides said...
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Anonymous said...

I agree the article is ill-conceived and has no idea of reality.

in many cases it is not the "mail-order-bride' who is at fault but the "wife-hunter" who has no idea of human relationships or Russian/Ukrainian culture. It is this expectation that a women would come to America sight unseen and marry someone effectively becoming their sex-home slave.

There is a great comedy film called the "Russian Doll". If you can get hold of a copy it is worth watching. It is about a women form the Russian Jewish community that marries a guy sight unseen. When the woman arrive in the country to meet her husband to be it turns out that he died of a hart attack hours before which explains why he was unable to meet her at the airport. Anyway the story takes off from there.

The concept of a "mail order bride" seems to stem from cultural beliefs and practices that go back to before the collapse of the soviet union. Russian Jewish communities "arranged marriages" were common practice (The same practice exists in indian communities also).

I think you have done well highlighting this obvious ill-considered and ill-informed bigot.

Anonymous said...

I think the writers intellect and grasp of the issue is Presidential.

He certainly could be the next President of the United States judging by the current incumbent

The Ranger said...

The man writing this trash needs to be educated and or stomped on. The term Mail Order Bride makes me crazy. The thing that is so bad is, some of the men keep on saying it. It's like they want to brag about about buying a wife.
I guess simple people still have simple ways.

The Author said...

You're right, Ranger. The term is misapplied, and repeatedly so by those who should know better. It's because everyone knows what you mean when you say it, or at least have a better understanding than when you say anything else.

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