1904 Worlds Fair
  • 1904 World’s Fair

Reading the comments that follow my first Bleader post on Rachel Shteir’s notorious book review, I spotted this intriguing observation.

It’s not unusual for people to look for rivals (real or imagined) to measure themselves against or to strive to outdo. Many Chicagoans look at the bigger, more prominent NYC this way; when it comes off as needy and defensive, it’s not attractive. But Chicago is hardly alone in this dynamic. St. Louis feels this way about Chicago, Kansas City feels this way about St. Louis, Wichita feels this way about Kansas City.

Where would the world be without the hierarchies that define the place of corporals in combat and salarymen in Tokyo? Yet I think the thoughtful author of the above would agree that the dynamic is not simple. For instance, what is this defensiveness that Shteir’s review unleashed? Is it Chicago’s defensiveness about New York, or its defensiveness when accused of being defensive? It’s one thing for us to be obsessed by the bigger city, but another to feel just competitive enough with it that when we’re accused of being obsessed it drives us a little nuts.