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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

T: The New York Times Style Magazine, February 27, 2011

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem wrote a piece for the New York Times today about female politicians and the gender gap in voting.  It’s a smart, succinct censure of the media for what she sees as a common failure, when talking about women in politics, to separate the serious thinkers and policy-makers from the “sideshows.”  She argues that women vote for women, and men, who represent their issues, which explains why leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Olympia Snowe benefit from the gender gap, while their Mama Grizzly counterparts like Michelle Bachman and Sharron Angle don’t.

Until the media understand that the majority of a constituency picks its own leaders, we’re all in danger of missing the main event.

You know what else makes us in danger of missing the main event, and helps explain a bit about why, as Steinem points out, the world didn’t know more about Gabrielle Giffords before she was almost assassinated in Tuscon last month?

Because pieces like this still end up in the Women’s Fashion section of the New York Times Style Magazine.

I get that Steinem’s writing is accompanied by some lovely black and white photographs of the brilliant (and, yes, quite stylish) women mentioned in the piece.  Still, I spent the whole time reading it actually hoping that she would mention their clothes, because at least then there would have been some tiny relevance to the fashion issue.

See, this ridiculousness actually made me hope that I was reading yet another article about smart, powerful women’s clothing choices.

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I was recently putting together a list of female journalists (no, not just for fun, although it was quite fun), and I’m reminded yet again of how much of a boy’s world journalism is. Except, these days it’s not so much that there aren’t any female writers out there, or that there’s just the one His Girl Friday smacking around the befuddled sexist male reporters in the newsroom. There are women – awesome, brilliant, gifted writers whose articles are always thought provoking and sometimes game-changing.

The problem is where you find them. If you go to the top newspapers, a large percentage of the women you will find there are writing in the Lifestyle sections: food, fashion, design, real estate, women’s issues. I’ll repeat that last one: Women’s issues are in the lifestyle sections. Because men’s issues are, what? Business, Tech, Politics – those all get their own section. But women’s issues are something other, and nebulous, so when you have someone writing on them at all she (and it’s always she) gets stuck in Lifestyle.

Salon, though I’m a fan, is one of the worst perpetrators of this marginalization of “women’s issues.” They have some of the best in the business writing on beats like gender, women in politics and global women’s rights – and they get stuck in the “Life” section. The brilliant Rebecca Traister’s pieces are lumped together with sex advice columns and TV reviews (ok, sometimes she wrote the TV reviews – but then again, TV reviews aren’t always crap.) Last month I spotted one of these juxtapositions that was so ridiculous I had to archive it.


Foreign affairs, violent anti-choice rhetoric, and…smelly beds? It’s like eating a box of Oreos and suddenly pulling out a graham cracker. Neither are bad, necessarily, but they don’t belong in the same box.

And this is their idea of “Life”?

Not to say that Salon is all bad on the women’s empowerment front. The editor-in-chief is Joan Walsh (at least until she steps down in the near future to pursue book projects – and is replaced by a man. Sigh.). They do have smart women writing on interesting and important topics. But compare the number of writers with a Y chromosome on the editorial staff of the Life section (one – the advice columnist, which is awesome in its own right – out of four) to the number of male writers on the News/Politics and Tech/Business sections (four out of four).

This, my friends, is where the rub lies. So, let’s get more women writing, more women being published in the “hard news” sections, and get “women’s issues” out of the Lifestyle sections. Who’s with me?

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