Dudes, shut up. Ladies, you were saying?
Date posted: Friday, July 6, 2012
The shocking reality of our male-dominated media.
We can probably agree that it’d be shallow/narrow/limiting if you were to get all of your news from one publication. So why do you rely on getting most of your news from one sex?
Simple answer: Because you don’t have a choice. Men dominate the world of news reporting and op-eds. Last year, women wrote 35 percent of all articles in The Atlantic, 26 percent in The New Yorker, 17 percent in Harpers, and 12.5 percent in the New York Review of Books. Among all op-eds published between September and December, women wrote 24 percent in The Los Angeles Times, 22 percent in the New York Times, and 19 percent in the Washington Post.
Your news is being written largely by men. Men are telling you how to understand your world and makes sense of your life.
What to do? Should you, as a reader, merely accept the situation and read on? Should you seek out women writers to balance your input? Should you only read female authors on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday to balance out your input? As an editor, say of an upstart online literary magazine called Construction, should you be morally motivated to help narrow the gender gap and make sure that all your political coverage isn’t solely from, say, four dudes?
Without a doubt, said panelists at the non-partisan New America Foundation’s recent forum “Navigating the Pink Ghetto.”
And here’s why, said the speakers from Slate, the New York Times, and Newsweek: men babble, while women contemplate. Men bellow, while women hedge. Men pontificate, while women ruminate. Now perhaps a babbling bellower like me has a place in contemporary discourse, but there’s certainly room for more contemplative ruminators.
“Men feel more entitled to sound off,” said Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon. “Men are prone to blathering.”
“Men’s pieces are full of bluster,” added Pamela Paul, features editor for the New York Times Book Review. “Women care more about blow-back.”
For example, on average women take longer on the standardized tests and in conversation often engage in a kind of “intellectual primping” before giving a response, said Katie Orenstein, founder and CEO of the Op-ed Project, which aims to increase the number of women’s voices in the media. That delayed response might prove detrimental if you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!, but it could be pretty useful if you’re in a nuclear standoff with Iran or simply trading complex financial derivatives.
Orenstein jested that the financial crisis would have played out much differently if Lehman Brothers had instead been Lehman Sisters, which International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagaarde has in the past also noted. “When women are called to action in times of turbulence, it is often on account of their composure, sense of responsibility and great pragmatism in delicate situations,” she wrote in a 2010 op-ed.
The male-female divide looks even worse when narrowing your sample size to more “masculine” topics such as economics and politics, said Orenstein. Women writers tend to stick to the four Fs: family, food, fashion, furniture—which Orenstein labeled the “pink ghetto” of journalism.
Then again, is there anything wrong with wanting to write about food and fashion instead of politics and war? And regardless, why call these subjects the “pink ghetto,” as if a male writer isn’t allowed to dabble in this supposedly girly area, or as if the subjects are somehow cheaper or less valuable than “masculine” subjects?
We need to use a different vocabulary here, said Annie Murphy Paul, author of Origins. By referring to family and food as “pink” subjects, or by relabeling a virtue such as thoughtfulness as “primping,” women also engage in sexism.
“When we call these subjects soft or pink we’re ghetto-izing ourselves,” Paul said. “These topics are just as important and vital as any other. We need to be careful that we don’t relegate ourselves.”
I was happy to see Paul bristling at some of the panelists’ comments, which at times bordered on misandry. For instance, Pamela Paul of the Times stated as fact that “women are better reporters and report in a more thoughtful way,” a statement as narrow-minded and sexist as I’ve ever heard. It also seemed just a tad wrong to blame the male-female news divide entirely on biology, or to typecast all male writers as bombastic blowhards.
That said, there’s certainly value in seeking out the opinions and reports of female writers. When we don’t, I suspect we’re more prone to such ridiculousness as the recent War on Women. “Both political parties are pandering to get the female vote,” Bazelon told me afterward, and neither side has done a good job building real female voter support.
Fortunately, gaining a more informed and thoughtful perspective isn’t an impossible task. It might be even start with paying attention to the bylines on the reports you read and seeking to balance your input with a few female voices.
Here’s a place to start:
Gail Collins, the New York Times
Jodi Kantor, the New York Times
Amy Davidson, The New Yorker
Ariel Levy, The New Yorker
Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast
Rebecca Traister, New York Times Magazine
Lara Logan, CBS News
Anne Kornblut, Washington Post
Judy Woodruff, PBS[pinit]