Friday, March 07, 2008

Where Are the Women?

After the fracas over the characterization of women in the Sunday opinion section of an important newspaper, a prominent feminist calls for a drastic increase in women editors and columnists.

On Sunday, the Washington Post offered, on the front page of its opinion section, two featured essays under a shared headline, “Women vs. Women.” One of those essays was penned by Charlotte Allen, a well-known opponent of feminism, who proclaimed that women were essentially inferior to men in nearly all categories she deemed meaningful, which include driving skills, spatial relations and math (and did not include verbal skills or multitasking).

The torrent of anger that answered the Post’s publication of Allen’s piece was predictable, and perhaps even welcomed by a Web site looking to up its page views. Into this fray stepped Katha Pollitt, the resident feminist columnist at The Nation, who, in her rebuttal today on the Post’s Web site, asked the question we have been begging for some time: If women were more equitably represented on the opinion page editorial staffs of major papers, and as columnists within those pages, would a piece like the Allen essay ever had seen the light of day. From Pollitt’s rebuttal:
Here's a thought. Maybe there's another thing women can do besides fluff up their husbands' pillows: Fill more important jobs at The Washington Post. We should be half the assigning editors, half the writers, and half the regular columnists too (current roster of op-ed columnists: 16 men, two women). We've got those superior verbal skills, remember? Drastically increasing the presence of women isn't a foolproof recipe for gender fairness -- Allen is far from alone in her dislike of her sex -- but I have to believe a gender-balanced paper would reflect a broader view of women than The Post does at present.
In addition, Laura Rozen offers this savvy take on her blog, War and Piece, and Ann Friedman puts forth an excellent send-up at Feministing.

UPDATE: Incidents like this one reminds me is why our Women's Monitor project is so important. We're looking for volunteers interested in tracking their paper's op-ed columns.

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