Silent Femmes

Lest anyone think I hadn't seen it: Amy Sullivan addresses the "gender gap in punditry."

Political magazines—with the notable exceptions of The Nation and Salon—are run, edited, and written by men (indeed, the masthead of our own magazine, which has launched some of the sharpest pens in journalism, includes only four female names in the list of 36 former editors; that's 11 percent.) Even in that brave new democratizing world of blogs, the professional bloggers all have names like Mickey and Eric and Andrew and Josh.

As a female editor at a political opinion magazine, I've bucked this trend, but I've also worried about the absence of women's voices in my field. With a paltry 10 to 20 percent of opinion pieces in major newspapers written by women, surely editorial page editors could improve their percentages without lowering their standards. Is it the case, however—as Estrich's righteous, old-style-feminist “let us in the door!” cry would have it—that the problem is mainly one of gender bias? When I considered whether to take this job, one of the first questions I asked was why there had been so few female editors at the magazine. The response—women just don't apply for the job—was both surprising and unsatisfying. The disturbing truth is that women's voices aren't rare in political discourse because of blatant sex discrimination; they're rare because women don't raise them. But that's because women themselves have been raised to feel ill-at-ease in the rough-and-tumble, male-dominated world of political expression.

Sullivan traces this phenomenon back to elementary school classrooms and notes that several notable female commentators -- "Meg Greenfield, Molly Ivins, Ellen Goodman, Anna Quindlen, and Jodie Allen" -- went to women's colleges. Women have to buck their socialization, their teachers' biases, etc. and speak up, Sullivan argues. I want to say more about this article, as well as Dahlia Lithwick's piece, Michael Kinsley's, and Kevin Drum's latest, but I have more pressing things to do right now, unfortunately.


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Safe Spaces?

I gotta say, Sullivan's title is inspired. And as someone who lives twenty minutes from two of the Seven Sisters (and less than two hours from five of the seven), I'm interested in the socialization issues: a colleague and I were talking about the uses of women's colleges, and she suggested that keeping women separated from men in higher education hinders their ability to deal with the politics of discrimination after college. My counter-argument was that women's colleges offer a safe space for women to pursue whatever learning goals they have away from the often sexist structures of gender-integrated education: I had one student who was the only woman in her chemical engineering course.


Not Only OpEd Pages: TV as Well

At Jame Wolcott notes that in the coverage of the Pope's dying and death, the commentators adrone on cable news are all, "priests, priests, priests," or other variation of white males.

No nuns. No women. No one from the third world where the church is growing.

Nick Carbone
nick.carbone at gmail dottydot com

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