Apparently a new study shows that academics chosen to write op-eds for three major newspapers are overwhelmingly male. The Wall Street Journal was the worst of the bunch, with 97% of their op-eds by academics written by men.
The study doesn’t get into the fact that this gender bias isn’t limited to op-eds by academics. At the New York Times (which features 82% male writers of op-eds by academics), two out of 11 regular op-ed columnists are women. At the Washington Post, two out of 16 columnists are women.
Now, I don’t necessarily think that having more women write op-eds would be helpful to women. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is a woman, and her ramblings seem to alternately expound on how ridiculous she thinks other women are and questioning the masculinity of any man who doesn’t act like a complete asshole. However, I do think that this extreme disparity shows that editors buy into the cultural belief that when men write, what they have to say is more important than what women have to say. As this overview of the climate for women in academia notes:
In one study, first done in 1968 and then replicated in 1983, college students were asked to rate identical articles to specific criteria. The authors’ names attached to the articles were clearly male or female, but were reversed for each group of raters: what one group thought had been written by a male, the second group thought had been written by a female, and vice versa. Articles supposedly written by women were consistently ranked lower than when the very same articles were thought to have been written by a male.
So basically, if you’ve got a woman’s name, you’ve got to write better than the men if you want to be considered as good. Add to that the fact that editors want to hear about “important” issues and not “trivial” ones like us ladies are so concerned about (you know, “women’s issues”), and you get 90% of your editorials written by men.
I have a theory that the last jobs to be democratized to include oppressed people are those that hold the most power, and getting to control cultural dialogue and representations is one of the biggest kinds of power you can get. That’s why women never get to direct movies and it was so imperative for white corporateland to co-opt and gain control of popular hip hop.
These biases are replicated in the world of intertubes too. There are more women blogging than men, but go ahead and check out the blogroll and rec list on any blog that isn’t specifically devoted to feminism/womanism.
It might be a fun project to force various forms of media to include women’s voices at a 50-50 ratio. In the meantime, I’ll be getting ignored over here on the feminist blogs until I can attain the brilliance of Nicholas Kristof’s gender analysis.*
*Note: I have no problem with Nicholas Kristof, who has recently taken an interest in violence against women and sexism. I’m glad someone with the kind of visibility he has is addressing these issues. We need allies, however imperfect. What I have a problem with is the fact that dozens of women have made the points he is making, with more depth, nuance, eloquence, and understanding of interlocking oppressions, but they were ignored.
- Literature: Not Enlightened Yet by The Girl Detective July 12, 2008
- “Check Your Privilege At The Door” – Entering women-only spaces as a man by SnowdropExplodes June 12, 2007
- Of playbooks, emulators and ‘people’ by SnowdropExplodes June 11, 2007
- Breaking through the “Celluloid Ceiling” by KaeLyn August 3, 2008
- What it was like… by Rosanne August 29, 2007