Do you like Maureen Dowd? Do you think she accurately represents your views or, even, some views of women other than your own? How about Peggy Noonan? Not so much, huh? Well, you're going to be hard-pressed to find other women on your Op-Ed pages, according to a new study from Rutgers University, which shows that Op-Ed writers are overwhelmingly male. Does that sound familiar? It sounds really familiar to me.
Look, on the scale of apt criticisms, it's probably true that, Susan Estrich aside, not as many women as men are out their pitching their work. Believe me, it's hard! It involves a great deal of rejection but, unlike in dating, you have to turn around and ask the person out again and again. Plus, frankly, a lot of Op-Ed submissions are written by committee, done at an organization and then bylined as its head because the head dude (and, let's face it, most organizations' leaders are men) is more likely to get attention than a VP of either gender — unless, of course, the female VP is writing about girl issues.
The Rutgers Study cited by the Times points out that most editorial pages accept submissions that more or less agree with their editorial viewpoint. If you want to publish a conservative OpEd on economic issues, you don't go to the Washington Post, you go to the Wall Street Journal — any PR guy will tell you that — and it's not because of the readers you want but your likelihood of acceptance. Who runs most editorial pages? Men. It makes it worse that OpEd pages are, like most things in journalism, pretty incestuous. If they know you (or recognize you), your piece is more likely to get published and you're more likely to be published again in that venue.
The final thing, that I have to admit a dude pointed out to me, is that women who write about politics are rarely considered just "political writers" but female political writers, or writers about women's issues. Do I feel like I come at politics from a particular female perspective? I'd have to say no, especially when I'm geeking out in Crappy Hour about economics or something. On the other hand, where is my work featured 90% of the time? Here and on Glamocracy mostly, which says a lot about who likes to read it, or at least who my brilliant editors know likes to read my work. So while I appreciate the efforts by the Washington Post or the LA Times to feature more women writers, I am forced to wonder nonetheless why it's so hard to find women writers in the first place, and what about our voices supposedly appeal more to women or men.
(By the way, I submitted this article to the Gender Genie and it determined that I write like a man. Maybe I should start submitting OpEds with just my initials?)
Study Finds Imbalance on 3 Newspapers' Op-Ed Pages [NY Times]
An Op-Ed Need for Diverse Voices [Washington Post]
Why Are All The Big Political Bloggers Men [Glamocracy]
A Very Public Opinion Exchange [LA Times]