More on the Moron

Shame on me. For all my complaints about Maureen Dowd, I somehow failed to notice that she was the only regular female columnist at The New York Times. For that, shame on the Times. In her column today Dowd points out that the Washington Post also has only one female regular.

The situation is actually worse than Dowd thinks, for the number of good female columnists at the inappropriately nicknamed “Grey Lady” is actually zero. Double shame on The Times. Her call for more female columnists is worthy of heeding. And I won’t deny there’s some truth to her complaint that

[w]hile a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it’s seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I’m often asked how I can be so “mean” – a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn’t get.

My personal observation is that this gender bias has been reduced since the advent of the blogosphere. Maybe the popularity of forums where men and women can post and comment on an equal footing, without having to worry about making a boss or editor happy, has encouraged more opinionated women to speak out (anonymity can be a benefit too), and maybe men are seeing that they can have heated discussions with female antagonists just as easily as they can with fellow men.

Whatever the cause, I believe Dowd is wrong about bloggers. Female bloggers may not equal their male counterparts in numbers (yet), but the female contributors to the blogs I follow (such as the multiblog Blogcritics and the wide-ranging Making Light) are at least as vociferously opinionated as the men.

As for her audience, Dowd notes that although she gets a lot of mail from male readers wanting her comments on their opinion pieces but that “women hardly ever send their own rants.” I suspect that’s because the women are too smart to waste their time corresponding with an intellectual pipsqueak like Dowd. Maybe it’s only men who’ll waste their time reading and reacting to the poor writing and unclear thought processes of such a pundit-wannabee. Only men – like, um, me. Hey – did I just prove my point, or refute it? Hmm…

2 thoughts on “More on the Moron”

  1. Jon, good points but WaPo had two other female writers, Mary McGrory and Marjorie Williams, both of whom recently passed away. I think an interesting perspective on the issue is raised in Anne Applebaum’s March 16th op-ed piece in the Post.

  2. This topic was covered on NPR sometime in the last few days. I got busy and didn’t end up listening to much of it, but my initial reaction was “Huh?”

    I can’t speak to the numbers of female columnists in traditional newspapers, but there are lots of women now who blog their opinions on a wide range of subjects–including (ahem) me. AOL Journals and LiveJournal in particular have a large proportion of female bloggers. Not many are exclusively (or even predominantly) political, but there’s never any question of not wanting to seem pushy or man-hating.

    (Shrug) Maybe it’s a generational thing. There may indeed be more expressively opinionate males than females in the blogosphere, but it really doesn’t look that way to me. Easy access may be the great equalizer here. Traditional media, in which established managers, editors and bean-counters are still there to guard the gates, may be inherently more conservative. I’m not saying that anyone is deliberately keeping women out, but in general, it’s still hard to break in at a newspaper or tv station. But anyone who doesn’t fear and loathe computers can have a blog, and express opiinions to anyone willing to read them.

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