Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 18, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING....The boys are mostly still laying low on the issue of women on the op-ed page, but the girls are continuing to attack in force. Over at The Nation, Katha Pollitt throws cold water on the idea that women are put off by the combative nature of the political opinion world:

It may be true that more men than women like to bloviate and "bat things out" socialization does count for something....[But] the tiny universe of political-opinion writers includes plenty of women who hold their own with men, who do not wilt at the prospect of an angry e-mail, who have written cover stories and bestsellers and won prizes and whose phone numbers are likely already in the Rolodexes of the editors who wonder where the women are.

This is true, but I think it also glosses over an important point. Sure, there are plenty of battle hardened female opinion writers, but, by definition, we only see the ones who are comfortable in the fray and their numbers are fairly small if Dahlia Lithwick's experience with comparative submission rates is any guide. I think a lot of women the ones we don't hear from really are put off by the tone and substance of opinion writing, and we do them a disservice by pretending they don't exist. There are plenty of issues in play here, and we should do our best to honestly identify all of them, not just our own favored subset.

Over at NRO, though, Cathy Seipp blames the problem on women themselves:

The uncomfortable fact is that women just seem less interested in politics than men. No one's preventing women from subscribing to policy-wonk magazines, for instance, but the readership of these is still mostly male.

....There's more to political commentary than just saying you feel bad about something that typically female emotional-reaction-as-argument is one big reason why the op-ed pages are still mostly male, although so far everyone but City Journals fearless Heather MacDonald has been too polite to even hint at it.

Sorry, but I'm not touching that one. Take it away, commenters.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare's Sister is pissed:

Were not going to get anywhere as long as the male bloggers who post about this issue continue to do so with such appalling intellectual dishonesty. In private emails, male bloggers who publicly wring their hands about how to solve the problem of the dearth of women bloggers in the upper echelon, will admit that the reality is the difficulty of finding women worth linking to.

Women dont give me much linkable material.

Women write on subjects that dont interest me.

Women dont know how to compromise on abortion rights.

Why dont women post about Social Security? It affects them, too.

Women dont write commentary, dont come up with new ideas.

Gender politics is all secondary issues.

The day I see any one of those notions let loose for open debate on one of the blogs authored by a man who holds those opinions is the day we might actually get somewhere with this discussion.

Consider it done! In fact, some of those points are ones I myself made to Shakes but I'm not going to tell you how many of them or which ones. See if you can guess.

In any case, I think the overarching question this brings up is one that Shakespeare's Sister and I have also discussed but then dropped because we ran out of steam: what are "women's issues"? Isn't the war in Iraq a women's issue as much as a men's issue? How about abortion? Is that a women's issue? Or is it equally a men's issue?

In other words, if men complain that women spend too much time blogging about "women's issues" and I know that some of them do and if women complain that men spend too little time blogging about women's issues and some of them do we better figure out what we're talking about. This might be a long settled question in academic circles for all I know, but it's probably not for most of us denizens of the blogosphere. So chat away in comments and let's see if we come up with anything.

Kevin Drum 1:16 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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