Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 24, 2005
By: Katha Pollitt

PRIDE, PREJUDICE, BLOGS....I'm getting quite a bit of email from people following this discussion. Two women I think frame the outlying positions very well. One tells me she sent a query to a book review editor, got a polite rejection, and hasn't tried that editor again. Was that gendered behavior? she asked. Yes! I answered. Men are unbelievably persistent they pester, they bother, they come back again and again. They don't care if the person they are bombarding likes them or even likes their work. They just want to get that plum.

But....then again, perhaps men feel free to pester and women don't because male persistence succeeds and women's doesn't. Maybe pestering is gendered not just in who does it but in how it is viewed he's determined, she's some kind of a nut. I think we know, though, that going away quietly to nurse your wounded pride never works, so I hope women reading this will be bold and resolute and not give up. And take Amy up on her invitation!

Another woman gives the other side of the coin. She describes working as a journalist at a small newsweekly she describes as "a hard-core boys club": "It was only after several years that I realized that the reason the newbie boys were getting the scoops and I wasn't was not because of my reporting skills but because my editor was handing them the sources."

It's true that not every woman editor promotes or helps women writers some pride themselves on being one of the boys, some are queen bees who like being the only woman, some are insecure and rely on male viziers. But I think we're not going to see real diversity in our opinion pages until we see more women with power on the masthead, till we have that critical mass where women with power aren't isolated individuals. The same is true for other marginalized groups African Americans, for example. As long as most editors are white men, "white male" is going to be the norm, the neutral generic unbiased rational person, and women and nonwhites are going to be the extras, the color commentary.

BTW, I admired the ingenuity with which Garance parlayed the tiny number of women at the Washington Post into a virtual torrent of female bylines! I need someone to do that kind of math on my book manuscript maybe it only looks like it's 20 pages long.

Several people wrote to wonder why we are bothering with fuddyduddy old print when cyberspace is where the action is. So about blogging: I try not to spend all day reading blogs, which I could easily do, but the political ones I follow are mostly by women. Before the election, I read male political blogs obsessively, and still get a lot of useful information from them. But how can I say this in a nice way? I find that (present company and all my friends excepted! I am making gross and unfair generalizations here) the voices don't wear well: the range of tones, of topics, of approaches to topics is too narrow, and the mutual admiration society too exclusive: some blogrolls read like those interlocking directorates of railroad companies in the 19th century! There's too much boasting and crowing, too much scorekeeping, too much self-anointment as instant expert and public executioner. If I look at the blogroll and see only male blogs, I assume, perhaps unfairly, that the blogger is promoting a narrow view of politics and boosting his male network and his own career. What a fine point Boygenius made over on nogirlsallowed.com! Thanks for the plug, NumberOneSon!

To me, women political bloggers are so fresh and smart and full of fascinating underplayed news items, not linking to them really is a kind of misogyny. And since linking is so important in raising one's own visibility, Garance may well be right when she suggests that male liberal bloggers shoot themselves in the foot by overlooking women political bloggers, who are disproportionately liberal. (This would parallel the Democrats' inability really to go after women's votes by talking about issues women care about like equal pay, childcare, affordable housing, domestic violence, the whole range of women's health. I mean, weren't you shocked that John Edwards looked as clueless as Dick Cheney when Gwen Ifill brought up the high rates of HIV among black women during the vice presidential debate? It's not some big medical secret but it's black people, and it's women, and it wasn't on the talking points. But I digress.)

More on politics another time.

Katha Pollitt 5:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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