By Brigitte L. Nacos
While I disagree with New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt’s assessment in his latest column that this newspaper’s primary season coverage of Senator Clinton was by and large free of gender bias, I wholeheartedly agree with his conclusion that Maureen Dowd’s column “by assailing Clintonin gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.” More specifically, Hoyt concluded,“Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.”
Dowd has a point in arguing that columnists express their opinions or, as she noted according to Hoyt, “she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.” But even opinion pieces can go too far. And that was certainly the case for Dowd’s relentless “gender-laden assault on Clinton--in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1,” as Hoyt writes.
Since Dowd devoted more than half of her columns in the last
six months to sexist anti-Hillary propaganda, it is not surprising that she
hasn’t yet found another target for her assaults since Senator Clinton threw
Decades ago, the op-ed page was introduced by many newspapers to provide the readers with a market place of ideas within the paper of their choice. The opinion pieces by columnists with different ideological and partisan views are one constant feature of these pages. One would expect that in our time, there would be some kind of balance (no, not quotas) in terms of gender among the newspapers’ own columnists. But the reality is far from it—certainly at the New York Times: Of the 11 columnist listed on the newspaper’s website, nine are males and only two are females! There must be an abundance of qualified males and a scarcity of qualified females, when it comes to select columnists!
As for the second feature of op-ed pages—opinion articles
written by individuals with expertise, such as academics, former or current
public officials, researchers in think-tanks, authors, etc.--, this, too, is
heavily tilted in favor of male authors.
at Rutgers University who examined non-columnist op-ed pieces published in
the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s
largest newspaper, found “that men wrote 78 percent of the academics’ opinion
pieces in The Star-Ledger, 82 percent in The Times, and 97 percent in The
Journal. “Of all our analyses,” the authors wrote, “this is perhaps the most
To their credit, the editors of the New York Times business section published these and other findings of the Rutgers’ study today. But according to the article’s writer, “Editors at The Journal and The Times declined to comment. Josh McMahon, the op-ed page editor at The Star-Ledger, said he was surprised by the conclusions, adding that they did not reflect conscious biases.”
Regardless of whether this particular one-sidedness is the result of conscious or unconscious bias, it is time for these and other newspapers’ editors to think about and act on the gross gender imbalance among columnists and expert contributors on their op-ed pages.
While the views of female columnists and op-ed expert contributors may not differ from those of their male counterparts doesn't matter; the issue here is some kind of equitable representation.
P.S. I just checked the Washington Post's line-up of columnists: Of 23 listed columnists, only two are women!