Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How To Succeed in Journalism by Towing the Anti-feminist Party Line

There's exactly one female columnist currently working for the Washington Post. She is Anne Applebaum, and she would prefer we not mention that she is the only woman columnist at the Post. She would also prefer that we not point out that women are grossly underrepresented on editorial pages across the country. You see, it makes her feel bad. It makes her feel like a token. She worries that now that the issue has been raised, women who do get columns will wonder whether it's because they're women, not because they're smart. Of course, she's not overly concerned about all the smart women who are wondering whether they didn't get columns because they're women. After all, Anne Applebaum played the game right: she's right of center, she writes about appropriately tough, "serious" issues, and she only writes about feminism to dismiss feminists as silly and frivilous. She's got her column: why shouldn't she concentrate on her own fee-fees, rather than considering whether that opportunity is open to any woman who deviates even slightly from the tough, right-wing, anti-feminist stance that women must adopt if they're going to have any chance of being taken seriously by the big boys?

The thing is, Anne Applebaum isn't wrong to worry about being perceived as a token. She rightly points out that it's unfair that women are expected to write about "women's issues," for instance. But that wouldn't be true if there were more women op-ed writers. It wouldn't be assumed that the one woman must be filling some sort of women's slot. The solution to her problem is to get more women op-ed writers, not to make the frankly ludicrous suggestion that we should all shut up about how few women editorial writers there currently are. One wonders on which other subjects Applebaum thinks we should practice self-censorship, or for that matter on which subjects she censors herself. And you've got to wonder how competent she could have been when she was covering real news. Journalists are, it seems to me, in the business of airing information, not covering it up for the good of society. If she doesn't want to be a token, she should worry about why she's the only woman columnist on her paper, not shoot the messenger who pointed out that fact.

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