My friend from college is an up-and-coming D.C. print journalist. We’re always checking in and comparing notes about our work. But her latest memo detailed a strange sort of sexism she’s encountered in the journalistic world: “You are a girl,” she told me. “So you’re expected to write about girl things.”
Girl things is short for women’s issues: contraceptives, abortion, parenting, and, yes, the “war on women.” But my friend wants to write about public policy and campaign finance. She has no interesting in writing about the pill. None at all.
“When it comes to a career in journalism, chicks should stick to writing about chicks,” VIDA co-founder and poet Erin Belieu lamented to Mother Jones.
Belieu and her colleagues counted the number of articles written by women in publications like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harpers. Their conclusion: that between 65 and 75 percent of the material was written by men.
And then there’s the issue of who writes which stories. Do men get all the serious bylines, while women write about women’s issues–or worse, fluff? Here’s Belieu:
“A friend of mine defines this kind of intellectual segregation as the “tits and nether bits” ghetto, a place in which women only speak to other women. Meantime, men are allowed and encouraged to speak to whomever they want. We also want to give women writers the confidence to say, “Hey, I can write about whatever I want. I have authority. I have expertise. I have a unique perspective as a person, first and foremost.”
I like covering and reading about women’s issues because I care about them. But I shudder to imagine a journalism career in which writing about women’s issues proved its own glass ceiling.
What do you think? Should women be the people covering women’s issues? And is journalism still a man’s game?