Hey, gals, can you bloviate?

An interesting debate has erupted nationally over the lack of women among the punditry. Katha Pollitt (niece of our own celebrated Dan Pollitt) wrote in the April 4 Nation about recent reports including one that only 20% of the LA Times op-ed authors were women. The Washington Post has only one woman among its 19 pundits and only 10% on its op-ed page.

Pollitt quotes the NY Times' Maureen Dowd that there are "plenty of brilliant women.... We just need to find and nurture them." To which Pollitt replies "Oh, nurture my eye. It may be true that more men than women like to bloviate and 'bat things out'--socialization does count for something. So do social rewards: I have seen men advance professionally on levels of aggression, self-promotion and hostility that would have a woman carted off to a loony bin--unless, of course, she happens to be Ann Coulter."

Our local media seem to do a lot better on that front. It's hard to count up the CH Herald's columnists given their often erratic appearance but my sense is that women slightly out-number men. The CH News rotating crew of Village Voices gives the impression of both diversity and balance. The archived list of WCHL commentators, does seem to lean slightly in the male direction.

Then there is our beloved orangepolitics. Although Ruby is herself a prolific writer, OP has only managed one posting from its one other female author. Nonetheless, I think Ruby has done a great job encouraging civil, reasoned discourse and discouraging blovation for its own sake. This can be seen in the often robust discussions to which many voices contribute.


To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner: “the rural Babbitt who bloviates about ‘progress' and ‘growth'” (George Rebeck).



Selecting women columnists is an editorial decision. Any local media outlet that does not have gender parity among it's columnists isn't trying. As someone who's been tracking this issue for more than a year, it's my observation that the content of women-written opinion pieces here locally is generally more socially oriented than political. There's also a scarcity of Hispanic and African-American voices--regardless of gender.

A couple of other interesting references on this:
Slate: http://slate.msn.com/id/2114926/
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting :

I can name one media outlet that was only too happy to jettison one female writer and seems to keep only voices that don't stir the pot too much ... ;-)

WillR just alerted me to this post. I posted a similar story from FAIR on my blog.

I think Pollitt nails it w/ her comment about social rewards. Anybody who in this day and age looks askance at a woman offering an opinion or expert analysis because of her sex is, frankly, sad and a relic. One's sex obviously has nothing to do with one's ability to acquire expertise. One's gender and the accompanying system of social rewards is another issue altogether.

A culture which promotes and reinforces humility, sacrifice, compromise, and conflict-avoidance in one sex (guess which one) does not necessarily create a huge pool of aggressive, self-promoting, competitive bloviators in that same group as a general rule.

This does not mean, of course, that these categories are static or that prescriptive notions of "femininity" or "womanhood" have to be determinant. They don't. Ruby grew up in the dominant culture, and she's a strong, confident, opinion-ready woman, bless her.

The question that strikes me as more interesting (and possibly relevant) is whether bloviating is desirable at all? Maybe bloviating is the relic here and women who don't fit that pattern are the smart ones. Are blogs/new technologies the way for women to get out from under this staid Op-Ed paradigm? The democratizing aspect of these new technologies makes me think so. Any thoughts?

AE is certainly on to something. I will return to Pollitt for her additional comments:

Deborah Tannen pointed out in the LA Times, there are many ways to write political commentary. Not every male columnist is a fire-breather, an instant expert, a tub-thumper, an obnox. Think of the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. or USA Today's Walter Shapiro, both mannerly and sweet-natured to a fault. Some columnists use their perch to do crusading reporting--Bob Herbert's great strength--to tell stories, to analyze ideas and policies, to ask questions, to skewer received opinion with wit and humor. And then there are the ones who just drone boringly on. Surely there are women capable of that!

Pollitt also has something to say about blogs:

Washington Monthly blogger Kevin Drum mused upon the absence of women bloggers and got a major earful from women bloggers, who are understandably sick of hearing that they don't exist. "I'm staring you right in the face, Kevin," wrote Avedon Carol (sideshow.me.uk), "and even though you've said you read me every day you don't have me on your blogroll. It's things like this that make me tear out my hair when people wonder why women are underrepresented...." There are actually lots of women political bloggers out there--spend half an hour reading them and you will never again say women aren't as argumentative as men! But what makes a blog visible is links, and male bloggers tend not to link to women (to his credit, Kevin Drum has added nineteen to his blogroll). Perhaps they sense it might interfere with the circle jerk in cyberspace--the endless mutual self-infatuation that is one of the less attractive aspects of the blogging phenom.

Interesting discussion at this forum.


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