Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Women's Voices

by Edd Doerr

Following is a letter of mine that was published in the May, 2, 2005, issue of The Nation:

"Re Katha Pollitt's 'Invisible Woman' ['Subject to debate,' April 4]: Last fall I tabulated by gender the letters to the editor in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Washington Times -- 529 letters over 19 days. The percentages of writers, by gender: 73% by men, 27% by women. The breakdown for women by paper was: New York Times, 31%; Washington Post, 26%; Washington Times, 15%. The study was hardly scientific, but it showed that the number of letters by women was related to how liberal the paper is."

From June 18 through July 6 I repeated the survey for the New York Times and the Washington Post, a total of 311 letters. Gender breakdown: New York Times, 32% by women; Washington Post, 29% by women. Again, while this survey was hardly scientific, it seems rather clear that women are grossly underrepresented on letters pages, just as they are underrepresented in Comgress (17%), state legislatures and elsewhere.

Now look at what is happening in Congress and state legislatures. In addition to all the other mischief by Republican majorities, massive assaults are being made on women's reproductive rights and public education that had no chance even last year, assaults too numerous even to summarize.

Urging organizations to prod women into more political and letter-writing activity for years has done little good. But in these rough and tumble times women will either get active or get squashed by the forces of religious fundamentalism and malignant patriarchalism. Run for public office, support EMILY's List, whatever. But don't let the guys in the black hats and robes continue to get away with the Kinder, Kueche, Kirche (kids, kitchen, church) domination.

By the way, it would be interesting if some readers would similarly tabulate the gender of letter writers in such papers as those in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, etc. I would be pleased to coordinate such an effort. (Reach me ar


Don Wharton said...

Great point Edd. Why would any woman support conservativism when one of it major planks is the abolition of important rights for women? The only women who allowed to voice their opinions in that circle are those such as Sarah Palin who mindlessly support such doctrine even when the results are obviously negative.

To her (semi)credit she and her family do walk the walk with their appalling policy of no exercise of choice even in cases of significant genetic dysfunction and/or scumbag males conniving their way with female reproductive anatomy. In one case with her Downs syndrome child and in the other case with her daughter who will get little help from her immature lover. Does anyone think that in either case the results would be a good as would be the case with a little better discretion?

Don Wharton said...

I guess a major point with my comment above is that it might not be the totally the fault of the media choosing what to print. The women might be choosing to not voice the coservative opinions. I am sure that the message to woment to just be quite is also part of this difference.

lucette said...

OK men. With all due respect, I would like fewer comments about women, what they think, what they what, how they vote...
And please remember the binary thinking. Women are not all in the same box and any generalization of the type "women this, women that..." is ridiculous, and extremely irritating. I will not even mention sexism. Please substitute "some women" to the binary "women."
Are all women clones of either Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?

Edd.Doerr said...

Don and Lucette: I have read too many letters pages for too many years to believe that the shortage of women's voices is a matter of editorial censorship. (This ain't the UK where Bertrand's Russell's wife could not get a book published under her own name but only as MRS Bertrand Russell.) I repeat: women have to step up to the plate.

You are right, Lucette. Women are not all alike. Look at the disgusting Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann (whose husband believes that the male should always tell the female what to do and how to think), or Phyllis Schlafly (whom I had the pleasure of throwing under the bus in a debate at Converse College several years ago), or the hoards of women who have been indoctrinated by what I have terned a malignant patriarchalism. Far too many guys have brainwashed their wives and daughters into being submissive for far too long.

By the way, let me connect the dots in my essay a little better. Women not only have a stake in the battle over reproductive choice, but they damn well better take a strong interest in the renewed furious battles raging over tax aid to religious private schools though vouchers and tuition tax credits. Over 80% of nonpublic schools are run by conservative religiois bodies, and of these the overwhelming majority are run by churches that strongly oppose abortion and even contraception and generally insist on male domination. In other words, ladies, shut up and pay taxes to support private schools that brainwash the kiddies to deny you your basic rights.

Don Wharton said...

Edd Thanks for the clarification. This is clearly a very important issue. How can Michele Bachmann even run for President if she is selling this garbage that men deserve to be leaders simply by virtue of being male?

Don Wharton said...

@Lucette Edd and I are very clearly discussing a defined subset of women (conservatives). The patriarchal idiocy embedded in much of conservativism has multiple layers of repression built into it. We are discussing the impact of that repression and certainly not making any general comments about women.