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 email@example.com.)