Women in Journalism On the Rise, But Not Necessarily Good Feminism?

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question-- 'Is this all?”

Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

Throughout history, women have had a complicated relationship with the Separate Spheres ideology (that women’s “proper sphere” is in the home and caring for children). While some say women should have the same educational and professional opportunities as men and should not be limited to a domestic identity, others say that we must embrace womanhood in its traditional sense and value a stay at home mom as much as a working mother. 

But what about when a woman’s motherhood and career intertwine? Should women be treated exactly the same as men, or do they need different treatment, such as paid maternity leave? It was these questions that stalled the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, and still confound young feminists today.

Over the past six years, women have achieved another bittersweet success: more opinion editorial articles are published by women than ever before, but a significant percentage of them are coined “pink,” or less important subjects. 

Women, because they are more active on the Internet, are far more active in the new media (which tends to be digitally-based and more uncensored) over legacy media, such as traditional newspaper and magazines, by a margin of 33% vs. 20%. 

Over the past six years, we’ve seen increases in women’s writing by 6% in the New York Times, 9% in the Washington Post, and 4% in the Los Angeles Times. However, the majority of these articles are considered soft news. Over the past few years, cooking blogs and articles about food have become more popular. 67% of food articles in the new media are written by women.

However, men write the large majority of subjects that are considered important news, such as the economy (80%), national politics (79%), media (75%) and security (84%). Whereas 67% of food articles 68% of family articles, 69% percent of style articles, and 75% of gender articles, are written by women.

Female journalists are well represented in higher education (they write about 38% of the articles), but then what happens when they graduate? OpEd Project founder Catherine Orenstein told Poynter that “it isn’t so much that news organizations aren’t featuring female contributors; it’s that women aren’t contributing in the first place.” More women shy away from working in general interest topics.

Is the problem that women aren’t covering dire issue such as media, the economy, or government, or that the issues they are covering, such as gender and family aren’t considered important? For the most part, these “girly” issues are not actually as crucial as political and current events articles. 

Vanessa Grigoriadis, a National Magazine Award winner, disagrees: “I think that on an idea level, being a woman does work against you, because what you’re interested in is not what your editors are necessarily interested in. Right? They’re baby boomers living in Manhattan. They’re interested in something different.” In response to pitching a story about a facialist who was scamming her celebrity clients, “people were looking at me like, ‘what are you saying?’ like, ‘Why? What’s interesting about this?’”

While I think it’s important to have entertainment publications, such as tabloids, or magazines directed at specifically men or women, I think current events should be valued more. To be a progressive, well-informed country, we need to accept the fact that, while they may be traditionally male dominated, current events and politics are more important than style or family. While asserting that women “have their place” in the news world by writing pink subjects, we are exacerbating the sexist assumption that women do not write crucial and politically relevant articles.