Thursday, March 26, 2009

Well-Aimed Anger

I wrote about the dearth of women among Op-Ed columnists not that long ago. This beautifully angry letter to the Washington Post makes that point and a few others:

Sunday's editorial pages are presumably the most-read of the week. They should represent the most critical and varied thinking of the week and set the standard for editorial pages. Help me understand the thinking behind the selection of the March 15 writers:

Eleven white guys, one white woman. At least six are more than 60 years old. Four are elected Republicans, but none are elected Democrats, even though the Senate, the House and the White House plus a majority of the governorships are controlled by Democrats. I do not remember Democrats being overrepresented on your pages during their "wilderness years." Quite the opposite.

The letters chosen for publication show the same lack of diversity: six letters by five men and one woman.

Do you think that men submit eleven times as many manuscripts to WaPo than women do? And five times as many letters to its editors? Because one might make some sort of a case in WaPo's defense if that were the case. But I veryvery much doubt that the differences in submission rates are that vast.

I still think that what we are seeing is the odd way women count in the public sector: as a representative of the group 'women'. Hence the soap operas where we have the funny guy and the serious guy and the nasty guy and the old guy and --oh-- a woman or two.

This is not something only newspapers or television shows do. It's almost everywhere! Honest. I've been entertaining this flu by reading books and magazines and newspapers, by listening to foreign news radio stations and by watching television fluff, and the Incredible Invisible Women are everywhere! We are even invisible to ourselves!

Thus, William Saletan is the great expert on liberal views on abortion, Nicholas Kristoff is the go-to-guy on helping the women of the world and the most famous child-rearing experts and chefs are men, too, even though women do most child-rearing and cooking in this world. If this is true in such clearly female-dominated fields, how audible do you think women's voices will be outside those fields?

So I'm angry. Or at least discontented. And yes, I know that the reasons for all this are complicated and not amenable to instant correction, and I also know that matters are much improved from the past in this country. But I'm beginning to suspect that anger is a very important and useful emotion, because it's harder to treat angry women as invisible.