In collaboration with the Invisible Institute
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At the “Navigating the Pink Ghetto” event, four established female journalists gathered to ask why “women’s issues” are often sidelined in mainstream media. In a discussion that covered gender, race, age, and class divisions; how men “bluster” in short, punchy op-eds while women practice “intellectual primping” in deeply researched feature articles; and where women and minorities get their authority, one of the most provocative questions of the night had to do with diction.
Annie Murphy Paul, an author and contributing writer to TIME magazine, called for a change in the language used to discuss so-called “women’s issues,” and asked whether women writers are segregating themselves by using terms like “the pink ghetto” and “women’s topics”? After all, aren’t health, education, and economics topics everyone should be concerned with? It was also pointed out that the real “Pink Ghetto” was decades ago when women writers almost exclusively covered the four Fs: food, fashion, furniture, and family.
Indeed, Pamela Paul — features editor of the New York Times Book Review —noted the TIME magazine cover stories that fly off the stands tend to be on “soft” topics like those on tiger mom Amy Chua and breastfeeding. And it is certainly not only women buying all those copies.
Katie Orenstein, founder and CEO of The Op-ed Project, noted that though women are the majority of readers in America, the majority of editors, writers, and book reviewers are men. This certainly seems to vary by subject matter, however, in that women have a strong presence in “soft topics” like health and education but are less often found covering “hard news” such as foreign affairs, politics, and economics.
Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate, said she feels that many women have difficulty owning their authority on an issue and admitted she’d had to take the expensive route of law school to feel she could speak from a place of authority. Bazelon also said in her male-dominated Twitterverse, men use social media to promote each other’s work in a way that women rarely do.
This perceived reluctance or hesitation has left women’s voices out of the general dialogue and is one of the key motivations behind panel moderator Orenstein’s The Op-Ed Project, which offers op-ed writing trainings and support for minority writers, most of whom are women. The panelists agreed young women in media need mentors and the older generation of women journalists should take on that role.
In a lively Q&A session, an audience member asked when women will finally just take their authority — men don’t have meetings about “blue” topics, so is it really valuable for women to continue to have meetings labeled “pink”?
A self-described “women’s issues” journalist asked how women can re-brand this discussion to bring men into it. (It should be noted that this “pink” topic evening did have 4 or 5 brave blue infiltrators though, unlike previous “pink-themed” evenings at New America NYC, none of them asked a question during the Q&A.) The all-female panel joked that they didn’t have an answer because there were no men on the panel to comment.
--Miki S. Noguchi is a freelance writer and development economics editor and frequent New America NYC event attendee.
Senior editor, Slate
Contributing writer, New York Times Magazine
ANNIE MURPHY PAUL
Author, Origins and Brilliant
Contributing writer, TIME magazine
Contributor, NPR's MindShift.com
Author, The Starter Marriage and The Future of Matrimony, Pornified, and Parenting, Inc.
Features editor, New York Times Book Review
Founder and CEO, Op-ed Project
Author, Little Red Riding Hood UnCloaked