Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Does The LA Times Op-Ed Editor Hate Women?

Sometimes editorial judgments can’t be called into question until you notice a pattern. Publish one widely-criticized questionable woman-hating op-ed, and maybe you can just say it’s a goof.

But I’ve been reading the Los Angeles Times op-ed pages for a month now as part of my job’s Women’s Monitor project (wherein we encourage people from across the country to monitor their newspapers op-ed pages and count how many women are published on any given day. Hint: The answer is always few if any) and the LA Times editorial pages really are making me questions if they know how much their editorial choices reflect how much they hate women?

Is any one particular op-ed? Like the one on February 24 by Heather MacDonald that says basically “rape crisis? There’s no rape crisis…its just women having one-night stands and regretting it.” Which wasn’t all that different from (the unfortunately widely reprinted) Meghan Daum’s column which should have been titled “Sluts, I see sluts everywhere! Damn you feminism!”

Or its staff columnist Rosa Brooks who decided to get angry at Hillary Clinton over Elliot Spitzer’s behavior? (But not McCain or Obama…just Hillary).

Or Patty Kelly who seems to think that the model for decriminalizing prostitution is Mexico?! And absolutely not Sweden (which actually might have the best solution for balancing women’s rights and safety). Everything she wrote makes me wonder if actually spoke Spanish to the women she interviewed. Sample bit of cluelessness:

Of the 140 women who worked at the Galactic Zone, as the brothel was called, only five had a pimp (and in each of those cases, they insisted the man was their boyfriend).
I guess she doesn’t know its pretty common for women to think of their pimp as their boyfriend.

Or maybe its having that Elizabeth Wurtzel write about feminism. Here’s a sample:
Feminism, which was meant to be fun, has lately started to seem so sour. Men, particularly married men, often dislike Hillary Clinton, and I suspect that it's because she represents the unsexy wing of the women's movement. She comes across as nearly neutered, as the woman whose husband would cheat on her -- and, in fact, we know he did. But it cannot be the case that we went through all that bra-burning and consciousness-raising to be left choosing between, yet again, the madonna or the whore.
Because feminism today is all about herself and what she can write without doing any research. And, no, having someone write a “Blowback” response column isn’t the right response either. Now it become a pitted debate: “Feminists, do they suck or actually do some good? You decide!”

And sometimes the editorial choices are just stupid. Like the University of Washington professor who felt the need to argue that expecting men to be monogamous is like asking them to be like worms or something. And yes, here’s the rebuttal column they ran several days later.

This seems to be the pattern. Run some terrible outrageous column that discusses some aspect of femaleness or women’s sexuality, and then, as the outraged letters appear, run a response column. Presto! Now you have balance. Something shitty said about women and something said to refute it. Great. I guess as long as you run a response column everything is okay.

It wasn’t until I started counting the day’s columns for the number of women authors (which many days there weren’t any, and many days the only woman printed wrote something derogatory about women’s behavior) that I started to get really angry at the LA Times and what they think their Op-Ed pages are for. What kind of debates and ideas do they want discussed on them and frankly, who qualifies to talk about what subjects.

Sure, Joel Stein writes a really shitty column about women, but if you look at the Op-Ed pages over time you figure out that’s just par for the course at the LA Times. He’s not an outlier, he fits right in.

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