JRB: What’s the craziest thing you ever had to do at NEWSWEEK?
Nora Ephron: You know, they didn’t give you very much crazy to do there because they didn’t give you almost anything to do. I don’t think I remember ever being given almost anything to do at NEWSWEEK except to make sure whatever man I was checking the work of had gotten it right. But that was the whole problem—you didn’t get to do anything creative. You didn’t get to do anything but check other people’s work and clip newspapers and deliver mail. That was what it meant to be a girl then.
Do you think that culture still exists?
At some magazines, absolutely. But not at others … You know, in the movie business, I’m always surprised to find myself referred to as a “woman director,” instead of just a “director,” because I work the same hours and do exactly the same job that men do.
Do you think that will ever change?
Yes, no question. But I won’t be here!"
K, we know this is really no big deal, but it’s been a rough couple months, so damn if we didn’t get a tickle after discovering that we were on the required reading list for the Clinton Global Initiative’s “Empowering Girls and Women” Action Area. We heart you too, Bubs.
With “the roof having fallen in” on Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, as Howard Kurtz puts it in today’s Washington Post, it’s Rick Stengel’s Time Magazine that’s become, as Stengel puts it, the newsweekly “category of one.”
So how does Time manage to stay profitable while the rest of us drown? Various ways. But one of them has to do with talent—male talent!
While he had to trim the roughly 200-person staff by a quarter over four years, relying more on freelancers, he has assembled a team of high-profile writers. These include a spate of journalists from The Post, including Michael Grunwald, David Von Drehle and Pulitzer Prize winner Barton Gellman. Stengel also brought in Mark Halperin from ABC, Michael Crowley from the New Republic and, most recently, Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek.
Time has lost a few big-name contributors as well, including Michael Kinsley, Andrew Sullivan and Bill Kristol. And Stengel, a speechwriter for Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign, has no prominent conservative to balance liberal columnist Joe Klein.
Maybe we’re a wee-bit sensitive here, but, um, we get it, OK? Great—really great!—men have kept Time going. But what about Nancy Gibbs, who wrote the—as Kurtz describes it—“fascinating look back at the cultural impact of ‘The Pill’”? Or Aryn Baker, the controversial author of the magazine’s recent Afghanistan cover, who Stengel once called “dazzling”? Honestly, the same men making the same decisions and writing about the same men making those same decisions just gets old. Which brings us to this question: could more women have saved Newsweek? More on that to come.
Our colleague Eleanor Clift has a very smart column today about whether Sarah Palin’s Mama Grizzlies are feminists. She writes:
Win or lose elections, the Mama Grizzlies have proven adept at breaking through the noise and getting more than their share of attention, just like their benefactor, Sarah Palin. Like Palin, they have found their voice. They don’t want anybody telling them how to raise their children, or taking their guns away. Thirty years late to the battle for women’s rights, they’re claiming the mantle of feminism.
It’s nice they’re embracing feminism after demonizing the term for so long, and I welcome them to the arena. Let’s see if they can do for women what their sisters on the left have done since the ’70s, breaking down the barriers for women in all areas of American life including politics.
The column, unlike a lot of the discourse on whether or not Palin and others are “feminist enough,” manages to challenge Palin’s politics but avoid the knee-jerk take excluding those whose positions many feminists find objectionable. We agree with Clift: welcome ladies.
Politico’s got a good roundup today of the lack of women on the Sunday talk-show circuit, based on new data from American University showing that women made up just 13.4 percent of lawmaker appearances on the Sunday shows this year.
Thus far this year, the five major Sunday shows — including NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “Fox News Sunday,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union” — have had 148 appearances by congressional lawmakers. Of those, 128 were men and 20 were women.
Ouch. So naturally, the blame-game begins: Is it sexist bookers? Is it not enough women in Congress? Is it women being difficult? Researchers and press-secretaries have accused network bookers of a “men-in-suits” mindset, while the network producers say there aren’t enough women to book. And the women they do try to book, they say, are just so damn difficult to pin down! “I’ve probably asked her 25 times,” the female executive producer of “Meet the Press” says of Nancy Pelosi. “She is just unwilling to do it.”
As for the rest of ‘em…
Sen. Claire McCaskill goes home almost every weekend to Missouri, where family plans often take precedence over Sunday shows. Sen. Olympia Snowe tries to appear via satellite from her home in Bangor, Maine, but it’s a small media market with few studios. Pelosi, Feinstein and Boxer — all key women — live on the West Coast, which would mean that even if a remote shot were possible the taping would have to be early, putting them in the chair as early as 6 a.m. for some shows.
As Politico has written before, there aren’t enough women on Capitol Hill, for sure. But just so we don’t let the media get away squeaky clean, a quick Equality Myth rundown of exactly how shitty media of all formats is doing when it comes to showcasing women.
NEWSWEEK: In 1970, the year 46 women sued the company for gender discrimination, 25 percent of the magazine’s editorial masthead was female. As of March 16, that number was 39 percent—with an overall gender breakdown that’s roughly equal. To its credit, NEWSWEEK has looked critically at itself—in particular, with this story, published earlier this year. But, still: a mere six of NEWSWEEK’s 49 cover stories last year were written by women.
THE WASHINGTON POST: n 2008, an internal Post newsroom study of 1,200 Post stories found that women had been the focus of just 18 percent of them. The same analysis found that “men are quoted almost three times as often as women in the paper.” Last month, the paper sparked a minor blogosphere frenzy when various commentators noticed that, among the Post’s featured columnists on its websites, there were, well, a whole lotta middle-aged white men staring back from their headshots. (Also, there was this.)
NPR: In a piece earlier this year called “Where Are the Women?,” NPR’s ombudsman took to the Web to call out the organization for its painful lack of female commentators. NPR does well when it comes to female hosts—three of five of its major shows are hosted by women; the org has a female CEO and head of the news department. But when it comes to commentators and outside voices, it’s a different story. Of the station’s 104 shows between April 13, 2009 and Jan. 9, 2010, just 26 percent of the 3,379 voices paid to appear on air were women.
Late-Night TV: When David Letterman’s sex scandal was blasted across every paper in town, various outlets reported on the sobering reality that there was not a single female writer on “The Jay Leno Show,” Letterman or “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” Conan’s obviously no longer on the air (and we happen to know that one woman was promoted to writer at Letterman shortly after the scandal) but, um, still.
Sources Overall: A recent report from the Global Media Monitoring Project found that worldwide, women make up only 24 percent of the people “interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news.”
Bylines overall: Meanwhile, no matter that women have been the majority of college journalism majors since 1977, female bylines at 11 of the top political and intellectual magazines, as assessed by the White House Project, are still outnumbered by whopping 7:1.
Media Power Overall: A 2007 study by Free Press found that while women comprised 51 percent of the U.S. population, they owned less than 6 percent of television stations and 8 percent of all full-power commercial broadcast radio stations.
(Ed’s Update: For the record, SheSource—a database of 500-plus women experts on virtually every topic, maintained by the Women’s Media Center—is a great resource for combating this reality. Check it out, we should have thought to include it earlier!)
Who are we forgetting?
By 2024, Foroohar writes, the average woman will outearn the average man (even with the wage gap!). But what’s shocking is that more companies haven’t tapped into that spending power.
The most obviously female-oriented sectors, like food, packaged goods, and apparel, do a decent job of appealing to their core customers. (Remember the Dove ads from a couple of years ago that celebrated all sizes of female bodies? They drove up soap sales 600 percent.) But there are still many industries—cars, travel, health care, and consumer electronics—where women are neglected in product development and marketing, even though they make the majority of purchasing decisions. “A lot of the people making these decisions at top firms are still older men,” says demographer Maddy Dychtwald, the author of Influence, a book on female economic power.
Better catch up, fellas. Women are going to control the majority of the world’s income over the next decade—and as Rana puts it, they’ll be buying a lot more than $800 gold heels.
Yup, that’s really the title, of a real book, published in 1980, by Casey Miller and Kate Swift. “It sometimes takes a well-turned ear to make appropriate choices from among the everyday words,” the authors write. And so, they offer practical examples, and advice, to solve the subliminal messages of words. They trace the evolution of “man,” advise on the propriety of girl v. gal, question whether housewives should be referred to as “working women” (“What are housewives, if not working women?”), and examine the double standard of describing women by appearance. It’s a copy editor’s wet dream. A few interesting tidbits:
- What standard English usage says about males is that they are the species. What it says about females is that they are a subspecies. From these two assertions flow a thousand other enhancing and degrading messages, all encoded in the language we in the English-speaking countries begin to learn almost as soon as we are born.
- In old english, the word “man” meant person, or human being, and was applicable to either sex. For example: Ercongota, the daughter of a sevent-century English king, is described in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as “a wonderful man.”
- Nonparallel terminology is common in side-by-side reference to the sexes, and it always seems to work one way: at women’s expense. When a radio newscaster reported that “Three Stanford students—two girls and a man—were abducted from a research station in Africa” the implication was that the “girls” were less mature than the “man.”
- Emphasis on the physical characteristics of women is offensive in contexts where men are described in terms of business or other achievements, like this newspaper ad: “Engaged: Lee Radziwill, 46, fine-boned younger sister of Jacqueline Onassis, and Newton Cope, 56, San Francisco hotel and real estate millionaire…”