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Sister, We’re Doing it For Ourselves


I’m no Katha Pollitt. I’ve never met Katha Pollitt. Katha Pollitt is no friend of mine. But I can tell you, Katha Pollitt is channeling my website.
Pollit, a writer for The Nation, takes up some space on the Washington Monthly to rehash – again – the disparity between men and women writing political opinions.
Only I said it – almost all the women writing on the web said it – last month. And again last week. She says it today.

Ever weirder, Pollitt – who made her name as the in-house feminist at The Nation — makes no mention of any of the conversations that have taken place on the web. Not one line. Instead she concentrates on Susan Estich and Maureen Dowd.
Writing on a website, Pollitt takes the paper world to task. It’s bizarre.
It’s as if she’s taking to the web to let web readers know that The Nation and The Monthly are serious about this whole women thing. Really and truly they are. See. Here they are.
Sigh. Yes. There they are. I’m telling you, my world will never be the same.
The reason there aren’t more women writing opinion pieces are complicated and go to the heart of why we as a society don’t take women’s opinions and points of view seriously. It’s impossible to separate them from one another. That’s one reason why we shouldn’t try. But it’s both facile and silly to say it’s because submissions from men override submissions from women. That’s easily fixed. Particularly if you’re a woman editor.
Why aren’t Pollitt and Washington Monthly editor Amy Sullivan – who also contributed her bit to this debate — making a concentrated effort to recruit, print, encourage and distribute the work of women writers? Who are they – really – blaming here? Or are they instead congratulating themselves for making it through the tough filter that is the sexism inherent in political journalism, particularly political journalism on the left? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?
This site will receive more than 75,000 visits by the end of this month mostly from women. My monthly circulation is beginning — just a beginning but nevertheless a start — to rival the Nation and The Monthly’s paper circulation. And many of my readers — twice what BlogAds has found in its survey of the Big Boy Blogs — are women.
They are here because they are not served by other, traditional publications. Pollitt doesn’t mean to but she surely shows us why.
UPDATE: My pal, Marc Cooper has some comments on all this girl talk and he gently takes me to task – as have some correspondents – for accusing Pollitt for holding up The Nation as a paragon of female hiring. Apart from its editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, I am not as familiar with The Nation’s hierarchy as I used to be so, no, that’s not the point I was trying to make.
I was trying – once again – to get at the relationship that on-line writers have with their Big Media counterparts and I wasn’t as clear as I should have been in part because we’ve visited this territory: the tech-savvy v. the not-so-clued, East v. West Coasts. The attempt by print publications and their writers to classify the on-line world – particularly the unbranded, never-heard-of-’em on-line world – as filled with fruitcakes and nuts.
With all this guest appearance “blogging” and the cable networks interest, we are entering a new age of quasi-respectability for on-line writing. This is a welcome step. But if it continues the same old pattern and reassures the powerful of their top-order status, then we’ve really made no progress, have we? Handled correctly, this exposure can be great for everyone: Bigger audiences, better quality on-line writing, more advertising, blah, blah, blah. But in many cases it ends up being tokenism – a dip in, a look around, a shrug – what’s the big deal? – and quick move back to familiar territory: Print in all its fading glory. It’s great that Pollitt is exploring what’s going on on-line. I just wish she were adding to the debate we’re having instead of bringing a tired old back and forth about print to the vibrancy of the on-line world.
Katha Pollitt has also written in. Here’s her letter.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 4:03 PM | Permalink

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