Women need to step it up

by Beacon Staff • April 5, 2006

I thought perhaps this trend would change, since March was national Women's History Month. Sadly, it did not.,You would never know Emerson College was populated mostly by women if you judged by the number of opinion pieces written by women in The Beacon.

I thought perhaps this trend would change, since March was national Women's History Month. Sadly, it did not.

There was the occasional female-penned piece, but overall, women's opinions remained sparser than sprinkles on a stale cupcake.

Women's History Month led me to anticipate a resurrection of female opinions from the cavernous hiding holes in which they have been hibernating.

I imagined an entire month of considering alternative points of view brought up by educated women writers. Since March began, however, there have not been enough women stepping up to the challenge of transcribing what seems to be more than just an Emerson problem.

If March signifies the celebration of women and what they have to say, then where are they?

According to columnist Anne Applebaum of The Washington Post, "only 10.4 percent of articles on [The Post's] op-ed page in the first two months of [2005] were written by women, 16.9 percent of the New York Times's op-ed articles were by women and 19.5 percent of the Los Angeles Times's op-eds were by women."

Applebaum goes on to state that this fact made her feel lonely. I, on the other hand, am just disappointed.

The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz acknowledged this issue in a Dec. 2005 article in which she, like Applebaum, expressed her confusion with the limited female sources for op-ed pieces.

In Schultz's article, she writes, "As my own editor warned me when I first started writing a column, at least a fourth of the ugly mail will be from men who think I have no business getting paid to give my opinion. Darned if he wasn't right, too."

For Schultz, the "ugly mail" caused her to grow a thick skin, but for many women, the idea of being negatively judged is a nightmare.

The only solution is to learn to take some risks. Who knows who you'll inspire or what contributions to women's continuing historic narrative you can make?

Washington Post president and publisher Katherine Graham took risks when she printed the Watergate stories of Woodward and Bernstein.

Ida Tarbell took chances when she crafted early techniques of investigative journalism. These examples alone should motivate women to take risks and write what's on their minds.

Unfortunately, Graham and Tarbell have apparently not been a source of encouragement to women writers, a fact that not only saddens but frustrates me.

An entire month is dedicated to the existence of women and their contributions, which is something to be inspired by. Yet there are precious few contributions being made.

Where then should that inspiration come from? March is the one month that we as women should be more prominent in media sources, including our own Beacon, and there is no excuse for why it hasn't occurred.

Do women fear not being respected because they may, at times, articulate a less-than-desired opinion? Without more female opinion writers, women are sending, with a deafening echo, a strong signal conveying indifference.

It is as if women are passively yielding to a world dominated by male opinions. It makes one wonder what happened to the feminist movement.

Even when women do write opinion articles, there is a forced balanced element to their pieces.

A provocative statement is made and then in order not to offend, there's a counterbalance point.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) tried that during his 2004 campaign and it didn't work for him. So ladies, leave your balancing act at home.

If the point was to be "fair and balanced," it wouldn't be called the opinion section. Without women's voices, what exactly did we celebrate in March?

If women continue to be absent in thought-judging by their existence in the opinion pages-then perhaps we shouldn't celebrate HERstory Month at all.

If women want to demand acknowledgement, they must produce something to admire.