Part of the problem, part of the solution:

On female bylines. Vogue does a profile on the Syrian first lady, and I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but the excerpts are hilarious (from Max Fisher at the Atlantic:

“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic–the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement,” opens the story, “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert,” which also appears in the March issue of Vogue magazine.


After securing what would be many journalists’ dream — time alone with Bashar al-Assad — Vogue‘s Joan Juliet Buck wrote only that he is, “A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery ‘because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.'”

But this might be my favourite:

it notes, for example, Bashar’s “startling” electoral victories but not that he was the only candidate. It lists one detail after another portraying Bashar and Asma al-Assad as fun, glamorous, American-style celebrities: trips to the Louvre, a story about the couple joking with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Asma’s effort to give Syria a “brand essence,” the fact that all three Assad children “go to a Montessori school,” and countless references to Christianity.

I love it. Oh yeah, I’m sure Bashar al-Assad is a real dreamboat.

Thanks for really making the most of that opportunity, Joan Juliet Buck. I mean, I get it, Vogue has to be Vogue, but honestly? The Assads? I’m sure they’re glamourous – so is the Gaddafi family – just ask Beyonce and Jay-Z . But I guess we can’t really expect Vogue to be part of the solution, can we?

But this is:  a new Tumblr that draws attention to lady journalists’ work around the web. Good stuff!



Yes, of course James Franco sucked. What did everyone think this overrated piece of garbage was going to do?

Anne Hathaway had to work overtime to get the crowd going, and it still fell flat. I feel sorry for her. She’s very charming, and her excitement was adorable: here was someone who loves movies, who has probably dreamed about this since she was a little girl, and most importantly LOVES the Oscars, or at least can fucking pretend to.

If I was the producer, I would’ve paired Hathaway with a charismatic older stud, like Hugh Jackman or Clooney, someone just dripping with class and showmanship. That way, her excited little girl shtick would’ve played a lot better. But then again, I’m not the producer, because if I was, the show would’ve included me firing James Franco out of a cannon into Helena Bonham Carter and them both exploding into flames.

Salon had a funny piece about Franco’s own brand of shitty-ness, in the form of a shitty James Franco short story:

Or maybe, Franco thought gloomily, returning to the worst-case scenario, the problem was him.

Maybe if Franco had supported Hathaway more, if he’d given more of a damn — if he hadn’t looked distracted half the time and pained the other half; if he’d roused himself to display the smarmy but irresistible energy that Crystal brought to his sole brief appearance, or that Hope radiated from beyond the grave — maybe Franco wouldn’t be standing there on the precipice of infamy, about to be reviled as the guy who sucked worse than Letterman and Whoopi, the yutz who made the Oscars even more boring than they might have been already, just by being his “Am I really there or not?” self, the handsome Mr. Cellophane.

P.S. I tried to find the douchiest picture of him, but it’s impossible. They are all equally as douchey.

The Editors Respond…

Elissa Strauss, a blogger, actually asked the editors of major publications about the dearth of female bylines. Good for her. They said a variety of interesting things.

First, what Strauss thinks:

After reading their responses and having the opportunity to speak with some of them on the phone, it struck me that the byline gap would not be resolved simply by having more female editors, or seeking out more female writers. It would help, but it isn’t the whole picture.

To begin with, I believe that there just aren’t as many women aching to cover subjects like the economy and politics — and you have to want it bad to get a gig in today’s journalistic climate. I think women still stay away from certain subjects because of the macho, boys club atmosphere that surrounds them; I believe women — present company included — are generally more inclined to write cultural criticism and cover the arts.

A perhaps deeper issue is that we still live in a world where news itself is gendered, where matters like making and raising human beings, gender identity, sexuality, and childhood and adolescence are considered something for the ladies, while subjects like war and politics, which are more likely to be covered by male writers and reporters, hold the monopoly on general interest stories. But I also think both editors and reporters often lack imagination when it comes to the ties between culture and gender and politics and the economy, and that perhaps we would all benefit from a more holistic view of how the world works.

Lastly, I know these publications that I singled out for quotes are hardly the only publications at which women are poorly represented. I chose them not because they are the worst in terms of byline equity, but rather because they are places that I hold in highest esteem. As I said before, these magazines are the sources of some of the sharpest ideas and most erudite and enlightened thinkers around, which is why I think it matters so such that they have more female bylines on their pages:

David Remnick, from The New Yorker gets right to the point:

I read your piece, I read the piece in Slate by Meghan O’Rourke, who writes for us and was an editor here — and you are right. It’s certainly been a concern for a long time among the editors here, but we’ve got to do better — it’s as simple and as stark as that.

The rest of the responses are good too, Jonathan Chait from The New Republic, especially. Take a looksy.

What’s making me happy these days…

A whole lotta Fresh Prince:

I can’t remember why Aunt Helen is in this scene, but who cares? She’s so fucking hilarious.

And nothing makes me laugh more than Will Smith dancing.

Although Carlton is no slouch either:

And so amazing:

I remember being a kid, maybe nine or ten, and watching this and The Simpsons on CBC before supper time.  God, I miss the 90s. And I miss Will Smith being funny, which we will never see again due to his A) scientology, and B) 20 million per movie paycheck.

Still, Fresh Prince is a great show. Really funny, and it did the heavy-handed social issues better than any of the other shows. I like the way they dealt with race, in particular.  Especially this episode:

Man, I wish people could still say “this is just retarded” on TV.


Two more takes on lady writers…

Laura Miller at Salon weighs in on the VIDA report, pointing out that there are less books by women reviewed because there are less books by women published each year. Ruth Franklin at the New Republic and two of her female colleagues looked into it, and sure enough “magazines are reviewing female authors in something close to the proportion of books by women published each year”.  Laura Miller traces this back, annectdotally, to reader preferences: women read books by both women and men, whereas men tend to only read books by men. With the rather large exception of J.K. Rowling, and some of those old dolls writing mystery and crime thrillers, I have generally found this to be true. It starts early – children’s book publishers are wary of books with female protagonists written by female authors, according to Miller.

Then, over at Slate, Heather Mac Donald, a conservative intellectual, if you will, looks at female participation in magazines, newspapers, op-eds and Wikipedia, decrying quotas and “feminism’s intellectual decadence”, whatever that means.

She zestfully points out that where Meghan O’Rourke and others went wrong was saying that the gatekeepers (editors, publishers, etc.,) are the ones who are biased; Mac Donald notes that “the idea that these gender imbalances represent gatekeeper bias was demonstrably false, even before the Wikipedia reality check”. How? Well, Wikipedia famously has no gatekeepers, but has a female contributor rate of 13%, much lower than the 27% VIDA calculated in mainstream publications. Mac Donald attributes this to “the constant quoata-izing by gatekeepers on women’s behalf”. Gee thanks, Heather.

I do agree with this Mac Donald character (although I can’t figure out why there is a space in her last name), in that the Wikipedia mystery can be solved by simply noticing that men are A)much drawn to arcane and trivial bits of knowledge and B) enjoy using their free time to do things like POST ON WIKIPEDIA, while most women have other (or better) things to do with their free time. Yes, there are female geeks out there, but I’m going to guess that instead of toiling on some factually dubious Wiki article, they are perhaps working on writing something that will get past those totally non-sexist gatekeepers, who, according to Mac Donald, have quotas they must fill at some major publication.

I have taken the following from this dust-up:

  1. Gatekeepers sometimes can be and are part of the problem – it’s just a fact that women’s opinions on “serious” topics are taken less seriously.
  2. Reader preferences play a role in this, so, if you care, try and make some of your guy friends read some really smart books by the ladies, off the top of my head – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Big Girls Don’t Cry by Rebecca Traister, The Possessed by Elif Batuman, or anything by Curtis Sittenfeld. I know this will be hard, because they are unlikely to be separated from their patron saints of douchebaggery – Roth, Updike, Delillo, etc. We’ve been through this.
  3. There are some mega-talented and super-intelligent women working in journalism these days, Jane Mayer, Hanna Rosin, Rachel Maddow, Mary Rogan, etc., Please, read their shit because they’re awesome, not because they are women.
  4. A point was made somewhere in one of these articles, that perhaps women writers don’t pitch to these magazines nearly as often as men do, because they are intimidated, or somehow afraid of rejections, or lacking the balls to do so, or something. This is a possibility, though I wouldn’t want to speak for all women, but I do consider my own reticence to put my work out there. But as Alizah Salario asked, “Why don’t I submit my work and pitch stories more often? I know I should. I just don’t. I hesitate. I do the dishes. I come back to my computer and my idea has soured. Is it because I’m a woman, or is it just because I’m me?” I ask myself this question all of the time. I think it’s both.
  5. So, again, if you care about this, encourage any girls you know to pursue their ideas, to ask questions, to keep writing, to keep trying.