Monday, March 3, 2008

The Washington Post: Selling Misogyny

What should be the role of op-ed section of a major newspaper like the Washington Post? Should the writers of opinion articles be held to any journalistic standards, or might they publish claims like "...several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true" and that women are "...kind of dim" without any responsibility to substantiate such claims?

Washington Post editor John Pomfret claims that the article which contained the above quotations, published in yesterday's Outlook section, was "tongue-in-cheek." Yet, as Jessica at Feministing points out, it should be clear to any editors worth their salt that writer Charlotte Allen is anything but an honest broker, since "Any quick search of Allen's past writing shows just how seriously she takes her women-hate." Of course she takes it seriously, it pays her bills - thanks to editors like those who put her on the pages of the Washington Post. Past Allen quotations include:
Frankly, even as a woman, I miss the old sexist days, when stewardesses were stewardesses: pretty young things in cute mini-suits and little heels who oozed attention onto everyone -- because who knew? They might end up marrying one of the passengers...
and "Why does feminism have to mean the triumph of the ugly and the surly?"

Allen's article is thinly-veiled hate speech - asserting that women are genetically programed to be stupid, hysterical, shallow, and lazy. So how did this piece make it past the editorial board? Allen cites outdated (1998) statistics about women's driving records, and fails to link to the data she cites so that readers might review the basis for her claims about women's spatial awareness. She uses anecdotal evidence, cherry picks her examples, fails to distinguish correlation from causation, and the evidence that she presents does not support her thesis that women are "dim." To be more succinct, the article is a complete mess and Allen fails every standard to which a journalist should be held. This article should never have been published, even as a fluffy Outlook piece.

That the article is an example of woman-hate is obvious, but it is not Allen who I want punished - sexism is her bread and butter, but she is within her First Amendment rights. Yet, I believe that for the Washington Post to maintain its credibility as a serious publication which maintains journalistic standards in all its sections, a full retraction should be made and the editors responsible for allowing such a fallacious and insulting piece to be published should be fired. If you think that is asking too much, read the article again but replace the word "women" with "blacks" or "Jews." No other disenfranchised community in the United States would allow itself to be so abused, nor should we.

Please write a letter to the editor ( or send a complaint to the ombudsman ( and tell the WaPo what you think - and don't forget to call for resignations. Please leave a line in the comments section too, letting us know you've contacted them and keeping us posted on any responses you get.

UPDATE: (For more on this, visit: Lawyers, Guns and Money, Broadsheet, Media Matters, Feministe, Feministing - tip of the hat for the ombudsman addy btw, Strollerderby, Jezebel, Shameless and Pandagon.)


habladora said...

I got an auto reply from the email I sent. Apparently, if you do want your letter published in the WaPo, there are some guidelines to follow:
"1. Letters should be fewer than 200 words and exclusive to The
Washington Post.
2.The letter may not have been submitted to or published by any other media or Internet outlet. This includes comments or feedback posted to Web sites. If you have posted similar comments to a Web site, your letter will not be considered.
3. The letter must include the writer's full name, home address, e-mail address, and home, business and cellular telephone numbers. Anonymous letters will not be considered, nor does The Post permit the use of pseudonyms.
4. Letters must disclose the writer's involvement, affiliations or relationship with the subject matter of the letter.
5. All letters are subject to abridgment.
6. Do not send attachments; they will not be read.
7. We prefer letters that cite an article or item that has appeared in the print edition of The Post within the past three weeks; we do not publish letters that respond to Web site-only articles or items. 8.To make your e-mailed letter as easy for us to read as possible,
do not send any graphics or digital letterhead, put the text of your letter in the body of the e-mail, and remember to cite the article or item you are writing about in the body or subject line."

NewsCat said...

Sadly I'm finding out that women-hating isn't confined to the Washington Post's op-ed pages. Apparently the LA Times standard for commentary is "if it says something degatory about women, let's run it. If it turns out to be controversial, we can always run a 'response' column."