One of the more fascinating attempts to buck reality has been the New York Times’ efforts to achieve “gender parity” in its Letters to the Editor. The problem, of course, is that if the Times wants to publish more letters from women, men traditionally being more inclined to write, and to write on newsworthy issues, what’s a letters editor to do?
I spent 18 years as the letters editor at The Calgary Herald. I believe that your obsession with tallying the gender of letter writers to achieve greater parity between men and women is the height of political correctness run amok.
Can the “height” of something “run amok”? But I digress.
During my tenure at The Herald, I, too, noticed that more men than women wrote letters. However, gender was never among my criteria for publication. Letters that were well written, concise and thoughtful got published in The Herald, regardless of whether a man or a woman wrote them.
My goal for The Herald’s letters page was simply to offer a mix of topics and a diversity of opinions each day. The best letters were often the two-line zingers we received from a variety of people indulging in delightfully sarcastic commentary on political and other issues. Men write letters to the editor more often than women. So what? Stop being silly. Just publish the best letters you get, regardless of who wrote them.
This observation comes from a woman, likely one of sufficient vintage to not appreciate her internalized misogyny, compelling her to confuse the importance of the gender of the writer with the quality of the writing. To prove this point, the Times offers its antithesis.
Why aren’t more women offering their opinions on matters of both political and personal importance? Why have women persistently lagged in speaking up?
Could it be that our voices have repeatedly been censored or dismissed by a system in which men still hold most of the power? That women have, in effect, been socialized not to speak because to do so threatens that system?
It could be that. It could be space aliens. But asking self-serving questions isn’t a good way to get meaningful answers. The New York Times has now made it abundantly clear that they welcome, they want, more letter from women. Heck, they even published this letter, which contributes nothing to the discussion other than to spew the insipid excuses that comprise the guts of a high school sophomore’s C+ essay. No one could feel less censored or dismissed if this makes it to the surface.
Women must speak if they want to be heard.
So speak. You have a keyboard. Type all you want. You have email. Send it to the letters editor at the New York Times or anyplace else you want. Nobody can stop you. Nobody wants to stop you. If you “want to be heard,” type away.
And listening is a necessary starting place for men.
Whoa. That doesn’t follow. You’re entitled to speak all you want, but nobody has to listen to you. People, men included, will “listen” (which isn’t the right word, since what you really mean is “care” about what you’re saying) is what you have to say is worthy of people’s time and attention. Any fool can speak, but it doesn’t mean that anyone is going to pay attention to them.
Perhaps this is far more revealing as to the nature of the problem than the attempt to find solace in the external excuses of women being “censored” and “dismissed.” If you want people to “hear” what you’re saying, say something worth hearing. Not worth it to you, because they’re not you and you don’t get to tell anyone else what they should be interested in reading. Make it worth it to them. Be interesting. Be thoughtful. Present ideas that others will find illuminating and they will “hear” them.
But no matter how much you “speak,” and how far the letters editor is willing to bend over to put more women’s voices on the page, no one, male or female, has to give a damn about what you have to say. That’s your job, to make them want to pay attention to you. Whining about your oppression and attempting to shame men into giving a shit isn’t going to work.