Why Are Most of the Atlantic Cover Stories Written By Women About Marriage and Babies?

What Women Really Think
Oct. 13 2011 12:58 PM

Why Are Most of the Atlantic Cover Stories Written By Women About Marriage and Babies?


Kate Bolick's Atlantic cover story "All the Single Ladies," an essay about the growing number of proud, never-married women, is getting tons of (well-deserved) attention: Bolick was on the Today Show on Monday, her story has 9,000 likes on Facebook and the blogs (including this oneare all over it. Bolick appears on the cover of The Atlantic to illustrate her story—it's a rarity for the magazine to put its writers on the cover, FishbowlNY points out—and Atlantic deputy editor Scott Stossel explains the decision thusly: Bolick "is very much a protagonist in the story; the narrative of her romantic life is the thread that ties the piece together."

The more I thought about it, the more this bothered me.


Yes, the cover is lovely, and yes, it’s an adequate representation of the story within. But when The Atlantic gives a woman writer a cover story, she's almost always writing about topics that are considered female ones: marriage, romance, feminism, and babies. 

I took a look back through the covers of the Atlantic since July, 1998, which is the oldest cover I could find on their website. I'm leaving out the fiction issue, because those covers usually refer to several different writers, and the fictional topics are impossible to discern from the cover art. I also left out covers where there wasn't a clear writer for the cover story (for example, this cover from May 2011). This leaves about 130 covers. Of those 130 covers, by my unscientific count (which may be off by one or two), 12 of the cover stories were written by women, which is not a great statistic in and of itself. Of those 12 covers, six of them were about "women problems"—Bolick's "All the Single Ladies," Lori Gottlieb's piece on finding love on the Internet, "How Do I Love Thee?" our own Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men," Caitlin Flanagan's "How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement" (about the nanny wars), Christina Hoff Sommers' "The War Against Boys." I could only find one cover story written by a man about topics that could be considered "women's" topics, one from 1998 about rape laws.

The quest for byline equality has been much covered, by DoubleX and others—check out the VIDA project's tallies of female bylines in major magazines. I don't know how to fix this problem, considering I'm a big part of it—I run a women's section; the articles I write and assign are about stereotypically female topics, and those also happen to be the articles I want to write and the articles I most like to read. Slate's byline ratio isn't nearly where it should be. I suppose I feel like the only way to address it is to keep talking about it, and to keep trying to work out where the problem lies.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059


Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

So, Apple Is Not Shuttering Beats, but the Streaming Service Will Probably Be Folded Into iTunes

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
Sept. 22 2014 4:06 PM No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 5:45 PM The University of California Corrects “Injustice” by Making Its Rich Chancellors Even Richer
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.