Reporters Ask Men About Women's Issues, Instead of Women

What Women Really Think
June 1 2012 1:03 PM

Want Insight on Women? Ask a Man.

83076519
An Ohio woman votes in 2008.

Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

4thEstate.net, a research group that tracks election coverage, has a stunning graphic up showing how often women are quoted in stories tackling women’s issues. The answer? Top reporters and producers are much, much more likely to turn to men to discuss issues of specific interest to women.

In news stories about abortion, Planned Parenthood, birth control, and women’s rights, television shows like MSNBC’s Hardball and CNN’s State of the Union quoted women on average just 16 percent of the time. Almost all of the other insights and opinions offered were from men, along with a handful of statements issued by organizations.

Advertisement

Major print outlets like USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times were even lousier about including women in those types of stories, quoting them 13 percent of the time. Even in stories about “women’s rights”—a category 4thEstate doesn’t define but which presumably involves less of a religious dimension than the abortion issue, and is therefore less easily construed as a topic about which men might offer special insight—actual women are quoted less than a third of the time. Seeing the data laid out in pie charts and bar graphs makes the disparities absolutely jarring, and it deserves to be printed out and tacked to newsroom cubicles across the land. (4thEstate also has a graphic showing which political reporters quote women the most, and which quote them the least.)

The website’s graphic (more on its methodology at the Daily Beast) reminds me of a brilliant Daily Show segment from April in which Jason Jones attempts to get inside the minds of female voters by assembling a collection of powerful women. He then turns to the male political consultant at his side and asks him what all the women are thinking. Precisely.

Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a regular Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years. She can be reached at libbycopeland@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

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

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  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.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
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.