Students packed into the Bowdoin Women’s Resource Center recently to hear a talk from Susan Faludi on one of her areas of expertise: women in the media. Faludi is the College’s Tallman Scholar for the 2013-2014 year, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of today’s most prominent feminist voices.
Faludi’s presentation centered on female op-ed writers and why there are so few opinion pieces written by women. She cited startling facts about women’s underrepresentation in mainstream journalism: only 20% of New York Times op-ed pieces (a record high for the heavyweight paper), and only 13% of Wall Street Journal op-ed articles were written by women this year. Articles by women of color are particularly scarce, comprising only 2% of all New York Times opinion pieces.
Why are op-eds by women so hard to come by? Faludi believes the issue is multifaceted. Perhaps most critically, “women recoil from op-eds because they fear being attacked,” she said. While men are more likely to be criticized for the content of their arguments, women are much more likely to be attacked on “deeply invasive, personal and sexualized grounds,” she said.
Faludi said that in her experience, men are much more likely than women to express their opinions when they aren’t experts on the issues, while women prefer to be fully informed before weighing in.
Many women also feel a lack of authority on their subjects, Faludi hypothesized. In her experience, men are much more likely than women to express their opinions when they aren’t experts on the issues, while women prefer to be fully informed before weighing in.
To increase female participation in opinion pieces, Faludi said that women need “more practice writing op-eds, more encouragement, more connections and more support when they’re on the receiving end of some of these personal attacks.”
Faludi’s talk comes at an important time for opinionated writers at Bowdoin – the professor is the academic advisor for the newly fledged Bowdoin Op-Ed Club. The club is the first-ever student branch of the Op-Ed Project, a global movement to “increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world,” according to the project’s website.
The club is the brainchild of Hannah Arrighi ’15 and Molly Rose Fargeorge ’14, two friends with a deep interest in women’s issues. Arrighi and Fargeorge plan to expand the project as the year progresses, meeting several times a month and providing a supportive forum for students to foster editorial skills.
“Our goal is to allay the gender gap in editorials by giving undergraduate women resources and a community in which to utilize them,” Arrighi said. “The Op-Ed Project aims to expand the voices of public debate in any issue about which our members are passionate and knowledgeable.”