Ann Friedman has a thoughtful article called “The Trouble With Double X about the weirdness of Slate’s decision to launch a new all-woman adjunct site, Double X. I think this is the key point:
In the site’s introductory video, one of the editors, Hanna Rosin, says, “If you take something like Slate and you have it edited by three women, instead of the people it’s edited by, well that’s the kind of magazine that we want to turn out.” She goes on to say that the articles they publish “don’t have to be ‘women’s issues’” — she bends her fingers to make air-quotes — “in the way that people have always defined women’s issues. There can be a whole range of issues and you just put them through a slightly different lens.” Color me baffled. Wouldn’t Slate, edited by these insanely smart and accomplished women, just be … Slate? Couldn’t they apply that “slightly different lens” to articles on the primary site and market them to all readers?
Or to put it another way, if Slate’s managers think their publication’s content is being skewed in an undesirable way by a paucity of woman editors, then shouldn’t they just hire more women as editors? I think it’s definitely true that when you have many women in the editorial chain—as they currently do at TAP where Ann is Deputy Editor and Phoebe Connelly runs the website with Alexandra Gutierrez as her deputy—you wind up with a somewhat different product. At the same time, throughout my career I’ve been edited by women at various points and it’s not like the experience gave me cooties.
Historically, I think people who run media outlets have spent time dodging the problems inherent in the male-domination of most of the political media by pretending that gender is irrelevant to the work. They just try to hire “the best people” as editors and columnists and reporters” without regard to artificial quotas. I think what Rosin is admitting here is important, namely that that’s nonsense. It does matter whether something “like Slate” is “edited by three women, instead of the people it’s edited by.” But the solution to that isn’t to create gender-segregated media outlets, it’s to make a much more serious effort to incorporate women into the writing staff and editorial hierarchy of mainstream publications.
What Ann says here is interesting, too, but I actually can’t stand Esquire.