I really enjoyed Kate Bolick’s Atlantic cover story “All The Single Ladies” and as a writer I’m thrilled that they actually put a photo of the writer on the cover. But it’s hard to disagree with Jessica Grose’s observation that it’s unfortunate that such a large share of women’s relatively meager number of high-profile articles are on these sex/marriage/babies topics. She calculates that of the past 130 Atlantic cover stories “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.’”
There are two problems here. One is that women writers are capable of tackling the kind of “hard” economic, political, and foreign policy cover topics that tend to go to male writers.
This is pretty clear, and I think Grose covers it pretty well. The flipside is that even though these sex/marriage/babies topics that women writers tend to get assigned are generally less “prestigious” than the old “let’s interview powerful people and write down what they think” kind of stories, family life is actually really important. And roughly the half of the people having sex, getting married, and having babies are men. Their perspective is important too! I think part of taking women more seriously has to be assigning more women to write about things like the Iranian nuclear program and Mitt Romney’s quest for the presidency. But the other part has to be taking “women’s issues” seriously enough to assign male “star” writers to ponder parenting and family life. At the end of the day, your average American’s happiness and wellbeing is more impacted by his or her relationship with partners, children, and parents than by the trade deal with Panama.