Quot homines tot sententiae: So many men, so many opinions. Such is my reckoning after a morning foray through the opinion pages of the major publications of our time. Individual contributors’ popularity ebbs and recedes. Then again, as I open the paper, I am unfailingly met by a barrage of authors of the male persuasion.
Indeed, glance at the Yale Daily News, The New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets, and you will see a conspicuous deficit of female contributors in the typical man-fest that is the opinion section.
In a byline survey by the OpEd Project for March 14-20 of last year, men authored an average of 70 percent of op-eds published in eight leading professional and college newspapers, including the News. The ladies trailed behind with an average of 30 percent of articles.
Figures like this might suggest that newspapers are simply less inclined to choose a woman’s submission over a man’s, but, according to the OpEd Project, men accounted for an astonishing 90 percent of submissions to the Washington Post in 2008. This is no matter of the repression of female writers. If anything, the numbers would suggest an affirmative action of sorts in favor of that small percentage of women who have the gumption to submit.
Moreover, when a woman does finally grace the page, she regularly broaches themes of sex, sexism, reproductive rights, feminism and relationships — so rarely does she venture to grapple with issues independent of the female experience. And yes, though I’m sure you’d all be very entertained by my romantic endeavors (they make for fantastic stories), I ask you, ladies, do we have nothing else to say?
In confronting this peculiar scarcity of female contributors, I’m inclined to ask myself — an avid writer profoundly intrigued by collapsing the events of our time into thoughtful interpretations — why this column is my first submission.
For me, at least, it wasn’t a lack of initiative — my own journal is littered with ideas that could be considered healthy starts to an article. I had no qualms about sharing my ideas, nor an aversion to the inevitable liability that comes with their publication in a public forum.
My reason for abstaining from submission was, well, it had never occurred to me before. Of course, I’ve reacted to current events with passionate arguments to friends or silent journal entries, but I rarely find myself riled enough to revert to the opinion pages’ sort of proselytizing.
Unlike our male counterparts, who will casually take on issues only tangentially related to their livelihoods, women find the might of the pen mainly in response to situations of profound personal significance where our own safety, dignity or sanity is in peril.
It follows, then, that many females find their opinions fit to print only in cases of obscene infringements on their rights or (not-so-) tongue-and-cheek quips on a frustrated sex life. Instead of writing with the interest of consolidating world events from manifold perspectives, too often women write as a defense on behalf of their fellow females.
All said, I find it absurd that we allow ourselves to shirk an individual voice in the interest of championing a cookie-cutter female perspective. This sort of dialogue is overdone and serves only to undervalue the potency of our opinions.
We profess our dealings with the world solely in the role of the independent, self-reliant woman. This is an egregious hindrance to gender equality. I seek success not as a female, but as a person.
My opinions are indeed informed by my experiences — being a woman among them — though my voice is the voice of a person who happens to be female and does not assume the burden of speaking for womankind.
When I write, I glean very little fulfillment from providing the female angle. To confine myself to such an approach is to slight my individual ideas and perceptions.
I’m not suggesting that we stop the discussion on women’s rights in opinion articles, but rather that we broaden our selection of topics and expand our written dialogue to suit our diverse views and interests.
Let’s talk about the economy, our military campaigns, science and the trials and tribulations of the human experience. If we want readers to judge our voices to be equal to our male counterparts, we need to stop pointing to the plight of women and decrying its injustice and instead declare our opinions on all matters.
Julia Pucci is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .