I’ve never come across the blog Men With Pens before, but now we learn something disgusting that won’t shock anyone who works in journalism who thinks for a minute. The MWP blogger, James, was barely getting by as a freelance writer. About $8 per week. Kids to feed, welfare application looming, bills piling up. Snark and derision and hurdles from editors and clients. But then a lightbulb went off, dark as it may have been. “James” is a woman. What if she submitted copy using a man’s name? You can guess what happened.
No hassles. Higher acceptance. And gratifying respect for my talents and round-the-clock work ethic.
Business opportunities fell into my lap. People asked for my advice, and they thanked me for it, too.
Like I said, no thinking person — and I mean man here, specifically — has any reason to be surprised by this, at fucking all. Journalism is the only field I’ve worked in since high school and college, so I can’t say honestly it’s the most sexist industry out there. But it’s appallingly sexist. Good luck finding an employer who allows you flex time for your kids, a burden that we all know falls disproportionately upon women. Good luck getting the premiere writing assignments. Good luck getting the praise your work merits, particularly beside the next overpraised Ivy League-educated alleged wunderkind dude. Good luck getting out of the support-staff ghetto of assistant managing editors or researchers or factcheckers or copy crew. Good luck not being harassed by your boss or your co-workers or your sources. And good luck getting your staff to stand up for you when the people you write about attack your integrity, you ditzy slut or humorless bitch. It should go without saying that I am thinking of specific people who have endured each and every one of the examples I’m talking about here.
I did a little mental checklist of my favorite co-workers who have faced professional slights, both subtle and obvious, far out of proportion to their talents. Every single one of them has been a woman. And every single one of them has been treated in such a way that male journalists — and I’ll speak for myself here — probably couldn’t handle. Let’s flip it around. I have a reputation as a hothead, and it’s pretty well-deserved, if I’m honest. But I have a steady job with an income at a place I love that lets me, for instance, blog at FDL and cover my beat my way. If I was a woman and was half as intemperate, I would not be given second and third chances. I just wouldn’t be hired. I wouldn’t be considered passionate. I’d be considered difficult and hard to work with. I say this thinking of a currently unemployed friend who’s a vastly superior thinker, writer and reporter. Guess what her gender is?
I also did another mental checklist, of all the reporters I respect on my beat or associated ones. Here’s what I immediately came up with: Jane Mayer first and foremost. Daphne Eviatar, who I’m privileged to work with. Dana Priest. Janine Zacharia. Alissa Rubin. Karen DeYoung. Laura motherfucking Rozen. Nancy Youssef. Farah Stockman. Isabel Kershner. The mighty Dahlia Lithwick. The indomitable Dafna Linzer, a.k.a Ms-How-The-Fuck-Did-She-Get-That. [[Update: I don't know how I initially forgot my friend Siobhan Gorman at the Wall Street Journal. She probably has the highest plurality of any single reporter of stories that I wish I had gotten. Apologies.]] The best reporter I have ever worked with, from whom I have learned the most, is the New York Post‘s Sally Goldenberg. The most amazing and vital reporter on television is named Rachel. And, if I may, the two most vital and thorough and consistently relevant progressive bloggers are named Jane and Marcy.