New York Times & Women/Discussion Nov 1997


Query From Michelle Williams m.l.williams@u.texas.edu 07 Nov 1997

The New York Times printed an article ("A Chinese Visitor Comes Between Longtime California Allies" October 30, 1997, National Edition, A13) which detailed a "behind the scenes" look at a dispute between Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Nancy Pelosi over the treatment of China's President Jiang Zemin during his visit to the U.S. The article appeared to be an analysis of the issues, when at the end of the article, we find this sentence, "In a political environment in which almost any dispute between two women is still called a catfight, both lawmakers claim to be friends."

The rest of the article involved both women answering questions pertaining to that sentence.

I would like to hear what other people think of this, especially in a newspaper such as the New York Times. Personally, I intend to write a letter to the editor to protest yet another marginalization of women in power. What else can be done?

Responses:

From Genevieve G. McBride gmcbride@csd.uwm.edu 07 Nov 1997

...Do write your letter to the New York Times. It will make you feel better. But you will be met, I suspect, with the response(if you even get a response) that the Times itself did not call the fact of two women having a cogent discussion of serious issues a catfight. No; note that the Times said "In a political environment in which almost any dispute between two women is still called a cat fight..." Now, do you have evidence that almost any dispute between two women is NOT still called a catfight in this political environment. No?

Well, the, you can see, I suspect, how cagily the writers and/or editors there have framed this. That is why they make more money than the garden-variety journalists who come right out and say it themselves. Not that they would change their ways or even respond either. ...

So, you might try writing in your letter that you're on to them and that it STILL doesn't excuse their subtle and implicit perpetration of gendered stereotypes, since you thought better of the best journalists ( or so they like to say of themselves, so feed their egos.) If it helps, you might look up the Code of Ethics of the Society for Professional Journalists[SPJ] (www.spj.org) ...which has a statement about societal responsibility. Or perhaps the New York Times own Code of Ethics (all major papers have their own adaptations, at least on paper, hanging in some obscure corner of the newsroom...) is on its website, which is www. nyt.com

Also, when you write a letter to the editor, know that it goes to some lower-level person.... So Send a copy straight to the real editor and the publisher, and even those at other papers....And send a copy to the SPJ....You can also send a copy to Betty Friedan at the Women and Media project and any other feminist organizations or magazines that come to mind. (Women and the Media info can be found...at www .aejmc.org

Hope this helps....each individual letter may not make a dent but continuously calling...the media on these issues can make a difference.... P.S. If you want to ground your objection in a historical context, have you considered contacting the History News Service-- for a nationally syndicated commentary to shame the New York Times?

From Marsha Hurst mhurst@interport.net 10 Nov 1997

I must say the remark in the Times about political disputes between women being called "catfights" stopped me in my (cat) tracks, as well. Not only is it offensive and degrading, but, frankly, I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I In any case, I suggest contacting FAIR--Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. They are a national media watch group, and are attuned to issues of gender sensitivity in reporting. You can reach FAIR at http://www.igc.org./fair FAIR, 30 W. 25th St., New York, NY 10001 Tel: 212-633-6700, Fax: 212-727-7668, and fair-info@fair.org

From Maureen Tighe-Brown 71431.1612@compuserve.com 10 Nov 1997

The recent discussion of the New York Times' article about two female California legislators, organized around the debate of whether their disagreement constituted a 'catfight,' has some fascinating implications for exploring the transformation of a social taboo into accepted behavior.

On another level, this discussion illustrates the fact that resisting discrimination can occupy our every waking moment. One example to wit: the November 10, 1997 cover [of Newsweek] uses a young, white, blue-eyed male as the archetype Wall Street investor facing the recent mini-crash. I am reminded of one of Gloria Steinem's maxims that every week should see us sending at least 5 postcards of protest to such bias in archetypes.

From Patricia E. Carey pec@acsu.buffalo.edu 10 Nov 1997

I have to agree with you. Does it say something about the quality of news coverage being provided by major news organization lately? Equally as important, who wrote the article?--a man, or a woman? What is the relationship between an editorial board and the agency of the contributing writer?

From Maria Elena Raymond M_Raymond@compuserve.com 18 Nov 1997

During th Lt. Kelly Flinn discussion on this listserv, I *believe* there was some mention of the NY Times lack of objectivity. I also remember that sometime in the past year there was a discussion on the NY Times biased book reviews.

The Flinn discussion is archived on the H-Women website under "discussion threads" at http://h-net.msu.edu/~women

I couldn't find the thread on the NY Times and book reviews but perhaps someone on the list remembers what that was about, or when it took place. Best wishes.

From Beth Golding egolding@mail.dos.state.fl.us 21 Nov 1997

FYI, from today's NY Times (Friday, November 21), an op-ed piece entitled "School for the Scandalous" by Stanley Fish, beginning as follows:

"When the State University of New York at New Paltz sponsored a conference earlier this month on "Revolting Behavior: The Challenges of Women's Sexual Freedom," some called it borderline pornography and others celebrated it as an exercise in free speech. But what is at once interesting and depressing about the controversy is that both sides are indulging in the usual forms of bad faith."

On the whole, it's pretty critical of the critics. The place on the NY Times web site (probably today only) at: http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/oped/21fish.html