Can a Man Be A Feminist? ... and Why That Question Is Relevant Today
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Some time ago, the Ruth Harnisch Foundation awarded AlterNet a grant of $15,000 for our Gender Byline Project if we matched that amount from our readers, especially those who are on Facebook.
The reason for the project: In 2011, male writers still dominate the public discourse and have a much higher percentage of bylines in most corporate magazines online and off, even in progressive media. All of the money in this project would pay for content written by women.
Please help us support women writers.
Just last week, Ms. Magazine started a campaign against the New Yorker after the magazine went two full issues with only two or three contributions by female writers, in a close to 150-page magazine.
It's not just the New Yorker. January's issue of Harpers has only three out of 21 stories by women. The Atlantic did a little better, featuring five and a half female bylines, of 18 total stories. It is not always easy to achieve some thing close to gender balance, and many are trying hard. For example, The Nation Magazine has 4 very strong women columnists. And we at AlterNet, have requirements for every story line up. Yet, there are so many more men, than women sending us articles, story ideas, and promoting their efforts.
Clearly, extra effort has to be invested in recruiting, assigning to, and developing emerging women writers, especially in areas where they are most underrepresented, such as politics, economics, and foreign affairs. We want to invest money in doing that. But truth be told, we have had a hard time raising this money. But we are gaining momentum and have reached $7,000. Only $8,000 to go.
Some of you, perhaps more our male readers, might wonder why gender byline fairness is important, given all the other challenges we face. It's a fair question. But this is a personal issue for me and I think it's extremely important. I want to tell you why.
Can I share a personal story?
I want to tell you a personal story about my growing up. I became a "feminist," or let's say I had my "consciousness raised," as a young child, although I didn't quite know what that was at the time. I think I was 7.
My female cousin was the same age as I, and almost a sibling since our families spent a lot of time together. As we grew, I started getting messages about how I was supposed to act around her: protect her, open the door for her, walk on the outside closer to the street. And there were other, more subtle messages that made me angry, but I didn't know why.
As only a child with a fierce, idealistic sense of right and wrong can be, I tried to resist these messages without knowing what was really going on. But not very successfully. What I knew in my heart then was that my cousin was a better student than I, and much more talented as an artist, a dancer, and in other ways. But to people around us, my development - as the boy - seemed to be more important. This pattern continued through high school and after. My uncle would give my father cigars when I scored touchdowns during high school football games, while my cousin would cheerlead in semi-obscurity. In student government, I was the president and she the secretary. And when my cousin wanted to go to law school, a conspiracy of her parents and her then-boyfriend convinced her not to go at that point, despite the fact that she was a superb student. Eventually her life took a downswing, involving serious struggles, and I can see a line from those first days when we were kids together. Help us write a different story for women today.