Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why Are Almost all of These Women White?

C'mon, Grey Lady, get it together. It's only been a few weeks since The New York Times caused an uproar for publishing Alessandra Stanley's inaccurate, clueless, and offensive piece about Shonda Rhimes and her TV creations. One of the conclusions that Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor, reached was that a lack of diversity in the ranks of culture editors could have contributed to the piece's  publication; she notes that, "among the 15 culture editors...just a few are nonwhite." 

Now this week's Sunday Book Review is focused on Women & Power, and what do you see when you scroll (or flip) through the contents? Of the 13 photos or drawings of women or girls that accompany each article, 11 are white. (I'm providing the link here although it appears that the table of contents in this order will only be available until the next Book Review replaces it). There's Diane Sawyer, Lena Dunham, Gail Sheehy, and Kirsten Gillibrand, among others, and then there's Sonia Sotomayor and a story about The Underground Girls of Kabul, which chronicles the practice of passing girls off as boys in Afghanistan (one such girl and her mother appear in the accompanying photo). Two books profiling nonwhite women, two images; that's it. This even when some stories - such as a piece about abortion rights and the origins of birth control pills - involve and affect all women and are illustrated with drawings, drawings that easily could have depicted nonwhite women.

At the end of her piece about the Stanley article, Sullivan wrote, "This contentious chapter may not seem like a welcome gift to anyone involved. But if The Times takes it seriously – looking hard at its diversity and its editing practices — it can be exactly that." It's clear that The Times isn't looking hard enough; I plan to email Sullivan to tell her just that.

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