Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Women as Columnists

This piece was written in response to learning more about women in the field of journalism but more specifically as columnists.


A female columnist is just that – she’s a writer. And, she’s a woman. This generation is unlucky, they’ve always lived in "the world of opportunity" and never the world of having to work to have a voice.

As a woman, I have to say it’s nice to have a voice in today’s society. Before this century, women wrote but the overall tone of women as a whole was mute. This was, of course, a fault of unequal opportunity and the fact that women we’re thought to be not quite as smart as man.

It’s that difference though – that women are women and men are men – that makes a woman’s writing that much stronger.

Women see the world through a different lens. As much as we would all like to think that we are all just human and see things just about the same way, we don’t. That’s why women having a voice – both vocal and written – is imperative.

Perspective is a pesky little sneak. It finds its way into each piece of writing whether a man put it there or a woman did. But, no matter what, it always finds its way in.

Ruth Marcus, a columnist for the Washington Post, has a perspective. She’s a mother. She’s a writer. She lives in Washington, D.C. In her August 29th piece for the Post titled “A Heartbeat Away from Cynicism”, she goes as far as to say “I write this as someone who…” a couple times. But, what stands out in this piece in particular is her personality.

Marcus wrote: “About the woman thing: ‘We should all be proud,’ Hillary Clinton said in a statement, of this ‘historic nomination’ Sorry, but count me out. I found Palin's selection, and her calculated shout-out to unhappy Clinton supporters, insulting.”

Reader’s get two things from that chunk of writing – the perspective and the personality of a woman.

The recent announcement of Britol Palin’s pregnancy is also a situation that Marcus can shed light on. And, that’s mostly due to the fact that she is a mother and a woman. She can bare a child and she has raised children. That key difference between men and woman allow a certain elaboration of a point in an opinion piece.

“The Lessons of Bristol Palin”, released in the Post early this month, Marcus makes use of her role as a parent to shed light on the pregnancy situation. She writes her piece from the lens of a parent, which gives what she’s saying further credibility and validity. She even ends the piece by mentioning her two daughters and what she wants them to learn from their mother writing an article about the Palin pregnancy. It’s her perspective that people can relate to if they choose to read her column.

The voice of a woman is a thoughtful gem. It’s a vantage point that only half of the world’s population ever gets to see. It’s a lens that very few choose to use. But Ruth Marcus is among the group who does.

Whether she’s driving her kids to school and listening to a conservative talk radio show bash her for being a liberal journalist (see the Post’s September 10th column, “Palin Hits the Motherload”) or she’s just giving voice to those in the public who aren’t writers, she’s sharing thoughts that other people definitely share.

We’ve come a long way since the first books were printed and distributed. Women not only read them but write them too. The written word is the strongest entity a person can produce. Once something is put to paper, it’s as if it’s been set to stone. Anyone can read it. You just have to make sure it’s something worth saying.

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