Where Tha women (and People of Color) At?

Over at Salon’s Broadsheet, Sara Libby – a Friend of the Blog — takes a critical look at the whiteness and maleness of the new pundit class:

What bothered me about Calderone’s ranting wasn’t so much whether any of these young men deserved to break into these famously stodgy, old-school institutions — I find all their work refreshing and valuable; Cillzza, especially, is an incredibly tenacious reporter — but that they were simply younger versions of what has long been an old boys club. Is it really that much of a surprise that pages typically populated with old, white men are now also occasionally featuring young, white men?

The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel isn’t too happy about this analysis — given that he is a young, recent hire — but I think he makes the mistake of taking it too personally. Libby isn’t arguing that editorial pages are deliberately excluding women — as far as I know, there isn’t much evidence for it, either way — she’s arguing that power structures replicate themselves, absent a concerted effort to do otherwise. Simply put, people are more familiar and more comfortable with people who look like them, in the absence of any countervailing pressures, will (subconsciously or otherwise) preference people who look like them. In the white male-dominated world of opinion writing, women are at a natural disadvantage. And this is to say nothing of the fact that young women bloggers tend to cluster around feminist/women’s issues, which — unfortunately — aren’t particularly salient to the gatekeepers of elite opinion writing.

Another way of looking at this is to ask a question: Ezra Klein has had an incredibly rapid rise, but would that have been the case if he were a woman? Would she have been able to overcome the institutional barriers to female advancement? Or is talent really enough to overcome those barriers?

One last thing: if you took Libby’s piece and replaced “women” with “people of color,” you’d be in the exact same place. Like women, people of color are dramatically underrepresented in opinion journalism, and face some of the same institutional barriers. Unless op-ed pages make an effort to recruit young women and people of color, there’s a strong chance that it won’t happen.


Jamelle Bouie is a writer for Slate. He has also written for The Daily Beast, The American Prospect and The Nation. His work centers on politics, race, and the intersection of the two.

You can find him on Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram as jbouie.
  • you should also link the stuff GD put up on buzz today.

    But yeah, if Klein were a woman or nonwhite, he woulda been screwed.

    Still, these people represent specialist pundits that combined with the internet allows their voices on narrow topics to be heard. Is it an eventual numbers game then? Or is it just a matter of figuring out how to get in with the gatekeeper? And if the stuff GD linked to is true, is there such a bias against women and nonwhites that it is impossible for them to get the foot in the door?

  • PS how great was Blazing Saddles?

    Where Tha White Women At? I may put that on my tombstone!