Female Bloggers and the New York Times Style Section

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The New York Times ran a great piece over the weekend about female bloggers and the hurdles they face in a very male-dominated universe. Short story: online hurdles for women are basically the same as real world hurdles. Less pay, less notoriety and acceptance “less, less, less.

Though the article’s content contained serious analysis and discussion of the plight of female bloggers, it appeared in the sometimes controversial, often ridiculous, but always entertaining, Style section, a fact, not lost on Erin Kotecki Vest, a female blogger, who noted in her Huffingpost screed, “But WOMEN bloggers? Oh, they belong next to “It’s Botox for You, Dear Bridesmaids” and “The BreakUps That Got Under My Skin.

She continues: “Apparently I can push political agendas, but I’ll always be seen as an Oprah-watching, bon-bon eating, Katie Couric-esque, shoe-shopping, GIRL.”

We sent a query to the Style section editor, Trip Gabriel, asking how they handle stories such as this one that could go in other sections. We also wondered: “Do you feel, as Vest did, that a story about glass ceilings in the blogging universe is undermined by appearing in a section that frequently covers Botox and beauty routines?”
Gabriel wrote back:

“I’m happy to respond to this one — it comes up regularly. To answer the nuts-and-bolts questions: the story ws pitched by the author, a frequent freelance contributor, to the Sunday Styles section (or Fashion & Style on the Web). There was never any question about publishing it elsewhere in the print paper or on nytimes.com. In certain cases where Style Department stories have obvious appeal to other sections of the Web site, we will cross-publish (such as a fitness piece that will also appear in the Health section), but in this case we didn’t. Kara Jesella’s article is smack-dab in the bull’s eye of stories Sunday Styles has run for years. When people ask if a “serious” piece about glass ceilings is undermined by appearing in a section that covers fashion, beauty and other “superficial” topics, I’m pretty sure they haven’t been reading The Times’s style sections deeply or for long. We do cover these topics, of course, along with all kinds of social trends and attempts to decode the zeitgeist, but we try very hard not to write about beauty or fashion in a promotional or superficial way. Consider today’s front-page story about dermatology becoming a specialty with first- and coach-class service for medical and cosmetic patients. It appeared in three places on our Web site: U.S. news, Health, and Fashion & Style.  The author, Natasha Singer, a member of the Style department, has written scores of pieces about the beauty and plastic surgery businesses that posed equally tough questions “articles that appeared in the Thursday Styles section. The Styles sections wrote early, deeply and with appropriate skepticism about the blogging revolution, whether that meant being among the first to cover Wonkettte, Stephanie Klein and Jezebel, or writing about the rise of blog commenters. So no, I don’t think the placement of a story about blogging’s glass ceiling undermined its credibility. I think that’s a problem in the eye of the beholder.”

He might have a point. Getting angry about the story being placed in the Style section instead of the Business section is almost like being sexist against yourself. By saying it’s not worthy, Vest is also inferring that the Style section, which heavily features women’s issues, is somehow less important or weighty.

One thing the article by Kara Jesella, one of the co-authors of the awesome book, How Sassy Changed My Life, doesn’t really touch upon is the fact that a lot of the topics that women blog about “motherhood, female health, kids, fashion, and cooking “aren’t taken seriously by male bloggers and editors who might link to them at more powerful, larger sites. It’s the age-old sexist delineation of what constitutes “real” or “serious” content, as if gadget-watching is somehow more important or deep than mommy-blogging.

We asked her for comment about being featured in the Style section versus another, more “serious,” section.

I don’t know any of the editors in the Business or Technology sections of the paper (though I was pleased to see the story is cross-posted with Technology on the New York Times website). I’d been wanting to write about BlogHer for at least a year or two and pitched this story to Styles because I frequently work with them and had a feeling my editor there would be interested. He’s always been really receptive to my story ideas about gender. Last year, for example, he ran a pieces I wrote about Mom’s Rising and the motherhood movement in America. “Style” at the Times is conceived of pretty broadly “it’s not just fashion, but about people and their behavior, trends, what everyone is talking about.

Oh, incidentally, the title of the piece? “Blogging’s Glass Ceiling.”

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