WaPo’s Next Top Pundit contest finalists: Pale and male

You might remember that last year, our own Courtney was a finalist in the Washington Post’s America’s Next Great Pundit contest. Well, the contest is back for a second round – yesterday, the paper revealed its list of fifty finalists, chosen from the 1400 short op-ed submissions it received.

Out of fifty finalists, guess how many are women?

No, seriously, guess.

Eleven. Eleven out of fifty. The list of finalists looks awfully male and awfully pale with, as far as I can tell, only six people who are not white making the cut.

It’s hardly news that the voices of women, people of color and other minority groups are missing from the ranks of political and social pundits in this country. But I find it hard to believe that there weren’t enough quality submissions from women and from people of color to present a more diverse slate of finalists.

That said, I want to draw your attention to two great submissions, one from a Brooklyn journalist named Nancy Goldstein, who wrote a wonderful entry about the economy (yes, a lady, writing publicly with expertise about the economy!). Goldstein, who works at her local food co-op, writes compellingly about the “invisible breadline.” With so many people using electronically transferred unemployment benefits to shop for food, it’s easy to forget that people are struggling to make ends meet, because “no one can tell the food stamp users from folks using a regular debit card.” Goldstein estimates that:

… the number of EBT users I serve from behind my cash register has nearly doubled in the past two years. It has also broadened to include increasing numbers of people who I know to be new to food stamps. A former neighbor gamed by Madoff. Out-of-work teachers. Consultants whose work has dried up. Women who left the workforce temporarily to care for newborns but now find that there’s no way back in. People in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were laid off only to find that they’re now considered too expensive and too old for the current job market, where five applicants vie for every opening.

You can vote for Goldstein here.

The second piece is from Kevin Mims, of Sacramento, who describes himself by saying that he has never been “a mover or a shaker,” but that he is someone who has been “moved and shaken.” His submission is about how changes to social norms and the economy have made women with careers the norm rather than the exception, and might in fact be contributing to low job rates among younger people. Mims is all for women working, but theorizes that in a time of high unemployment rates, there are those out there who aren’t quite on board:

One reason why 25-year-old Johnny can’t find a job these days is because his 50-year-old mother is holding onto it. This isn’t Johnny’s fault. He wasn’t around when America’s politicians began weakening the country’s labor unions and making it easier for corporations to ship manufacturing jobs overseas. “When Johnny’s grandfather entered the labor force back in the 1950s, he had to compete for jobs with only about half of the country’s adult population. Women, by and large, competed in the labor market for only a short while, until they “settled down” by getting married and starting a family. Johnny has to compete against not only all the other adult men in the labor market but also against his own mother, aunts, and sisters.”

Mims concludes by suggesting that when we talk disparagingly about young people who are unable to find work, we’re also criticizing their mothers, and other women who don’t, or can’t, leave the workforce yet: “Could it be that lurking behind all the contemporary criticism of so called “twenty-something underachievers” is nothing more than a bit of old-fashioned sexism?”

You can vote for Mims here.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I’m curious to know the demographics of all 1400 op-ed submitters. Before jumping to conclusions, it may be that there really weren’t that many submissions by women or racial minorities, period.

    Is the pool of potential pundits actually just really white and male, or are the pool of potential pundits thinned down to white males?

  2. Posted October 13, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Additionally, I object to the racial double standard in talking about whites in this post. Replace pale with dark, and it just looks awfully discriminatory. Just because whites are the dominant racial group doesn’t mean it’s okay to talk about them in a derogatory manner.

    • Posted October 14, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

      Don’t de-rail the conversation. Check your privilege and do some research on racsim.

      • Posted October 15, 2010 at 4:32 am | Permalink

        Can you elaborate on what you mean? I thought I raised a serious point – it’s racism no matter which direction it’s spun.

        Second, I think it’s jumping a little ahead to say I need to ‘Check [my] privilege and do some research on racism’ without proper justification.

  3. Posted October 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    The Editor’s Choices do not exactly strike a poor demographic distribution (3 men and 2 women, 1 racial minority), and the voting masses have not exactly offered a referendum on WaPo undervaluing minorities by strongly backing the ones without the Editor’s Choice designation. Unless WaPo filtered out more of the best women than the best men (by proportion) in the first round, the “bias” may be attributable to a more mundane factor like the application rate. There’s a red flag, but that’s what makes a follow-up investigation a good idea.

    To be honest, given the setup, I was expecting less than 22% would be women.

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