Where are the women? National Magazine Award edition

Another day, another depressing look at the media gender gap. Last month Vida released its survey of male and female bylines in major “thought leader” magazines–which, for the second year in a row, was pretty abysmal. On Monday, NYU determined the 100 greatest journalists of the last century–a list that included only 22 women and 8 black writers.

Yesterday, ASME announced the National Magazine Award finalists and Ann, who can always be counted on for a quick byline tally, crunched the numbers in each category.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY — 1 woman, 4 men
PERSONAL SERVICE — 3 women, 1 man, 1 without byline
PUBLIC INTEREST — 4 women, 1 man
REPORTING — 0 women, 5 men
FEATURE WRITING — 0 women, 5 men
PROFILE WRITING — 0 women, 5 men
ESSAYS AND CRITICISM — 0 women, 5 men
FICTION — 3 women, 2 men

While they dominate in the personal service, public interest, and fiction categories, women are completely absent from the reporting, features, profiles, essays or columns categories.

Riese at Autostraddle points out that the articles in the lady-less categories are also mostly about men: Only two of the 20 are about women. Alyssa Rosenberg argues this is partly a structural problem: The fact that there’s a General Excellence award specifically for women’s magazines, while men’s magazines are counted as “general interest” publications, means women’s magazines tend to specialize in those health/family/lifestyle issues that often aren’t considered the real “serious” stuff. As Erin Belieu, co-founder of VIDA, notes, “The National Magazine Awards have sent a pretty clear message. When it comes to a career in journalism, chicks should stick to writing about chicks.”

Sid Holt, the chief executive of the AMSE, says taking issue with the lack of women nominees is “kind of silly” since there is a process and not “a secret cabal making the decisions.” I think that’s supposed to be reassuring or something. But, believe it or not, I did not actually think that this was the result of an intentional master plan by the leaders of AMSE. Most of the time, regular old sexism and structural inequality–combine with indifference to the gender gap–will suffice.

You should read all the nominated pieces, because they’re surely great. (Follow the links at Ann’s place.) But in case you need a reminder that women also can–and often do–write features and reporting and columns on a wide variety of subjects–and are sometimes really good at it–here are a few suggestions from the last year. Just off the top of our heads. Please leave your nominees in the comments and I’ll add them to this list.

Birthright: What’s next for Planned Parenthood, The New Yorker, Jill Lepore
The Life and Death of Pvt. Danny Chen, New York Magazine, Jennifer Gonnerman
Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama, The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry
All The Single Ladies, The Atlantic, Katie Bolick
One Town’s War on Gay Teens, Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely
Teaching Good Sex, The New York Times Magazine, Laurie Abraham
What I Lost in Libya, The Atlantic, Clare Morgana Gillis
The Test Generation, The American Prospect, Dana Goldstein
The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an Enemy of the State, The New Yorker, Jane Mayor
The Evangelical Adoption Crusade, The Nation, Kathryce Joyce
Hecho en América, GQ, Jeanne Marie Laskas,
I Can Find an Indicted War Criminal. So Why Isn’t He in the Hague? Mother Jones, Mac McClelland
Trade Secrets: The tough talk of the new anti-trafficking movement, Bitch Magazine, Emi Koyama

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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