You probably won’t hear much about Gloria Steinem being awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom today by President Barack Obama. Former President Bill Clinton and current presidential pal Oprah Winfrey seem to be getting top billing in news coverage.
Where did Steinem, an activist and writer for more than four decades, end up in today’s coverage? In the Washington Post, she ended up in the “Style” section, what were once called the “Women’s” section in the old newspaper days.
It’s not the first time that Steinem has been relegated to the Style section. In February 2012, the New York Times put her story in “Fashion and Style.” Last January, the Post also put a a story about feminists’ disputes over Michelle Obama’s time as first lady in the Style section.
The Columbia Journalism Review last February called it “the pink ghetto.”
Feminists continue to rightly complain of being pushed out of the more “serious” sections and worry that being discussed alongside the day’s fashions leads to more focus on their clothes and makeup than their ideas, and stories on “women’s issues” that hit the front pages are often still written by men. Is it any wonder that women’s magazines and websites still appeal? They provide space for women to talk to each other, since we’re still too often left out of the conversation in front of male audiences.
Until women’s news (and women reporters) are given equal footing in all the sections, we’re going to keep seeing the dilemma of one style editor, who complained to Mills that women would ask her to cover news stories in her section. “[I]t belongs in the front section or the city section, not my section. I have my own mission. Should I turn my section back into a ghetto of women’s news?”