In her article "Women know more than just love and sex," Roxane Gay discusses how women in journalism are all too often relegated to writing about "women's issues" to the exclusion of everything else. She also discusses why these "trend pieces" on women are so problematic, namely that they are talking only about white women of higher socioeconomic status.
Women are a cultural mystery that must be solved, and solutions are often advanced through trend journalism. The trends being written about generally receive shallow treatment, reducing women and their choices to not-so-clever catchphrases. Lean in! Opt out! Jump up! Sit down!
The conclusion in such pieces is largely the same: Women are individuals who have desires, feelings, thoughts and opinions. We rarely see such pieces about men because we take their individuality, their humanity for granted. When we do see such articles about men, it is often because they are making choices women traditionally make — one popular genre is the stay-at-home father, and some writer grappling with that father’s masculinity and what life must be like for such an avant garde parent.
Such gendered trend journalism also tends to focus on one kind of woman — white, wealthy or upper middle class and heterosexual. There is an absolute lack of intersectional thinking, with little attention given to how working-class women, queer and transgender women, or women of color might live their lives when their choices are often constrained in ways the wealthy cannot fathom. Worse, it’s not just one magazine or newspaper that publishes gendered trend journalism, it’s most of them.
I want to see the same attention given to the choices men make about their professional and personal lives because they are, in fact, making choices too. I want such pieces to feel less like women are a specimen, in a petri dish, beneath the lens of a microscope. I want to see less of a sense of wonder and bewilderment when it turns out that in some respects, women, they are not so different from men or they are and the world somehow still turns.
I’m also interested in topics that have nothing to do with gender. I’d like to see more of such journalism written by women. It’s always startling to see how many gendered trend pieces are written by talented women, eminently capable of writing about other topics.
Is there an assumption that women can write about women’s lives while men can tackle the rest of what goes on in the world?