Maybe Women Would Read Newspapers If Newspapers Would Stop Insulting Us

Seattle, where I live, remains a two-newspaper town, but that's about to change. Last month, the owners of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer--a Hearst-owned paper that competes with the also-struggling Seattle Times--announced they were putting the paper up for sale. The assumption, of course, is that no one will buy it, and it will go out of business or move online. To listen to many in the local media, the death of the P-I is the beginning of the end for quality local coverage-- that if local papers die, local news coverage will die with them.

Frankly, though, I'd be a hell of a lot more worked up about our "dying local institution" if it didn't routinely waste front-page real estate with stories like this:
Taking up the Vixen 'Gauntlet' means swallowing a little pride

Look out, guys -- these pool sharks will put you behind the 8 ball
Let's count the sexist assumptions embedded in that headline alone: a) Losing to a woman = emasculation, because b) everybody knows girls = bad at sports. However, c) Don't worry about the humiliation, because these bitches are sharks. And at least d) you get a little T&A with your humiliation--which makes you, wink wink, the real winner.

Yes, I get why lazy writers resort to leads like this:
Machismo may bring men to Bellevue's Parlor Billiards to challenge the Vixens, an all-women's pool-playing team, but more gentlemanly behavior leaves with them, thanks to a healthy helping of humility -- in heels, no less.
...but it seems to me that it SHOULD be possible, without undue exertion, to write about an all-female pool team without reducing the story to "who knew GIRLS could play pool--and look hot while they're doing it?"

What's most galling to me is that the writer--a woman who has recently been responsible for equally infuriating stories about "The Running of the Brides" ("Do not try to stand between a bridezilla and her dress") and an "ironic" fundraiser in which women (and a few men) auctioned themselves off to raise money to fight sex slavery--doesn't flinch at lines that should send any reporter's bullshit detector into overdrive:
"We wanted to start a ladies night, something besides drink specials," Olson said. "But we also thought, 'Let's empower women here.' Every woman is a Vixen on Monday night."
"Vixen," by the way = Woman who has to wear heels to meet the club's dress code.

The male patrons, at least, like it:
Craig Nishina, 29, respects them, especially because he has yet to run The Gauntlet, even though he has been showing up since almost the beginning.

"It's a fun concept. It's free, and they get more girls interested in pool. They help with morale," said the Lynnwood engineer, who has been playing competitively since 2000.
Let us pause and note that Nishina is 29. The "girls" he "respects" so much range in age from 26 to 45.

I don't expect daily papers to be on the vanguard of gender relations; nor do I expect every story to be of Pulitzer caliber. But given that women are deserting newspapers in record numbers precisely because they don't think newspapers respect them or write about their interests, finding a way to cover women without resorting to insulting stereotypes might be one key to winning back their loyalty.

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