WOMEN AND LIBERAL MAGAZINES….Ampersand wants to know why there are so few female writers working for liberal magazines. Is it because there are so few female editors?

That doesn’t sound quite right to me, but it’s probably part of the explanation. Still, there has to be more to it than that. I imagine the preponderance of war news partially explains the dominance of men on newspaper op-ed pages, but that doesn’t seem like it explains anything about their dominance of magazines. Maybe men are just by nature bigger assholes, and this makes for more interesting writing. Maybe there are just fewer women who feel like mouthing off in print. I dunno.

(And I wonder how conservative magazines fare? It would be rather embarrassing if they did a better job publishing women than liberal magazines, wouldn’t it?)

UPDATE: Jeanne d’Arc emailed me to add some insight into this issue:

Madeleine Bunting did a study for the Guardian immediately after 9/11 and found that the percentage of bylines by women dropped drastically. She was looking both at news pages and editorial pages. Part of the drop could be explained by the fact that journalists with backgrounds in military matters suddenly were writing a large percentage of the stories, and there just aren’t many women specializing in military affairs.

What fascinated me, though, so much that I still remember it more than a year later, is that the women also had far fewer bylines in commentary, and many editors said that women they specifically asked for a piece turned them down, while male writers rarely turned them down. Many women said they didn’t feel they had anything adequate to say. The reason it stuck in my head is that it confirmed my personal experience that many men I knew, in the wake of 9/11 felt a great need to expound on their political points of view, to explain things, and to demonstrate that this kind of thing never would happen if everyone saw things their way (and that attitude seemed true of men on both the left and right), while women seemed less sure of what they believed, more questioning, and more inclined to just shut up and wait for some sense to emerge.

I don’t think those are innate characteristics (picking up on your nature vs. nurture post as well), but I think that a difference between the way most men think and the way most women think exists. Newspapers and magazines aren’t comfortable with questions; they want confident answers. And that tends to favor male writers ? although obviously there are many confident, even over-confident female writers (Ann Coulter, anyone?) and many probing male writers who tend toward reflection rather than assertion (one of my favorites is Richard Rodriguez).