Are Women Dim or Are Editors Sexist?

His Girl Friday. 1940.

Charlotte Allen’s wretched Washington Post essay arguing that women are “kind of dim”  has been widely condemned, rightly so. My friend and occasional collaborator Laura Rozen has been particularly fierce keeping up the attack on the Post for running such a retrograde, insulting piece.

There is one sociological point that hasn’t been made: historically the newsroom has been among the most sexist of workplaces, a masculine enclave on par with barber shops, the Catholic hierarchy, and the military. You get a sense of this from the memoirs of early 20th century newspapermen like H.L. Mencken: a newsrooms was a smoked-filled, grubby place, with spittoons on the floor and pinups on the wall. Even in their leisure hours old school newspaper reporters and editors continued their male bonding at bars and boxing matches. My friend Chris Ware refers to this as a culture of the “sporting life”, and the governing rule was “no girls allowed.”

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