Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 1999 /21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
WASHINGTON -- Author Warren Farrell came to the
National Press Club Tuesday to discuss his new book,Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, and to
advance his theory that the news media are biased
And . . . nobody came.
No one from the media, that is. The small audience
consisted of the usual suspects from various men's
organizations and a handful of panelists, including one
member of the media. Yours truly.
For the record, because no one was there to report our
discussion, I agreed with Farrell that the media are biased
against men in certain areas but noted that the media are
also biased against women in others. After more than 20
years in journalism, I have observed that men get short
shrift in matters that traditionally were the domain of
women -- family, children, health -- while women get
short shrift in matters traditionally associated with men --
government, politics, business.
In other words, we ignore men's hearts and women's
We pay little attention, for example, to the heartbreak of
divorced fathers, while we exalt the single mother
struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, we
praise a male candidate's professional qualifications while
we discuss his female counterpart's personality.
That last observation was reported last week in a new
study released by the Women's Leadership Fund. In a
study of media coverage of six political campaigns in
1998, researchers found that newspapers more often
described women candidates in terms of their age, marital
status, whether they had children and, of course, their
hair. The same papers described male candidates more
often according to issues and their professional record.
Despite advances in equality, we are, it seems, reluctant
to let go of our old stereotypes: Men must be tough
(protect women, hide their pain, be strong 'n silent);
women must be attractive and nurturing (be devoted to a
spouse, be fertile, have consistently good-hair days).
Meanwhile, we've added a few new stereotypes to the
list, notably in the male column. Men today are also:
stupid, philanderers, deadbeats, disposable, pedophiles,
batterers, Sodomites, losers, to name a few. Farrell,
whose earlier works include Why Men Are the Way
They Are and The Myth of Male Power, does a good job
of documenting the pervasiveness of these messages
throughout the media and other institutions.
In his new book, Farrell devotes the longest chapter to
what he calls "the lace curtain," the tendency of the media
to shut out any opinions considered a threat to feminism.
We accept without skepticism assertions by women's
groups, said Farrell, whether the issue is affirmative
action, rape on campus, domestic violence, deadbeat
dads. By failing to challenge women's stories -- even to
suggest another view -- the media have forsaken their
obligation to fairness.
|Purchasing this book|
-- linked in first paragraph --
helps fund JWR
We also make light of abuses toward men that would
never be tolerated were women on the receiving end.
One of many examples in Farrell's book is a 1994
Associated Press story that carried this headline in the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch: "Couple's Makeup Kiss Gets A Bit
Nippy For Husband." The article began: "Helen Carson
told her husband she wanted to kiss and make up after
they had a fight. Apparently, she wasn't that forgiving --
she bit off the end of his tongue."
What a hoot! When challenged about the headline, the
editor reportedly replied that the article was supposed to
be "upbeat." It's hard to imagine any newspaper treating
as upbeat a report about a man biting off his wife's
tongue. We would have that boy shackled and hoisted on
a poster faster than you can say "wife beater."
Some of Farrell's theories about male and female
behavior surely invite debate (such as that women's anger
toward men comes from their feeling of rejection as they
age and become less attractive), but his documentation of
the media's double standard toward men and women is
His book is worth a read -- and his comments Tuesday
were worth a hearing. That no one bothered to show up
may be all the proof his thesis
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Tribune Media Services