I Say…

Alright already – the day has come to speak about the whole He Says, She Says thing.  And I don’t mean the movie with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins (which is technically He Said, She Said – and truly one of my guilty favorites as a Kevin Bacon fan).  I am referencing The Forum’s  new gender specific “labeled” content areas that focus on content considered to be of of interest and concern to men or women.  I say “labeled” as the content may be of interest to anyone, but it is generated out of the two specific stovepipes of He Says and She Says.

She Says was the first of the two sections to debut and it took considerable heat as being a throwback to the 1950s.  He Says debuted just days ago as the complement to She Says for the other more testosterone-laden gender.  According to editor Matthew Von Pinnon, “He Says offers a lot of the same popular features seen in She Says, but from a male vantage point. The section is entirely written, edited and produced by men. It focuses on matters all male.”

I must confess, when I first heard about the concept of She Says I thought it was going to be a platform for featuring female writers – a showcase of sorts.  I was all for that.  Then I realized that it wasn’t a showcase at all, but instead a silo of sorts.  That didn’t sit as well, but I didn’t feel immediately compelled to revolt.

She Says has been around for six months now, and He Says has been around for three days – okay, my saturation point for this has officially been reached and the urge to revolt is upon me. Not that I don’t value many of the articles that have been contributed under the She Says label – I do.  I cringe at the label itself.  I am immediately reminded of labeling theory.  Labeling theory postulates that “the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.”

I really don’t need my content labeled for me.  I know what I like and what interests me.  I don’t need it couched in a pink bow or a baseball cap to tell me whether it applies to me – I am a 21st century woman.  And before you add another big label to me – like “FEMINIST”- step back and tell me whether you really need a giant blinking neon arrow pointed at newspaper content to recognize whether it is of interest to you.  Would you as readily accept other content silos in your newspaper such as Baptists Say or Democrats Say or Rich People Say?  Think about it folks – all things can be labeled.  Indeed, at the most general level that is what newspaper sections do already – news, business, food, classifieds, etc. I am okay with those sections they are broad and much less confining than gender categories or the other suggested categories above (although I wish I could be labeled as a rich person for the purposes of content focus).

Just do me a favor, don’t assume by my gender that I have one topical interest or another. Also, don’t assume that by virtue of gender that a writer is more or less credible to me as a woman.  Don’t assume that I will start proclaiming “You go, girl!” just because the content is under a She Says label.

Not that this doesn’t still happen in society – gender-specific marketing.  Indeed, there are whole magazines that market to specific gender bases – sometimes quite outwardly (e.g., Men’s Health and Women’s Day).  But I would argue that the newspaper is different.  I expect more from a newspaper – I expect news that is presented for general consumption – to include across gender, across religious and political ideologies, and across cultures.

I am all for the sisterhood of women.  I am a fierce girl.  I am the first to acknowledge that I have been known to liberally fly my gender flag, but I define what gender means to me.  That is what puts me off about this gender-specific content labeling – the parameters that have been put around gender identity.  By labeling content you assume so much about me, and I say – that just doesn’t sit well with me.

I say I am intelligent enough to find the content that is meaningful to me without a label.

I say I am insulted that issues like infertility or pregnancy are presented in She Says when these are issues that affect both genders.

I say I want a man cave, but I would like to call it my “Room of Laziness and Relaxation” and I just might have a pool table, over-sized television and a comfy recliner in it.

I say I am not wholly defined, encapsulated or driven by my gender; and as such, don’t assume I am not interested in a review on sledgehammers, but uniquely interested in  Facebook just because I am a girl.

I say keep the content and lose the labels.

Day one thousand and two of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

6 Responses

  1. Paul Cline

    And all of God’s people said AMEN. I am a nurse, a decidedly female profession. I am also a husband, father & grandfather who works overtime to support my lack of foresight & birth control – just kidding, I love all my children; except the two who didn’t call me on my birthday. As for my grand babies: those are mine. No touchy.

    Gender is socially mediated & very fluid. My wife fixes the toilet. I work hard & home is where I go to rest. If you give me a honey do list I am going to call the neighborhood handyman & go back to reading my book or watching hockey.

    I am the provider. My castle is my refuge. When stressed & need a quiet place to think; I bake.

    Am I a man? A woman?

  2. rita vaughn

    totally in agreement – i am perfectly able to read articles that i choose to be interested in, not because i am a woman. Stupid premise for the paper to do.

  3. Gail

    I wonder: Was that section just another feature of April Fool’s Day, along with the left-handed printing of the first section?

  4. Barbara

    Aha! I think Gail has nailed it! And Paul–the most interesting people are those with blurred gender-roles. Rock on!

  5. Thank you! I was immediately uncomfortable with a section of the paper blatantly for “women” that featured cooking, psychology and crafts.

    I felt it was particularly insulting to my many male friends who love to cook. Why should they have to open the “women’s” section to read about food and cooking?

    In our increasingly divisive society, why divide people further? Was there something passé or déclassé about the Variety section? If there was, I missed the problem.

    This gender-targeted publication reduces complex and multi-faceted persons to the one-dimensional and simplistic abstractions that society so often uses to define gender, notions such as “men like sports, women like baking”.

    Reinforcing stereotypes in this way can only hinder our ability to see others, regardless of gender, as the unique, talented, interesting individuals that they are.

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