Monday, January 26, 2009

The Most Influential

Forbes has very helpfully provided us with a list of the 25 most influential liberals in media.

I will admit that I don't follow the media game particularly well--I'm a faithful blog reader, but pretty much only watch The Daily Show and Rachel Maddow--so I can't say that I'm well-equipped to assess this list on its merits. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan both thoughtfully criticize Forbes' definition of "liberal" but I'd like to address another observation.

Of the twenty-five people on this list, just four are women:

Maureen Dowd (#15)
Rachel Maddow (#7)
Oprah Winfrey (#6)
and Arianna Huffington (#2)

Just four are women, and two of those four are Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington, who are not exactly paradigms of measured, intelligent discourse. The list contains bloggers and columnists, newspeople and authors. There weren't a few more liberal women in any of those positions with substantial influence?

The lack of women in the liberal blogosphere has been documented. And the sense that there are too few women in media generally exists, even if it's not more tangibly articulated.

The gender gap puts the Democratic party over the top wherever it makes it over the top. Women, as compared with men, are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Women are more likely to vote period than men. But, it seems, somewhat less likely to be considered an influential presence in the media.

We need to create a space for women in the liberal media, and in the "liberal movement," insofar as it exists as a collectivity. Women who talk about women ought not to be marginalized. "Women's issues" must move beyond the realm of a specialized interest ("special interest," even) to the political mainstream, and feminist analysis (or at least female analysis) has to find its way into the day-to-day workings of how we think about public policy and the political system.

For that to happen, there need to be women--loud women who are allowed to speak as women--on the airwaves and on our RSS feeds and in our editorial pages. And not just mine.

This list, however oddly it defines liberal, and however inconsequential it is in reality, reminds us that we're not there yet.

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