Mike Burbach, Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Bass, Sports Editor: email@example.com
As a reader unfamiliar with Joe Soucheray’s style, I cannot tell whether his May 19, 2011 column was meant to skewer the unenlightened readers who suggested he was somehow un-masculine for protesting the dangers of modern football, or whether he aimed to prove his macho bona fides via said mockery. Whatever the intentions of Soucheray himself, the message made by the print headline was clear: “No. I’m still a man, not a woman. It’s football that changed.”
I’m a writer as well as a feminist activist—I am not interested in policing language. Yet I am keenly aware of the power that words have, particularly in the hands of a major newspaper, to perpetuate stereotypes that are at best, irritating, and at worst, dangerous. Soucheray’s column and accompanying headline reinforce the message that for a presumably heterosexual man, there is no worse offense than to be called a woman.
Thanks to a half-century of civil rights progress, it is no longer considered acceptable to use race, ethnicity, or perceived sexual orientation as a slur. No editor would approve a headline that read “No. I’m still a man, not a faggot,” for fear of significant (and richly deserved) backlash. Why is gender still, after all these years, fair game?
Rigid gender stereotypes hurt everyone, from men who are prevented from developing emotional relationships with their children to women who are stymied by sexism in the workplace. As a newspaper that hopes to survive in the 21st century, the writers and editors of the Pioneer Press would be wise to make decisions that better reflect our changing times.
Shannon DruryPresident, Minnesota NOW