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January 19, 2007

NYT's Pro-Single-Women Celebration Criticized By CJR, Of All Things

The NYT claimed that 51% of all women were now single. To get to that figure, they had to include 15 year old girls as "women."

And then they portrayed this dubious datum as unambiguously good news. Even the Columbia Journalism Review can see through the silliness:

It had a tone of exuberance that spun the numbers as an unambiguously positive piece of progress for women. A quote from William H. Frey of the Brookings Institute captured the mood of it. The shift away from marriage, Frey said, represents "a clear tipping point, reflecting the culmination of post-1960 trends associated with greater independence and more flexible lifestyles for women."


But America is not a monolith. As much as we would like to persist in thinking that we are a classless and race-blind society, the Times, of all papers -- having run groundbreaking series on both race and class -- should realize that a phenomenon that might bode well for middle-class white women might be absolutely disastrous for poor black women.


Apparently, though, we are the only ones to see it like this. Because apart from a tossed-off paragraph that reminds us that, buried within these statistics, seventy percent of African-American women are single, there is nothing to indicate how the epidemic of single parentage in the black community contributes to this statistic. We imagine -- though aren't told -- that many of these women are raising children alone and being dragged deeper into poverty because of their unmarried status.


Instead the rest of the article is completely about those middle class white women who insist they have chosen to be without ball and chain. We meet Emily Zuzik, a 32-year-old musician and model who lives in the East Village of Manhattan, and Linda Barth, a 56-year-old magazine editor in Houston. We hear about how happy Sheila Jamison, who also lives in the East Village and works for a media company, is and about how Shelley Fidler, a public policy adviser at a law firm, has "sworn off marriage."


As far as we can tell, not only was there no socio-economic diversity among those interviewed for the piece, there was also no racial diversity. These other women, ignored entirely by the Times, might have told a story quite different than Shelley Fidler, who said, "The benefits [of singledom] were completely unforeseen for me. The free time, the amount of time I get to spend with friends, the time I have alone, which I value tremendously, the flexibility in terms of work, travel and cultural events."

Well, of course. Look, the New York Times likes to write endlessly about black women, but it's not writing for them.


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posted by Ace at 09:18 PM

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