The XX Factor

Want Insight on Women? Ask a Man.

An Ohio woman votes in 2008.

Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images, a research group that tracks election coverage, has a stunning graphic up showing how often women are quoted in stories tackling women’s issues. The answer? Top reporters and producers are much, much more likely to turn to men to discuss issues of specific interest to women.

In news stories about abortion, Planned Parenthood, birth control, and women’s rights, television shows like MSNBC’s Hardball and CNN’s State of the Union quoted women on average just 16 percent of the time. Almost all of the other insights and opinions offered were from men, along with a handful of statements issued by organizations.


Major print outlets like USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times were even lousier about including women in those types of stories, quoting them 13 percent of the time. Even in stories about “women’s rights”—a category 4thEstate doesn’t define but which presumably involves less of a religious dimension than the abortion issue, and is therefore less easily construed as a topic about which men might offer special insight—actual women are quoted less than a third of the time. Seeing the data laid out in pie charts and bar graphs makes the disparities absolutely jarring, and it deserves to be printed out and tacked to newsroom cubicles across the land. (4thEstate also has a graphic showing which political reporters quote women the most, and which quote them the least.)

The website’s graphic (more on its methodology at the Daily Beast) reminds me of a brilliant Daily Show segment from April in which Jason Jones attempts to get inside the minds of female voters by assembling a collection of powerful women. He then turns to the male political consultant at his side and asks him what all the women are thinking. Precisely.