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Unhealthy Times
June 10, 2003
by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

The New York Times Censorship List

The New York Times Book Review, a section that depends on objectivity, has instead an "attitude" toward men that is perhaps best reflected in this Book Review headline:

Book Review
Don't Expect Too Much of Men

This "attitude" is reflected in man-haters like Marilyn French and Andrea Dworkin having every book they write reviewed while books written by men who articulate the issues of adult men with compassion and criticize the feminist perspective have none of those books reviewed.

I'll document this in a second, but first the significance of this breach of the core journalistic ethic of fairness and balance. When The New York Times Book Review ignores a book it sends a message: "You are not one of the players." Other media take the cue. When it systematically ignores books on a topic with one point of view and gives double reviews to books with the opposite perspective, the violation is not just one of journalistic ethics, but of the responsibility of power.

Now to the documentation. A review of The New York Times Index from 1971 through 1998 reveals that Marilyn French, the woman loved by publisher Sulzberger, and her book, The Women's Room - the one that states that "All men are rapists and that's all they are" - was misandrist enough to be given not one, but two reviews by The New York Times. The first review was by another feminist who is a The New York Times favorite, Ann Tyler. To make sure no opinion leader missed the book, it was given a second review within two weeks, and this time by one of The New York Times' most respected reviewers, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt.

The corollary of The New York Times' message "you are not one of the players" when it ignores a book is that when The New York Times does review you, especially positively, and especially twice, and particularly by its favorite and most respected reviewers, it makes you one of the players. Soon other things start a-happening. In Marilyn French's case, The Women's Room was made into a motion picture.

To this day The New York Times has not dropped its promotion of French, giving multiple reviews to each of three more of her books, including The War Against Women. When The War Against Women is given to feminist reviewer Isabelle de Courtivron, French is made to sound like a major thinker rather than a sexist man-hater.

In a similar manner, Andrea Dworkin, whose hatred toward men is expressed in her novels via certain characters who, as she openly explains, represent her personal perspectives, also has each of her five books between 1981 and 1991 reviewed. I will look a bit more closely at her later, but the relevant issue here is that her career was also jump-started by The New York Times assigning her book, Pornography, to a feminist (Ellen Willis) to review.

In both cases, when a feminist can virtually lock-in a book review by The New York Times, she or he can guarantee a publisher no matter how man-hating the book. When in addition the Times sets the author up with an ideological ally as a reviewer the book is virtually guaranteed mainstream credibility. Then The New York Times is no longer reviewing a book, it is making an author. It is not covering news, it is creating news.

In contrast is books written by men who articulate the issues of adult men with compassion and criticize the feminist perspective. I promised documentation for The New York Times reviewing none of those books. Specifically, books fitting that category have been written by Asa Baber, Sanford Braver, Phil Cook, Richard Driscoll, Herb Goldberg, Jack Kammer, Andrew Kimbrell, Aaron Kipnis, Jeffrey Leving, Neil Lyndon, David Thomas, and myself. None has been reviewed.

It is also rare for authors of books on gender from any of the two traditional gender perspectives to be reviewed as well, but exceptional circumstances do allow an occasional review of those books.

Perhaps, though, there are legitimate reasons for this? Let's check it out...

First possibility: these are authors who are not worth reviewing. That can't be said: Andrew Kimbrell writes The Human Body Shop in 1993. Nothing to do with feminism. The New York Times gives it a rave review. Two years later he writes the Masculine Mystique, critical of the distortions of academic feminism. The New York Times ignores it. Herb Goldberg wrote the first book critical of feminism by a man who questions traditional roles, The Hazards of Being Male. The New York Times ignored it. He later wrote The New Male, which was not critical of feminism. The New York Times reviewed it.

When I wrote The Liberated Man, I had never published a book. But it was written from a feminist perspective. The New York Times reviewed it twice. Both times in the best place in the world: the Sunday Book Review. My next two books were more male positive and questioned feminism. The New York Times ignored them both.

Is it possible The New York Times just ignores books on gender issues? No. They reviewed, I would estimate, between nine hundred and a thousand pro-feminist books between the mid-seventies and 1999.

Is it possible they just ignore books on men's issues? Not quite. When Michael Kimmel, an ardent pro-feminist, wrote his pro-feminist attack on men's issues, The New York Times reviewed it. That is, they reviewed a book attacking what they had themselves refused to cover: books positive about adult men's issues that were critical of any portion of feminism. And of course they reviewed those particular books by Herb Goldberg and me on men's issues when we were not critical of feminism.

The New York Times does do an occasional review of two other types of books on males: books on boys, and books on male spirituality. Why? Boys' vulnerabilities trigger women's protective instinct. Boys have not rejected women, men have. Boys do not threaten the feminist political or legal agenda.

Similarly, male spiritual issues also do not threaten core feminist doctrine on political issues, so if one becomes a best seller, like Robert Bly's Iron John, The New York Times can review it. And as for authors like Rush Limbaugh, from the political right, they are far enough away from The New York Times Book Review readers' thinking they can occasionally be reviewed (usually panned) without feminists being threatened. Second, they deal only tangentially with gender issues.

And finally, The New York Times does review books critical of feminism if they are written by women. But...they then assign feminists to tear them apart. When Christina Hoff Sommers wrote Who Stole Feminism, The New York Times assigned the review to Nina Auerbach (a feminist). A bit like asking Phyllis Schlaffly to review Gloria Steinem's next book. The exception here is Katie Roiphe's book critical of feminism. But then again, her mother wrote for The New York Times!

What the The New York Times Book Review censors, then, is books written by men who criticize the feminist perspective and articulate adult men's issues with compassion.

In the sense that books critical of feminism go through a markedly different screening process prior to being reviewed, The New York Times can be said to censor all feminist-critical books.

We have also begun to see that the editors at The New York Times employ their feminism to violate the second biggest ethic (after censorship) in book review journalism - neutrality: to select book reviewers knowledgeable enough to understand a book's goal and the importance of that goal, and neutral enough to impart to the reader how well the goal is achieved. Instead, books on gender are most frequently given "Sisterhood Reviews"....

For example, a Gloria Steinem book is reviewed by Deidre English, a socialist feminist and former editor of the socialist feminist Mother Jones magazine. When Mary Daly, the radical feminist religious studies professor I discuss above wrote a more recent book, Outercourse, it was reviewed by another radical feminist religious studies professor. Similarly, Carol Gilligan is reviewed by feminist colleague Carolyn Heilbrun; Carolyn Heilbrun is reviewed by UCLA feminist Barbara Packer. So Packer is able to agree with Heilbrun that no sane person could want the female role. When a book has a feminist orientation, The New York Times quickly drops the journalistic standard of a neutral reviewer and often searches out a compatible colleague.

In many cases of feminist authors, it finds more than a compatible colleague. It finds a good friend. And this is a practice that has been going on since the early 70's. I can remember dining with an early feminist who was telling me about both her new book and her best friend. I was a bit surprised to see in the following Sunday's The New York Times Book Review her best friend's review of her book.

The New York Times: Man-Haters Made Here

"Some of my best friends are men. It is simply that I think women are superior to men."
- Anna Quindlen, Columnist, The New York Times, 1977-1994, in the column titled, "Why Can't A Man be More Like a Woman?"

Theoretically, any columnist for The New York Times that wrote, "Some of my best friends are blacks. It is simply that I think whites are superior to blacks" would be fired. I say theoretically, because, practically speaking, the column would never clear the supervising editor's desk; it would never be printed. If it were, the editor would also be fired.

The New York Times does not exactly make man-haters. It just makes them famous. And credible. It is the single most responsible source for integrating man-haters like Marilyn French, Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, and Barbara Ehrenreich into the mainstream of feminist respectability.

The New York Times Magazine introduced Catharine MacKinnon on their front cover, with her head photographed in such a way as to be surrounded by light, creating a subtle appearance of a halo. The article portrayed her thinking as being pioneering, at the cutting edge of the feminist legal community. What is her thinking?

MacKinnon claims that women are forced to say "yes" to sex in order to survive and, therefore, sex - even after a "yes" - is often rape. I had heard MacKinnon quoted as taking this a step further, saying all sexual intercourse is rape: the man penetrates the woman, and therefore invades her. But since I'm more often misquoted than not, I just assumed it was a misquote. I had an opportunity to check out my assumption when I did a special with MacKinnon and Peter Jennings on rape on ABC's Evening News. During the panel she did not say that. So, off the air, I asked her if her perspective was correctly represented by the belief that "all sexual intercourse is rape." She not only confirmed, but reiterated it voluntarily and emphatically.

Back to The New York Times. Right after MacKinnon appeared on The New York Times Magazine's cover, NBC selected her as the only consistent outside co-moderator (with Tom Brokaw ) of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. The way much of the press interpreted the hearings was colored at least in part by MacKinnon's perspectives on male-female sexuality.

We met Andrea Dworkin in the chapter on man-bashing - the woman who admits to purposely using certain fictional characters to represent her perspective. Although a woman, she claims to understand the male consciousness enough to tell her readers that "...sex and murder are fused in the male consciousness, so that one without the imminent possibility of the other is unthinkable and impossible."

Dworkin's comments, if made about any other group in a business, the government, or an academic setting, would be a career-ender. For The New York Times, they are career-makers. Needless to say, The New York Times reviews Dworkin and helps make her famous. Fortunately, one reviewer at least made Dworkin's perspectives clear: "Ms. Dworkin advocates nothing short of killing men."

For The New York Times' staff, with its sensitivity to anti-Semitism, to make credible a woman equating heterosexual sex with murder; to sponsor for more than one-and-a-half decades a weekly columnist writing, "I think women are superior to men" (Quindlen); to celebrate as cutting-edge legal opinions of all heterosexual sex as rape (MacKinnon); to applaud and review a woman who says all men are rapists (French) suggests an inability to extrapolate from anti-Semitism's deeper lessons.

Men's vs. Women's Internal Stories: The Anatomy of the Front Page

When I took a break from writing this morning, I sneaked out to my driveway in my bathrobe and mussed up hair and ran back in with The New York Times (which I still love!). I woke up my womanfriend, gave it to her, and, while I was making breakfast, she pointed to this page one headline with the comment, "Remember last night..."


"No, I mean when you mentioned how the newspapers tell the internal stories of unknown women more than unknown men's? Look at The New York Times front page.

New York Nightmare Kills a Dreamer

The lace curtain's impact on The New York Times is so pervasive, it is apparent almost daily. A story of women-as-victim, usually accompanied by a poignant picture of a woman victim, is almost de rigeur for Sunday's front page, perhaps the most influential single page of newsprint published weekly anywhere in the world. But whether during the week or on Sunday, there are patterns to the biases. Compare the above front page with this one, also January of 1999 ....

Women's Suicides Reveal Rural China's Bitter Roots
Nation Starts to Confront World's Highest Rate

Both front pages headline women's tragedies. In both, women's tragedies are personalized (so much so, that in the top story, about Kendra [Webdale], I felt considerable sadness and anger at the tragedy of a lovely woman's life being randomly robbed in her twenties). In both, men are highlighted as the cause of the female victimization.

In both, the type of tragedies experienced by the women are, in fact, much more common to men (men are murdered three times more frequently than women; men now commit suicide in the US four and a half times more frequently than women). China is the only country in the world that has more females committing suicide than males. Why aren't we seeing front page The New York Times headlines about each of the countries in which men commit suicide more - and why the men are doing it - men's internal stories? Why are we not seeing stories about why men over 85 commit suicide 1350% more frequently than women over 85 ?

But let's go beyond the surface - to why the China story does not justify the woman-as-victim headline. In China suicide is a two-sex problem. For every quarter million Chinese, only five fewer men commit suicide than women. Nothing in the article helps us understand men's reasons for suicide. Yet female suicide is blamed on male patriarchy and female isolation. But when one sex is isolated, isn't the other? When a spouse dies, men - the widowers - are ten times more likely than widows to commit suicide. Perhaps that has something to do with isolation?

All this is part of a principal central to the lace curtain: when the problem is worse for American men, find a country in which it is as bad for women and headline it as worse for women. Then portray this woman's problem as caused by men or patriarchy. The result? The American reader now knows how to detect suicide's warnings for a woman living in rural China, but not for our teenage son or aging dad.

Do men who commit suicide make the front page of The New York Times? If they are famous, yes. If they are "just a man," no. Women make it for being women.

And unknown women make it for being victims in almost every conceivable manner. Here are three examples on just one front page of the Sunday The New York Times, March 7, 1999. (There is not a single story focused on a man as a victim of any type.) Top of the page is a picture of a woman near Algiers mourning. Her grandchildren were killed in the war. We don't see stories of the personal misery her grandchildren are enduring in war - that might have included the misery of men.

Directly underneath is the story of a female health worker allergic to latex gloves. Turns out that ten percent of health workers have such allergies, but the only story personalized on the front page is that of a female health worker.

Still on the same front page is the story of a woman who sued her coach for sexual harassment.

When women are benefiting from women's sports going from 300,000 student-athletes in 1972 with the passage of Title IX, to 3 million student-athletes currently, what makes the front page is the picture and personal story of a female victim.

The very next day, March 8 [1999], front page again...

Mothers on Medicaid Overcharged for Pain Relief

Wait, there is something underneath this Medicaid mom article: "Police Abuses Start to Get Attention in China." It turns out that four men are victims. But as male victims they are not worthy of a headline. Or a picture. What makes the headline is the image of men-as-abusers: Chinese police (read: men). Even when only men are the victims, The New York Times finds a way of headlining the men who are the perpetrators.

The problem? This is reinforcing the message to our daughters that the path to attention and empathy is victimhood. This disempowers women. And it tells our sons their path to attention is saving women. Which leaves our daughters feeling entitled, and angry when men don't deliver.

About the Good Times

I had hopes for The New York Times when it began to do a weekly "About Men" column. And some of its columns did hit home. But overall the column focused on self-effacing, personal anecdotes that consistently stopped short of touching on underlying men's issues such as why our teenage sons' suicide rate is increasing (and what we can learn from the decrease in our daughters' rate). I flew from San Diego to New York to meet with the editor and discuss incorporating these underlying issues into the "About Men" column. I could feel, even as I was getting through to him, that he felt the column had a formula, and his hands were tied. The column was ultimately reduced to twice per month (alternating with a column called "Hers") and was then replaced.

All this said, about one or two articles per year appear somewhere in The New York Times with at least an attempt at looking at men's issues. One was, "A Few Good Men? Don't Look in the Movies." And don't look in The New York Times.

Excerpted from Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say by Warren Farrell, Ph.D. Copyright © 1999 by Warren Farrell. Used with permission of author.

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