If a notable woman dies and a major national newspaper doesn't report it, did it actually happen?
Big papers' lists of significant deaths in 2012 overwhelmingly feature men. The Washington Post put 18 women and 48 men on its list. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times listed 36 women and 114 men. And lest you think this is some kind of freak 2012 phenomenon, the New York Times has consistently listed many more men than women over the last five years.
So is the issue that notable women aren't dying—or that newspapers aren't reporting it? "We simply choose the most prominent, the most well-known, the most influential, without regard to race, color, sex, creed," says Bill McDonald, the editor of obituaries at the Times. "It's a rearview mirror. The people we write about largely shaped the world of the 1950s, '60s and, increasingly, the '70s, and those movers and shakers were—no surprise—predominantly white men."
Go check out the stunning bar charts. It tells the whole sorry--and oh so familiar-- story.But legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem says that doesn't tell the whole story. "The standards by which people are chosen still have a 'masculine' skew," Steinem wrote in an email to Mother Jones. Women who organized and pressured for social progress—like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example—are less likely to get notice, Steinem says, than men whose success can only be measured in wealth, like Donald Trump or the Koch Brothers. "Women are more likely to be credited with the personal than the political—and also put in one silo. Anything that only affects women is taken less seriously than anything that also affects men," she says.