Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let Me Ask You Something...

Dek, LA Times [Aug 27, 2013]:
"Wilma Subra, a diminutive grandmother, has long challenged the corporate polluters in one of the nation's most toxic regions."


So now you think the dear little thing is holding a bake sale, right? Subra may be a grandmother, she may be many other things as well, maybe she bakes, maybe she fixes cars, maybe she writes verse; but what's important to this article is that she's a chemist. And an activist.

Let me ask you:

If you were to read an article about an environmental activist, a chemist who won the MacArthur Genius Grant, then spent years going toe-to-toe with the big players in the chemical manufacturing arena, and later faced physical danger when publishing those findings; if this article were about a man, would the Dek read: "Tiny grandfather takes on corporate polluters"?

I think not.

35 comments:

  1. ROCK on Wilma. I want an appointment with her next time I visit.

    ANd I get your point. Of course they wouldn't. Assholes.

    Pardon this grandmother's French.
    V

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  2. That's really bad reporting.I immediately saw her as a little granny pottering around with an apron on.

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  3. But of course not. But of course how typical. Remember that scientist's obit in the NY Times, and the first thing they mentioned was her cooking?!?
    Ageism, sexism.
    Apparently being a grandma is the antithesis of all those intellectual, activist things.

    How I long for the matriarchy.

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  4. Go Granny Go!!! Being a non-diminutive granny, I also take exception to the journalistic interpretation of the story...what's he think? All Grannys are little old ladies carrying a rolling pin???

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  5. Unbelievable that this sort of writing is still the norm when it comes to articles about women. Curses on both the reporter and the editor who allowed this to be published. Grrrr!

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  6. So many verbal dynamite sticks like this, and of course they're not all about gender or age. I've come to the point where I cringe the moment someone uses the pronoun "They." Sometimes it's innocent, of course, but often it's a distancing or downright alienating word.

    And btw, I never understood how people, even their supporters and even "professional" journalists," presumed to refer to Barack and Hillary--a minority and a woman--whereas Biff Romney was never good ol' Biff across the street, but Governor Romney or some such--Your Aristocratness? We can get overheated about the small stuff, but words matter. Sometimes, a lot.

    (Oh. Was it Myth Romney? Speedo? Chip? Hank? Everyman? Sometimes my memory . . . )

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  7. If sentence two were about exploding the myth in sentence one, I could understand what they were doing. You are so right about how different this would likely be were it about an older man.

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  8. This really steams me and I'm a guy. Thanks for calling bullsh!t, Karin.

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  9. I had a really amazing conversation with a repairperson/asshat today. And I know if I were a man he wouldn't have questioned my ability to comprehend what he was saying. Yeah, that happened. On the other paw, because I was so stupid and kept asking questions I now know what they didn't check on my dryer when they came out two weeks ago so now I know which part to order and I'll install myself. I bow to Wilma Subra and all who have come before.

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  10. The article was written by a woman. Her name is Julie Cart.

    Jeezus, what a fricking idiot.

    http://www.latimes.com/local/columnone/la-me-c1-subra-enviro-20130827-dto,0,6827309.htmlstory

    And Banjo, it was Myst, as in "Mystified."

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  11. Well shame on you Julie Cart. It always amazes me that sometimes women's worst enemies are women.

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  12. I agree with Latino Heritage. Sometimes I start with something that is in complete contrast to the rest of the article. It gets people's attention and it also shows that the person or whatever has many aspects. I'm writing one right now that starts with a stay at home father with 2 kids in diapers. In the next paragraph, he founds a tree care company. It would be less effective if it were a woman, though...

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  13. Oooo, you guys leave the best comments, I swear.

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  14. Perhaps I'm immune to being offended - or is it that I'm merely hormonal and having never had children will never be a grandmother - in any event, I too pictured Granny in her support hose and sensible shoes tottering about in her garden. Then I read about her accomplishments and thought, "Right on! You go, Girl!"

    Sometimes, people can have even more impact when they've been underestimated or marginalized by the, largely, paternalistic society we live in. No one expects the left hook.

    I also think this is true of both sexes the older they are. No one expects that weak old man to have been an ace fighter pilot or that woman to have survived the horrors of the concentration camps. I've met both and, I confess, I didn't expect either one to have that kind of history.

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  15. At one point in her career Subra was shot at so I think the implications of the article run much deeper which is why I brought up the point about the repair guy. If someone thinks you're inconsequential they're liable to do all kinds of things...in my case, the dryer couldn't be repaired because I wasn't smart enough, not because they were incompetent. And he was going to make sure I knew that. People will sacrifice themselves and their human dignity to all kinds of nonsensical ideas...

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  16. And if she were young and tall, we would get that too. But the tiny coupled with grandmother makes you think that those are the most noteworthy things about her; incredibly poor and condescending description.

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  17. Condescending, that's the word! I know I've read a headline somewhere that said, "Mother of two wins Nobel Prize."

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  18. ever been interviewed by the press? I have. It's less about truth, or the subject, and more about the writer

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  19. It's all about the so-called human interest, my dear. People have a hard time getting past the age thing, let alone the gender thing. As in, gee, how amazing that an 80 year old walks or dances or whatever. People ARE living longer these days, folks, and even grannies were once something other than grannies (and might still be)!

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  20. I think P.A.'s comment nailed it. Sometimes it's laziness, sometimes predisposition. A TV guy tried to set me up once, another I asked, "Did you already write the damn story?"

    Bias exists.

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  21. My only thought on this is to not come down too hard on Julie Cart.

    The writer is not always the one who writes the headline or sub-headline.

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  22. Just returned from far parts and will add only this to the great comments: K is right, headlines are a specialty not granted to the story writers in many papers. I have a friend who is a film critic for a major national newspaper and he never writes his own headlines. He often cringes at what appears though.

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  23. Oops, guess my brain still hasn't gotten home. Call me Doris

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  24. Hi Kevin and Coris. I thought maybe Coris was a cousin to Doris. It's true; at The Times, there were separate eds for headlines; might still be the case. But my complaint is about the media in general.This kind of nonsense is getting a free pass these days.

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  25. Oh, I like that. Well said. Excellent.

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  26. Guys, I thought that, too, but the phrase used in the subheadline is in the first paragraph of the article. It appears that whoever wrote the headline took it from the article itself. I've never worked for a newspaper...I suppose it's possible someone rewrote Ms. Cart's first paragraph, though it seems unlikely.

    But blame isn't the issue. Mindset is the issue.

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  27. Good subject, Karin! I think they possibly will not wrote "Tiny grandfather".
    I see two things here, being a woman and being an elderly. But as I don't read the full article, I don't know if sexism and ageism goes through the all article.
    Many times the journalist are not always the one who writes the headline or sub-headline. When I worked in a magazine, I had also, fortunately only once, a problem with a bad headlines wrote by my chief on my article.
    PS: In Brazil's press I also see many times that they did a generalization and a redution when they wrote "a retired". No matter if the person has already been journalist, engineer, seller, teacher, etc, they put all them in the category of "retired".

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  28. About "retired", an addendum here: if the person was famous and a notorious person, they wrote a former... not only "a retired."

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  29. No, they wouldn't rewrite a Column 1. And to think the Column 1's -- the quality of the writing and stories -- used to distinguish The Times from all other papers.

    Sonia, I'd love to learn more about the journalism biz in Brasil. To begin with, are pprs delivered door to door? Do you have several pprs in direct competition, or are they more regional? Did hard copy print news take the same lethal hit ours did from the internet?

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  30. Excellent observations, Karin. I follow the writer on Twitter and came to the article through her tweet: "Amazing, courageous woman: A strong voice for environmental action in Louisiana's Cancer Alley." I then skimmed right past the "diminutive grandmother" comment.

    Debbie Downer here: can you believe the extent of the environmental destruction these corporate polluters get away with?! Wilma Subra is a true hero fighting the good fight.

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  31. You're absolutely right.
    This kind of condescending stuff really tees me off.

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  32. Why did they leave out the part about her being a dominatrix the local S&M club?

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  33. All good points about an attitude that seems so outdated it couldn't possibly still be in vogue. But there it is. The good news is that the woman often has the last word. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is my new hero.

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  34. "Now don't worry your pretty little head about a small thing like that."

    To answer your question, no it wouldn't have. What an idiot!

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