Straight and narrow

Ah, the Georgia Straight--can't live with it, can't kill it. For those who don't know, the Georgia Straight (a play on the Strait of Georgia, which lies between the mainland and Vancouver Island) is the weekly arts/alternative newspaper in Vancouver. Every Thursday, it brings us an odd mixture of leftist politics, high-end (i.e., expensive) fashion, and indie-angled arts reviews. It has essential listings for all kinds of events. It has the must-read Savage Love.

We have to get the Straight every week. We have to look through it, at least. I start with Savage Love in the back (buried amongst the escort ads), find out what's featured in the Style section, then flip through from front to back. Sometimes I'll stop and read. Most times I'll skim.

I wrote about the Straight once before, and I'm writing about it again for pretty much the same reason. Here we have the leading alternative weekly in Vancouver, but when it comes to gender, it looks a lot like the New Left of the 1960s. The cover story this week is about women making their mark in the field of interior design. Judging by the cover photo, however, it might as well have been called "hot women of interior design." The featured designer is lying on a platform with plans in front of her, one booted leg kicked up behind her. She's holding a pencil with the tip in her mouth and looking up engagingly into the camera.

No, it's not overtly sexy. But try to imagine a picture of a young male interior designer in the same pose. Can you?

The editor/publisher of the Straight is a man. The VP of operations in a man. The editor is a man. The first woman on the masthead is the copy chief. The copy desk has long been a "woman's place" in newspaper publishing. A woman edits the arts and fashion sections. A man edits the music section. Travel and food? A woman. Movies, theatre, books, and technology? Men.

Bylines in the news section? All men. Political commentary? A man. Technology? Male, of course. Fall books, featuring several female authors? Men's bylines. We'll give a woman the style article. The travel piece is by a man. The arts section starts with two pieces by women, one about an exhibit about Hiroshima, the other about an exhibit about neon (which I really want to see, at the Vancouver Museum). Theatre? Man again. Dance? Well, that's for women, everyone knows that.

The profiles in the cover piece, "Designing Women," are written by women. Not surprising, but yay anyway. We have both sexes represented in the urban living section that follows, and a woman doing this week's restaurant review. (Jergen Gothe always does the wine column.)

Then we come to the very important music section. Overwhelmingly male. With a man running the section and mostly male writers in his stable, is it any wonder there were so few women featured in the piece a couple weeks ago about local musicians? Film reviews are also mostly by men, with some exceptions. And that's pretty much all she wrote. Or should I say all he wrote.

Yes, I know, I'm critiquing from the outside. Maybe I should send them some writing samples. Maybe I should apply for a job. I once did a writing project with the woman who is one of the three associate editors. I should put my money where my mouth is, right?

It's not that men can't be progressive. By the usual standards, the Straight is a progressive newspaper. But given that, you'd think they would try harder for more balance on the staff and among the contributing writers. You'd think they would want to break the mould a bit. I mean, even mainstream television stations have female sports reporters! Shouldn't the Straight put its own money where its mouth is? It matters to have both men's and women's voices in all sections, especially music and movies. It matters to have representation from outside the majority, from outside those who automatically have power and privilege. However progressive the male editors are, they still can't make themselves female, part of a visible minority, or physically challenged.

[Just so you know, I know the phrase is actually "strait and narrow." You knew that too, right?]

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