The role of “women’s magazines” in advancing women in journalism is a complicated story that The New York Times digs up in this piece on the role these magazines play in an apparently new trend: women swearing in print.
The issue of whether or not to drop an f-bomb or its equivalent in print is one every writer faces, regardless of gender. But, according to the New York Times, it’s inherently different when women choose to swear in print. That’s because, according to the piece, women using profanity is still seen as “dangerous” or unconventional, or at least it was until magazines like Glamour started “normalizing” it.
According to the Times, it’s not that women writers are using more profanity in print, it’s that women editors are more comfortable printing pieces written by women that contain profanity. It’s an important and nuanced point that is easy to brush past. Women swearing, in print or otherwise, isn’t really a big deal to other women. Regarding the antiquated notions that a propensity for profanity is in conflict with gender norms, well, that’s just good, old-fashioned patriarchy talking.
Furthermore, I’m astonished that a trend piece on an uptick in women swearing in print would completely leave out the role blogs have played in such a phenomenon. Sites like Jezebel have no doubt helped normalize the practice, as has the rise of blogs in general. As journalism has evolved in the public imagination to include not just reporting, but memoir-style “personal” writing, and as more and more women run spaces that print such pieces, this evolution is not only inevitable, it is not news. It’s not even a trend. It’s simply market expansion.
On that note, the Times, once again, misses an opportunity to talk about something significant — that is, how in both traditional and digital journalism, the more women editors we have, the more women writers we publish. If the result is that we see profanity in places we did not expect, like the cover of Glamour, that says nothing about the writer and everything about our own cultural expectations.
So do women writers swear more than men? I fucking doubt it, but for the New York Times, it’s apparently an open question.
Photo from iROn leSs via flickr.