Gender at The Phillipian

“There are an awful lot of girls in the newsroom these days.” To be said with a slight ironic smile, or an approving wink. To be said with mock concern. We heard this a lot when the board turned over, and actually a fair amount in the months since then. Here are the numbers. The Phillipian Board CXXXI, including business, advertising, circulation directors and a delivery team, is made up of 17 boys and 17 girls. The previous board, Board CXXX, was made up of 18 boys and 12 girls. However, three members of the paper’s four-person upper management are female this year. On CXXX, three out of these four members were male. This reversal is certainly part of the reason for the comments. Suddenly, the Editor in Chief (speaking), Executive Editor and Managing Editor are all girls. That might sound extreme or unusual – “Really?” you’re asking yourself. “All of those positions are girls? That seems a little excessive. Un-balanced.” And yet when three of the four members were male, there were few objections raised about the unequal representation of gender. There were hardly any comments about a lack of balance in the newsroom. No one remarked on the number of boys editing the paper, those days. No one complained that stories might be one-sided or feared aloud an increase in, say, sports coverage. No one thought the atmosphere in the basement of Morse would be too “masculine.” And – for comparison—among the questions asked of the female editors on upper management, upon the boards’ switch: So are you guys going to start a sex column now? A fashion column? Are you planning to paint the newsroom pink or put up posters of Zac Efron? A number of these jokes found their way into the paper in the Features section, which, of course, passed our approval. It is worth noting that the Features section is currently comprised of a seven-man (yes, all male) editing team. This column isn’t written out of resentment, bitterness or outrage. That would be naïve. Also – girls can have a sense of humor about jokes about girls. It happens. Sexist jokes and offhand comments are more still more politically correct than racial jokes or homophobic ones, and any girl who wants to get anywhere has to have a pretty thick skin. It doesn’t change anyone’s opinion if you break down in tears or break into feminine rage over a “make me a sandwich” dig. In compiling this In-Depth report, examining gender at Andover 35 years after coeducation, some concerns were raised about the “overrepresentation” of girls on The Phillipian board. Would the fact that a girl edited these articles introduce a bias or lack of objectivity? There is no way to answer that definitively, but consciousness of the question itself is important. This article is written in the interest of full disclosure. So where do we go from here? In future boards, we can hope that students will select an equal representation of the genders. Just as a board homogenous in race or ideology inevitably presents a one-sided picture, so does a predominantly male or female board inherently offer a narrower perspective. We aren’t blind to gender, and we shouldn’t be. But in choosing an Editor in Chief, school president, or president for the nation, it should always be the best person for the job. Cora Lewis is a four-year Senior from New York, N.Y. and the Editor in Chief of The Phillipian.