1. Do some research. If you're going to do an article on feminism, it's a good idea to talk to feminists. Time never called the most recognizable feminist organization -- the National Organization for Women -- or the organization with the subject in its name -- the Feminist Majority. Time accuses NOW of not highlighting child care on our web site. In fact, "child care" appears 73 times on www.now.org.
2. Show some depth. One of the strongest criticisms the magazine makes is that feminism has gone Hollywood -- "Today it's a whole lot of stylish fluff." (page 56) The tone and substance of Time's coverage of feminism suffer from much the same problem. There's rarely substantive discussion of women's rights or any mention of tangible gains won or battles fought by the feminist movement -- the unanimous jury verdict won by NOW holding Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion terrorists liable as racketeers, the landmark sexual harassment settlement NOW helped achieve with Mitsubishi, the Violence Against Women Act, birth control, college scholarships for women athletes, Janet Reno, 52 women members of the US House of Representatives, 9 women US Senators, funding for women's health research, legal abortion and much, much more.
3. Go beyond New York. As the New York beat reporter for Time, Ginia Bellafante only examines the highly intellectual world of artistic New York. She asks "Who cares about the trivial literary and artistic pursuits of a largely Manhattan-based group of self-appointed feminists?" (page 57) Indeed. We're sure that Florida NOW activists had more on their minds than Bellafante's "trivial and literary pursuits" when they mobilized to keep abortion clinics open when Operation Rescue came to Orlando this spring.
If Time's writers took a more in-depth look at the feminist movement, they would find a lot more than "Manhattan-based self-appointed feminists." For instance, activists organizing tent cities in Philadelphia to protest punitive welfare repeal, volunteers campaigning in Nashville for feminist state senate candidate Kathy Austin, abortion rights supporters rallying at the Wisconsin Capitol to protest that state's ban on abortion procedures, picketers demonstrating at Smith Barney offices nationwide to pressure the company on eliminating sexual harassment, more picketers demonstrating at Mitsubishi dealerships nationwide criticizing that company's response to a sexual harassment suit, petition-gatherers collecting signatures to urge the State Department not to recognize the patriarchal Taliban unless that rebel force recognizes women's human rights.
4. Don't confuse fact with fiction. The front cover features black and white photos of washed out Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, juxtaposed with a vibrant, full color photo of Ally McBeal. Not Calista Flockhart; the photo is labeled Ally McBeal. The first three women were and are real people and political activists; Ally McBeal is a fictional television character whose male creator doesn't even consider her a feminist. A more accurate current photo might have been Rebecca Walker, founder of The Third Wave (if you've never heard of the Third Wave, see suggestion number 1 above) or Galen Sherwin, the twenty-something president of New York City NOW.
5. Show some consistency. In the cover story entitled "Is Feminism Dead," Time reports that "A hefty 50% of those from ages 18 to 34 told the pollster . . . that they share ‘feminist' values." Yet the entire article implies that the movement lacks support. Overwhelming majorities describe the feminist movement as working for equal rights, equal pay, freedom from sexual harassment, abortion rights and affordable day care -- hard to imagine that movement is "dead."
6. Don't compare apples and oranges. The "Then and Now" section suffers from a lack of accuracy. The magazine's comparison of The Vagina Monologues to an anti-war march is skewed. An apple-to-apple comparison would be to NOW's 1995 Rally for Women's Lives which featured appearances by Cheryl "Salt" James and Toad the Wet Sprocket.
In the music category, if Time is looking for the contemporary equivalent of Helen Reddy, have they not heard of Tori Amos (founder of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) or the Indigo Girls? What about Queen Latifa, who raps about unity, birth control and women taking their own power?
The television comparison pits Mary Richards against Time's new favorite non-feminist feminist Ally McBeal. A more accurate comparison might have been the X-files' Agent Dana Scully, Law and Order's Lt. Anita Van Buren, any of the female regulars on The Practice or Chicago Hope's Dr. Katherine Austin.
7. Expand your horizons. Bellafante's public soul-searching about feminism seems to reflect a narrow choice of interviewees -- mostly young women fixated on sex and Hollywood types examining their own metaphysical and actual cervixes. If she had interviewed activists too, she would see a whole different concept of feminism. Even if she didn't want to leave New York as suggested above, she could consult the New York City chapter of NOW about their pickets at Saks Fifth Avenue and Smith Barney; lobbying against the abortion procedure ban; participating in New York City's famous Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade; and sponsoring divorce and separation support groups.
8. Take a clue from the Chicago Daily Tribune. (Remember "Dewey Defeats Truman?") This newspaper mis-called the 1948 presidential election because their polling methodology was flawed. Time reports that only about 26% of people polled considered themselves feminists. However, more accurate, in-depth polls show feminists as a majority of women when the pollsters ask a multiple choice question: are you a strong feminist, somewhat of a feminist, don't know, not a feminist or an anti-feminist. Even with Time's poll, feminism has higher allegiance than either major political party or any single major religion. Besides, the admittedly unscientific results of Time's on-line poll reveal that 56.98% of respondents consider themselves feminists.
9. Clean your own closet. Feminism's latest requiem is brought to us by the same people who bring us the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and Prodigy's "Smack my Bitch Up." Is feminism's death wishful thinking on Time Magazine's part?
10. Check your sources. To name a production "the
most important and outrageous feminist event" of the past 30 years is a
sweeping statement on the part of the Village
Voice about US theater. Did cover story author Ginia Bellafante
ask other feminist playwrights or producers their opinions of "The Vagina
Monologues?" Did she ask Wendy Wasserstein to name the most important
feminist theater event in the last thirty years? To rely on the opinion
of one reviewer is irresponsible. And of course, without the feminist
movement, feminist theater wouldn't exist -- no matter how controversial