BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation, who wrote recently about the issue of female columnists. Katha, how would your work fare in the gender detector?
KATHA POLLITT: Let's see. I'm looking at my column here. I see a lot of proper names, and I do see some pronouns. [LAUGHTER] I don't know. It's a scary thought, isn't it? I don't think they decide who gets to be on the op-ed page by looking at how often they say "the." I think we are ourselves at every moment. We bring everything we have to the page. Men and women are raised rather differently and are given different senses of themselves, different senses of entitlement and different places. Women can be a little more emotional than men can be. It's kind of hard to imagine a man who's like Maureen Dowd - although there could be one.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Dowd, herself, wrote in the New York Times that men enjoy verbal dueling. "I want to be liked - not attacked." Of course, others say that's no reason to disqualify you from the op-ed page.
KATHA POLLITT: What Maureen Dowd is basically saying is that there are many more men who want to do this kind of work than women who want to do this kind of work. I think there may be some truth to that, if you look at, say, the slush pile - the pieces that just get sent in. I would say that, whether or not there is a basic talent pool that is smaller in the case of women than in the case of men, that is not an important fact, because the talent pool adjusts itself to where people think they can get somewhere. If women get the message, look - nobody wants to hear your opinions, [LAUGHTER] and not only that - if you express an opinion, we're going to call you a stupid bitch or a feminazi - then women are going to maybe be a little more hesitant about that. But that doesn't mean they don't have opinions, that doesn't mean they wouldn't be very good at this kind of work.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In a piece you wrote in The Nation, you offered up about 20 names of women that newspapers could consider as columnists, including yourself. So have you gotten any calls?
KATHA POLLITT: No. [LAUGHTER] I had a whole long list of wonderful women. They don't need to be "nurtured" and "discovered," as Maureen and others have said. They're there. Barbara Ehrenreich filled in for Tom Friedman this summer. A lot of people think she did a better job than he did. When they expanded the op-ed page, they added more men. They didn't add her. There's my wonderful colleague Patricia Williams. There's Susan Faludi. There's Sharon Lerner over at the Village Voice. She's really great. There's-
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Leftie. Leftie.
KATHA POLLITT: Debra Dickerson - not a Leftie. Wendy Kaminer, Ruth Conniff, Laura Flanders - these people are out there, and they are not getting the jobs, and I think part of it is that the women I've mentioned are, are liberal, and they're feminists, and that's not flavor of the month now. Now, there is this perception that - oh, feminism - been there; done that.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you're saying, then, that it's not a bull market for liberals right now.
KATHA POLLITT: Yeah. But you know, then you take someone like Dahlia Lithwick, who is great over at Slate. I wouldn't know how to characterize her politically.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But she does have a relatively narrow brief. Basically legal issues.
KATHA POLLITT: Well, you might just as well say that Tom Friedman only talks about foreign policy. I mean people do have briefs on op-ed pages.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What do you think about what Michael Kinsley said when he wrote in his paper that if pressure for more women succeeds, as it will, there will be fewer black voices, fewer Latinos and so on. Does this strike you as a fair statement? Is it really a zero sum game? Realistically.
KATHA POLLITT: Well, realistically, the op-ed page is only so big. But, what wonderful Michael Kinsley, who I really think is fabulous, is forgetting for one tiny moment here is that the number of white men is not fixed. I mean it's as though he thinks well, we can have six columnists, and of course four of them are going to be white men, so that only leaves two spaces for the rest of humanity, and they can all - they'll be all fighting it out together. But it doesn't have to be that way. Men are allowed to be all different kinds of writers, and women - there's the question - can they fit into whatever the idea du jour is of what a woman columnist can be? Because they're always labeled "woman." But women are interested in some issues that men are not so interested in, and I do think that - and this is not some innate thing in their genes - this has to do with a different life experience - and I think that there are many very important subjects that get short shrift.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: With the exception of Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and, and Kinsley himself, very few men have weighed in on this debate. If men are so opinionated, why aren't we hearing from them?
KATHA POLLITT: Well, I think you should ask a man. [LAUGHTER] A man who's been very, very quiet. Why should they call attention to themselves by saying, well, here, girls, is why I have this job and you don't.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katha, thank you very much.
KATHA POLLITT: Thank you so much for having me.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katha Pollitt is a writer for The Nation, where women columnists outnumber men 3 to 2.