Even as there are slow but steady steps forward in the way women's magazines talk to women, there are setbacks, like a recent offering from Glamour which we can add to the list of articles we wish journalists (female ones, at that) would stop writing for women. While the topic is great, the execution falls sadly short.
The piece is called "Working on a Presidential Campaign: 'It's One Giant Summer Camp Whirlwind," by Christine Delargy and Caitlin Huey-Burns. It's supposed to get across, I think, the idea that working in politics can be fun—even for ladies! The problem is with the tone and details and quotes used as evidence of that, as well as the overall assumptions being made about the readers of the piece. Delargy and Huey-Burns cite four aspects of working on a presidential campaign: Hookups, love, weight gain, and... oh yeah, the rewards.
Look, it's fine to acknowledge that women (and men) might be interested in sex and romantic connections or marital success rates and how much fun is actually had on a presidential campaign. These things are amusing to talk about in themselves, and we have nothing against them. And maybe there are some people who measure each job experience with the question "Will I get fat while doing it?" While that makes us sad, include it if you must since it's gossipy and maybe some people think it's fun. But the lion's share of the piece is devoted to these topics, and any actual talk of what it's like to work on a campaign is relegated to the short final item in the list. There's a mention of the "best work experience you'll ever get" in the headline...but the article gives little clue as to why that is. (Because you might find a husband? Because a candidate might hug you?)
In a time in which we still haven't gotten a female president and in which all the current contenders are men, this piece's attention to the joys of hooking up with Secret Service men—"such relationships come with a bonus: Secret Service officers know how to keep their mouth shut, and waking up next to one means you won’t ever miss the campaign bus"—is particularly mortifying, if not also factually questionable. (Um: Did you guys hear about that recent scandal with those fellows involving prostitutes? Maybe these are not the right guys to... target?) And overall, the piece just falls back on some distinctly not-very-progressive tropes.
"At least four marriages came out of the 2008 Barack Obama campaign, including next month’s wedding of the President’s deputy press secretary, Katie Hogan, to ABC reporter Matt Jaffe. “Dozens of relationships were formed over late-night pizza and a belief in the possibility of a historic campaign,” says Jen Psaki, 33, former White House deputy communications director. Could Mitt Romney’s campaign spur a 2012 bonanza? Stay tuned."
If you're lucky, you'll make it to the end of the piece and be rewarded with the "rewards" of working on a campaign, the one item on this list that's not about sex, appearances, or getting hitched: Getting to "mix with the best in the business" and sometimes, maybe, a candidate will throw "an arm around you" and whisper some confidences in your ear.
While I'm not surprised pieces like these are being written, the attempt to glamorize here just dumbs down the conversation for everyone. And sadly, the article was written by people it seems should know better: Delargy is a CBS News producer and Huey-Burns is a reporter for RealClearPolitics. If we complain that female writers aren't being properly rewarded for contributing to worthy journalism, perhaps we should also complain when magazines for women aim so low. Credit where credit is due, however: Some of Glamour's other entries in their election coverage are not bad at all.