Debra J. Saunders

 Why are there fewer female opinion-page columnists than men? It's funny: Opinion mavens -- who can chime in on everything from steroids to farm policy -- suddenly can't quite figure it out. Kinsley told his paper he can't explain it. New York Times Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins told The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, "There are probably fewer women, in the great cosmic scheme of things, who feel comfortable writing very straight opinion stuff." (Note: If Harvard University President Larry Summers had said what Collins said, feminist professors would be demanding one of his body parts.)

 In my career as a journalist, I've been on the receiving end of subtle sexism. Can I prove it? No, it's subtle. My conservatism, not my gender, has been the big issue. It is a two-edged sword, clearing the way at times, barring the way at others. And I've had to pay a price at times for not being conservative enough. I'm not complaining: It goes with the territory.

 When I speak in public, there are two questions people invariably ask: One is, "Why is journalism so overwhelmingly liberal?" Recently, a Bay Area journalism professor actually told me that conservatives shouldn't be journalists because conservatives are less likely to question the status quo.

 I disagreed with his definition, but I responded that this region is filled with liberals, so if you want reporters who will question the status quo, you should push Bay Area media to hire more conservatives. To this, he said nothing, and then left the room. There went his noble reason for muzzling the opposition.

 The other question I hear is: How do I survive at The San Francisco Chronicle? And that question has nothing to do with the fact that I am a woman.

Debra J. Saunders

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