In a previous post I surveyed the headlines of daily newspapers over two days and found that the majority of articles with I me or my in the title were written by female journalists. Not all such articles are evidence of narcissism. Sometimes, the author was establishing their situation to speak authoritatively about a subject. For example, ‘I was in Mariupol when the bombs started falling’ is certainly not evidence of narcissism. Instead, the author is giving the context for their opinions. Furthermore, sometimes the ‘I Me or My’ is in quotation marks and I have tried to exclude such articles from the analysis below. However, in most cases the authors were talking about their favourite subject -themselves. This time, I thought I would look at a few specific journalists who seem particularly keen on -I, Me, My – headlines. So here are a few repeat offenders.
Emma Brockes. I didn’t expect to find Emma Brockes of the Guardian so high on the list. Although she has some predictable feminist views, she can be an interesting writer. However, the figures do not lie and she has published 22 ‘mesplaining’ articles over the last year. Emma also appears on the list of Lit Crit Femsplainers.
Arwa Mahdawi. No surprise to find Arwa near the top of the list. She has featured in this blog before (here) because of her predictable views and her remarkable ability to contradict herself. In the last year she has written approximately 18 ‘mesplaining’ articles. Arwa also appears on the list of Lit Crit Femsplainers.
Harriet Williamson. Freelance journalist who writes for the Independent among other outlets has written at least 17 ‘mesplaining’ articles in the last 12 months.Harriet also appears on the list of Lit Crit Femsplainers.
Rose Stokes. Freelance journalist writes for The Metro and number health outlets. In the last year she has written 16 articles with I, Me, or My in the title.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.Writes for the Guardian and in the words of blogger Tim Worstall-‘the personal becomes general’ in her writing. In the last year she has written approximately 10 ‘mesplaining’ articles. For more thoughts on Rhiannon’s output I recommend Tim Worstall’s blog here.
Hadley Freeman. Writes for the Guardian. I expected Hadley to be higher up the list but once you take out the quotes there were only 7 ‘I Me & My‘ articles – that’s enough though. Hadley also appears on the list of Lit Crit Femsplainers.
Of course, headlines are chosen by the editor rather than the author, but they are crafted to reflect the content of the article. It is improbable that editors are more likely to attach ‘I, me my’ headlines to articles written by female journalists than those by male journalists.
Not all articles with ‘I Me or My’ in the title are bad. A recent piece in Guardian, from a mother bemoaning the affect Airbnb rentals were having on her children’s chance of owning property in their local area, was good. She displayed compassion towards others and her anger was justified. However, such articles are in the minority – ‘mesplaining’ is usually the better explanation.
Some commentators have argued that ‘mesplaining’ is evidence of women’s emotional superiority. Women, they argue, are more likely to open-up about themselves. They are described as being ‘brave’ and ‘courageous’ for sharing their story. I don’t believe it. Ruminative thinking is bad for you. It is with good reason that most religions have encouraged thinking about others more than yourself. Even secular thought systems such stoicism and mindfulness meditation discourage self absorbed thinking. It is implausible that ‘mesplaining’ is evidence of emotional superiority.
Another possible explanation is that ‘mesplaining’ articles are a good way of getting clicks and encouraging engagement on social media. If true, surely it is not worth the harm it must do to the thought patterns of the writers. Journalism is, in the main, a precarious and poorly paid occupation. Given their undoubted talent, mesplaining journalists might be better off getting work that pays better and encourages an outward focus rather than self absorption.
In an earlier draft of this article I suggested that there was a special place in hell for people who write ‘mesplaining’ articles – a place where they have to listen to forgotten female composers for all of eternity. Then I thought some more. Perhaps they have invented a kind of hell for themselves.