The Tribune’s (somewhat misleadingly packaged) MU WGSP piece

So, today the Tribune ran a story on the Women and Gender Studies Program. In the print edition,* the story is headed with a collage-type  graphic featuring the pictures of 20 students, 10 men and 10 women of all stripes: Contemplative Looking Woman! White Dude with Dreadlocks! ROTC Guy! Cheerleader! Hipster! Totally Nondescript Males No. 1-3! Girl in Hijab! Basketball Player! Man on Cell Phone! I hadn’t realized the WGSP hosted such a diverse array of persons. Heck, I didn’t even realized there were twenty people in the program.

That’s because there aren’t. The program, as the piece itself notes, has five (5) people enrolled for WGS major, and eight (8) for the minor. Whereas most readers would be predisposed to assume a collage of portraits posted in conjunction with a story about a major/minor pictured people actually enrolled in it, this does not seem to be the case unless seven people are there for filler. It seems the people photographed were selected simply because they were people with genders.

Of course, the reporter cannot necessarily be faulted for the graphics to go with the story. However, they are responsible for a somewhat narrow focus which might leave interested parties with questions. Only reporting how many people are majors and minors misrepresents the real scope of the program. There are dozens, more likely hundreds of students enrolled in courses that count towards the completion of a WGS program. Obviously, dozens of people enrolled in classes like Women in Literature, Intro to Feminist Philosophy, Psychology of Sexuality, Sociology of Gender or suchlike could probably guess their courses count. But I enrolled in a WGSP class without even realizing it. It wasn’t my first choice, but my schedule was wonky and I needed an elective, so for spring I signed up for Comm. 4100, Mass Media and the American Family. Only in the second step of registering did I see the WGSP notation.

The Tribune piece points readers to a few people they could talk to about breaking into the program, but doesn’t list or describe any of the actual coursework that it would entail. Instead, most of the piece concerns itself with what “gender” is, the history of the department and what it calls itself (for this section, there are big pink-purple graphics), and paraphrasing of quotes about the reception of the program.

Dunno. I can’t presume to speak for the administrators of WGSP, who for all I know might appreciate the publicity. Anyone enrolled have an opinion on the piece? Are my criticisms fair, or I am merely the Spirit that negates/convinced all that comes to be/deserves to perish wretchedly?

*The online edition’s illustration is a kind of A Chorus Line silhouette lineup.

Update: I realized “dishonestly” wasn’t an entirely fair descriptor, and have changed the headline accordingly.

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2 Responses

  1. I think you might be missing that what you are critiquing wasn’t the focus of the article. The article’s focus seemed to really just be concerned with the name change from “women’s” to “women’s and gender” studies–hence the focus on “gender” as that to which the shift occurred. In that sense, I don’t think it was dishonestly packaged. It wasn’t profiling MU’s WGST program. It was mainly trying to look at the name change and what that entails.

  2. I was confused as you were Bento. I thought all these people depicted were in the WGST. I was excited to see there were 10 dudes in WGST including a ROCT guy. Then was confused/disappointed to find that perhaps none of these people depicted, save 5 or so of the women shown, were in WGST.

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