It’s a day that ends with a Y and we still haven’t received a genuine and contrite apology, sans political cheap shots, from the Globe & Mail’s chief plagiarist Margaret Wente. (That’s not to be confused with the Globe’s chief cover-up artist, and chief self-promoter.) So it’s time to up the ante again. This will be the last Wente post for a while probably. Wente hasn’t resurfaced since her patronizing non-apology over a week ago. But if she publishes again, sans genuine apology, my review of her work will resume.
I have taken deeply to heart a recent warning from a far-right ethicist and Wente supporter, Margaret Somerville, that we should not “use ethics unethically” by criticizing the plagiarizing ways of reporters whose politics we dislike. So, dear friends, I write today not to condemn Margaret Wente but to praise her. To praise her sharp and trenchant critiques, her edgy and thought-provoking stances, her always original and surprising insights.
Last time Margaret was demonstrating her keen awareness of modern feminism, so we’ll continue in that vein by taking a look at a column from earlier this year, “What If Women Don’t Need Guys Any More?“. That column should not be confused with the columns in which Wente waxes on about how “erotic” the student-professor relationship is, how it’s unfortunate that guys don’t check her out the way they used to, and about how, unfortunately, Pierre Trudeau never invited her to bed with him.
Our subject this time is a usual Wente theme: that hardworking women are leaving lazy men in the dust. Also as usual, she starts with a cutesy anecdote and then transitions smoothly into a series of claims made by a Controversial But Correct Expert with a recently published book. (In this case the anecdote is actually drawn from the book, Liza Mundy’s The Richer Sex; apparently Margaret’s gossipy friends Ben, Patty, etc. have nothing to say on this particular subject.
Then Wente turns to her next trope — the Impressive Statistics. In this case they’re introduced without any attribution whatsoever, leaving us no idea where Wente has got them from. But we can probably assume we got them from Mundy. She certainly got most of the words from Mundy, anyhow. Note that Wente does occasionally change up the wording slightly, and when she does, it results in some subtle but crucial differences in meaning. Once again the high-quality Wente sets the standard for her colleagues.
Wente: Forty per cent of wives now outearn their husbands. And the gender gap is closing fast. The median income of young, unmarried urban women in their 20s is now higher than the men’s.
Mundy: Almost 40 percent of U.S. working wives now outearn their husbands (p. 6)… In most American cities, single childless women between 22 and 30 make more, in terms of median outcome, than their male peers (p. 9).
Wente employs the same fine art of summarizing-without-attribution later on in the article, again with Mundy’s assistance. Note the difference in tenses. This may be because Mundy moves on to discuss a 2006 New York Times article on “missing men,” and Wente possibly thought the employment statistic was referencing the same time frame.
Also note Wente’s cryptic reference to “researchers,” which implies she’s done extra digging up on her own when she really hasn’t, as well as her extreme thoughtfulness in copying down Mundy’s diligent quotation marks, even while failing to supply her own.
Wente: Just 66 per cent of men of prime working age (25 to 64) were employed full-time, down from 80 per cent in 1970… Older blue-collar men who’ve been laid off are often reluctant to take jobs they think are beneath them. Even men with higher education are less interested in work. Researchers have found that many non-working men spend much of their free time in “leisure activities and sleep.” Non-working women, by contrast, spend much of their free time in child care and housework.
Mundy (p. 62): Just 66 percent of men in the prime working ages — 25 to 64 — are employed full-time, down from 80 percent in 1970… Many of these men are blue-collar workers without a college education, who are “turning down jobs they think are beneath them“… He [researcher Jay Stewart] found that many nonworking men spend much of their free time in “leisure activities and sleep” – unlike women, who when not working for pay, do productive things like child care and housework.
Then, to supply some additional colour, Wente moves on to a discussion of young single mothers in the New York Times, which, in keeping with her generally wonky interpretation of feminism, she takes as a sign that women are stronger and more successful than ever. This time she does try to change up the wording a little, although not quite enough for my taste:
Wente: The New York Times reported last month that, in the U.S., having children outside of marriage is the new normal. More than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside marriage. One mother, Amber Strader, 27, told the Times she was in an on-and-off relationship when she got pregnant. Marrying her boyfriend, a clerk at Sears, never entered her mind. “It was like living with another kid.”
New York Times: It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal… more than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside marriage… Amber Strader, 27, was in an on-and-off relationship with a clerk at Sears a few yeares ago when she found herself pregnant… Marrying him never entered her mind. “It was like living with another kid.”
Later, Wente provides a real zinger of an observation: that “men and women at the top of the socio-economic ladder have it easier.”
Thank God she’s here to remind us. I might have forgotten, otherwise.