As we edge closer to the final release of the of the three-month byline report, I wanted to share some insight from one of the writers whose work was surveyed: Elisa Gonzalez of the Yale Daily News. Gonzalez began writing for the YDN op-ed page last spring, when she started a sex, dating and relationship column (not an advice column) called “Post-modern Love” with co-writer Alice Baumgartner. PoMoLove ended last spring, when Baumgartner graduated, but Gonzalez still writes for the op-ed page.
I talked to Gonzalez a bit about her experience writing for the YDN in order to get a sense of the next generation of female opinion writers, and the challenges they face.
Gonzalez said she first considered writing opinion pieces for the YDN because the former editor in chief, who was looking to diversify the op-ed page by including more females, asked her to. But Gonzalez says she was intimidated by the idea of writing for the op-ed page because it required expert status. The decision to write about sex, dating, and relationships came because those were topics Gonzalez had personal experience with, and felt comfortable claiming authority. Despite that confidence measure, the column turned out to be very controversial, becoming the subject of a lot of vitriolic comments and emails- about the authors being “too open.” Gonzalez says she felt that because both writers were women, “people felt more comfortable victimizing us and saying things about our personal lives, especially sex and religion.” Gonzalez and Baumgartner almost quit the column as a result of the reaction, but they persevered to great success. Gonzalez said having a partner was key, because it helped her to realize that “it wasn’t just me being a terrible person and a bad writer.”
When asked why she thinks women contribute less often to the op-ed pages, Gonzalez targeted the feminine reluctance to put personal opinions on the public table, “you have to committed to handling a certain level of criticism, and that can be incredibly scary.” Criticism is scary, but truth be told, women are often in positions of expertise that could be incredibly helpful to others. If you have an opinion, and everyone does, don’t be afraid to voice it.
To read columns by Gonzalez, check out the YDN op-ed page.