Despite the fact that there is gender parity on the staff of The Santa Barbara Independent, roughly 25 percent of the paper’s bylines are women’s names, and about 75 percent are men’s. (The New York Times rated lowest of the top 10 newspapers in the U.S. with 32 percent of their bylines being women’s.) And even though our last census shows that our county’s population is composed of half women and half men, and half people of color and half white people, over the past five years, the number of women on the cover of The S.B. Independent has hovered at around 30 percent, which is about the same percentage for people of color.
We are used to these numbers. They look normal to us. If there suddenly appeared one man to every three women on the covers of The S.B. Independent, people might believe that the newspaper had become specifically for or about women. Because we tend to consider only what is visible, featuring mostly white men on the cover of The S.B. Independent implies that life in Santa Barbara is about mostly white men.
If pictures of people of color are mostly accompanied by stories having to do with immigration, refugees, or social need, or depict women of color in Fiesta or Solstice costumes; and if the majority of stories about writers, inventors, artists, or business leaders, not to mention surfers, barbecuers, and band musicians, are about white men, what are we to think? If, instead, The Santa Barbara Independent led the way for all newspapers by featuring a multi-cultural mix of people whose stories were not stereotyped by their gender, color, or other identity categories, and if it exhibited a parity of bylines by women and men, we would get used to imagery and voices representing a diverse humanity. Our presumptions about what we think is possible would change. People of color and of any gender presentation would finally take their place in the courtroom and the boardroom, as well as in the White House.