No One Notices When We Die

Photo: Patrick Swan/Corbis

You know all those depressing charts illustrating that magazines publish many more men than women?

It turns out the ratio holds true even in death. Despite having an equal stake in mortality, women only got an average of 23 percent of the obituaries in America’s top newspapers in 2012, Mother Jones reports. Obituary editors say it’s a “rearview mirror,” that the notable people dying now “largely shaped the world of the 1950s, ‘60s and, increasingly the ‘70s, and those movers and shakers were — no surprise — predominantly white men.” Gloria Steinem says that’s a pretty white guy way of looking at history.

“The standards by which people are chosen still have a “masculine” skew,” Steinem wrote in an email to Mother Jones. Women who organized and pressured for social progress—like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for example—are less likely to get notice, Steinem says, than men whose success can only be measured in wealth, like Donald Trump or the Koch Brothers. “Women are more likely to be credited with the personal than the political—and also put in one silo. Anything that only affects women is taken less seriously than anything that also affects men,” she says.

Anyway, Steinem can probably guess what her obituary will look like. Mother Jones illustrated her quote — from yesterday — with this decades-old black-and-white photo of her. It’ll probably say she was “precocious,” too.

No One Notices When We Die