Washington Post Staffers Expose Deep Culture of Misogyny After Sonmez Suspension

Female staffers call the Post's culture "secretly pernicious and sexist"

washington post
Female staffers say sexism is nothing new at the Post.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post sparked outrage last week after suspending reporter Felicia Sonmez for tweeting a link to a story about rape allegations against Kobe Bryant in the wake of the NBA star’s death. After receiving death and rape threats and having her home address shared publicly online, Sonmez was suspended from the Post and told to stay at a hotel for safety — a notably different response than the round-the-clock, at-home armed protection Post staffer Shane Harris received from his employer while experiencing online harassment last spring.

According to a variety of current and former female Post staffers who recently spoke with the Huffington Post, however, this kind of misogyny is par for the course at the outlet.

“The place is run by men and it creates a particular atmosphere and assigns a higher value to certain male characteristics,” said one female reporter who, like all the sources who spoke to HuffPost, was quoted anonymously. “I’ve been a victim of it in a broad way, as most women in the newsroom have.”

Women on staff complained of unequal pay, as revealed in a report published last year by the union that represents Post employees, with one former contractor telling HuffPost she was fired after requesting a raise. Female staffers also pointed out that few women hold senior positions at the paper, and also alleged that stories detailing sexual assault allegations are held to a higher editorial standard than less controversial reporting.

The Washington Post has denied these allegations of sexism. “The Washington Post has been equitable in its hiring, promotion and compensation for employees, in its security deployment on behalf of employees and in the high standards it applies to all stories,” spokeswoman Kristine Coratti Kelly wrote in a statement to HuffPost. “We dispute your narrative.”

According to the women who work there, however, the male-dominated culture at the Post may look different than the brand of macho-journalism Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman brought to the big screen in All the President’s Men, but it’s still alive and well. “There’s a dweeby beta-male quotient at the Post. They’re not openly macho,” one female staffer said. “There’s an understated respectability that is secretly pernicious and sexist operating in that place.”

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