Times Editor Explains Sexist Obit to Humorless Feminists

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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan grilled her colleagues on the Obituary desk over Saturday's controversial “stroganoff lede,” which placed domestic prowess over scientific discovery in the obituary of decorated rocket scientist Yvonne Brill. Obituaries editor William McDonald helpfully explained that the ordering was meant to highlight the improbability of a mother who loved to cook also being a rocket scientist. 

Sullivan writes:

“[McDonald] also observed that the references in the first paragraph to cooking and being a mother served as an effective set-up for the ‘aha’ of the second paragraph, which revealed that Mrs. Brill was an important scientist.”

As for the writer of that suspenseful opener, Douglas Martin, he told Sullivan that the negative reaction to the lede was “unwarranted” and “a result of people who didn’t read the obituary fully but reacted only to what they saw on Twitter about the opening paragraph.”

Then there are the people who finished the obit, saw what Martin was doing there with that lede, and are simply bored of being expected to act surprised that women are more than caregivers. (Like, 80 years bored.) In fact, "setup" might be just the word to describe this arrangement, wherein any time a woman defies conventional gender roles, we all have to talk about conventional gender roles.