NYTimes Reports: Women Do Not Die

In August of 2008 I began saving the obituary email alerts from the New York Times when I noticed that almost none were about women. Since the NYTimes is infallible and comprehensive to a fault, the only conclusion I could draw from this was that women do not die, at least, rarely.

This file now includes 1300+ email alerts that include links to an estimated 3000+ obituaries of which an estimated 99.9% are of men, assuming the Times has accurately assigned pronouns.

Preliminary statistical analysis reveals that compared to men, there are fields in which women never die and others in which they die in very small numbers. Women who marry famous men, for example, die far less the famous men they marry but far more than women who do not marry famous men. Men who marry famous women never die unless they are themselves also famous in which case the women are not mentioned and the men die of their own accord.

If a woman marries a famous man and is blonde, sings, and writes a book about the famous man, she is certain of death. Her obituary will be long and detailed, with pictures, often of her smiling admiringly at the famous man holding a copy of the book.

Being athletic is correlated positively with death, although women who win Olympic medals are much less likely to die than men who win Olympic medals, a significant portion of the women who die were Olympic athletes. Further analysis is required to determine if the medal metal influences death rates significantly but preliminary analysis shows that when women earn silver or brass medals their death rate falls to roughly zero. Men who win even one brass medal, still die at the same alarmingly high rate that heads of state, Nobel Laureates, and brothers of former United States presidents die.

Women who play football, basketball, or baseball do not die.

It also appears that when women do die, they die young because the only photographs on file at the New York Times show them full body with exuberant smiles in the unwise fashion choices that are characteristic of those under forty. When men die there are many photos of them on file showing them as mature and distinguished citizens, in suits, looking pleasant but serious, as shown in head shots. Since so few women die, however, this may be a statistical anomaly. More complex analysis is required.

This is very rich data; this report only skimming the surface. Due to other constraints on my time I am unable to do the analysis required to determine in what ways the New York Times could be more helpful to women. For example, given that women have reduced their death rate to 10%, could it go even lower if they avoided writing books, winning medals, assuming responsibility for parenting world leaders, having blonde hair, etc.

To aid in this cause, I am offering my files to anyone who would like to build on my research. Please email me and I will send them along.

By Sharon Villines

Artist and Writer with too many interests living in Washington DC.

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