May 16, 2014

No Doubt-Jr's Sexism Spanked Abramson Out of NY Times

Powerful Plays vs. Nepotism Brought NY Times Down
Women battle to break through the glass ceiling. After that, what comes is walking on broken glass. -Frida Ghitis

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Jill Abramson, the first female editor of the NY Times, was fired because she is a woman.

Or maybe it does?

Because people seem to think it's up for debate, especially men. They are certainly voicing their opinions. One man thought the entire disaster wasn't a disaster at all. He didn't think it was an action worth any ink on the page. Wow. I guess Ryan Gosling's character in the movie Crazy Stupid Love was right: "The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise."

Sigh. I can see Mr. Arthur Sulzberger Jr sitting for a lap dance right now. Can't you? But the quote, in my opinion, has always proved that not only is the war is still on, but that few of us, even some women, seem to notice or even care about it anymore. So often I hear mature women shocked at the actions of young women today. They are in awe. "Don't they know how hard we had to fight for these rights? Don't they know what stereotypes we faced, or the sacrifices that were made to change them?"

They don't. And perhaps that's what Arthur Sulzberger Jr was counting on. Maybe. But I don't really think he really "thought" anything at all. All facts point to a knee-jerk grudge kill, not a plan. But more on that later.

For now I want to make this point abundantly clear: though the men of this world may want to discuss it and banter it and throw the debate around and around for sound bites and twitterings... we women of the world simply... know. We know. We know that Jill Abramson was fired because she is a woman. Plain and simple. It's a fact.

How can I say such a thing? Well, first of all, we women sure as hell know discrimination when we see it, simply because we live it. Every single day. Always. And the more experience we have, the more powerful we become the more we face it. It's not women's intuition that's saying this, but women's subjugation across the board. 

Oh, I'm sure it's much, much better today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but don't think we don't notice when things are done "by choice." When decisions are made "according to standards." We know what guys see us as fellow humans and which ones don't. And quite a lot don't. Actually, the number is increasing now that pornography is suddenly the breakfast food of choice for men. But we women live with it. We deal. We cope. It's fine. Not everything is perfect in a lot of other areas too. That's life.

But today this firing of Jill Abramson was not only discrimination, it was blatant hate. Fumings. A loud bang of a gavel that we, the women of the world, were meant to hear. It's as if Sulzberger Jr wanted all of us to see it for what it was... A warning. To all of us. A warning driven by exasperation: "For heaven's sake, woman, you're lucky to have the position you have! Try being grateful for once instead of insisting!"

We women heard him, loud and clear. But the leaders of the world are men, and they just don't seem to get it. As they report on this shocking, rude and crude slaying of Abramson, you hear them saying wan ambiguous maybe's. You'll hear them say anything from "maaaaybeee" to "well, she did more than one thing wrong, correct?" to the unholy "but he said she was too 'pushy,' and that's understandable... if we look at it this way - that way - or maybe that way?"

Sigh. You want to know what really happened? Well, I'll tell you what happened. 

Arthur Sulzberger Jr didn't fire Jill Abramson. He didn't let her go. He didn't transition her out. He didn't retire her. No, he did none of these things. Do you want to know what he did do?

He spanked Jill Abramson.

He spanked her. Hard. For getting out of line. And we all heard it. He wanted us to. He wanted it to resonate around the world.

Junior got angry. Kicked her out in a day. Told the staff she was gone with no explanation, and he removed her name from the header the very next day. As one reporter wrote in shock, the dismissal was an "uncommonly bloody manner of execution." Heads have been removed for centuries, but Junior let his uncharted anger get the best of him (whatever is left, anyway) and he didn't use any traditional, responsible or honorable method to let Jill go.

To the detriment of his paper, his business, his reputation and his fortune. These are the fumblings of a man who inherited great things and great responsibilities... but never earned them.

Speaking of Junior, I'd like to let you men in on a little secret... We women wish, just wish! that you men would get a good corporate spanking one of these days, just so you know how it feels. Because we know exactly how it feels. And we know exactly how it looks. Even if you don't. So just trust us on this.

Jill Abramson got sacked due to her lady parts.

I hope it backfires on him. Because removing her the way he did - removing a historic achievement so viciously, so promptly, so impulsively- let us all know it wasn't about business. It wasn't about doing what was best for the NY Times. It wasn't about good leadership. It wasn't a strategic move. It wasn't anything... but a good hard crack on her backside.

"That's what you get!" he was declaring, out of exasperation and frustration. Yes. That's what she gets for doing... what? Let's see. Let's list the ways...

1. She asked for equal pay.

Hm. How dare she? But it's not that simple. She didn't just discover her pay wasn't equal to her peers. She discovered that her previous job, the one she had at the Times before she was promoted to the top, didn't even match the pay of the guys below her. Do you get that? 

Do you have any idea at all of how that feels? What it means? Retrospect or not? Hells yes I'd say something. Wouldn't you? Oh... let me guess. The woman are answering 'no' while the men are answering 'yes.' No kidding. Bet that's based on your work environment experiences, right? Right. We women don't want a spanking. It's humiliating. But Jill Abramson did what you men would have done. Exactly what you would have done. Do you get that too?

2. She butted heads with a subordinate.

Huh. Again. How dare she? Because she was the boss, that's how. The subordinate wanted to increase ad sales by turning the newspaper ads into the identical fonts and formatting as the actual content of the newspaper. Oh! Shame on her for wanting readers to know when they were reading content and when they were reading ads. Shocking, in fact, that a newspaper editor would ever have such a concern. 

It's not like their entire job is ensuring that the content is powerful, relevant, potent and ethical - that it reach the standard the NY Times has set over the last 163 years or so. No, not a concern at all!

Please. This is an argument all papers have had since the dawn of time. Her arguements must have been powerful too, since they were enough to piss off Sulzberger Jr, who really wants that money. Why should she have caved to a subordinate anyhow? And why did that subordinate go above her head and complain to Sulzberger Jr? Why didn't that piss him off instead?

3. Junior voiced frustration that she was too "pushy."

Well... Have you ever, ever ever heard of a man described as "pushy"? EVER? Think about it. 'Pushy' is a term only used for women. Never for men. Let's translate, shall we?

Jill Abramson - leans in, talks directly, uses eye contact, blocks attempts by others to change the subject, asks sharp questions, demands clear answers, says what she wants, clearly states what she needs, pushes subjects onto the table, states the obvious... repeatedly.

Verdict? Women say? Successful! Powerful! Amen! Men Junior says? Pushy!

Junior - leans in, talks directly, uses eye contact, blocks attempts by others to change the subject, asks sharp questions, demands clear answers, says what he wants, clearly states what he needs, pushes subjects onto the table, states the obvious... repeatedly.

Verdict? Powerful, achiever, mover & shaker, purposeful... on and on and on... by everyone. Woman or man.

So let's leave it as that. There's your proof. Go ahead and imagine Jill Abramson, a woman, being pushy... and then imagine a man exerting the exact same qualities. Mmm hmm. Bingo.

So I'm going to give myself a treat to feel better about this ridicilously loud act of discrimination and, well... mean-ness, and imagine Mr. Shulzberger Jr trying to exist in a corporate atmosphere without his father's name.

What an enjoyable weekend this will be.

Over 'n Out,
Katherine Eastvold

Was Jill Abramson fired because she is a woman? -Frida Ghitis