May 18, 2014

Calling a bitch a "bitch."

I said it 3 days ago: "How the NYT called Jill Abramson — its axed executive editor — a bitch." I was doing a close reading of the first NYT article on the subject of axing Abramson, "Times Ousts Its Executive Editor, Elevating Second in Command." That article was dated May 14th. What I discovered was that the NYT article linked over to a Politico article (from a year ago) where the man who has now replaced Abramson was quoted saying: "I think there’s a really easy caricature that some people have bought into, of the bitchy woman character and the guy who is sort of calmer... That, I think, is a little bit of an unfair caricature." And that was how it became fit to print to call Abramson a bitch.

But the bulk of the public discussion in the aftermath of the axing focused on Abramson's complaint about pay equity. Now, there's a statement from NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., released yesterday, aimed at pushing back this talk that Abramson was fired because she demanded equal pay with males in the NYT organization. And it is this statement (not the earlier article I'd analyzed) that has led to this headline at Drudge:



Drudge links to a report at Bloomberg — "NYT Publisher Sulzberger Says Abramson Firing Driven By Conduct" — which doesn't print the full text of the statement. The new article at the NYT is called "After Criticism, Times Publisher Details Decision to Oust Top Editor." That too only has excerpts from the statement. The full text is here, at Politico.

So let's pick apart the text of the statement. Based on the Drudge headline, the hypothesis is that in the effort to fight off attacks that put the New York Times in the position of Enemy on the pay equity front of The War on Women, Sulzberger bumbled into the misogyny front.

Now, let's take a close look at the Sulzberger statement.
Perhaps the saddest outcome of my decision to replace Jill Abramson as executive editor of The New York Times is that it has been cast by many as an example of the unequal treatment of women in the workplace.  Rather than accepting that this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses, a shallow and factually incorrect storyline has emerged.

Fueling this have been persistent but incorrect reports that Jill’s compensation package was not comparable with her predecessor’s.  This is untrue. Jill’s pay package was comparable with Bill Keller’s; in fact, by her last full year as executive editor, it was more than 10% higher than his.

Equal pay for women is an important issue in our country – one that The New York Times often covers.  But it doesn’t help to advance the goal of pay equality to cite the case of a female executive whose compensation was not in fact unequal.

I decided that Jill could no longer remain as executive editor for reasons having nothing to do with pay or gender. As publisher, my paramount duty is to ensure the continued quality and success of The New York Times. Jill is an outstanding journalist and editor, but with great regret, I concluded that her management of the newsroom was simply not working out.

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues. I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom. She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them. We all wanted her to succeed. It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Since my announcement on Wednesday I have had many opportunities to talk to and hear reactions from my colleagues in the newsroom. While surprised by the timing, they understood the decision and the reasons I had to make it.

We are very proud of our record of gender equality at The New York Times.  Many of our key leaders – both in the newsroom and on the business side – are women. So too are many of our rising stars.  They do not look for special treatment, but expect to be treated with the same respect as their male colleagues.  For that reason they want to be judged fairly and objectively on their performance.  That is what happened in the case of Jill.

Equality is at the core of our beliefs at The Times.  It will always be.
So, the assertion is that Abramson — whom Sulzberger chummily calls "Jill" — was judged as an individual, and nothing about her gender infected the judgment. At the NYT, gender is noticed only looking back at how well women have done in the organization. Why, look at that, all of these individuals, judged as individuals, happen to include plenty of women. Sulzberger assures us that the NYT is an individualistic meritocracy, where none get or want "special treatment" and fairness is a matter of objective judgment, based on performance.

This is framed with great care, and I don't see the "bitch" characterization in any of this defensive, lawyerly verbiage. I see some amusing conservatism about meritocracy and avoidance of any acknowledgment that human judgment is inherently subjective. I see nothing about how preconceptions about gender affect our perceptions, so that what's decisive and commanding in a male is bossy and bitchy in a female. That is, I don't see the usual liberal insights about gender, but this is a defensive, oh-no-not-us document and any subtleties of that species have been carefully laundered out of this statement.

Liberals retreat to the position right-wingers always take, the high ground of meritocracy and individualism.

ADDED: Here's a hypothesis: Abramson knew Sulzberger hated her management style and wanted her out. With a lawyer's help, she marshaled evidence of pay inequity and presented it to Sulzberger with the idea that either he would avoid trouble by keeping her on or that, if he did proceed to oust her, it would look as if he'd done it because of her demand for equal pay. Now, what we can see is that he did fire her, and the notion that she was fired because she sought pay equity has been very widely believed. If the hypothesis is correct, Abramson brilliantly got out in front of the anticipated firing by interposing an event — Sulzberger confronted with the pay equity claim — that makes the real reason for the firing look like a pretext.

43 comments:

Fritz said...

A woman paid more than a man? But I thought the goal was equality.

Fandor said...

Now it begins…the progressive socialist liberals begin to eat their own.
Let the feasting begin…and never end until the last morsel is swallowed.

Factory Yoyo said...

Isn't all this supposed "sexism" bugging the heck out of everyone else? I have yet to meet any male boss who wasn't at one point referred to as a "dick" by someone. Can't recall any woman boss ever called that. Instead, it is "bitch".

BFD.

rhhardin said...

The bitch interest group isn't going take this lying down.

SGT Ted said...

Women need to understand that they are not special, nor deserving of special treatment simply for being female, if they truly desire to live in a equal society and be treated fairly.

Feminist women's insistence on maintaining the patriarchal and chivalric systems privileges granted to females, while destroying the male privileges under those same systems, demonstrates they just don't get it when it comes to true equality. Nor do they appear to want to get it.



Molly said...

I'd say that this is a working definition of bitchy behavior: "arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues."

If a man did this, it wouldn't be called bitchy, but it wouldn't be accepted. It might be called "asshole behavior" or "high-handedness".

But I don't see that there is there anything wrong with having a short-hand term for this?

Lucien said...

So she had trouble with the "Masthead".

chickenlittle said...

"Bitch"
The Rolling Stones managed a whole song about it without misogyny.

Original Mike said...

"Liberals retreat to the position right-wingers always take, the high ground of meritocracy and individualism."

Welcome aboard!

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I think I am, a little bit, happy people use the term "I think" when talking as it clarifies what is really happening in the here and now. Otherwise, if folks say "I think" a couple times per conversation, perhaps more than a little unfairly, I would think they are being redundant in order to raise my blood pressure and hence murder me slowly (the mean way).

At least I think so in my formerly-humble opinion, that could become belief with enough confirmation(s).

Anonymous said...

The New York Times lies and obfuscates about the world on a daily basis. The writers and editors all willingly participate in these lies, in the process slandering good people with whom they disagree.To lead such an endeavor requires participating in and promoting the lies and the bad faith it causes. Bad faith is a terrible position from which to manage, whether male or female. Myself, I thought a woman would be better at this.

Michael said...

Academics and public employees are accustomed to a certain salary being affixed to a position rather than to the worth of the applicant, the financial status of the employer at the time of the hire, the nature of the economy at the time of the hire and other real world variables. If there are ten fully qualified applicants willing to take ( think of those three words) the job for less than the last holder of the job then the employer would be remiss to pay more. It does not work this way in the academy or in the govt.

It should.

madAsHell said...

Nice picture. They caught her talking with her hands. Giving quotations to her words.

It makes her look immature, and......bitchy!!

rhhardin said...

Women can avoid preconceptions by actually doing good work, if they're in a man's job.

But editor is a woman's job, at least at a women's publication like the NYT, so it's not not likely to be gender based beyond her possibly actually being a bitch.

Like blond vs blonde, bitch is just an inflection.

Krumhorn said...

Just fire the bitch and be done with it. Only libruls, and those deeply concerned with the opinions of libruls, agonize in this limp-wristed pasty white hand-wringing manner.

These folks live in a suffocating conclave of wealthy elitist passive-aggressive snots. It's always fun to watch them bubble in their own sauce.

- Krumhorn

Illuninati said...

"Liberals retreat to the position right-wingers always take, the high ground of meritocracy and individualism."

Of course actual liberals believe in meritocracy and individualism. It is the lefties like Mr. Sulzberger who are hypocrites. It's enjoyable to watch Mr. Sulzberger beaten with his own whip.


jaed said...

What strikes me isn't anything specific in the statement but the fact that it's being made at all. You almost never see this sort of airing of dirty laundry when someone is fired, unless someone's been raiding the petty cash or doing something that's causing the company to consider suing the fired employee.

Sulzberger is here specifically saying that he fired her, ruling out the usual face-saving about it being was a mutual decision. And he's going into great detail about her inadequacies as a manager.

This is not normal. Usually, the person is allowed to "resign" even if everyone knows they've been fired, the company makes a low-key statement "wishing them every success in their further endeavors", and then shuts up. If asked, the higher-ups will say something diplomatic about how much they regret that it didn't work out, and leave it at that.

We've all seen this over and over. Whether its purpose to limit the lawsuits or to avoid PR blowups or to let the fired employee salvage some dignity, it's a well-practiced dance.

And here someone has missed the dance steps. Why is that?

Sam L. said...

Oh, come on! She just a hard-drivin'
woman trying to make it in a man's world!

Got to say, though that "... a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.", well THAT does sound bitchy.

Ann Althouse said...

@jead She rejected that opportunity. It was offered.

So that's part of the whole picture to be interpreted.

She chose to look brutally booted.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe a boot-print can be added to that "T" for Times tattoo on her back.

Jess said...

Considering her vicious, unwarranted attack on Clarence Thomas, it's appropriate the shoe is on the other foot, too small and the blister will last a long time.

richard mcenroe said...

Sulzberger is discovering, as so many employers have, that you can never be progressive enough to be immune from attacks from the left.

richard mcenroe said...

Where are the Times' TG management level employees, that's what I want to know.

Michael K said...

It's amusing to see the contortions the left can assume when the practice of affirmative action and gender privilege interferes with reality. The NY Times is slowly dissolving into a puddle of leftist drivel. It can't happen quickly enough for me. It would be amusing if the Koch brothers made the Sulzberger family an offer. They can't be happy with the present regime.

David said...

Ann Althouse said...

She chose to look brutally booted.


I would give her more credit and say she chose not to engage in a bullshit charade designed to obscure what was really going on. Most people were not going to buy it anyway.

She has been very quiet. That should worry Sulzberger.

somefeller said...

Liberals retreat to the position right-wingers always take, the high ground of meritocracy and individualism.

"always take"? Ha! That's funny. Well, many right-wingers do like to pay lip service to those terms (interesting that meritocracy and individualism are strongest in culturally blue enclaves, even in red states), now that outright racism and sexism aren't acceptable in polite society, thanks to social liberals. So a lot of reactionary types like to use those words, whether their lives actually reflect it or not. Though on many Internet comment boxes, they can still let their freak flag fly. "Always". Great morning chuckle.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Brilliant?

Jupiter said...

"Sulzberger assures us that the NYT is an individualistic meritocracy, where none get or want "special treatment" and fairness is a matter of objective judgment, based on performance."

That is legally irrelevant. If firing piss-poor managers has a disparate impact on women, then it is illegal. What makes him think he has a right to hire competent staff?

David said...

The best part of the explanation is Sulzberger's comment that "this was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses." When has the NYT ever offered anyone else the benefit of that realization?

BrianE said...

A theory I haven't heard yet.

She was a lousy editor!

A theory I haven't heard yet.

She wasn't leftist enough for the leftist cabal!

But, mostly, yawwwwn. Is this what passes for news these days?

"...arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues."

Sounds like top-down management. Can be effective, but only if enough fear is created. Maybe her 'bitchiness' didn't produce fear, but merely irritation.

None of the players in this little drama is worthy of sympathy, so it must be a comedy.

traditionalguy said...

I get Sulzberger's point. All women at NYT get equal treatment that women get...but some of those bitches expect to be treated as men, which would not be equal at all.

Martha said...

Dean Baquet threatened to leave the New York Times if Abramson were not removed. Pinch chose the Black editor over the woman. The bitch story is just cover.

dave in boca said...

My theory is that when Jill criticized the Obama juggernaut as the 'least transparent, most opaque' she's ever dealt with, Arthur had to punish this mortal sin against NY Slimes dogma by the rapid exercise of capital punishment.

Lord help us if the NYT told the truth---the bottom would fall out of the Obama machine in a New York minute.

Alex said...

somefeller - define this "polite society". To me it means mean-faced, clipped-haired, butch lesbian types making men watch sexual harassment videos.

n.n said...

This story is evolving as a manufactured Sterling event, designed to wrest control of NYT from Sulzberger.

gk1 said...

Blue on Blue warfare. I love it! It's like watching DNC surrogates "host" a Republican inter-party debate. But I am guessing the NYT editorial pages won't be concern trolling this event.

Anonymous said...

it “was a situation involving a specific individual who, as we all do, has strengths and weaknesses.”

Any employers other than NYT would be waging a war on women if they fired a woman. Only NYT's firing "involving a specific individual".

Pinch raised Abramson to a position she was not qualified for to show his pc-ness. The Abramson debacle proves how shallow and incompetent Pinch was. He should be fired for setting himself and NYT up for the fall.

Love to see the worm squirm.

Hyphenated American said...

" Well, many right-wingers do like to pay lip service to those terms (interesting that meritocracy and individualism are strongest in culturally blue enclaves, even in red states), now that outright racism and sexism aren't acceptable in polite society, thanks to social liberals. "

Actually, racism and sexism of "affirmative action" continues to be promoted by "social liberals". Actually, the self-described "social liberals" are the most anti-white, anti-Asian, anti-male bigots today, and they also seem to believe that neither blacks nor latinos can succeed without everybody else being discriminated against.

Douglas said...

While I am enjoying immensely the spectacle of the Times being hoist on its own petard - and I thank our hostess for her contribution to the event - my tentative conclusion is that Abramson was a micro-managing, abusive a***e. See, I said that without using the word, "bitch."

wildswan said...

I think the paper has reached the tipping point and will never be rescued. The fight is about who is to blame. I think the whole mess is just like the White House - secretly people do not want to be connected with the endeavor anymore. Jill is saying "Oh, I wanted to be editor; oh, oh, you hurt my feelings; oh, oh, you were mean." Jill is thinking: "Well, I'M out and just in time."

Nichevo said...

it's interesting on the Rove/Clinton thread about how you were bitching, if I may say so, that Rove spoke too strongly about the Clintons using the "old" gambit against Republicans, but apparently your objection was that Rove did not cite an explicit formal use of the term, a quote of a Clinton saying "Dole is too old" or "McCain is too old." You even say, or should I say admit or even brag, that the Clintons slyly danced around this point without putting it into so many words, while making their message quite clear.

However, this guy on the paper did not explicitly call Abramson a bitch. He did use a form of the word bitch in a sentence and you are taking that and running with it that he called her a bitch - "that's how you call someone a bitch" - so if you were serious that that construction is close enough to calling someone a bitch then I certainly think that you are silly at best to attack Rove for imprecision in saying that Republicans were called "too old" by the Clintons. I really don't understand what you were getting at with that but this weakens your point if you ever had one.

google is evil said...

I find the equal pay argument a thin canard. Hers is a very highly paid position for which there is no pay scale. I would believe the salary and benefit package was negotiated by very highly paid lawyers, and she was very aware of what and how she was compensated. If there were objections, why were they not brought up when she signed her contract?

stlcdr said...

Maybe she wasn't taking enough days off to recover from her menstrations?