Bob Franken

‭ ‬ FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE,‭ ‬300‭ ‬W‭ ‬57th STREET,‭ ‬15th FLOOR,‭ ‬NEW YORK,‭ ‬NY‭ ‬10019‭
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‭ ‬ BOB FRANKEN
‭ ‬ FOR RELEASE FRIDAY,‭ ‬MAY‭ ‬23,‭ ‬2014
‭ ‬ GENDER BRUTALITY
‭ ‬ BY BOB FRANKEN
‭ ‬ I confess:‭ ‬I‭’‬m a man.‭ ‬So it‭’‬s not easy for me to get my mind around the shabby firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson.‭ ‬For starters,‭ ‬I have to give her credit for not accepting some sort of bribe to just fade out of sight with the usual memos where her bosses‭ “‬wish her well‭”‬ (as you might know,‭ ‬I think that‭’‬s another way of saying,‭ “‬May she burn in hell‭”‬).
‭ ‬ The Abramson firing was a study in clumsiness,‭ ‬so much so that it lays bare all the questions about sexism in the workplace,‭ ‬particularly at the executive level.‭ ‬Is there a double standard for female and male bosses‭? ‬Sure there is.‭ ‬Women are still weighed down by the traditional demands to be passive and rely on gentle persuasion.‭ ‬Us men,‭ ‬at the same time,‭ ‬are celebrated when we are demanding and hard-charging.
‭ ‬ So,‭ ‬was Abramson‭’‬s toughness a rude shock‭? ‬Probably so.‭ ‬Unfairly so.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve worked in the news business a long time,‭ ‬where the two main characteristics of the best reporters are a strong suspicion of authority and neurotic insecurity.‭ ‬In other words,‭ ‬we are‭ ‬nearly impossible to manage.‭ ‬Jill Abramson wasn‭’‬t daunted by that.‭ ‬She was widely described as the intimidator,‭ ‬not the intimidatee.
‭ ‬ Was that fatal in the back-stabbing world of fragile egos at The New York Times‭? ‬It probably didn‭’‬t win over some of the guys who would have preferred being stroked by a more collaborative female leader.
‭ ‬ In many of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.‭’‬s gazillion explanations of why he booted Abramson,‭ ‬he keeps returning to her management style.‭ ‬He glosses over the fact that under‭ ‬her leadership‭ ‬–‭ ‬less than three years‭ ‬–‭ ‬the paper won eight Pulitzers.‭ ‬That‭’‬s a pretty good metric for measuring her success.
‭ ‬ Unseemly and unfair as all of this is,‭ ‬it should force us to reflect on the many knots of this dilemma and,‭ ‬more importantly,‭ ‬guide us as we figure out ways to untangle them.‭ ‬As a card-carrying male,‭ ‬I have a limited understanding of the female experience in the workplace.‭ ‬But for starters,‭ ‬I can ponder mine.
‭ ‬ I‭’‬d like to believe that the sex of my supervisors doesn‭’‬t really matter to me.‭ ‬I‭’‬m more predisposed to resent bosses male or female.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬I have been inspired by some imperious men as well as women who forced me to improve my game by insisting that my product measure up to their very tough standards.‭ ‬I‭’‬ve also had to answer‭ ‬to incompetents who tried to make up for their shortcomings with bullying and deceit.‭ ‬Again,‭ ‬I‭’‬m describing both men and women.‭ ‬I‭’‬m an equal-opportunity hater.‭ ‬Obviously,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬as a general rule,‭ ‬a double standard does exist,‭ ‬and all of us need to confront the complexities of them in the workplace.
‭ ‬ Without a doubt,‭ ‬this is getting so much attention because those of us in media love nothing more than to cover ourselves.‭ ‬It feeds our outsized sense of importance.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬in this case,‭ ‬we need to dig deep,‭ ‬because it truly does affect our entire society.
‭ ‬ Look no further than politics.‭ ‬It‭’‬s highly likely that we will be confronting the issue head-on if Hillary Clinton runs for president.‭ ‬If the time comes,‭ ‬and she‭’‬s on the final ballot,‭ ‬will Americans be comfortable electing a woman to lead us‭?
It would be nice to think that the other considerations would make that question irrelevant,‭ ‬but we are a conservative nation.‭ ‬No matter that some of the world‭’‬s most effective heads of state,‭ ‬like Angela Merkel,‭ ‬have shown they can run things just fine‭; ‬we cling to outmoded thinking here in the U.S.‭ ‬of A.‭ ‬Nevertheless,‭ ‬I suspect it will be an issue here and that Clinton‭’‬s opponents will exploit it.‭ ‬There‭’‬s an old commercial where women are told:‭ “‬You‭’‬ve come a long way,‭ ‬baby.‭”‬ To my knowledge,‭ ‬no one called Jill Abramson‭ “‬baby,‭”‬ but we still have a long way to go.
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© 2014‭ ‬Bob Franken
‭ ‬ Distributed by King Features Syndicate,‭ ‬Inc.
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