Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No, Katie, it's not the sexism

I seethed when I read (over at The Field Negro) that CBS anchor Katie Couric said the following in an interview with an Israeli publication:

"Unfortunately I have found out that many viewers are afraid of change. The glory days of TV news are over, and the media landscape has been dramatically changed. News is available now for everyone, everywhere, all the time, and everybody fights for the last pieces of the shrinking pie. The corporate pressure and the ratings terror are intensifying all the time, and the situation is not simple. I find myself in the last bastion of male dominance, and realizing what Hillary Clinton might have realized not long ago: that sexism in the American society is more common than racism, and certainly more acceptable or forgivable. In any case, I think my post and Hillary's race are important steps in the right direction."

Deep sigh...Really? Are we still going there? I will not stop being offended by women who do not experience racism, but in their privilege feel comfortable deciding how common or forgivable it is. But that is not the only thing that bothers me about Couric's statement. Emily Yoffe at's XX Factor women's blog touched on the problem:

I find it unseemly for people like Couric and Clinton, who have been rewarded greatly for their talent, skill, and drive, to complain that sexism is the reason when they don't succeed at absolutely everything. (Couric is paid $15 million a year, a higher salary than her male counterparts.) Read more...

To be sure, Hillary Clinton, a formidable and smart politican, faced sexism during her presidential run. But it did not doom her campaign. Staff infighting; failure to plan past Super Tuesday; the adoption of racist Southern strategy that alienated black voters; failure to utilize grassroots organizing and leverage new media; reliance on greasy, old school politicos like Mark Penn; failure to adopt a cogent message until the last months of the primary; Bill; and a tough opponent with a stronger, more strategically run campaign--that is what doomed the Clinton campaign.

Similarly, Katie Couric, who has undoubtably blazed trails for women in journalism and who has undoubtably faced much sexism along the way, has much to answer for in terms of journalistic integrity. Recent case in point? The recent interview with Barack Obama where she doggedly seemed to defend escalated military action in Iraq. At the same time, we have her news program's attempts to hide John McCain's recent gaffe about the "surge."

I am not afraid of change, as Ms. Couric suggests, but interviews like these are not the sort of journalistic change we need. If Couric requires an explanation for the record low ratings of her newscast, I suggest she look to its substance and not sexism. After all, folks (including me) can't wait to see fearless Rachel Maddow with her own show on NBC. Maddow...who smacks down Pat Buchanan on the regular...who makes me not miss Keith Olbermann...who always has brilliant insight...who speaks truth to power. I don't know anyone who wouldn't love to see Maddow snatch dreary David Gregory's spot.

And if it was hard for Katie Couric to get to where she is, I will bet that it has been even harder for Maddow, who is also a woman. But Maddow is a woman who has resisted the blond highlights and flirty skirts news directors love to slap on female journalists. (Can't report the news, girls, unless you're sexxxay!) She is also an out and proud lesbian. I am going to bet that Maddow has faced bias toward both her gender and sexuality. But I'm sure Couric would boldly say that homophobia in our country is not nearly as bad as the sexism she faces.

If sexism trumps all else, perhaps Couric can explain that to Gwen Ifill, a black woman who despite a long history of excellent news reporting is called a "cleaning lady" by Don Imus and didn't get the call for a big three network anchor seat, while "America's Sweetheart" from a soft morning talk show did.

I guess what I'm saying, Katie, it that maybe it's not the sexism...maybe it's you.


Professor Tracey said...

THANK YOU!!!!! I will be posting on this crap tomorrow. I will link your piece as well. I am going to start the I hate Ms. Katie Fan Club if she makes one more remark like this!

And yes, Ms. Maddow is going to get her shot. She has earned it!

MacDaddy said...

Katie Couric is a victim of poor content and poor production. Rachel Maddow provides great content; and loved it when she professionally gave Pat Buchannon the business for telling a black woman on the program to shut up. No, Katie, it's not sexism; it your boring news program.

Lisa said...

Your last statement was the most powerful, Tami! Well said!

heartsandflowers said...

Gee we never saw Connie Chung complain publicly and you know she was mistreated! These women lack real character if they expect everything to go their way just because they want it. Life does not work that way. She's already making a grip and a half what more does she want? Their egos are just as bad as their male counterparts coupled with a heaping topping of whining!

Anonymous said...

Well this whole debate over racism and sexism is more complex and tough.

I don't know Katie all that well. I'm not really into "cheery" morning TV types, and I didn't see her anchor all that much.

However, I did have the sense that Rachel Maddow deserves a bigger shot at the gold ring, because she was so damn good during the campaign, and yahoo she does lesbians proud with her no-nonsense direct gaze at the camera and her rejection of "blond sexy" that so many other women on TV seem to cave too.

And I didn't even hear about how she stuck up for the black woman that Buchannon told to shut up! Rachel, we'll be waiting for you to get to the top soon!

I really don't know what is worse racism or sexism. If women go home to sexist husbands, I don't believe it is a white thing or a black thing.

Women have every right to point out sexism any time they want to. The thing is, what gets frustrating is that Hillary was more of an ax throwing tough feminist, and then softened up too much later. Would the brave Maddow do this?

Don't recall the last time I ever heard Couric give a knock down drag out feminist speech somewhere, so perhaps, like O.J., they put up the photos of him with black people only when the jury is coming to his home to visit... same kind of thing with Couric and Co.

Anonymous said...

And a P.S.-- the maddening thing about racism and sexism, is sometimes you don't know if you're being hit with it or not.

Sexism is snarky and sneaky, racism structural and creepy.

Women often suspect something is up on both accounts, but if it isn't you getting it, then it's hard to see.

It's why women need to believe each other when they point out racism and sexism! Women deserve the benefit of the doubt


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