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Thursday, July 24, 2008

No, Katie, it's not the sexism

I'm feeling this post from Tami over at whattamisaid:

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 Slate.com'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, is that maybe it's not the sexism...maybe it's you.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

You know that whole sexism thing takes on such a different slant depending on boy says...girl says...doubt if it will be resolved on a blog...so much out of context...too complex. many more important issues to contemplate. Nothing surprising here with the katy Couric comments...she's in survival mode. Let's move on.

MacDaddy said...

anon: Thanks for your comment. Yes, this is a complex subject and there are many other issues to address. But I think the perspective in this post is very important for all of us to hear.

Anonymous said...

Is this about Katie or mainstream media? The way her show is produced, it's going to fail, no matter who's doing it.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Well, we can't discount sexism, but . . . women like Audre Lord, Doris Davenport and Barbara Cameron have been pointing out the differences between racism and sexism and the effects of both on women of color vs. white women for decades.
White feminists, after all these years just don't seem to get it. The words of Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolfe and other white feminists come from a white middle/upper class perspective that, like their environment, seems to ignore the sexism faced by women opf color.
After all these decades, we still have people like Curic falling into the same pit of self pity.
BTW Katie, now all of a sudden you're a feminist?

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

LMBAO at hillbilly's comment
america and sexism is like apple pie and baseball

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

MacDaddy, I loved your assessment of why HRC's campaign failed. Boy, was that on point! So was all the rest of it.

And Clueless Katie actually believes sexism is a bigger problem than racism. Well I guess it is for a white woman. She left out that part. How convenient for her.

MacDaddy said...

Hi, Kit: Thanks for your comments, but this post came from Tami over at whattamisaid. So it was Tami's analysis. And I agree with it.

R.J. said...

If Katie is a victim of sexism, then how come her salary is $15 million a year?

patti t said...

Your piece "No, Katie, it's not the sexism" rings so true. When CBS hailed this as the "big news--Katie Couric first solo female anchor" I was left thinking wow, why would they do that? Not that I don't think there should be solo female anchors--I am sure there are many qualified women out there--most of them wouldn't even be considered because they don't "look" the pretty anchor part. Personally I liked Elizabeth Vargas, but her co-anchor spot ended after her co-anchor was hurt in Irag,and they brought in Charlie Gibson (who I also like). But Katie Couric did soft entertainment, and frankly never came off as a serious journalist, and they thought her celebrity status would carry them forward. Not enough -- but yes she has been compensated well. And yes, sexism is always an issue, but lots of other factors in play here. I'll stop now and pay attention to the words of anonymous: let's move on.

MacDaddy said...

rj: Just as many blacks and people of color have succeeded despite racism or ethnic bias, I'm sure the Katie Courics and the Hillary Clintons, have succeeded despite sexism. But, as the poets Audre Lorde, June Jordans, Nikki Giovannie and and Mari Evans remind us, women of color had to succeed despite RACISM and sexism. The Katie Courics of the world seem to forget that. Of course, when you're whte and making 15 million, you can forget the racism women of color experience pretty quickly.
pstti: You're right: Katie doesn't rate with some of the less "pretty" journalists of color or older white women journalist for that matter. By the way happened to Elijabeth Vargas? I thought she was good. Her demeanor kind of demanded that she be taken seriously as a journalist.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

@ MacDaddy

Black women had to succeed in spite of racism, hueism, sexism, white misogyny and black misogyny...the barrier has never JUST been racism and sexism for black women...

Thank you for sharing this cross post!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

MacDaddy said...

Lisa: Thank you.