In the male-dominated world of newspaper publishing, The New York Times' executive editor Jill Abramson was a bastion of hope for women everywhere. The esteemed Harvard-educated reporter rose to the top of the ranks at America's prestigious Grey Lady through sheer talent and tenacity, becoming the first female to hold the post in the history of the paper.
So it struck a nerve when it was announced today that she's been unceremoniously canned, leading one insider at the paper to grouse, in our gut-punching quote of the day:
The unbelievable thing is that there actually is no ‘cause’ for this — no single thing, nothing.
Actually, there is a cause, but as it has nothing to do with merit and a hell of a lot to do with latent sexism, it hardly qualifies as a real "cause" at all.
According to The New Yorker and other outlets digging in to the high-profile firing, Abramson was let go in part because (wait for it) she demanded equal pay to her male colleagues and predecessors. In pushing for equality, she was saddled with the oldest misogynistic term in the book for strong women: "pushy."
This label reeks of a sexism that first began stinking last year, when insiders protested to Politico that Abramson was "condescending" and "brusque"—e.g. traits that male employees not only routinely exhibit, but leverage for the coveted corner office and the respect of employees everywhere. (For men, of course, the terms would be "confident" and "tough").
What may be most upsetting about this is that it's happening at The Times, a supposedly progressive paper that has failed to practice what it preaches. Consider, as secondary evidence, that a recent examination of front page articles in The Times discovered that women were quoted as primary sources precisely 19% of the time. And that's to say nothing of the fact that on the whole, newsroom staffs are about 36% women—a number that has remained largely unchanged since 1999.
This is why it really was a big deal when Abramson was hired, and why it's an even bigger deal that she was just (questionably) canned. While it's worth noting that her predecessor will be an African-American male—progressive in its own right—that doesn't ease the sting of knowing that even the "liberal" "forward-thinking" Times isn't ready for women to have, and own, their power.