Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Hillary and Jill went up the hill

With The New York Times’ sudden dismissal of Executive Editor Jill Abramson and Karl Rove’s suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage, the curtain opened on a new theater in an old war, writes syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker.


Syndicated columnist

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
You are aware that Parker is a Republican and a conservative? Questioning a person's health status and stating that... MORE
@jerereal Don't think it does but what you just said shows what an idiot looks like. MORE
...and that "charismatic nobody" was elected to another term because the best the opposition could come up with was... MORE

advertising

With The New York Times’ sudden dismissal of Executive Editor Jill Abramson and Karl Rove’s suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage, the curtain opened on a new theater in an old war.

The targeting of these two powerful, accomplished women, albeit under different circumstances, might prove more predictive of the presidential election (assuming Clinton runs) than any other single factor. This is because women, who vote in greater numbers than men, have been reminded of how their sex is treated in a world that still favors men.

This is rare currency for me. I wrote a book called “Save the Males,” after all. But my argument in the book and elsewhere wasn’t about favoring men. It was a case for fairness toward boys and young men lest they grow up to become lesser men. Most mothers of boys know what I mean.

Fairness doesn’t always mean absolute equality, nor can it be measured only by numbers. Reality is what it is — finally, a useful application of this annoying expression — and confirms century after century that most men and most women excel at different things. Although, let’s be honest, women excel at pretty much everything. Just ask any wise husband.

Certainly, leadership is not the exclusive domain of men. Nevertheless, Abramson, the first woman to lead the masthead of the nation’s most prominent newspaper, was ousted amid stories of her “brusque” leadership style and, horrors, her gall in pursuing equal pay to her male predecessor.

We are left to infer two lessons: Women at the top should be sweet and nurturing at all times; and a woman who faints and falls, hitting her head, as Clinton did, can’t be trusted to lead the nation. This would be because she is ... a woman and, cut to the chase, she probably has something wrong with her brain.

One can understand why Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger found Abramson a tad too tough. Recall that when he held a newsroom meeting to discuss then-reporter Jayson Blair’s serial fabrications, Sulzberger brought along his stuffed moose.

As for Rove, well, he’s Bush’s brain. (Kidding, guys.) But Rove is ruthless and never without intent. When he protested that he was merely pointing out that Clinton’s concussion might have caused brain damage, he might as well have said, “I didn’t mean she’s demented and this is probably why she can’t remember what she did the night four Americans died in Benghazi, including our ambassador. Just sayin’ it’s possible.”

Obviously, Clinton will have to reveal her health record if she intends to seek the presidency. Meanwhile, everyone knows what’s up. A woman’s “brain damage” is a man’s “accused rape.” Though cleared of illness or crime, there’s always lingering doubt. He might have raped her. She might be ... damaged goods.

A plethora of other connotations and associations attach to the brain-injured woman. Emotionally unstable, mentally incompetent, the fainting woman who can’t unscramble her busy little head. Not long ago, women were “put away” for a “nervous breakdown.” It’s all there but the straitjacket.

Even if one thinks the country doesn’t need another Clinton White House, a sentiment shared by many Democrats — or if you’re of the BenghaziBenghaziBenghazi persuasion — the overarching impression is that Clinton was attacked unfairly. Ditto Abramson, who was fired effective immediately, which usually means shown the door without so much as a pit stop.

Fairness, in other words, is the whole kit and caboodle, and women are especially sensitive to its applications. Is it fair to suggest that one man’s attack on one woman — or one woman’s firing for being brusque — somehow reflects poorly on all men? No, it’s not fair, but we’re talking politics, where perception is reality. Plus, we’re talking about a particular woman (Clinton) and a particular man (Rove) with all the attendant history and baggage.

Obviously, all women don’t think the same and many will disagree with me here. But there’s a commonality among women that defies simple political categorization. Call it secrets of the powder room. You’ve always wondered what they were doing in there? Plotting.

Finally, a word about brusqueness. Having cut my teeth in the old, male-dominated newsroom, allow me to clue you in. Editors were chain-smoking, ink-stained, fact-obsessed derriere-kickers, to put it politely. They’d chew you up and spit you out over a dangling participle. Three factual errors in a year and you were out.

And Abramson is too “brusque”?

These were already tricky times for male candidates running against women. But this latest confluence of events just made them trickier. An impression of unfairness has made an imprint on the collective female brain and, well, you know how women can be.

© 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

Kathleen Parker's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Email: kathleenparker@washpost.com



Free 4-week trial, then $99 a year for unlimited seattletimes.com access. Try it now!

Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►