Monday, May 06, 2013

Was Cathie Black a Victim of Sexism?

With the release of the Cathie Black emails, I'm reading a lot of speculation on how attacks against her were sexist. After all, she is a woman. We didn't know a whole lot more about her at the time of her nomination, other than the fact she had virtually no educational experience, a big plus for Mayor Bloombucks, who apparently met her at the Rich Folks Galas they sipped champagne at.

And yet, many spoke of what a brilliant choice it was at the time. Well, hindsight is 20/20, and even the NY Post, which initially adored her, has pretty much come around to saying what those of us who were not insane were saying at the time. So were we sexist?

Well, she did come across as a blithering ignoramus. However, that's not entirely her fault. After all, she knew nothing whatsoever about the job she'd taken. So why was anyone surprised when she looked like a deer in the headlights or blurted out inanities? It was very much to be expected.

And yet, Joel Klein did not have similar issues. Sure, he knew nothing about education. Sure, he made many an inane utterance. And yet, the papers loved him. He blathered on about theories that had no basis in reality, about untested notions, about things that had never worked anywhere, and the city editorial boards said, yeah, Joel, go for it!

Nonetheless, anyone reading this blog at the time saw stories of how nonsensical and ridiculous his ideas were. Anyone reading Leonie Haimson or Diane Ravitch read much the same.

So I'm going to say yes, Clueless Cathie was indeed a victim of sexism. When she suggested birth control as a means to reduce class size, there was outrage at the abject stupidity of the comment. Yet when Joel Klein said much the same thing, I don't think I heard about it--until some blogger somewhere pointed out he'd said the same thing Black did.

The papers were sexist in going after her but not Klein. Klein, you'll recall, was on board to praise Mayor Mike for the miraculous boost in NYS test scores, the ones Bloomberg based his third term on. Diane Ravitch examined them next to the NAEP scores and determined the state scores must have been dumbed down. Just a year later, the papers discovered Ravitch's claims to be correct.

So there is some sexism there. Klein was clearly as incompetent and clueless as Black, but has never really been nailed for it in the press. And make no mistake, if there is any sexism, it comes from the press.

I don't feel all that sorry for Cathie Black. But I wonder, is it easier to be a blitheringly incompetent man than a blitheringly incompetent woman in the United States nowadays?
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