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“She’s doing it the way she wants to do it”: Abramson vs Mad Men

Peggy Olson questions herself

Woot!  Talk about timely.  Matt Weiner batted one out of the park last night with Mad Men.  He encapsulated in one episode what many woman go through in the working world every day.  Quick summary: Peggy Olson is the creative for an ad for Burger Chef.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Don, her former boss, now works for her.  Pete, the sales guy, says that when it comes time to give the presentation to the client, he thinks Don should give the presentation, not Peggy.  That’s because Don is the voice of authority, Peggy brings the emotion.  She’s the woman and therefore the Mom voice.

Fans who have followed this show since the beginning must have snorted their G&T through their noses at that statement.  Peggy deliberately rejected motherhood because she “wanted other things”.  But it’s not the motherhood/emotional part of Pete’s stupid assessment that’s important.  It’s that Peggy is NOT the voice of authority, even though she’s capable, bright and in charge of the strategy.

This is what Jill Abramson and other powerful women have been facing.  No matter what their title says, they are ultimately not the voices of authority.  Some dude is.  In Abramson’s case, it was her publisher.  Sulzberger has recently come out saying that it wasn’t gender that forced Abramson out but her management style.  Well, of course!  She was probably just crazy enough to believe that when it came to management decisions, she would get the final say because she was the executive editor.  Instead, I’m guessing that every decision she made was questioned.  If everything was going well, it was because she had talented people working for her.  If a decision went wrong, it was a zillion times worse because she was the agent who made it happen.

Hey, Pinch or Punch, or whatever your silly nickname is, we have seen this play before.  Her authority is only relevant when it turns out wrong.  If everything is going right, she doesn’t get any credit at all.  How many times have I been to presentations where a guy talks and he’s given praise and helpful suggestions.  He even gets to finish.  But when a woman gets up to talk, it’s perfectly Ok to talk over her, force her to explicitly detail every decision and calculation, and then point out the flaws bit by bit until the end can’t come too quickly, if she’s allowed to finish at all.  I’ve even seen male underlings do the dirty work of tearing into a female rival’s work with the ferocity of a Rottweiler while the rest of us sat in stunned silence.  It’s rude, vicious and serves to strip a woman of all authority.  She can’t help but question herself.  What crime did she commit to merit such a public dressing down?  There’s no reason for it except competition.  And they do it because it works.

So, yeah, it’s very simple to make every management failure to look like the biggest mistake in the world if you train enough eyes on it, don’t hold back on the disrespectful criticism and don’t stop the nasty criticism once it starts.  Men are allowed to make mistake after mistake.  Their mistakes don’t count unless the company or top brass is embarrassed, like Howell Raines embarrassed the NYTimes by hiring and promoting Jayson Blair.  But a woman is NEVER allowed to make mistakes because her authority is already so shaky that anything that goes wrong doesn’t look like a learning experience but a catastrophic failure.   That’s a perfect way to inhibit creativity.  Just drop a house on someone the minute they take a risk and get it wrong.

But back to Peggy and Don.  Don was her mentor.  Yes, yes, this is fiction.  But in last night’s episode, he turns up at her office and gives her, not the answer to ad, but something far more important.  He helped her believe in herself and her instincts again.  He gave her the support she needed.  In the last scene, she has the confidence to go on and do it her way.

Now, it’s just a TV show, fergawdssakes, but come on, guys, we’re fricking half the population and it’s the twenty first century already.  Mentor your female colleagues and when the challenges to her authority start flying (and they will), stand up for them.  Is that so much to ask?  Otherwise, you might end up with this guy:

Obama Arrives In New York


Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately):


Yeah, that went well.


Speaking of Hillary, now that Tim Geithner is out with his book featuring himself as the savior of the global financial system while the rest of us, you know, suffer in the name of shareholder value, let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners (as authors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi assert was a missed opportunity):


So there you have it, folks.  We saved the banks but doomed the economy and many unemployed peoples’ careers due to what may turn out to be an insufficient number of Penis Years.

Now, I realize that there are going to be some bloggers on the left that will roll their eyes and laugh and insist that it was a lot more complicated than that.   I will not deny that many of them were victims of a stellar campaign that convinced them to vote against their own best interests and that campaign should be a textbook case of a social psychology experiment in situational influence that we should all study.  But when it comes right down to it, penis years had a lot to do with it.  We are condemned to suffer by a bunch of dicks.


16 Responses

  1. Had the Times not lost so much circulation and money during her tenure, JA would have found herself in more secure standing. My experience in Syndicated News Features sales taught me that landing and saving contracts with clients who buy what you’re selling, not prestige and status that make no coin for the company, makes you invincible. The lesser men AND WOMEN will covet the customers and plot to undermine the successful, profitable colleague. It’s not HER mistakes that sink her, I’ve learned. It’s some hard-headed, macho gamble that doesn’t pan out that expedites her from the payroll so they can cop her business and remove the unpleasant reality of her presence reminding them how they pale in comparison.

    That “hard-to-deal-with” moniker was earned when, with an eye to preserving the profits, she counseled wisely against that gamble. Expecting to have it both ways is a poor negotiator’s (aka bHO) idea of being the authority.

    “Congratulations! You’re Fired.” is the highest form of mentoring. The best way to embrace this fate is to recover the inner balance that made you the Enemy of the People and join the Gods as their Controller. She’s still got everything that got her there. As George Gilder said in “The Spirit of Enterprise,” when the Communists nationalized the manufacturing businesses in Eastern Europe, the Entrepreneurs were still the smartest refugees, taking with them the skills, minds and wills that made them successful in the first place. JA just proved that the job she had wasn’t the top job and she’s got bigger fish to fry at the next level. She may pick up the marbles that made her the next big thing and get on with it.

  2. I remember Burger Chef. Imasco (of Canada)–the company which owns the Hardee’s trademark–bought BC in 1982, and most old BC restaurants are Hardee’s restaurants now.


    • Addition: Apparently, Imasco sold Hardee’s to some other corporation later.

  3. What is his nickname?
    Is it Paunch? Putsch?

  4. Putz?

  5. Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately)

    Well, everybody except Deval Patrick and Bernie Sanders.
    Why does a woman have to be goddamned perfect to rise to the highest position(s) and a man must be merely competent and well connected?
    If I didn’t know better-the sarcasm, it drips-I might think that men didn’t want women in leadership positions!

  6. Off-topic: Given how RD tends to roll her eyes at the crunchy-granola crowd, she might like this odd little song from Jefferson Airplane. :mrgreen:

  7. Sulzberger ….wasn’t he the guy who though Caroline Kennedy should just be give a NY senate seat…like ordering a pizza? There a real judge of talent .

  8. let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners

    One of the many, many reasons Hill had to kept out of 1600.PA Ave.
    at all costs and the upper crust moved as one to ensure O got in .

    If buying off and or threatening everyone in sight is running a great campaign , okay, O ‘s handlers ran a great campaign ….other wise , not so much

    If Hillary runs , I predict many hacks such as Nader and Sharpton will be paid to “run” as well …who’s sole job will be to bring down Hill from within and make Dems look like idiots ( not hard)

    so Jeb can look, you know in charge .and..oh… Presidential

    I guess Jeb has decided …which is why the Christie Bridge scandal had ” legs.” .( besides his stupid handling of it from the start) .I believe Christie ‘s role( at best) will be that of S.Agnew…more fitting

  9. There does seem to be more than one side to the NYT debacle:


    • I already linked to that. You may read that differently than I do but it still looks gender related to me, given past experience.
      Pinch has a new explanation up. Baquet and Gibson clashed on the edward snowden revelations. Oh, that’s right, The Guardian won awards for the risks Gibson took and Baquet apparently didn’t. Also, pinch says the digital content people would have fled if Gibson had come in as deputy managing editor. Lololol!
      Yeah, who would have wanted to work for a dynamic, risk taking, prize winning editor who helped break the biggest story since the Pentagon Papers? That sounds completely career ending.
      Trust me. It’s gender.

  10. good piece. yeah — something like that…. I’m watching Abramson get trashed by women — that’s new RD. But not entirely when I think back to DailyK & what happened to a blogger I know. Betcha not a one came to her defense in those days.

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