Kathleen Parker discovers sexism

Amy Siskind Contributor
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Ever notice the loaded words used to describe professional women? In her attempts to navigate co-hosting Parker Spitzer, Kathleen Parker is said to ‘storm off’ the set, ‘throw fits’, and ‘can’t stand’ or ‘can no longer swallow’ her co-host. Of course, there’s nary a mention in the media about her co-host’s role in the acrimony — the blue elephant in the room: Elliot Spitzer is one of the most obnoxious, arrogant, unlikable men in public life.

Heck, even my teenage daughter knows that. She walked in from sports practice last fall, glanced at the recent cover of New York Magazine featuring Elliot Spitzer as a cable personality and observed: “But I thought everyone hated him?”, grabbed a cookie and kept walking.

Um, yes. They do. That’s why no one is watching.

For those of you who missed it, CNN’s new 8 p.m. show Parker Spitzer, co-hosted by Kathleen Parker and Elliot Spitzer, is a ratings disaster. CNN‘s rumored solution — replace Parker. It’s always the woman’s fault. Couldn’t be Elliot Spitzer, right? Ah, our country’s knee-jerk reaction to blame the woman. She’s being difficult. It’s like an old, comfortable pair of slippers.

Well, how about the corporate environment at CNN? Is it friendly to women? Last July, I wrote on this topic noting, amongst other factors, that of the seven CNN anchors who recently departed from CNN, five were women! Five of seven: a striking proportion, no? Especially given the paucity of women anchors to begin with!

Now I’m going to make a ‘not-so-bold’ prediction. Replacing Parker will not save the show. CNN could cast Oprah on Mondays, Madonna on Tuesdays, Ellen on Wednesdays, Beyonce on Thursdays, and Angelina on Fridays and still we’re not going to tune in. Because they’ll be sitting next to obnoxious, know-it-all Elliot Spitzer and he’ll be busy cutting them off, too!

Despite the stench of sexism at play here, there is a certain irony. Kathleen Parker doesn’t believe in the notion of sexism. Or, at least, she didn’t until now.

Parker couldn’t wait to criticize President Obama for establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls:

Still, one does have to suppress a chortle as we pretend that the First Father’s rescue of damsels in distress is not an act of paternalistic magnanimity. Chivalrous, even.

Or castigate women’s groups for speaking out when Obama’s speechwriter, Jon Favreau, was shown in a Facebook photo groping the breast of a cardboard Hillary Clinton:

Feminists groups such as NOW and The New Agenda are outraged that Clinton — or at least her image — is being treated disrespectfully by the boys…

Now young men goofing around are immortalized as misogynist maulers, portentous reminders to the rest of us that the gender wars won’t end until irreverence and humor are dead.

Or belittle our complaints that Obama excluded women from his inner-circle.

Basketball in this instance isn’t only about shooting hoops; it’s about access to the president. As the powder-room buzz goes, Obama may as well have tacked a sign over the clubhouse door: “No girls allowed.”

Just as soon as I finish this yawn, I’m going to rustle up some righteous indignation. Here goes: How dare he!

How dare he indeed? How dare the male producers at CNN assume that the woman is the problem? How dare the media cover this matter with sexist undertones and words?

Well, wherever Ms. Parker lands next, and surely she shall land because she sure can write, let’s hope she will incorporate this chapter into her ongoing work. There’s nothing like a first-hand awakening to sexism. And, we’ll be looking forward to her joining The New Agenda in our efforts to eradicate sexism — as a partner, not an antagonist!

Amy Siskind is the President and Co-Founder of The New Agenda, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls.