Girl Talk and Bigotry Ethics: Celebrating One-Way Gender Bias on ABC

Christiane Amanpour just led a jaw-dropping roundtable discussion on her ABC Sunday morning talk show, “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,”as three female guest commentators ( Torie Clarke, the former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in the Bush administration: Cecilia Attias, the former first lady of France and founder of Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women, and ABC’s Claire Shipman)
and Christiane discussed how the convergence of  Former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s attempted rape charges and Rep. Anthony Weiner’s travails has created a possible tipping point, in which the nation will finally come to the realization of a fact that these women have known all along: women are just plain better than men when it comes to leadership, management, decision-making, and conflict resolution.

The sweeping generalities, stereotyping, and flat pronouncements of male inferiority were unrestrained. “Women run for office to do something and men run for office to be somebody,” said Amanpour at one point, summarizing an exchange. “There’s something about a group of men and testosterone, you know, making risky decisions ,” said Claire Shipman, an ABC correspondent kindly given the chance to peddle her nauseatingly-titled new book, “Womenomics.”  Shipman spouted various unidentified studies purportedly showing that women in power achieved uniformly better results than those bumbling male counterparts: better hedge fund profits, better corporate performance, pretty much better everything. “Very often, men will compete for the sake of competition. It almost doesn’t even matter what happens,” Clarke declared, to no objections or qualifications from the assembled experts of the Superior Sex. “Men aren’t attracted to powerful women,” added Amanpour.

The male-bashing and female-worship went on for fifteen minutes, with no hint of restraint or irony. The  political right’s favorite tactic to show news media bias is to rhetorically ask how differently the media would handle a scandal or other news story if the political affiliations of the parties were reversed. That tactic is  often abused; frequently the answer is, “they would report it exactly the same way.” Not here. An all-male panel smugly talking about how “Estrogen really is a problem” and how decisions made in the throes of PMS are inherently untrustworthy would guarantee a feminist march on ABC headquarters, blogger and op-ed fury, NOW declarations of war and the rolling of network heads.

When he was president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers was run out of his job by faculty and feminist fury when he suggested that it was possible that differences between the genders might be part of the explanation for the under-representation of women in the worlds of science and mathematics. Yet I just watched the host of a mainstream news program aggressively participate in a stacked and rigged discussion that began with the unchallenged presumption that men—not just Weiner, or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or some men, or many men, but men as a monolithic, homogenous, stereotyped group—-are fatally handicapped by their hormones and brain-wiring when it comes to leadership and management.

What a brilliant strategy: make a case that justifies anti-male bigotry and bias in hiring that is politically and socially impossible to rebut! Is that the way it is going to be, girls? Or will the gender warriors play fair, and now allow the presentation of other studies, suggesting what women, as a group, don’t do as well as men, and panel discussions about the benefits of testosterone? And can Larry Summers have his job back? Oh, right: the president of Harvard is now a women. Imagine that.

Amanpour’s roundtable was as biased, bigoted, unfair and offensive as a guest expounding, as poor L.A. Dodger exec Al Campanis did in 1987 on ABC’s “Nightline,”  on how African-Americans just don’t have “the necessities” to be major league baseball managers. Campanis lost his job and became the face of racism in sports, but Amanpour and her group made exactly the same kind of statements about men, supremely confident that it isn’t bigotry and stereotyping that gets you in trouble, but the wrong type of bigotry and stereotyping.

Well, she might get away with it, and women undoubtedly enjoy being pronounced superior in some respects without having to accept or tolerate the burden of being inferior in others. Nevertheless, this blatant double standard is neither fair nor factual, and giving it such an unbridled airing on a Sunday morning public policy TV program is indefensible.

I would be satisfied to see the relative assets and deficits conferred by gender differences—and racial differences— be openly discussed and evaluated, if that could be done without leading to discrimination against individuals based on perceived or demonstrated group characteristics…and I have my doubts. If, however, women are going to cry bloody murder at the barest suggestion that female traits and characteristics include handicaps and well as benefits, while simultaneously denigrating men as unreasoning, egomaniacal, sex-obsessed brutes, that is not acceptable, or ethical, or fair.  I expect them to play by the same rules they insist upon when they are the topic of discussion. And if Christiane Amanpour is going to assemble a roundtable with guests who pronounce men unquestionably inferior, she has a journalistic obligation to include some credible opposition, even if it is only some dumb, testosterone-addled, overly competitive male.

You can read the transcript here.

30 thoughts on “Girl Talk and Bigotry Ethics: Celebrating One-Way Gender Bias on ABC

  1. Well, I’d say that Christine & Company have definitely laid one stereotype to rest… that which proclaims that women are inherently smarter than men. They’ve also re-enforced an old female stereotype about women being gossipy, scheming and closed minded when huddled together. Way to go, gals!

  2. I tried to view Roundtable: Sex and Politics, but the video would not play. Is that the segment to which you were referring? I was, however, able to watch the Greenroom segment. After reading your post, I thought – woof, something put Jack’s knickers in a knot. I’m interested in the ladies comments, but, unfortunately, viewing was impossible. I’ll try again later.

    • No, it wasn’t the usual George Will, Donna Brazile, etc roundtable—it was an all-female, let’s come right out and call men inferior-fest. There is no justification for anyone NOT to have knotted knickers—it was per se prejudice; in a workplace. it would constitute sexual harassment.

      • ABC News, Christiane Amanpour, Roundtable: Sex and Politics, lead picture looks like all women around the table, but the video still will not run. I’ll try it again in a couple of hours.

  3. Pingback: In Seeking Political Gender Parity, Choosing Women Solely Because They’re Female Does Not Work : Writes Like She Talks

    • “Defensive much”–-terrific response. Let’s see “Writeslikeshetalks” try that on the next African American who objects to a white power rant. I’m not defensive at all, not one bit. I just don’t like being stereotyped, especially by women who don’t know me, and who would file a lawsuit if the same discussion they participated in had genders switched and took place in their offices. We’ve been arguing about the definition of hypocrite on another thread (well, actually, I’ve been arguing, they’ve been misusing), but here’s a good definition: any female anti-gender bias hun who can listen to the Amanpour “men are inherently inferior managers and decisionmakers” discussion and not condemn it as bigoted is a hypocrite.

      • Jack – I don’t think they were talking about you. You’re taking the conversation a bit too personally, IMO. As for the other roundtable regulars, she did have them on a bit earlier in the show – they were focusing on the economy I believe.

        • Of course they were talking about “me”…they were talking about “men,” just as when KKK bigots have their roundtable about how blacks don’t work as hard, can’t handle abstract thought as easily as whites, and are distracted by their lust for white girls, they are talking about Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, George Washington Carver, Tony Kushner, Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Jackie Robinson. you can’t seriously argue that they were just talking about the incompetent, sex-obsessed men who women are naturally, bY virtue of their Xtra X, superior to. What would THAT prove?

          I saw the other roundtable. They try to get multiple views on that one.

          • Hi Jack – for the benefit of any other reader who would care, I apologize again re: the mommie4a handle – my name is Jill Miller Zimon and I’ve been blogging at Writes like she talks (which linked to this post) since 2005.

            As I wrote you in an email, I honestly have rarely if ever viewed a Sunday talking head show with an eye toward whether it’s ethical or not. I’m not offering that as an excuse – just a reality. So, as I also wrote, I’m going to give it some thought. I do suspect that while I respect that that is how you critique it, esp. given the thrust of this blog, I may keep going back to the rather unnatural way in which those talking head segments are structured from the get-go – a media-related/media-driven detriment.

            Could coverage of the topic be improved (and therefore maybe “more ethical”) if others were on the panel, or the host introduced contrarian options for the guests to consider? Very possibly. Is the failure to have done that unethical? To me, that’s a stretch – and again I go back to my POV which is that those shows are so highly structured to begin with. I’m totally not a “everything is gotcha journalism” person, but there’s no question in my mind that Amanpour and I would guess her producers were aiming for something very specific.

            I understand that you are examining the ethics behind or of that decision, yes? I’m saying – eh. We so rarely see the talking head shows give such time to such an issue with such a panel as Amanpour hosted, it is hard for me to go so far as to say it was unethical to have it at all.

            But i’m also offering up the reality that I’m extremely inexperienced in examining these segments in this way, so I find – and I found – your critique very intriguing – which is why I linked to it in the first place.

            Hoya saxa. 😉

            • (For those not familiar with Georgetown lore, “hoya saxa” is classic Greek for “what rocks!,’ which classically trained GU football fans used to chant to the team’s defensive line–their steadiness! Get your mind out of the gutter!. This is why the university’s athletic teams are called “Hoyas”—yes, that’s right: “Whats”.)

              Jill…it’s unethical. Journalistic ethics requires responsible, honest, fair work, even from pundits. Pundits are welcome to their opinions, but they have to be treated and presented as opinions. Amanpour isn’t a pundit, but a reporter, which means she has several obligations: 1) not permitting questionable, inaccurate statements to go unchallenged 2) presenting fair and unbiased coverage 3) not presenting opinion as fact, and 4) when presenting a view that is controversial or even objectionable, having qualified, credible counter-opinions in the mix.

              She did none of that. the impression left by a 5 person roundtable asserting male inferiority was that this was a fact that was only now being recognized, and amenapour not only didn’t challenge or moderate, she .joined in. Shipman kept citing “studies” without attribution—studies by whom? Are the peer reviewed? Are there studies that challenge these contentions?

              Worse, the discussion was per se bigoted in tone. No responsible journalist would fail to challenge a male panel making such sweeping assertions. Amanpour didn’t. She just endorsed them. And the accepted and ethical practice in all opinion formats is to include at least one, and ideally more than one, individual with an opposing view to the majority. Keith Olbermann was one of the rare pundits that never had anyone right of Ralph Nader on his show, and was routinely derided by journalism ethics experts for the practice. Amanpour knows the rules and usually follows them. Not following them when the topic is per se gender bias? Of course unethical.

              • There were four panelists, but that’s not material of course.

                I understand your critique, but I’ve never read your blog before last night – had never heard of it, and so I have no knowledge (and have not yet searched for) re: whether you have applied this same rubric to other talking head shows, for example, when they are examining questions like whether there’s room enough for two conservative women in a presidential primary as they bank on instigating cat fights, which the media deploys regularly. Another topic ripe for critiquing the media coverage woudl be the way it has portrayed wives as the downfall of an ambitious politician – whether it’s Cheri Daniels, Haley Bourbour’s wife or Calista Gingrich.

                If you have in fact critiqued such media approaches to those topics via are they ethical or not, that is admirable and I hope I either turn them up or you can send me the links – I’d love to compare those analyses to the one you’re applying here, so I can get a sense of how evenly you apply this rubric.

                • Jill: Amanpour, plus four equals five. She wasn’t moderating, she was pontificating.

                  If four—or five—panelists happen to agree on something, that’s neither unfair nor unethical, though a good and fair moderator would challenge the decisions. I don’t see your example s as even vaguely relevant: 1) I have no obligation to write about everything, and have no time to do so. If a bunch of liberal anti-Plain Tea Party types were joined on one panel to make the cat fight wishes you describe, that would be lousy punditry, but not anywhere near on par with a major news show’s apparent endorsement of gender bias. My legitimacy as a professional ethicist does not rest on my ability to find a yin for every yang, and I frankly resent the presumption of bias in your comment, without reading other posts.

                  I think any professional is owed the presumption of competence and fairness, and someone should have actual evidence before suggesting that I employ a double standard—which I don’t. Find any form of genuine bigotry that I have endorsed…examples that I haven’t written about are irrelevant. You can search for Mel Gibson, and Helen Thomas for a start.

                  • As to all else, it’s clear that you are used to a certain way in which things unfold here – it’s your blog and that’s understandable. I’m not finding it particularly welcoming as someone who has literally stumbled into the blog for the first time in just the last 24 hours but again, I’ve been around the blogosphere long enough to know that that’s just how some blog authors are. It’s the blogosphere, after all.

                    I stand by my query which evinces an interest in looking at how you’ve critiqued talking head show or media approaches that, as you say with the one yesterday, are, in your opinion, bigoted, for the reasons you cite, but in regard to how men are looking at issues related to women. This is a reasonable thing to want to examine, if it were available. That it might not be is obviously something that just is. Again, as a long time blogger, I have been faced with those who want to ascribe very monolithic generalizations to me which I know simply don’t attain but there’s little incentive to argue each and every point. I respect that in your position here.

                    I also stand by my experience of the roundtable segment but am glad to have come across your blog and how you unpack such things. It’s definitely not something I’ve seen before.

                    • I’ll stick my nose where it doesn’t belong and just say this: In my 3+ year experience in reading Jack’s writings, he’s very balanced. He’ll critique anyone and anything. If he hasn’t covered a specific instance that you think he should have covered, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. He’s a very prolific writer.

                      As a regular reader, I encourage you to look around the past articles, learn his concepts, and participate in the future articles.

                      While I find the “Comment Policies” to be instructive, my favorite portion of the “Static Site” is the Rationalizations section.

                    • Regarding the number in the panel…You must be right. I was too busy screaming at the TV for permitting such bilge to count properly. My mistake.

                      I’m sorry, Jill, but the issue is the panel discussion’s content and form, not me. Was it TV news engaging in politically acceptable bigotry, or wasn’t it? Turning the focus on me, as if I have to have approved bona fides to identify unethical broadcast journalism, unfair and unbalanced punditry and a type of discussion that would be regarded as per se unforgivable if about blacks, Hispanics, seniors, gays or women is simply deflecting the issue and attacking the messenger—without, I may ass, a shred of evidence to attack him—me– on. If I had never flagged unethical misogynism—I have, often, but so what—would that make the panel’s open, shameless bias and sterotyping less objectionable, or different in character? No. Is your suggestion that I have to prove my RIGHT to apply my professional skills to this standards and taste-busting segment before the panel can be recognized as it is? No again.

                      I’m a professional ethicist,, which means I analyze conduct for a living. I am not trying to curry favor with any political pole, I will debate substance, admit mistakes, accept new data, and state my biases, but what I won’t do, and don’t respond in a mild fashion to, is partisans whose default argument is that I have an axe to grind. In the field of fighting for female equality in the workplace, promoting and mentoring female
                      executives, and opposing sexual harassmen, which I consult on and teach, my track record and credentials are damn good…not that it matters one bit in this case, because the Amanpour panel was res ipsa loquitur…it spoke for itself–bigotry.

                      I fail to understand how whether or not you are familiar with me or my site should in any way make it easier or harder to fairly identify and condemn bigotry when it happens to elevate a group you belong to.

                    • At this late date, I’m jumping in to join TIm. Jack does have a habit of using strong language and writing emotionally, but strong language is not necessarily improper language and this wasn’t a particularly emotional post.

                      While I disagree with Jack on a variety of issues (and vehemently on a couple of those), partisan (or group based) bias is not a flaw I see.

                      Furthermore, your attack on this post validated Jack’s point. A man can’t even point out the double standard without being called biased. (You might want to check out Jack’s recent post on a gay softball league’s bias to see the even application of his ethics.)

  4. If, however, women are going to cry bloody murder at the barest suggestion that female traits and characteristics include handicaps and well as benefits, while simultaneously denigrating men as unreasoning, egomaniacal, sex-obsessed brutes, that is not acceptable, or ethical, or fair. I expect them to play by the same rules they insist upon when they are the topic of discussion.

    I agree with you; they shouldn’t make blanket generalizations about “men,” nor speak about men as if we were a single massmind. From your description of the panel discussion, they were incredibly sexist and they should apologize.

    However, you shouldn’t talk about what “women are going to” do, or expecting “them to play by the same rules,” as if all women were a single monolithic, homogeneous entity. The people who acted sexist weren’t “women” as a group; they were just those particular individuals on this panel.

    • I think that’s a pretty weak attempt at turnabout, Barry.

      Women were the sole participants in the roundtable; my use of women was obviously aimed at them,and the quote you have above was correct. IF women are going to object to stereotyping then THOSE women shouldn’t engage in it—and these women—WOMEN—did. Also “any women,” or “women.” It was pretty clear. When a news organizational seeks a cross-section of women—a French woman, an author, a journalist, a scholar—to bash men without any rebuttal or counter-views, I’d say “women” is accurate by ABC’s own terms. If I say “men shouldn’t abuse women,” I am not saying that all men abuse women, I;m saying that NO men should abuse women.

      Point rejected.

  5. This stinks. I get why you’re upset — it’s perpetuating a stupid, offensive stereotype of men that is hurtful and inaccurate. It’s appalling that something like this was deemed worthy of airtime. It’s deeply troubling that ABC has implicitly given this segment its stamp of approval. Basically, it stinks.

    Also, it stinks that your legitimate anger has been dismissed by some readers as mere defensiveness, taking things too personally — even getting your knickers in a knot. (Do guys even wear knickers?) You are the one who has been attacked; we don’t have the right to demand that you express your anger only in calm, rational, female-approved ways.

    That is, after all, exactly the way that misogynists have been silencing women’s anger for decades now. I’m sorry that you’ve been on the receiving end of that crap, because it really stinks — no matter what gender you are.

    • Hey, I have no problem with female chauvinists at all. They are just jerks, like male chauvinists. But the roundtable wasn’t presented as punditry by a bunch of bigots, it was presented as fact, with the supposed journalist host cheering them on.

      I’ve been a feminist for 40 years, but if that’s what I have to look forward to, uh-uh. I’m not fighting women’s battles so they can denigrate me when they have the power, and help women silence anyone who raises any aspects of the female mystique that are less than an asset.

      Essentially, it’s time to tell so-called minorities (especially those that are really majorities) that we aren’t tolerating bigotry from them any more. They want fairness and respect, they can practice it too, or get the same treatment from their targets they’ve been dishing out. Enough is enough.

      • Essentially, it’s time to tell so-called minorities (especially those that are really majorities) that we aren’t tolerating bigotry from them any more. They want fairness and respect, they can practice it too, or get the same treatment from their targets they’ve been dishing out. Enough is enough.

        Excellent. Did you realize that you’re a Gnu Atheist?

    • Sarah – I meant no disrespect or wanted to give the impression I was dismissing Jack when using the expression “knickers in a knot.” My mum used to say that to me all the time whenever I was upset about something. The origin is “just some silliness conjured up by The Basil Brush Show, a British television program that started in the late 60s,” I guess. And, no, I don’t believe kickers are worn anymore. But, who knows they could become “fashion” again.

      Not having seen the film clip as my post states, I merely wanted to view it and see why Jack was upset to better understand his post.

      Jack, I offer you my apologies if you were offended. Using the expression “knickers in a knot” was not meant to dismiss you.

  6. Thanks for sharing. Gosh, we apologize if you felt offended. The centuries of anti-male bigotry you’ve had to live with have done so much harm to your gender’s self esteem. I guess that’s men somehow are lured into inappropriate sexual behavior….outrage at your lack of power in our world?

    For decades I’ve watched all white male panels pontificate fatuously on all manner of topics. I’ve long said that we’ll never know we are equal until we elect and hire as many incompetent women as we do men. Until then, get over it and deal with the question of why your gender seems to be on the commission end of so much noxious sexual behavior.

    • Thanks, Linda—this is exactly the kind of comment I knew was out there. Tit for Tat, two wrongs make a right, do unto others as they do to us…completely ethically inert—just like the segment. Buuut…

      Congratulations! The Comment of the Day!

  7. Thanks for a great article. Right you are in that if the sexes were reversed and estrogen was said to be a ‘problem’, heads would roll. The frightening thing to think about is, how many people sat and nodded along with them?

  8. As I know Jack knows, the system in the comments on this blog post “maxed” out somehow in the thread in which he and I were conversing. And so I assumed that was it for the entire blog entry, though now it’s obvious that new comments can be left, it’s just that no replies could be entered after some of the comments in the specific portion where Jack and I were going back. So, my apologies to anyone who’d addressed a comment to me to which I didn’t respond – I was under the belief that I couldn’t actually respond via the system. Again – seems that there’s a way to respond, just not in that portion of the thread.

    That readers read what I’ve written as accusing Jack of bias, or that Jack feels I’ve accused him of being biased, I cannot control that. I don’t especially think Jack is biased – I’ve made one or two attempts to learn more about how he examines media scenarios such as the one under the microscope in this post. He’s made his position clear about being asked about that, and again, no one – least of all in blogging – is obligated to respond in a way that syncs precisely with what the person asking the question has in mind. You’ve been around blogging and online interaction long enough, that’s just how it is. And I accept that.

    I stand by my analysis of the roundtable having been done in a very specific, defined, circumscribed set of expectations related to both the host, the show’s goals (large and small) and the larger topic that’s been written about many many times over the last three to four years, though more frequently in the last two or so, IMO.

    Very interesting reading, very interesting blog, and again, as a longtime blogger, it is always great to have readers come to one’s defense. I’ve been fortunate to have that happen to me and it’s very comforting when it comes to wanting to keep up one’s work.

    Have a great weekend.

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