Much of the conversation surrounding the dismissal of Jill Abramson from her post as editor of the New York Times is about how she was punished for “acting like a man.” We really need to stop saying that.
The media world, and particularly its women, were scandalized by the abrupt ouster of former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, the first female to hold the position, and her replacement by Dean Baquet, who as of yesterday is the first African-American in the spot.
It was a sudden and rather undignified announcement for Abramson, and immediately suspicions arose on Twitter that the story was an example of the Glass Cliff, in which women get promoted to top leadership positions when companies are already in dire straits — which leads them to take the fall right off the cliff if things don’t improve, or even if they try to shake things up. The question immediately surfaced: would Abramson’s “leadership in the newsroom,” her alleged fatal flaw, have been tolerated if it was Jay Abramson instead?
Let me be clear. I am well aware of the fact that, for Americans and especially for people from New York, having a famous whatever with Jewish connections is not such a big deal, considering the impact of Jewish population in the cultural, political and intellectual life of the country. In Italy we are not completely unfamiliar with this situation, despite the enormous difference in numbers (in Italy there are only 25,000 Jews).
However, as a member of the staff of Pagine Ebraiche, the national Italian Jewish magazine published by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, I got pretty elated when I found out that Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor of the New York Times, was about to be one of the guests of honor of Crescere tra le righe. It’s a prestigious conference focused on the relationship between journalism, publishing and new generations, held every year on the suggestive Tuscany hills.
Being a young female journalist, I guess that excitement was inevitable. But being a Jewish journalist, I was determined to find out more about what has represented an intriguing issue to me since the announcement of her appointment in 2011: Jill Abramson’s Jewishness.
What if Jewish women behaved as badly as their XY chromosomal counterparts?
What if we were to flip the genders of Eliot Spitzer, Bernie Madoff, Anthony Weiner and Dominique Strauss-Kahn so that it was a Jewish woman who paid for sex, who swindled billions, who sent nudie pics via Twitter and who assaulted a hotel worker?