Charlotte Hays

When the feminist movement got into high gear in the 1970s, it was supposedly going to be good for women—all women.

Whatever feminism has done for ordinary women (more thoughts on this in a minute), it has been a boon to a particular sort of woman: the hard-as-nails elite woman, who knows how to advance her cause, often disingenuously, using feminism as her weapon.

Recently-dismissed New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson is the epitome of this. Abramson is a talented woman, and one of her talents is playing the feminist fiddle.

Abramson had barely closed the door on the way home before Ken Auletta of the New Yorker was reporting in a blog that the deposed Times editor had suffered from gender-based pay discrimination while at helm of the great liberal institution. Her subsequent efforts to right the wrong, it was implied, led to her abrupt dismissal.

The Grey Lady--a bastion of political correctness and a constant cheerleader for "equal pay" legislation--was suddenly reduced to publicly badmouthing its former executive editor, in statements and a Vanity Fair interview by embattled publisher Arthur Sulzberger—who is known as Pinch—in order to defend itself from charges of sexism. What’s not to like?

Based on her brilliant PR campaign against the hapless Pinch Sulzberger in the wake of her firing, Abramson’s roughly half million a year compensation was nothing compared to what she could earn as a public relations mastermind. She deployed feminist rhetoric and surrogates, including her daughter who famously tweeted a picture of an undefeated “Mom” in boxing gear that made the front page of the New York Post. The not-for-attribution interview that Abramson or somebody with suspiciously intimate knowledge of her granted Auletta was key. Auletta wrote:

"As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs.

“She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect."

Charlotte Hays

Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women's Forum.