The Obligatory Katie Post: A Milestone For Women's Rights?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Sep 05, 2006 5:48 PM

I'm a woman. Will she get me to watch? Nah, because I've confirmed that Allah will, which means I don't have to.

It's just too bad that by going to trivia night tonight instead of watching, I'm abdicating my responsibility to my fellow women by ignoring Katie's attempt to stick one to the patriarchy (emphasis mine):

If she can successfully navigate the anticipated gauntlet of scrutiny and ultimately be judged on her competence, she will make it easier for other women who seek to break through gender barriers and be evaluated on their job performance.

In a world free of gender bias, we would not wake up on Wednesday to detailed stories about Katie Couric's first broadcast that focus more on style than on substance. But we do not yet live in that world, so the media scrutiny will likely flourish in its analysis of her clothing, perkiness level, and whether she exuded the appropriate level of gravitas. But like everything else she has done under the spotlight, Katie Couric can be expected to handle the glare with grace. That quality will serve as a positive role model for women everywhere who are striving to succeed in unfamiliar territory. Women need this success story to have a happy ending.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, seriously? Maybe I should rethink my plans for tonight.

I haven't watched network news since I was a kid, and I can't imagine Katie will change anything for me. Although, I must say inviting Rush onto the show in the first week might get a peek out of me.

Of course, there are many reasons I have a feeling Katie won't change much at CBS except for the footwear behind the desk.

And, just when I was feeling okay about not watching, Rochelle Riley comes and knocks me down again (emphasis mine):

Katie Couric really isn't my cup of tea. I prefer Diane Sawyer on ABC or my friend Renee Syler on CBS.

But when Couric takes the CBS nightly news anchor chair Tuesday night -- the first woman to do so alone -- I'll be front and center, with my daughter, watching. And I encourage every other woman in America to do the same.

You don't have to be a fan. You don't even have to like the news. But progress requires it.

Uh-huh. Let's find out exactly what Hell my watching Katie Couric will release my oppressed American sisters from:

Unlike the '60s and '70s when Walter Cronkite was the national anchor and "The Most Trusted Man in America," and women were covering bake-offs and weddings, we now live in times when women can serve in Iraq, dictate America's foreign policy and be among the best in the broadcast business (CNN's Christiane Amanpour, NBC's Lisa Myers and PBS' Gwen Ifill). Even the nation's top broadcast star is a woman, Oprah Winfrey. It is past time for any job in America to be for men only.

And, progress requires I watch Katie Couric? Looks like these ladies have done fine without my watching them. The irony is that the same women who talk about how Katie's debut is of paramount societal import due to her gender are the exact same women who complain that she's coming under extra scrutiny due to her gender.

I prefer to see Katie Couric's rise to the anchor chair as just another accomplishment of the thousands of high-profile, amazing accomplishments American women make every single day. Couric's promotion to Rather's seat was not all that surprising except, it seems, to a couple of women writers. The fact that it was not that surprising is testament to the fact that we are not oppressed.

Katie is not a symbol for all womankind. She's a woman with a big, big job to do, and the chance to do it well. We will watch and we will judge her performance, but my career hopes do not hang on it. The glass ceiling is not reinstalled if Katie fails to pull CBS out of third place in the ratings.

The women writers who tout Katie as a symbol complain that she will be judged on her hair, her suit, her earrings. This is trivializing, they say, and scrutiny a male anchor wouldn't have to face. I would argue that treating Katie's ascendance to head talking head as a milestone for women's rights is a bit trivializing as well, to the relative frequency of major accomplishments by women in American society.

So, I won't be watching Katie. If you're worried about women's oppression, your time might be better spent reading this or this or this.