J. Soltys's Weblog

October 27, 2010

Is NPR Sexist?

The double standard between men and women with respect to accountability has taken up space once again in the corner of America’s living room.  And that large pink elephant in the room has the letters NPR written all over it.

In case you haven’t heard,  Juan Williams, a new analyst for National Public Radio, was fired last week for saying he becomes fearful when he sees people wearing Muslim dress boarding the same plane as he. He made the comments during an interview on The O’Reilly Factor of the Fox News network. Williams was fired shortly after the show by NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller claiming Williams violated NPR’s standards of journalism by crossing the line between offering personal opinion vs. professional analysis as a representative of NPR. An even more striking action by Schiller and NPR management was the termination of Williams over the phone rather than a customary private meeting to explain what transpired.  NPR refused to grant Williams a face-to-face meeting to discuss the firing even after he requested one. If that wasn’t horrendous enough, at a conference the next day in Atlanta, Schiller defiantly exclaimed that Williams should have kept his opinions between himself and his psychiatrist.

In the days since his termination, Fox News has hired Williams as a commentator for the network, and he has received plenty of support from both the liberal and conservatives who felt he was unfairly treated. Also, Schiller released a statement further explaining NPR’s reason for Williams’ firing. Here is an edited version which I feel sums up the ideology behind the termination:

This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan’s comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act.

The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards.

It was clear from Friday’s all staff meeting that you have deep feelings about NPR’s culture, our commitment to diversity and how we communicate.

In the meantime, I want to express confidence in NPR’s  — in your! — integrity and dedication to the highest values in journalism, and our shared commitment to serving as a national forum for the respectful discussion of diverse ideas.

Don’t believe it for a second, it is really a bunch of crap.

Some have speculated the real reason Williams was fired rests in NPR’s disdain of Fox News and Williams’ relationship with them. NPR has vehemently denied this. But if we take them at their word – as is the reasonable thing to do – then I feel NPR comes across as an extremely sexist organization.

Let me explain.

Longtime NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts has openly and defiantly launched into controversial statements which were more invective than Williams’. Just this year Roberts called Fox News personality Glen Beck a terrorist. As stated in her syndicated column:

… Beck is worse than a clown. He’s more like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the One True Faith, and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well — a traitor to the American values he professes so loudly to defend.

And twice last year, Roberts openly wore her strong feminist’s beliefs on her sleeve and its corresponding contempt for men in public. This past June, while appearing on Good Morning America, she stated she agreed with Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s controversial 1994 comment that a “wise woman would come to a better conclusion than a man.” Roberts confidently exclaimed, Of course, I would agree with her that they’re better!  She then explained her position further to host Diane Sawyer:

“You go before these big women’s groups. And, Diane, I’m sure you’ve done it. I’ve certainly done it many times.” And you do say things that kind of rev up the crowd and get women excited. And one of those things that you do say is that women are better than men.

But Robert’s sexist attitude and opinions about men continued to flow unimpeded as a representative of NPR. Two months later in her syndicated column, she wrote how she has no biases – she sees everything down the middle. However, she then explains her decision as to why that is now impossible after reading about politician Marc Sanford cheating on his wife. Roberts piously and confidently writes:

The notion that one side is right and one side is wrong is generally, as one finds in life, not the case. Women tend to be a lot more common-sensical than men are. In fact, when the Mark Sanford thing broke, I went tearing into my husband’s office and said, “Okay, that’s it. Women just are better. Men are just lesser beings.”

 Sticking to her pattern of behavior, two months after that statement Roberts boldly spoke on camera during the “Green Room” segment for This Week with George Stephanopoulos saying this about filmmaker and fugitive Roman Polanski:

 He raped and drugged and raped and sodomized a child. And then was a fugitive from justice. As far as I’m concerned, just take him out and shoot him.

So how did CEO Schiller and NPR management respond to Cokie Roberts’ harsh, disturbing, sexist, invective opinions/comments? They were ignored.

If you go to NPR’s website, Roberts is still happily employed by NPR as a news analysts, and in her profile, NPR piously touts the success, integrity, and confidence in their controversial female employee.

So let me see if I have this right; Juan Williams expressed his fear about boarding a plane with Muslim passengers in light of 9/11, but in the same interview expressed how he recognized these feelings are wrong, and explained how he needs to put those fears and assumptions aside because they breed discrimination.  He then proceeds to defend Muslims against what he perceives as discriminatory statements/opinions during the discussion with Bill O’Reilly and the other guests during the interview. (Seems most news stories did not mention that part) And this type of behavior by Williams was the final straw for NPR?  (For the record, NPR has refused to divulge the “other” alleged incidents Williams was reprimanded for, but if this was “over the top”, I already question the validity of his other indiscretions)

As for Cokie Roberts, in a span of six months last year, and as recently as this year, she expressed sexist, discriminatory, hateful, and violent opinions about men. She never apologized, retracted, or corrected some of her comments to say “these men” or “some men”, but rather painted half the world’s population with broad strokes of hate and contempt. She has consistently expressed her opinion of men – as an NPR news analyst and NPR representative – as worthless, lesser human beings, who are a menace to society. (And Schiller thinks Williams needs a psychiatrist?)

But unlike Williams, her volatile and cavewoman-like opinions go unchallenged and ignored by Schiller. Let me remind you why she said Williams was terminated:

He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst.

 So why is Cokie Roberts still considered a valuable employee of NPR? She has repeatedly engaged in conduct Schiller and NPR are claiming they abhor.

Note: I also am aware of NPR’s host Nina Totenberg, who has made some very controversial and disturbing comments over the years (i.e. Hoping Jesse Helm’s grandchildren contract AIDS). With one quick check at NPR’s website one can see she too remains happily employed.

As a casual observer on the outside, it looks to me as if NPR has developed a “matriarchal” culture fostered by CEO Schiller which allows women the freedom to express sexist, hateful, and disturbing opinions without challenge, while male employees are confined to a rigid, puritan-like interpretation of company policy and conduct. Is this “progressive” equality?

The way I see it, no matter which way you slice it, sexist behavior is the norm at NPR, which means not only the men suffer, but the women too. Why?  I can conclude from the unequal treatment between Roberts and Williams that NPR management promotes a culture that believes in one or more of the following:

—  Men should be, or are expected to be, held to a higher responsibility/accountability than women concerning personal and professional integrity and standards.

— NPR management agrees that men are lesser beings, and a menace to society; therefore, no disciplinary action is needed against Roberts.

— A woman’s opinion and actions do not carry the same influence as a man’s; therefore, female aspersions and conduct are not taken seriously.

— Company policy does not respect treating men and women equally. Implementing fair and equal treatment is too arduous.

I hope Schiller has some extra time on her hands this weekend. She’ll need it because looking for a ladder which is big enough to escape the hole she has dug for herself and NPR will take some time.

 

Joe Soltys writes about finding the balance between justified and unjustified negative perceptions and stereotypes concerning men, fathers, and masculinity. He is also a founder of the Chicago Chapter of the National Coalition For Men (NCFM).

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April 2, 2009

April Is Autism Awareness Month, And Sexism Creeps In

father-and-children     You may have noticed a recent surge in stories about autism. That’s because April is dedicated as Autism Awareness Month.

As a writer of men’s issues, the progress concerning the understanding and minimizing of autism would naturally be of concern to me considering that this disorder affects more males than females. But I also have a genuine concern for the children and parents of those affected by autism, because my wife and I had concerns about one of our twin boys.

Our son displayed an obsessive trait by the age of two that involved him feeling the need to have his environment in perfect order. If everything was not in “his” perfect order, he would throw a serious fit. His shoes and clothing could not have any stains or dirt on them, his shoe laces had to be tied exactly the same way and lay exactly the same way, the stuffed animals on his bed had to be in a certain order before he could go to sleep, and he could spend long periods of time organizing and reorganizing blocks.

With the help of some state run programs, my son was evaluated by many different professionals, which lasted over a period of about six months. In the end, it was determined that my son is not autistic, by has autistic tendencies. Those involved determined most of this behavior could be minimized through early intervention.

My son was enrolled in a special school funded by the state, and within one year, showed dramatic improvement. We still have the occasional tantrum (the shoelace thing is still a problem, but buying Crocs has solved that for now), but I’m aware that what we have gone through is nothing like what those parents who have children greatly affected by autism must go through. My heart goes out to those parents and their children.

 

Sexism in the media?

What really disturbs me about Autism Awareness Month is the blatant sexism involved in its reporting. As I mentioned before, autism affects mostly males, but when reading the stories about autism in the media, one is never aware that this is the case.

Go to any website that is dedicated to autism, and read the facts. Autism affects boys by a 3 to 4 ratio over girls. But this is rarely mentioned in the main stream media while reporting on autism.

For example, here are some recent articles on autism by some of the major news organizations:

  ABC News reports on autism and Jenny McCarthy’s new book (she is the parent of an autistic child). The four page report does not mention the boy/girl ratio.

  MSNBC files a report on research involving autism. No mention of the boy/girl ratio.

—  CBS reports on new research concerning autism. No mention of the boy/girl ratio.

—  The BBC files a report on autism rights. No mention of the boy/girl ratio.

—  Cable news networks CNN and Fox file reports on autism. No mention of the boy/girl ration.

—  Time Magazine reports on Jenny McCarthy’s new book. No mention of the boy/girl ratio. But I find an older article about autism from 2002. In this detailed, eight page report on the history and research concerning autism, never is it mentioned that boys are more greatly affected by autism than girls. How could this be?

Compare this autism reporting behavior with issues that are considered to affect more women than men. The media always makes the effort to highlight the greater disparity faced by women when compared to men.

—  For example, did anyone read a story about the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga without having many different stats presented of females suffering greater incidents of domestic violence than men within these reports?

—  Has anyone ever read about depression and the genders, and noticed how the report will always include stats stating that depression affects more women than men?

—  Has one ever read about the genders and heart disease, and noticed how reports usually mention research showing a disparity between the diagnoses and treatment for men suffering heart attacks, and the diagnoses and treatment of women, and how this disparity puts more women at risk?

The major media seem to find more value in highlighting the suffering of women than men. They seldom cover the facts about men’s suffering or injustices with equal fervor if it means having to put the needs of men before women.

For example:

—  When discussing suicides, the media feels uncomfortable reporting that men commit suicide three times more than women.

—  The media shuns the fact when reporting about deadbeat dads, that statistically, women do not pay child support in greater numbers than men, leaving some single fathers struggling to raise their children.

I feel the reporting on these issues should remain consistent, whether it involves reporting them as gender neutral or not. I would be comfortable either way, but right now it is not consistent, and appears extremely sexist and degrading.

—  When the media is covering a story about single moms, absent fathers, and men taking responsibility as fathers,  it rarely mentions the fact that women initiate the majority of divorces in the US, and the majority of those women demand sole custody of the children. Sadly, in contradiction to the pious cries of many who advocate the need to have more fathers involved with their children, the family court systems most often awards custody to mothers due to an inherent discriminatory belief that children need their mothers more than their fathers. (Note: Fathers who file for divorce ask for joint custody the majority of the time, understanding the importance and need for the mother in the lives of their children.)

—  When covering a story about a tradgic death in the work place, the media never mention that men make up 90% of work place deaths, or that men make up the over 90% of the most dangerous jobs in the workplace. Instead, the media is obsessed with highlighting how women make less than men, and how this is the greatest tragedy in the labor market.

 This discrimination is something I see often, and it is very disturbing that the media – the self proclaimed martyrs of social justice – ignore their own prejudice while reporting and calling out other members of society on theirs.

 As I mentioned before, the media seems intimidated to allow male suffering and injustices to take center stage if it involves having to place the hardships of women backstage momentarily.  However, the media seem very comfortable highlighting women’s greater suffering and injustices when in a position to do so, and do it quite often. It appears as if a dysfunctional form of machismo, patriarchal behavior, or just plain old-fashioned sexism is rampant in the major news organizations.

 

 

As Autism Awareness is upon us, for now, take the time to point out the fact that there is a diparity between the sexes. Maybe in time the word will spread to the major news organizations. And maybe they will finally do their job – reporting the facts.

 

Update: After posting this story, I found CNN is running a story today in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. The story discusses in detail the different aspects of the disorder and the possible causes. But again, after all the facts and observations are discussed, not one of them mentions the gender disparity. Progress is slow in the war against autism

 

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October 23, 2008

Bill O’Reilly – Doesn’t Back Down On “The View”

From the male point of view (no pun intended), I have always found The View to be nothing more than a visual interpretation of modern feminist ideology – masculinity bad, femininity good.

Years ago, when I had the opportunity to watch The View, I always found it to be drenched in the sexism of compassion and understanding for all female issues and problems, and lack of sincerity, or the minimization of men and their issues.

Some of the most uncomfortable shows I’ve watched involved men I’ve admired appearing on the show, and observing them turn into small boys when seated next to these women. I’ve watched these women take cheap shots at men and masculinity in their presence, and observed these guys just curl up and laugh along with these sexist comments, not challenging these women for their immaturity. Most men become nothing more than a lap dog in their presence. It seems as if most men check their gonads in at the studio door when appearing on this show.

However, yesterday Bill O’Reilly from Fox News appeared on The View and to my surprise, Bill came out with his gonads in full view. He did not play lap dog to these women. Bill stayed true to himself and his opinions.
What makes his appearance even more interesting is that the women on this show – minus  Elisabeth Hasselbeck – are hardcore liberals, and O’Reilly is known for his conservative views. It was humorous to watch the ladies try to label him as being biased in his interviews. This is a perfect example of the “pot calling the kettle black”. I’ve watched O’Reilly’s show and I’ve watched The View, and there is no comparison – O’Reilly is more straight forward and partisan towards his guest than any of the women on the view.

Remember, these same women who are trying to crucify O’Reilly for his positions, said nothing when Rosie O’Donnell made such asinine claims that our own government was responsible for the planning and execution of the 9/11 tragedy. Only Hasselbeck was willing to speak up and challenge these absurd comments. For the rest of these women, their milquetoast behavior was disgusting.

Here is the video of the interview, followed by a video showing the biased treatment of the “view crew” when interviewing Barack Obama and John McCain.

Part 1

Part 2

Watch the difference in approach and mood of the “view crew” towards the Obama and McCain interviews.

Contact:

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August 28, 2008

Bikini Barista and Fox News Anchor Display “Perverted” Judgements

Last week a story made the rounds in the main stream media about an incident that took place at a coffee shop in Tacoma, Washington.
A man dressed in women’s clothing pulled up to a coffee shop called “Java Girls” and allegedly exposed himself to one of the baristas. The barista then threw a cup of boiling water in his lap before he had the chance to get away.

At the Fox News website, I had the opportunity to watch a video in which Fox News interviewed the barista who threw the cup of boiling water on the alleged suspect. (“Coffee Confrontation” in US news videos)
After watching the interview, and hearing the female anchor praise the girl as being brave, I have to challenge the estrogen bravado spun from this story and offer my opinion of the barista and the praise of Fox’s female anchor.

The name of the coffee house is called “Java Girls” for a reason. All the barista’s have to be female, and more importantly, the women must serve coffee in the tiniest bikinis they can find. In other words, the whole concept of the coffee house is to stimulate and manipulate the sexual perversions of men. From strippers, to call girls, to Hooter’s girls, to rap music, the concept is always the same – use the female body along with the allure of male sexual fantasies (whatever form it may take) to achieve one goal – to take money from men.

So my question is, “Who is the bigger pervert here?”

This woman took a job with the full knowledge that her job requires her to be scantily dressed with the main purpose of catering to the dark side of male sexuality. She spends hours each day, half naked, serving coffee to male clients along with other half naked women, with the full knowledge that she and her co-workers are catering to a clientele that views her and the other women in a highly sexualized “perverted” manner. But she is shocked by the “perverted” behavior of the man who exposed himself.
Is this irony or hypocrisy?

In the interview she claims the man went through the shop’s drive through three times. Each episode had about ten minutes between them. The barista said she brushed off her first encounter with the man as just a foolish prank. But she says after the second time, and especially the third time, she and her co-worker became really scared.

How scared were they? The women were so scared that they never called the police. Instead, the women enacted a scheme to douse him with boiling water if he should return for a third time. In the ten minutes they had between his second appearance and his third, the only “safety” measures the women procured was to create their plan, prepare the glass of boiling water, and lie in wait for their victim.

Does this sound like a vulnerable, frightened victim, or does it sound more like a psychotic vigilante?
The man made no attempt to harm them physically by trying to force his way into the coffee shop, however, the female baristas seemed to imply this was their biggest fear.
But contrary to their story, instead of fearing a physical altercation with a mentally unstable man, the women devised a scheme to purposely engage the man into a dangerous physical confrontation by dousing his genitals with boiling water. This female bravado had the potential to enrage the man as much as chase him away, and provoke the very physical altercation the women claimed they feared the most. Only after engaging him in this physical confrontation did they decide to call the police.

Jane Skinner, the female Fox News anchor taking part in conducting the interview with the barista is obsessed in the interview with finding out if the boiling water scolded his genitals. I’m not talking about a generalized curiosity. I’m talking about a contemptuous curiosity and a malevolent obsession that the man has received permanent, emotional and physical scars that will make his the rest of his life a living hell.
At the very beginning of the interview she states to her co-anchor that she can’t wait to find out if the barista “got him where it counts”. At the end of the interview she states maliciously to the barista, “I’m sure you got him where it counts.”
What’s the obsession?
Skinner accents the interview with moans and groans of disgust. She concludes her interview by telling the vigilante barista that she is brave, and opines, “A lot of women out there are saying, you go girl!”

A couple of comments:
— It’s disturbing to observe in our society that male genital mutilation is an accepted form of justice, empowerment, revenge, or humor, while anything resembling female genital mutilation is nothing short of barbaric. What the man did is criminal, but he does not deserve to have his genitals mutilated. The women were never in any immediate danger, and this is validated by the fact that they never called the police until after THEY instigated a physical confrontation with him.
As for Jane Skinner’s obsession with male genital mutilation, I’m wondering if she and others who feel similarly also feel the number of female school teachers that are raping their under aged male students should have their vagina’s mutilated to “teach them a lesson”. If she does not have the same emotional reaction towards female perverts, then she has serious issues with sexism, bigotry, and gender discrimination issues that need serious attention. It would seem completely asinine to think that a man who exposes himself to a woman deserves genital mutilation more than a woman who actually forces herself physically and emotionally on some mother’s pubescent son.

— The barista should have been charged with a crime as well as the man who exposed himself. For example, if their was a male manager on duty, who upon seeing what had happened chased the man down and beat him silly, the police would have arrested and charged the male manager with assault. Their reasoning? They would piously invoke the mantra of respect for laws, individual rights, safety of oneself and others, the need for calm and order in chaotic situations, taking the law into your own hands, etc., for not condoning this type of vigilantism. However, because the vigilante is a woman and the act of violence was directed towards a man, the crime is overlooked.
As an example, if a father caught his son’s female elementary school teacher having sex with his son, and in a rage, attempted to mutilated her genitals, do you think the police would ignore his violent act and arrest only the teacher? And if the police did react in that manner, do you think the media and women’s groups would stay silent?

— The hypocrisy from women in situations like these is overwhelming. The same people who complain about society’s sexploitation of women, are the first in line to defend two women who choose to exploit themselves for a quick buck. The women should not have to endure mentally unstable men exposing themselves, but at the same time, in situations like these, responsible women do not extend an austere statement to the baristas and other women explaining how the choices they make affect themselves and others such as:
Do you realize your choice of work put you in this situation?
Does this line of work help or harm your self-esteem?
What examples and sexual boundries are you advocating for younger girls?
If women really cared about the sexploitation of women, these comments should be included along with their disgust for the man that exposed himself.

— The mature, responsible men in society need to become more involved in mentoring the younger generations about the balance between sexual fantasies and sexual realities. While women are concerned about the sexploitation of women, I’m a firm believer that this same sexploitation seriously affects men as well. Sadly, sexual desire and sexual fantasies are used to sell everything these days. It invokes the wrong message to young men and young women.
I believe as a man, older men need to become more prominent in the processes of mentoring young men on the dark side of male sexual fantasies. Young men need to learn the beauty of their masculine sexual nature, but also need to understand the dangers of it, and how others will exploit it for their own benefit.
I feel that if beginning at a young age men were given insight into how to maintain a balanced emotional and mental male sexuality from more mature, responsible male figures, places like the “Java Girls” may not disappear, but they may have less of an allure in the eyes of men. This would benefit both men and women.
For the record, I am not a puritan who believes anything sexual is bad, and that places such as Java Girls shouldn’t exits. I just believe the level of mentoring and education for our young men and women should intensify at the same pace as the sexualized environment.

If there is one positive I can take away from this story it’s this: Given the number of enterprises in our society that cater to the dark side of men’s sexuality, and given the general public opinion that men are always thinking with their penises, according to statistics, the majority of men do not engage in this type of behavior. In other words, if men really are sex crazed machines as some believe, an incident like this would not be a “hot” news story making national news – it would be a common one buried in the back pages of the local newspaper.
Considering the sexualized society we live in, I feel it shows the majority of men handle themselves quite well given an environment which entices them to behave otherwise.

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