Jill Abramson, a New York Times editor, writes an op-ed today reacting to all the hubub around Katie Couric landing in an anchor chair and she ponders: “At a time when women are running Fortune 500 companies and the State Department, and writing Supreme Court opinions, perhaps we have stopped pushing the save-get key for ‘the first woman to become _____.’ ” I do hope we’re getting past that. Today on Reliable Sources — as on much coverage of this story — there has been so much attention paid to Couric as a woman rather than as a professional that I think it risks becoming condescending and even sexist.
At the start of my checkered career, I was an intern on the Detroit Free Press in what was then known as the Women’s Section. (I took juvenile joy in picking up the phone and growling in my deepest basso, “Free Press … Women’s.”) Even back then in — dare I say it? 1973 — I was sick of headlines all starting “She’s a ______.” She’s a busdriver. She’s a rabbi. She’s a mortician, even. So what? To be amazed that a woman is doing any of these jobs is to intimate that we should be surprised she can do it. And that is essentially insulting.
Of course, that’s not to say that there are not plenty of jobs that women — and minorities of various colors, backgrounds, nationalities, and abilities — have not yet filled, starting with the presidency. But I’m quite sick of people asking whether we are “ready” for a woman President — or, for that matter, a black or Jewish (or one day, Muslim) President. We’re ready for a smart President.
Couric should be judged exactly as her male counterparts — and her female counterpart, Elizabeth Vargas — are judged, with neither greater nor lesser scrutiny given because she is a woman. I think the response to all the attention paid to her being the first solo anchor of the evening news should be, “so what?”