Last issue’s “Intellectual Situation” noticed how many articles in the Atlantic have been “patronizing” toward women. As a childless old lady with no regrets (except my Atlantic subscription), I was delighted to read your spirited rebuke. Imagine my disappointment, then, that the IS went on to characterize the women who currently edit Harper’s as “administrative staff.” In the 1960s I worked for a prominent news magazine, first as a typist and later as an accountant. In both roles I was said to be part of the “administrative staff.” No one would have thought to place our (male) editor-in-chief in that category.
Many years later I had the pleasure of working at a magazine run by a brilliant woman. I worked with her closely enough to see the extent to which the book was genuinely hers. Nonetheless she had to battle persistent rumors that she was the puppet of her ambitious deputy. No points for guessing the sex of her deputy, or which of these two rivals ultimately became the gray eminence we’ve all heard of. So it was frankly chilling for me, a real blow, to find the IS portraying Ellen Rosenbush, the “staffer” who edits Harper’s, as a puppet in the hands of her omnipotent male publisher.
Call me an old-fashioned feminist, but I can’t help wondering if you would have imputed powerlessness so blithely to, say, the New Yorker’s David Remnick.
A few of us women out here in Silicon Valley were interested to learn from the “Intellectual Situation” that we are the internet. Apparently this new reality is reflected everywhere except on the boards of a few stodgy East Coast magazines. Looks good on paper! But before declaring victory, you might want to examine a few other boards. Here are the executive officers of Google: Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Nikesh Arora, David Drummond, Patrick Pichette. Here’s the list for Amazon: Jeff Bezos plus eleven senior vice presidents, the top ten of whom are male. You don’t even want to see the list for Apple, believe me. Or Microsoft. Or fucking Twitter. There’s a reason why Facebook’s second-in-command, Sheryl Sandberg, is so famous: she’s the exception. It doesn’t make my day to report this, but the truth is that a few thousand men are the internet, along with Sheryl Sandberg. You’re not doing us any favors by pretending otherwise.