Should we therefore be at all surprised by CNN's modus operandi when ratings for Parker Spitzer hit the skids? Of course not. To get rid of the problem, get rid of the woman. In this case, Kathleen Parker.
The set-up was tediously typical of our media's treatment of women in power. Yawn, it's always the same. Step one, create an unappealing caricature of the woman. In this case, Parker is an emotional woman who is difficult to work with. Step two, use coded language to brand her. In this case, Kathleen Parker is said to 'storm off' the set, 'throw fits', and 'can't stand' or 'can no longer swallow' her co-host. Voilà, we've created a monstress. Textbook sexism.
Meanwhile, despite the ratings failure of Parker Spitzer, there's nary a mention of the second co-anchor in explaining why. Of course, Parker is to blame for the co-hosts' acrimony. Sure. We all know what a calm-headed, easy-going, open-minded and collegial kinda guy is Elliot Spitzer.
But there's more: the blue elephant in the room -- Spitzer's past. As I wrote here at HuffPost last July, women were outraged when CNN even consider Eliot Spitzer to host a show. My email inbox was filled with: The network couldn't possibly be serious, after the very public humiliation of his wife. I imagine CNN received a few hundred, maybe few thousand of these emails as well?
Now I'm going to make a 'not-so-bold' prediction. Ousting Kathleen Parker will not save the show. No matter who CNN casts as regulars for their newly-minted In the Arena (how quaint: Spitzer gets his own version of the Colosseum), the show will fail. CNN could cast Oprah on Mondays, Lady Gaga on Tuesdays, Ellen on Wednesdays, Beyonce on Thursdays, and Angelina on Fridays and still we're not going to tune in. Why? Because they'll be sitting next to obnoxious, bellicose, petulant, know-it-all Eliot Spitzer!
Yet, as the stench of sexism emanates from Parker's departure, there is also an essence of irony. You see, in her career as a writer, Parker not only penned much vitriol about women in power, but also scoffed at the notion that sexism exists at all.
Hence the bucket of cold water, administered via a comment, when I defended Parker on my Facebook page:
I'm surprised to see you defending Parker especially after her biased treatment of Clinton and Palin.
Sigh, it's true. Here's what Parker wrote in a 2007 op-ed "Hillary Clinton's primary nemesis is herself":
Sorry, but when girls insist on playing hardball with the boys, they don't get to cry foul -- or change the game to dodge ball -- when they get bruised.
And who can forget Parker's reveling on Parker Spitzer that she led the "assassination" of Sarah Palin.
And mea culpa -- I've been in the cross-hairs of Parker's keyboard on more than one occasion. The crime? The New Agenda, a woman's advocacy group of which I am president, spoke out against sexism.
Like when President Obama's speechwriter, Jon Favreau, was shown in a Facebook photo groping the breast of a cardboard Hillary Clinton:
Feminists groups such as NOW and The New Agenda are outraged that Clinton -- or at least her image -- is being treated disrespectfully by the boys...
Now young men goofing around are immortalized as misogynist maulers, portentous reminders to the rest of us that the gender wars won't end until irreverence and humor are dead.
Or belittling our complaints that Obama excluded women from his inner-circle.
Basketball in this instance isn't only about shooting hoops; it's about access to the president. As the powder-room buzz goes, Obama may as well have tacked a sign over the clubhouse door: "No girls allowed."
Just as soon as I finish this yawn, I'm going to rustle up some righteous indignation. Here goes: How dare he!
How dare he indeed? How dare the male producers at CNN assume the woman is the problem? How dare the media cover this matter with sexist undertones and words?
Well, whatever Ms. Parker does next, and surely she shall land because she sure can write, I'm hoping some good will come of this. I'm hoping this experience has served as an awaking, and now, Parker will become our advocate in raising awareness of and eradicating sexism.
In the mean time: Kathleen Parker, I've got your back! Your dismissal was an act of sexism. I, for one, will NOT be watching In the Arena. And I'd encourage women and enlightened men to do the same and share this with others who want to end sexism!