This week, thousands of women risked their jobs and took to the streets to protest economic injustice. The stakes: a $15 minimum wage, above an average rate of about $9 – for them, the difference between poverty and survival.
So it says everything you need to know about our supposedly class-conscious liberals that they’ve spent the last several days obsessing over one of the wealthiest women in the world: Jill Abramson, who was fired Wednesday as executive director of the New York Times.
“One paragraph from that story took up my entire Twitter feed all evening,” Death and Taxes staff editor Robyn Pennacchia wrote
Pennacchia’s experience was typical. By the end of the week Google News would report nearly about twice as many stories on Abramson as the fast food strike. And the media attention wasn’t just more extensive – it was louder, by several decibels.
“That’s what’s really been striking to me about all this coverage: how personal it is,” ThinkProgress’s Jessica Goldstein wrote.
The paragraph that filled Pennacchia’s Twitter feed detailed two extraordinary points of economic injustice. Abramson, during her tenure at the Times, earned as much as $100,000 less than her male successor – and $500,000 more than the women of the fast food strike.
Guess which ones liberals care about?
“yes, menz of the internet, your observations that jill abramson was paid a decent salary is highly relevant to the questions at hand,” Media Matters for America senior fellow Duncan Black tweeted.
Of course, men like Duncan Black haven’t had anything to say to women who voice the exact same concerns.
“#abramson is rich and white and will be fine. The elites rally for their own. Remember the working #poorwomen,” Charlene Dow Edwards wrote.
“I can’t find an ounce of sympathy for Abramson or any of these journos whining for her. Same folks who can’t care abt working class,” @liberalphenom wrote.
By any coherent accounting, Abramson profited from economic inequality far more than she suffered from it. Any proportional concern over the problem would reflect that. Abramson’s income places her firmly within the 1%; she is directly implicated in the oppression of 99% of the country’s population.
No war but class war
“[J]ust inject a bit of feminism into the discussion, and it’s suddenly socially acceptable to distract from our fundamentally unfair economic system by focusing on gender equality at the very, very top,” Amanda Hess writes in Slate.
But we don’t have to understand feminism and economic equality as competing priorities – not given the role that Capitalism plays in perpetuating gender discrimination.
Abramson wasn’t fired in a democratic workplace, where such decisions would have necessarily reflected the voices of the women she worked with. She was fired by Arthur Sulzberger, a lone plutocrat who exercises dictatorial control over the Times.
It’s the totalitarian structure of Capitalism that leaves people like Abramson vulnerable to the petty biases of their corporate masters. We grant men like Sulzberger absolute authority over vast sums of the wealth – and then we feign shock when we see that authority abused.
Abramson bought into that system. She enjoyed the privileges of a vassal, and evidently governed like one. The Times alleges “complaints from employees that she was polarizing and mercurial,” and that she even “engaged a consultant to help her with her management style.” Even sympathetic articles use phrases like “she…scared the bejesus out of me.”
More to the point, Abramson managed in a company that only bothered to start paying its interns minimum wage a few weeks ago. By the time she left, Abramson was taking over $250 from the Times payroll every hour – and leaving $8 per intern.
Meanwhile, Gawker reports that the New York Times is understaffing its cafeteria and rigging work schedules to stiff food service employees on overtime. Sadly, no word on whether they joined last week’s strike; the article was printed seven years ago. That’s a far cry from the seven updates on a millionaire that Gawker’s given us in the past week.
Photo, left to right: Women fight for a $15 wage at a McDonald’s in Chicago; Jill Abramson. [Photos courtesy peoplesword, Flickr; Wikipedia]
Carl Beijer is a writer who focuses on the Left, linguistics, and international affairs.