Remember Portfolio? The nearly stillborn Conde publication's fallen editor Joanne Lipman's back, with an editorial for Sunday's Times entitled "The Mismeasure Of Woman," where she argues that feminism's stalled out. Great, except: it's inaccurate, intellectually offensive, and gratingly pompous.
Portfolio was basically the starter pistol for Conde Nast's fall: a publication that would've been great with an online-only presence that instead screwed the pooch by disregarding their awesome online staff and instead trying to make a Tina Brown-modeled finance magazine with swagger. Examples of their miserable print presence? A Dov Charney cover story that was two years late. Lipman had the helm! But back to that in a moment.
Her theory—that Feminism isn't where it should be at this point—may very well might be right!
There're some great examples of places where sexism still exists, particularly in Hollywood and in some of the very, very misogynistic pop culture this country's turning out daily (forgetting what some of pop culture's women—Kate Gosselin being Public Enemy #1—have done onto themselves). I'd love to talk about gender politics—and yes, bring up the fact that there are no women on our masthead, too—but that's not nearly as interesting as simply assuming Lipman's idea to hold water, and referencing all other inquiries regarding this theory to another website, the first hour of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, and then moving forward to drop jaws at Lipman's insanely massive, overwhelming ego put forth in an essay that could've been something far more substantial.
Where to start? How about right here:
So why have we stalled out?
Part of the reason can be traced to the aftermath of 9/11.
Everyone's life was reshaped by 9/11. Like many New Yorkers, I experienced that day in an intensely personal way: I was in the World Trade Center with a colleague when the first plane hit. And we were just outside the second tower, making our way through burning debris, hunks of airplane seats and far worse when the second plane came in directly over our heads.
I'll spare you the manner in which she tied that together, suffice to say it's got her quoting Graydon Carter about irony being dead, and then backtracking to say irony's still alive (which, as you'll later see, is very, very ironic), and that after 9/11, the conversation regarding women suffered greatly. Without providing any examples except for a Google search of an interviewer that turned up pictures of boobs. You can Google anyone's name and come up with pictures of boobs. Welcome to the internet, maybe this kind of know-how explains why Portfolio's web strategy sucked so badly. There's also this charmer:
As a freshman, I had an interview for a magazine internship in New York City. As I sat down, making sure to demurely close up my slit-front skirt over my knees, the interviewer barked, "If you want the job, you'll leave that open."
Scandalous! But is the blunt force of this *racy* anecdote really worth putting in the middle of an Op-Ed about how far women haven't come when you're trying to prove some, but not all progress past that? Surely, it belongs somewhere, but in this context, it just seems self-serving, as if Lipman's trying to say, Ladies, I've been there, and I got past it. Isn't the point that they've all been there, but more importantly, that they're still there? It's kind of absurd. Lipman also cites the way her career was described in an article as "leggy," which is (A) funny, (B) could be true in four different contexts outside of what she thinks of her actual legs and (C) is presented without any context whatsoever! We don't even know which article she's talking about, so how can we decide what the hell that means? Good thing The NYTpicker came in to regulate on this thing. Observe the smackalicious smackdown:
Here's what Steve Fishman actually wrote in New York Magazine last April:
S. I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Condé Nast, falls in love with his editors. His romance with Joanne Lipman began over lunch at his U.N. Plaza apartment, with its beige carpets-no red wine allowed-and paintings by Warhol, de Kooning, Cézanne. Lipman, 47 years old, who'd spent her entire career at The Wall Street Journal, is a serious journalist with a serious mien, and long legs, which she likes to show off with short-skirted power suits. Lipman is "attractive," in Newhouse's vernacular-"He uses the word like others use the word spiritual," says a former editor. The two brainstormed at a small dining-room table. Newhouse, in his standard worn New Yorker sweatshirt, told her he had an idea for a business magazine. Newhouse didn't say much more; he rarely does. He asks questions. But Lipman excitedly filled in the details.
Anyone who thinks that sentence — or even that paragraph — sums up Lipman's career as "leggy" just can't read.
Touche! Lipman's essay is, among other things, disingenuous towards the discrimination she's "faced" in that regard alone. And unfortunately, she's writing for people who can read, but who often don't have the time to discern the smell of bullshit from the sound of the truth, especially because this is a newspaper, and they're supposed to be able to trust what's there (ha).
The Batman-like NYTpicker also notes that a few sentences later, Lipman preaches to the ladies:
"Don't be afraid to be a girl."
Ladies and grown-ass women, how much do you enjoy it when you're referred to as a "girl?" I know it's a little different than being a Jew making Jew-jokes, but still, I'm not sure it's something I could get away with. Why the double-standard, Jo?
Back to the failure of Portfolio. Remember this gem from Page Six?
EYEBROWS were raised last week when Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman - not known for her modesty - not only insisted on attending the World Economic Forum in Davos but demanded to fly to Switzerland first class. "It's just jaw-dropping," an insider said. "Not only is her magazine not profitable, but she just laid off almost the entire Web site and fired many others on the print side." Portfolio has cost Condé Nast more than $150 million, so far. But a company rep claims the trip was necessary: "All of our editors are continuing to cover and attend the events that are important and relevant to their magazines." But those who found Davos not relevant enough to make the trip included Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Chevron CEO David O'Reilly, Goldman Sachs head Lloyd Blankenfein, Sony chief Howard Stringer and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.
Can we spell out the joke, here? The one way Lipman's completely wrong about men and women meeting in the middle is the example she set: that they both possess the capability to be equally as disgustingly vapid when it comes to the captain punching holes in their sinking ship. Both men and women, hand in hand, can disregard integrity for grossly incompetent, morale-shuttering selfishness!
It's like The MoDow School of Essayists is working on their class of 2009, and Lipman's first presentation is shoot-for-summa stuff. Even as someone who thinks everything Maureen Dowd writes smells like Julia Childs' Cote du Horeshit recipe, I can appreciate this. Except, Lipman's essay actually reads like a subversive "Portfoilio failed not because I was at the top, but because a woman was at the top in a still very male-dominated world" tome. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, or the first step in the Kubler-Ross model. It's something well-insulated by angry gender bloodpolitik projection, or so Lipman would like to think. We're not the cavemen you'd like to paint us as, Joanne, and the women reading your bullshit aren't the Tarzan'd Janes you're telling them they are, either. If the system's gonna change, it's gonna have to start by dispatching with self-serving setbacks like you.