Amy Pascal and Jezebel

I haven’t been able to let go of my disgust after reading Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s poisonous Jezebel takedown of Amy Pascal.  The continually-unfolding Sony hacking scandal revealed Pascal’s highly intimate Amazon purchases in addition to emails about her diet, all gleefully and ghoulishly recounted in Vargas-Cooper’s piece.  On one hand, I’m angry with myself for consuming that toxicity and directing any more attention to it.  On the other hand, I’m still shaken that a woman could do that kind of hatchet job on another woman.  It seems like a double betrayal; one of privacy and one of humanity. 

We may differ in our opinions about Amy Pascal.  I personally hold no animosity toward her, but then again, I’m white.  By all accounts she was a champion of projects that had artistic merit, was genuinely friendly to actors, creatives and executives and was one of the few women in Hollywood holding a position of prominence and power, which is no small feat.  We need more people like her in this business, I assure you. 

She did say some indelicate things.  That may be too mild a descriptor.  Okay, some of what she expressed in what she thought were private conversations was uncomfortably close to racism.  However, I noticed that Scott Rudin, the person with whom she was communicating, didn’t get half as much flack for his portion of their conversations, which were equally if not more inflammatory.  Maybe it’s because he has a reputation for brashness.  That’s possible.  My hunch, though is that it’s because he is a man, and men who are powerful are kind of expected to talk that way.  Most of us love Glengarry Glen Ross.  I certainly do. 

As progressive as we like to think we are, women who are bold and decisive and strong are still perceived as threats.  Not just in the Entertainment Business.  Everywhere.  Hillary Clinton certainly knows this.  You don’t even have to be in a position of power.  I have less than 2000 followers on Twitter and I’ve been called a cunt for a political opinion I posted.  You probably don’t know me, but I’m one of the least assertive people in the Greater Los Angeles Area.  Despite this, I’d obviously struck a nerve:  How dare she express an opinion?  Don’t women know that they are nothing more than a face, a body and a vagina, preferably hairless?  To be honest, it didn’t shock me as much you’d think.  This was the evaluation of a knuckle-dragger, someone who forgot that he actually came out into the world via the epithet he was using for me.  Blocking people on Twitter is really easy. 

The most shocking aspect of the Jezebel article for me was it was written by a woman.  How could she do this?  I assume Vargas-Cooper intended this to be a humor piece, but it read as if she was the chapter head of the Mean Girls’ Society of America (MGSofA).  I don’t want to go into the specifics of Amy Pascal’s purchases, but I can’t imagine the humiliation of having them displayed in print for anyone and everyone to see.  For me, it would be exactly like a recurring nightmare where you are in a crowd of people, you are suddenly completely naked and you’re desperately trying to cover up.  It's inconceivable a woman wouldn’t know what damage this kind of information could do to the woman she was writing about.

Yesterday, I was searching my mind trying to think what could have motivated Cooper-Vargas to write this trash.  I understand it’s an ugly side of human nature that we love to put certain people up on pedestals only to topple them over when we feel they’ve gotten too high.  But I think there is something else at play that as a woman I find quite disturbing: whether it’s cultural or instinctual, women are taught to distrust and sometimes even despise one another. 

It starts early.  I have seen it in my children’s classrooms.  And I realize I’m speaking in generalities, but when there is conflict between boys, they tend to knock each other down, cry and then get right back up and start to play again.  However, between girls, it’s more complicated.  They exclude and they whisper and they try to hurt.  Unchecked, this kind of behavior can become even more toxic in High School.  I went to an all-girl school.  Believe me, I know.      

I see the same kind of behavior at play in Cooper-Vargas’ post.  It’s as if she is expressing the very feeling that women can’t tolerate when certain men express it:  “Lady, you can’t have it all.  You can be powerful or you can be attractive, but you can’t be both.  If you try, then I will mock you and tear you down until you’re no longer a Superwoman, but a sad, grasping female who’s just longing to be pretty for a man."  It’s not only disgusting, it’s heartbreaking.  And it's sexist.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hack writer, like Vargas-Cooper or one who has more prestige, but who is equally hacky, like Maureen Dowd.  What business do they have knocking a powerful woman’s femininity?  Don’t they see this hurts us all?  I’ve heard way too many women on social media talk a good game about supporting other women (which usually involves a degree of sycophancy), but then tearing down other women they consider beneath them with intensely petty comments usually based on looks.  This really needs to be examined, harshly, if need be. 

Yes, it’s incredibly hard for women to have it all.  Sometimes it seems impossible and many times it is.  We are asked to balance so many vital aspects of our lives and then try to make it look easy and pretty.  What we need to do is to tap into the other profoundly beautiful aspects of our gender, like compassion, humor, intuition, nurturing and understanding.  And strength.  We should support each other, be happy for our successes and be gentler with each others’ flaws and failings.  Why should women make it harder on each other by perpetuating this destructive, and really self-destructive, behavior?  It makes us look bad because it is bad.    

Jezebel is supposed to be a blog directed at women’s interests.  With that in mind, Jezebel, what do you think is in women’s best interests?  There is a great similarity to that despicable guy calling me a what he did because I refused to conform to what he thought was feminine and you publishing a piece mocking a powerful woman for buying products to use on the same anatomical part.  That guy and you are sharing the same epithet.  How sad.