Four men control the Washington Post. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the newspaper. Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., is the Publisher and CEO. Martin Baron, hero of the movie Spotlight is Executive Editor. Fred Hiatt is Editorial Page Editor. Despite all that testosterone at the top and presumably with either pre or post-hoc approval from Bezos and Ryan, Hiatt green-lighted publication Sunday of Suzanna Danuta Walters brief op-ed “Why can’t we hate men?”
Under grimacing pictures of four other men who behaved very badly indeed, Walters, a professor of gender studies at Northeastern University, makes the case that all men everywhere innately oppress women. The right response, says Walters, is for the victimized “to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown.” By the same token, men in atonement “for all the millennia of woe they have produced and benefited from,” should “lean out . . . Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from power.”
Setting aside the question of whether Walters diagnoses correctly and offers the right prescription for what ails the female condition, one has to wonder why the Washington Post would publish her piece. One possibility – the most obvious – is that Hiatt thought it provocative enough to generate increased web traffic. Indeed, as I am writing this, the Sunday submission has generated well over 2,200 comments from readers or nearly three times as many as regular columnist Dana Milbank’s piece on the same page. Still, more must have gone into the decision than “Hate men’s” click-baitiness.
Another reason that the Post might have for publishing Walters’ reductive piece is that it agrees with it. The major stumbling block to this theory is that the four powerful men in charge have evinced zero interest in either “lean[ing] out, step[ping] aside,” or ceding power to women or to anybody else for that matter. In fact, libertarian Bezos and neoliberal Hiatt consistently embrace political and economic policies that enhance the power of male-dominated multinational corporations and the military-industrial complex.
So why would an institution run by patriarchal men offer a platform to a woman who insists on seizing power from them. Ironically, it is almost certainly because they recognize that amplifying this view will solidify their position at the top of the tree.
Walters considers the essential struggle of our time is between men and women. The former are the latter’s natural enemy and thus neither power-sharing nor even common cause is possible – just as a gazelle can never truly trust a lion. For this reason, Walters’ support for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in 2016 makes perfect sense. Regardless of the many positions that Clinton took that seem to have harmed women and the apparently pro-women statements and policies that Sanders espoused, Clinton because she is a woman was the one ally on whom women could count in the primaries.
Of course, Bezos, Hiatt, et al., also perceived Clinton as their ally and endorsed her in both the primaries and the general election. Moreover, the men in charge recognize that by blaming all men for women’s woes, Walters is reducing the likelihood that poor, struggling, and working-class people will unite across gender lines to support each other in the struggle against corporate elites, i.e., them. Perhaps Walters was reconciled to harm the cause she claims to champion because, by doing so, she recognized that powerful men might publish her.