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Friday, June 02, 2006 

The Elizabeth Vargas Situation: A Lesson in Feminist Reasoning

Right now feminists across America are up in arms. Why, you might ask? I'm wondering myself. Apparently it all began on May 23rd with an announcement by Elizabeth Vargas on ABC's "World News Tonight" that she would be stepping down from her role as anchor of the evening news program on May 29th. She has served in the position of anchor for about five months now, a role that ABC designed for her to share with Bob Woodruff before "injuries suffered when [his] convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Iraq" kept him from continuing his co-anchoring duties after only three weeks together. Vargas was replaced by her "Good Morning America" co-host Charles Gibson this past Monday.

Vargas, at the time of her announcement, cited her reason for leaving was to "focus on anchoring '20/20' and the arrival of [her] new child" (Vargas's second child is due this summer). However, buzz quickly began to spread around the Internet and throughout feminist circles that Vargas had been "dumped" by ABC in favor of the elder Gibson. The heads of NOW, The National Council of Women's Organizations, and the Feminist Majority Foundation issued a letter to David Westin, President of ABC News, and Anne Sweeney, President of ABC Network, vocalizing their outrage.

In the letter, they label Vargas's leaving as "a clear demotion" and claim that it "signals a dispiriting return to the days of discrimination against women that" they believed no longer existed. Furthermore, the letter claims that "the demotion is not only a violation of the spirit of the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is what Carol Rivers, a Boston University professor of journalism, described as 'a message to all women taking maternity leave that you missed your shot.'" The letter goes on to lament the recent impending cancellation of the ABC drama "Commander-in-Chief", "in which Geena Davis portrayed America's first woman president." Finally they call for the network to "put Elizabeth Vargas or Diane Sawyer in their rightful place on 'World News Tonight'" and interject that "[Vargas's] talent and ability will enable [the network] to come up with a schedule and work arrangements that will allow [her] to continue as both a dedicated mother and a dedicated journalist."

Now, let's talk about the facts of this situation. Vargas claims that she stepped down for reasons involving her family and pregnancy. Leanne Kleinmann of the Commercial-Appeal (Memphis, TN) states that, "Her doctor has commanded that she cut back her work hours, or risk being placed on bed rest," something no pregnant woman desires, especially one as driven as Vargas has been. Kleinman goes on to suggest that Vargas "can't give the kind of effort to her work that she could before she had children (and she already has a son). And she has a job that, as it's configured now, doesn't have any built-in flexibility." Add to that a report from Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick that Vargas said she'd "have a hard time thrusting [her] baby at [her] husband or baby nurse and [say], 'I'll see you guys in two weeks, I'm going to a war zone.'"

Now, add to this situation the fact that "Vargas alone has faced falling ratings since" the injury to Woodruff sidelined the co-anchor only three weeks into the new team format on ABC. Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik points out that "the success of 69-year-old Bob Schieffer at CBS has changed the way the industry views older newscasters" and concludes, "Most of the viewers lost by World News Tonight appear to have gone over to the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer." Zurawik quotes Lee Thornton, "professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland and former CBS White House correspondent" who says, "No one knows if Schieffer's audience will stay with Katie Couric come September, but if you are offering an alternative in the same mold - an experienced, hard news anchor - in hopes of attracting those viewers, who better than Gibson?"

But despite these clear reasons for Vargas's timely departure, many are not satisfied and are crying foul to anyone who will listen. And it's not hard to speculate on the reasons why. First, feminists like those issuing the above letter are already lamenting studies that show women are trending toward a more traditional role in the home and seem to be happier there. Linda Hirshman, in a article published in November of last year on AlterNet.Org, berated woman for choosing to stay home rather than compete in the work world, claiming, "these choices are bad for women individually." Vargas decision is a clear heresy to the feminist doctrine. Possibly anticipating an adverse reaction, Vargas told the Associated Press:
Every woman has the right to make that decision for herself and her family without anybody judging it. My decision might not be the right decision for everyone else. My decision does not mean I'm stepping off the stage forever. It's just what's right for me now. I would hesitate to draw any large conclusions about working women or working mothers.

But despite repeated statements like these by Vargas and ABC, some of those outraged claim that the reasons she and the network give are meant to be a smokescreen for ABC's public relations department. One blogger notes that "If Vargas wants to continue working for ABC she will of course have to say that she is 'voluntarily stepping down' to give birth and care for her newborn." Susan Scanlan, co-signer of the letter to ABC and the chair of the NCWO, in an interview with Media Life Magazine's Diego Vasquez, claims that "the most galling aspect of Ms. Vargas's removal as co-anchor of 'World News Tonight' was how she was compelled to put a positive face on it." Kim Gandy, President of NOW, echoes Scanlan in her bi-weekly column on the NOW website, adding, "The explanation from network brass . . . didn't pass the sniff test."

What I find more amazing about this story is the unwillingness of these feminists to believe the facts and accept Vargas's own words. It seems that no matter what amount of evidence is heaped in their direction, they refuse to see the situation any other way. David Bauder of the Associated Press reports that Vargas "said she felt no pressure to step down," stating, “Maybe I'm obtuse, but I didn't.” Why are these women so unwilling or unable to bear these facts? Has feminism progressed to a level that any rejection of its core principles is simply unacceptable, so much so that these people are willing to believe a lie rather than accept the truth from one of their own role models? This seems to clearly demonstrate the type of reasoning behind Feminism. Instead of embracing the beautiful picture of femininity painted in Proverbs 31:10-31, these people buy into a system that will never be as fulfilling as the complementarian role established for women by God in creation. Feminists do a disservice to women by feeding them the lie of egalitarianism. Now is the time for a new suffrage movement, one that will help women to be restored to the roles they were designed to fill for the glory of God and the joy of their hearts.

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As you know, I'll slam anybody. Here goes...NOW and other feminist groups lost their right to voice their opinion when they were silent during the Clinton affair with Lewinsky. How they could stand by and let an executive wielding so much power "take advantage of" an intern is beyond me. How could they stand by and watch Hillary humiliated. When you fail to make moral commentary on issues like that, you have no right to make moral commentary on any issue.

The term "Liberal" used to be interpreted as open-minded. I don't know if that was every really the case, but it's certainly not now.

God forbid Vargas look out for her family instead of selfishly harming the health of her baby!

I personally think Vargas is a hottie. (The NOW chicks are totally in love with me now!) However, Bob Schieffer is such a great grandfather figure and such a relief from Sleazy Dan Rather that I love to watch him.

Don't know what I'll do when that airhead Katie comes along.
Howie Luvzus

Good points Howie. I have always thought that feminists have done a rather poor job stepping up against pornography and the entire adult entertainment business. As the guys at XXXChurch.Com have shown, there are many women in the business that feel trapped and are looking for a way out. Yet, to date, the only people that seem to be helping these women are Christian complementarians like the XXXChurch guys.

And I think you nailed them on not being "liberal". I agree, if feminism was meant to empower women, why is there now a backlash against women choosing to stay home and raise children?

And I think you represent exactly the group of people that ABC is trying to connect with. The Vargas-Woodruff team was a good fit, but Vargas on her own suffered. The appeal of Schieffer showed ABC that middle-aged and older viewers still wanted an aged gentleman who had a stately look. And I agree that Couric will probably suffer because of that. Many have speculated that the nightly news is a thing of the past and that might indeed turn out to be true. I just hope the networks don't replace news with more Jerry Springer or Montel.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Regarding my post on Talk2Action, I admit I should have distinguished between Calvinism and Hyper-calvinism. The point of my post was mainly speak to the Arminian view of Predestination. However, my post was misleading. I do not associate Piper with dominionism. Not at all.

It appears though that several folk on Talk2Action were not aware of the growth of Calvinism. So, I posted the article on my blog. Actually the article was written by my Father and one of his former-students, Nathan Finn (a Southern Baptist Calvinist). Not sure if you know him?

I do not agree with a good deal of what is written on Talk2Action. Rick Warren a dominionist? Give me a break. The increasing amount of Anti-Christian rhetoric is also troubling. Many of the writers seem to display absolutely no respect for any Christians other than liberal mainliners. As a CBFer (who is also an evangelical), I fear I might also be deemed a dominionist by members of the Talk2Action community. Sheesh.

By the way, I enjoyed your earlier discussion on homosexuality. It was very informative. That is the one single theological issue which I struggle with the most. Welcome and Affirm? Or Just Welcome?


First, let me say that I am always worried when people start throwing around terms like Hyper-Calvinism without defining it. There is no doubt that it is a heresy, but there should be equally no doubt that Evangelical 5-point Calvinism isn't Hyper-Calvinism. I fear that point is not well made among those joining in the discussion (and I am not accusing you of doing this, I just wanted to make this clarification since you brought up the need to make a distinction).

As long as one can point to a generally recongnized definition of Hyper-Calvinism and to groups that practice such (I can point to one now -- the Westboro Baptist Church under Fred Phelps), then I am all for defining these terms and working to rid Evangelicalism, and in this case, the SBC, of its influence.

Now, as to John Piper and other Evangelical Calvinists -- there is no doubt that many of them could care less about the theocratic Calvinism of Rushdoony and others. In fact, among SBC Calvinists I find an increasing naseau toward anything political. And I am glad that you are able to see this as well, though I do agree that many of the TalktoAction-types don't care to make those types of distinctions.

Moving on to the "Mainliners", I have become increasingly disturbed by the ratcheting up of their rhetoric and their willingness to distort facts, engage in conspiracy theories, and make false accusations all in the name of political maneuvering. And it disturbes me even more when they accuse Evangelicals of doing the exact things they claim to repudiate. To me Bruce Prescott is the most dangerous of these types. From reading him I can see how you might worry that you will one day be lumped into the theocratic group that he has crusaded against for the past couple of years.

To be honest, I have very little problem with the CBF churches as an expression of Christianity. I know of many strong Christians in CBF churches, some of whom I ardently disagree with on doctrinal issues, but still enjoy a fellowship that I am confident is within Evangelical Christianity. What I have a problem with are many of the denominational leaders who continue to take pot-shots at the SBC, who are now attempting to capitalize on the problems occuring in the SBC, and who accuse the SBC leadership (and essential the SBC in general) of caring more about power than theology or ministry (again Bruce Prescott as director of the OK state CBF is a prime example). I just think it is dishonest and rather hypocritical.

So in saying all of that let me be clear in affirming that it is refreshing to encounter someone like yourself who seems to be grounded and not given over to emotional argumentation that defies reason. I appreciate your candor and your willingness to dialogue and not just scream across the fence at your separated SBC brethren. I am glad that you can and do fellowship with guys like Nathan Finn, who I have heard mention of several times, but not actually met, and you can recognize flaws in those who sit in leadership over you and your fledgling denomination. And I am very happy to see that you are trying to think through issues like homosexuality and not jumping on the bandwagon without careful self- and Biblical examination.

I hope that guys like yourself, Andrew Jones, and other young thinkers would emerge as leaders in the CBF and not allow old wounds and pushy liberalism to define you and your denomination. Southern Baptists made many mistakes with the conservative resurgence, but I am confident that one of them wasn't an emphasis on theology, though it was used to exclude in inappropriate ways. Maybe you guys could take the best from the SBC and uphold Biblical integrity and the authority of Scripture (which the CBF claimed to be doing when it was formed) without reducing to a scrap heap of liberalism like a few of the mainstream denominations have (which many in the SBC claims will evenutally happen to the CBF). Hopefully, guys like yourself will show both organizations they are wrong and forge ahead to a place when once again our two denominations can cooperate in missions.

Thanks for taking the time to interact and dialogue. I am glad I was able to offer some help with my article on homosexuality and I hope you will come back.

Dear DR,

It is thinking like yours that precipitated the need for women to fight for equality in the first place! Women are entitled to the same rights as men and should be empowered and encouraged to make their own life decisions. It seems that you would be happy if women are barefoot and pregnant rather than use their God-given intellect and talent to make significant contributions to the world.


Thanks for stopping by and offering your opinion. I am not sure exactly which of my comments sparked your irritation, but I certainly would deny that I in any way "would be happy if women are barefoot and pregnant rather than use their God-given intellect and talent to make significant contributions to the world."

I have a feeling that you didn't really think through the arguments made in both my article and in my posts in the comment thread. It is quite easy to rip those who oppose your views and paint them in an extreme light, but quite difficult to engage in a conversation about specific disagreements. I, for one, don't care to lob grenades at those who believe differently that I do. I would rather engage individuals with Scripture and logic. And so if you would like to participate in that sort of discussion, I would be glad to do so.

Honestly, I find that answering insults and assumptions about my beliefs to be a waste of time. However, should your desire be to specifically challenge an explicit statement or belief made in this article, I would be glad to engage you in a dialogue on that point (provided that you be willing to step out of anonymity and actually take credit for the accusations you have made here).

Otherwise, thanks again for stopping by. I do hope that the Lord will use this blog to drive you to read His Scriptures and seek His face regarding all your views and beliefs. May you take every thought captive for the glory of Christ and do, live, and believe all for the praise of His glory!

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About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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