The Elizabeth Vargas Situation: A Lesson in Feminist Reasoning
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.
ABC, Christianity, Complimentarianism, Culture, Egalitarianism, Evangelicalism, Feminism, Liberalism, Media, News, Vargas