"If Looks Could Kill"

By David Thomson


Salon Staff
March 5, 2002 1:09AM (UTC)

Read the story.

David Thomson's ludicrous "If Looks Could Kill" article showed that not only is he apparently using his head for a prostate self-exam, but Salon's editors need their bullshit meters recalibrated. Thomson engages in 600 words of wildly random speculation based on one Reuters photograph, in the process illuminating nothing but his own biases about sexual politics.

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Because the photo shows a woman and a man, he decides the woman's displeased expression is attributable to gender issues. Here's a thought: What if Sherron Watkins just doesn't like Jeffrey Skilling because he appears to be just a big nasty evil liar? That's why I don't like him, why not Watkins? Because she's a woman, so everything has to be about gender? What if she just thinks he's a schmuck? What if -- hold your breath, Mr. Thomson -- what if it has nothing to do with gender politics at all?

Thomson fantasizes "the lofty way [Skilling] ignores her in the picture," when he looks to me far more worried for his own indictable ass than concerned with belittling Watkins. Thomson says you can sense that she had been intimidated by him. She's looking at him like something she wouldn't even scrape off her shoe, preferring instead to just throw the shoes out. The intimidation is not in the photo, but in Thomson's superimposed gender-politics agenda. These fantasies become clear when Thomson resorts to such silliness as, "Doesn't every woman in the workplace know the body language of the superior male's put-down?" That's writer's code for, "I can't back this up, so I'll present it as an unassailable truth."

Thomson proceeds to this insulting bit of rhetoric: "Above all, in business as in domestic matters, male bullying (rooted in terror, I think) still tries to exclude women from natural, open, equal discourse. It happens in the office, and it happens in bed. No amount of 'advances' in women's rights should kid us that the problem is diminished or even in retreat."

So none of the advances of women, advances so negligible and pathetic Thomson must render the word in quotations, has even diminished gender inequality? So all the women, and men, too, who have crusaded for decades to improve the lot of women in society and the workplace have nothing to show for it, haven't even diminished the problem? While only a fool would say women have achieved parity, anyone who says there's been no improvement in the last 30 or 40 years of activism is just willfully blind and demagogic.

Further proof that Emperor Thomson is butt-naked here: He closes with the already trite suggestion that "a skilling" be defined as "the well-timed stripping of old assets so as to furnish a getaway," which has nothing to do with the imagined gender issue that allegedly drives the article and got it classified under the subheading of "sex." But it does lead back to the suggestion that if alarmists would stop finding gender issues in every glance and interaction between a man and a woman, we might see that Watkins' apparent contempt for Skilling is driven not by gender, but by the fact that he appears to have done bad and greedy things. Or can't a woman come to such conclusions without the filter of her own gender role in society?

-- Brian McDonough, Oakland, Calif.

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Brilliant piece by David Thompson. His take on the Enron topic of the day, prompted by that chilling and wonderful N.Y. Times cover photo of Skilling and his colleague, the embattled and "unnattractive" Sherron Watkins, directly echoed a conversation I'd had with my girlfriends the previous evening. The fact that at least one intelligent male is capable of such a deep and fundamental understanding of the ever-present sexism facing American women today made my week.

All I can say is, thanks Salon, and thank you, David!

-- Amy Benz


Salon Staff

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