Is Katie Couric a cutting-edge post-feminist, or a slave to the patriarchy? And should we really care about a $7,500 haircut? Readers weigh in.

By Salon Staff
Published March 24, 2004 8:40PM (EST)

[Read "The Cruella Syndrome," by Rebecca Traister.]

Bravo! I've found Katie Couric's interviews to be exceptionally well-prepared and no-nonsense. Women are obtaining university degrees in record numbers and are told that the world is their oyster. But if they want to make it to the top, better be ambitious (but not ambitious). Better be strong (but don't show it) ... and God help us if they look ordinary! There are so many mixed messages, I wonder indeed how far we have come. And I may not be on TV, but I know that I'll be at the gym after work tonight, because I've bought into the whole pursuit-of-perfection trap.

-- Christine Laurin

Rebecca Traister bemoans the fact that we take delight in punishing women for gaining too much power and wealth through dint of their brains ... but then turns around and characterizes an interview between Couric and Coulter as "a 12-minute hair-pull." Women like Traister are as much as (or more than) the problem than women like Liz Smith (who, horrifically, characterized Couric's handling of her husband's death as some sort of P.R. strategy). Traister wouldn't call a disagreement between Larry King and Sidney Blumenthal a "hair-pull." But when it comes to criticizing women it's perfectly acceptable to throw in a meow or two because a) she's talking about women and b) she's a woman herself -- why expect more?

Calling the interview a "hair-pull" suggests that no matter how high they climb the professional ranks, no matter their intellectual prowess or their debating skills, in the end it is impossible to take them or their positions and disagreements seriously simply because they are women.

-- Sandra Miller

Even if Katie Couric does pay $7,500 a week for a personal trainer, so what? I'd be willing to bet it's probably not even her idea, and that there may be an "appearance clause" in her contract with NBC.

Unfortunately, as with most female anchors and reporters on television, her brainpower and sense of humor just aren't enough, according to the masses and probably the network brass. If Katie started getting her hair cut at Supercuts and going to fat, I guarantee you the letters would be rolling in and she'd lose her job -- regardless of how good a journalist she is.

Whether they want to admit it or not, the American viewing public is just too appearance obsessed to put up with an unattractive woman in their living rooms two to three hours a day. Even as a weekend anchor in a teeny, tiny market, people felt completely justified calling the television station to criticize what I wore, how my hair looked, and whether I was fat or thin. Imagine what it must be like for someone who is actually famous.

This rumbling is just another indication that people need lives of their own rather than wasting time obsessing over someone else's life. I admire Katie Couric tremendously -- and you know what? If she wants to spend $7500 a week on a trainer and get $1000 haircuts, that's her damn business.

-- DiAnne Olson

It's discouraging -- although, regrettably, not surprising -- that these personal attacks [on Couric] come primarily from other women. In my experience, it has been too often that female peers and bosses attempt to sabotage my successes, while the professional men in my life have been very supportive and have been the ones to lift me higher up the corporate ladder.

-- Deborah English

Ms. Couric does not have to be "one of us." All she has to do is continue to do an outstanding job on the "Today" show, or any other journalistic endeavor she decides to pursue. I'm not her biggest fan, but I don't see why she has to downplay her success to be respected.

Is Matt Lauer "one of us"? Does he have to worry about being denigrated because he is well-paid? Can't someone who is wealthy be "one of us"? Isn't that the whole point of the American dream? Does it make a difference that the successful person is female? Are we living in 2004 or 1804?

-- Lorna Jerome

I guess I'm not your typical American, because I always found Couric's purposely non-threatening, regular-gal persona annoying. I want my news -- and the morning shows, like it or not, are an important source of news and analysis for much of America -- delivered by accomplished professionals.

My respect for Couric grew enormously when I saw the Coulter interview. It wasn't just that I liked seeing the loathsome Coulter dealt with harshly. It was because I was struck by how tough and smart and unrelenting Couric was. She was a polite, professional pit bull -- exactly what a journalist should be.

The fact remains that the morning so-called news shows are a disgrace. They spend far too much time scandal- and fear-mongering, and it can't be healthy for America to take its news and analysis mixed with so much celebrity worship, beauty advice and other fluff.

--Beth Gallagher

I found your piece on Katie Couric fascinating ... sort of. I guess it surprises me that you would devote so much time to this morning-show hack! I am a loyal "Today" watcher, initially hooked by Katie and her upbeat attitude ... but now I watch for Matt and Ann.

Simply put, Katie is an annoying interviewer -- she interrupts and asks questions that are really monologues to show us just how much she knows.

Unless, of course, she is talking to a Republican or a man ... then she is sweet and charming and lets them blather on and on. Not sure where that liberal-bias idea came from with Katie ... she is anything but liberal from what I can see (perhaps she's overcompensating?).

I have seen her interview Hillary Clinton and I was appalled at the treatment Sen. Clinton received. In a recent series on First Wives, all the other living First Wives were interviewed about their contributions, what it was like to live in the White House, etc. Not Sen. Clinton. She was interviewed about being such a "lightning rod" -- Couric's words.

For me it's not a woman thing -- I love Campbell Brown and think she would make a perfect co-host to Matt Lauer. Katie Couric is just plain old annoying.

-- Marcy Scott Lynn

Your article misses the real cause of all the vitriol directed at Katie Couric. She's hardly the only woman on TV with a large salary, great clothes and expensive grooming. What about Diane Sawyer, Star Jones, Meredith Viera, Barbara Walters, Oprah or Ellen? Rather, the radical right has worked very hard to turn the tide against Katie due to her so-called liberal politics. Both Katie (and Matt Lauer for that matter) have been viciously and continually maligned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and every other right-wing talking head in an effort to erode their popularity, discredit their reporting, and snuff out any semblance of balanced journalism in this country. Sadly, under pressure from that very vocal minority, the reporting on the "Today" show has become insipid and painfully uninformative. Thank goodness for Salon.

-- M. Stewart

The reason for the Katie Couric backlash is not her salary, her beauty regimen or her perceived liberal slant. The reason is because her on-air attitude has changed for the worse in several ways. She rarely listens to the answers to the questions she asks in her haste to get to the next question before she has to end a segment. Even more egregious is that she often turns the conversation to herself, which makes her the worst kind of interviewer: one who believes she's the center of the universe. I suspect it's her overblown ego that's turning viewers off.

-- D.G.

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------