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SEXIST BEATDOWN: I Don’t Hate You And I Don’t Think You’re Dumb And In Fact I Like You Also Kater Gordon Got Fired Edition


I mean, um, hi! The delightful Amanda Hess of Washington City Paper’s The Sexist and I did another Sexist Beatdown chat this week! PERHAPS YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT IT ALREADY????

Anyway. Kater Gordon got fired from Mad Men, where she was a writer. Which is sad, because she did really excellent work! And for some reason this was treated as a Potential Sex Scandal by a variety of places. And Jimmy Kimmel is dating some lady he works with. Which was treated as a Potential Sex Scandal by a variety of places. And David Letterman had sex with some ladies he worked with. Which was treated as a Very Real Sex Scandal in everywhere. And then Amanda Hess and I decided to talk about that.

Anyway. Before we get started, here are some amazing true facts:

  • I don’t think I’m cooler than Anna North of! Nor do I find her dumb! In fact, I’m pretty certain she’s a lot cooler and smarter than I am, and have really loved a ton of her work on the old We might disagree on some things, but that is OK.
  • I also don’t think I’m cooler or smarter than Kate Harding, whom Amanda linked to in her own preamble to the chat! I have interacted with Kate once or twice, and here is a thing I learned: she might actually be Jesus. At least, that is how I explain her being possibly the nicest person I’ve ever interacted with, and also one of the very smartest. In point of fact, I agree with most of the things I have read from her on the Letterman Thing!
  • Here is something everyone probably knows: I stand in great awe of Melissa McEwan, and furthermore like her very much as a person. Melissa McEwan has also probably taken the hardest line on the Letterman scandal that I have read. And I disagree with that line, to an extent! But here’s a thing that’s 100% true: the fact that our perspectives diverge on this matter does not mean that I have any less respect for her as a blogger or as a person or as a feminist or as a carbon-based life form. Because I think that people will inevitably hold differences of opinion in some respects, even when their opinions coincide on many other points, and that’s fine. North didn’t even mention McEwan in her post, but this is included because I want you to know: it would be really sad if people thought I held all feminists who feel differently than me on the whole September Sex Scandal Mania thing in contempt. Mostly because I can’t think of a single instance in which that is actually true.
  • That said, I do think that in the wake of the Polanski/Letterman one-two Scandal Punch (which: I REALLY don’t feel we should be drawing equivalencies, there, without taking care to note how they are different, for example insofar as one of them included rape) people in the mainstream (not feminist) discourse are looking for Sex Scandals all over, and sometimes sort of inventing them, and this is not good, because (a) I care about sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, but don’t think consensual sex is any of my business, and (b) lots of the mainstream (as opposed to feminist) coverage is salacious, and serious issues such as sexual harassment and coercion are speculated about, not in a responsible (or, you know, feminist) way, but to feed the public appetite for sexy sexy details.
  • Do you disagree? Well! Clearly I do not hate you! Unless you are Roman Polanski, maybe.

Sexy sexy details (or, you know, full transcript of the chat) beneath the jump!

tractorblodd_gawker.flvILLUSTRATION: This fucking week, man.

AMANDA: So, Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner. Hittin’ it?

SADY: um, probably! because she worked for him! and got promoted! and then didn’t work for him any longer! those are all solid proofs of Hittin’ It, right? i could use them in Hittin’ It Court if I wanted to.
AMANDA: Personally, I think that the number one indication that they are Probably Hittin’ It is that David letterman had sex with some lady recently

SADY: i know, right? IN THE WORKPLACE! I think we must therefore assume that everyone in the workplace is hittin’ it, all the time. i feel bad about not caring that much about the letterman thing. i mean: i get that there was a BIG-ASS power difference between letterman and his assistant. there is a big-ass power difference between david letterman and a lot of people. but until we know that there was sexual harassment or quid pro quo stuff going on there, it’s just another story about somebody cheating on somebody to me. and i am familiar with the fact that people cheat on each other. and not that scandalized by it. i do watch “mad men!”

AMANDA: I agree. I don’t care about that or Jimmy Kimmel or whatever that is. Whenever those stories come up, everyone scrambles to “ask the questions” about whether the boss abused their power, whether the employee benefited from the relationship, whether there was coercion etc. But I think REALLY people just want to hear more about the details of their romance. ad in the case of Kater Gordon, their imagined made-up romance

SADY: yeah, exactly. you know my favorite thing about all this? is the parallels drawn between letterman and polanski. like: WOW, there are a lot of “SEX” “SCANDALS” going on, what with these two getting up to their morally equivalent no-goodery! but the kater gordon thing is just fundamentally wrong because we have no evidence of it. no evidence of coercion, and no evidence of a talentless young harlot being promoted due to her relationship with The Boss.

Right? I read one comment when the Letterman thing broke that was like, “Roman Polanski should send David Letterman flowers.” And I thought, how awkward would you feel being David Letterman receiving flowers from a child rapist because you had consensual sex with a grown woman?

SADY: haha, yeah. and, i mean, i don’t know whether the kater gordon/weiner Imaginary Romance and the jimmy kimmel Actual Romance are getting so much play because people are just wanting to hitch onto that sweet “sex” scandal gravy train or what.

AMANDA: people seem almost embarrassed to bring it up. all the critiques i’ve read have used passive language like, “parallels between weiner and letterman have been raised” in order to raise the issue themselves

SADY: right. but the parallels between weiner and letterman which ACTUALLY EXIST are that two young women worked for them, and were promoted to high-profile positions. and, you know. whatever the lady on Letterman had going for her, talentwise, is a debatable question. but Gordon would seem to be legitimately deserving of promotion.

AMANDA: yeah, and it’s extremely insulting to both the boss and the employee when commenters say, “why would anyone promote a woman? fucking, maybe?”

SADY: right, especially when her skill is so demonstrable. “oh, we know you got that emmy for that episode we all liked WITH SEX! and then the episode magically became good and forced us all to write positive reviews of it BECAUSE OF YOUR SEXINESS!” it’s refusing to give her any credit at all for her work.

AMANDA: except for that dream sequence in The Fog. Not so great. But my favorite comparison here is when people draw parallels between Weiner and Gordon and plotlines on Mad Men. Like, what if Gordon IS PEGGY OLSON? OR, what if Gordon was Freddy Rumsen, and was fired for pissing herself? ORRRRR what if Gordon was Sal, and was fired for not having gay sex? Spoiler.

SADY: what if she were that dude who got his foot run over with a lawnmower, and was fired because she couldn’t play golf any more? DO WE KNOW KATER GORDON HAS FEET? has anyone seen her golfing lately?

AMANDA: hahaha. yeah. the take-away from that is that people just really love the show so much they want it to be REAL. but that’s kind of fucked up, considering the source material.

SADY: yeah, exactly. the thought is that since it’s about a workplace where people are always cheatin’ and drinkin’ and smokin’ there must ACTUALLY be some chicanery going on, because otherwise the beautiful dream of a sexist, racist office that smells like cigarettes and freddy rumsen’s pee will seem all too unattainable.

AMANDA: yeah. i mean, maybe she had sex with the actor who plays Duck. it’s possible!

SADY: yeah… but does this mean that the people who wrote “star trek” did it all on a spaceship, too? but, i mean. honestly. the Mysteries of Her Dismissal are one thing… and i get mad when talented women are fired from shows, even when i don’t like them, as with the SNL Lady Quota. but i can’t help but feel that the people who are weighing in to be all “PROBABLY BECAUSE SHE AND MATTHEW WEINER HAD NAKED TIMES HUH” are, um, not helping. that’s the saddest part of this: that, for some reason, we still can’t think of women as just part of the workplace. even though the whole point of “mad men” is that we’re So Beyond That Now. i still feel bad for not feeling bad about the letterman thing, though!

AMANDA: i personally feel a little bit uncomfortable about my disinterest in that also, because if i were working for a company where my coworkers were fucking my boss, that would be a problem for me. although, maybe you don’t know until some crazy dude extorts your boss for 2 million!
SADY: ha, yeah. i mean, i don’t think i’d ever feel comfortable fucking someone in a position to fire me. i would not feel like i was that person’s equal. and i don’t think that it’s possible to separate your sexual relationship from your professional relationship to the degree that some people might hope, and that can result in unfair treatment. BUT, there’s no reason to think that boss/employee relationships are ALWAYS uncomfortable for the employee involved, or that they’re always predatory.

AMANDA: right. it’s also probably nobody else’s business except for the people involved, which is the main thing.

SADY: exactly. it’s not like this is someone in a position of public office, who holds accountability to All of Us. at worst, we might not want to hang out with David Letterman any more. which: good news! David Letterman doesn’t want to hang out with any of us anyway! neither does Matthew Weiner! PROBLEM SOLVED.

and  that’s fine, because DESPITE SUGGESTIONS TO THE CONTRARY, he does not seem half as charming as Don Draper.

SADY: right. he seems like more of a bert cooper to me, in fact! maybe he fired kater gordon because she wouldn’t take her shoes off. PROBABLY, RIGHT?

AMANDA: prb. prbbbbbb! haha! i cannot type any longer!

SADY: that or her sterling-esque blackface routine, which i think we can all agree was inappropriate.


  1. snobographer wrote:

    Maybe he fired her because he stepped on some gum on the carpet, which he assumed to be hers. Or maybe he fired her for stealing that $3 in mad money from Peggy’s locker.

    Sady? Are you the reason I keep getting a ‘Service ‘Unavailable’ message when I try to go to Jezebel?

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  2. Isabel wrote:

    i very much enjoyed this.

    though, i will say that the main critique that has hit home with me re: letterman (& my initial reaction was very similar to yours, and also jill’s at feministe) was that actually it is slightly idealistic to think that a boss-employee relationship – especially in a case where it seems like, as with letterman, this was NOT an unusual thing – does in fact only impact the people involved. i think there is an argument to be made that a boss (especially a male boss) repeatedly having even totally 100% consensual sex with (especially female) employees sets up an environment in which there may be an implicit assumption among female employees that sleeping with the boss is something they should aim for, or something they will be professionally discriminated against for not doing. so, yes, in that regard i think i have come around to thinking (mm love my decisiveness there) that actually what letterman did was probably ethically pretty dodgy, in that it is possible it wasn’t dodgy at all but the more i think about it, the less probable i find that possibility. anyway i do still think we have so little information about the situation it’s impossible to make a definite call either way (agnosticism: not just for religion anymore!). but i think i’ve changed where i place my bets.

    but this is still so many leagues away from polanski, i can’t even deal right now with the fact that people are equating the too because it upsets me too much.

    Friday, October 16, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Permalink
  3. Samantha b. wrote:

    I don’t really care about consensual sex between adults, either, but I am sick to damn death of sex being posited as THE way for women to get ahead. If he hadn’t given her so much more airtime than other equivalent employees that he wasn’t sleeping with, it would all be a non-issue. The consensus seems to be- and, per the clips I’ve seen, my own judgment reconciles with this- that the airtime wasn’t given based on merit. That’s precisely when it becomes problematic for the rest of the staff, particularly for the women. I’m so bored with that shit.

    Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  4. Davey wrote:

    I hate to chime in on the one thing no one has any disagreement on, but the Mad Men thing is like some sort of media slash fiction, inventing relationships that aren’t there just because they can’t appreciate art from any other angle than whose hooking up with whom.

    These sorts of disputes happen all the time in television and in every other industry on the planet. Aaron Sorkin has practically devoted a third of his writing to slagging former West Wing writer Rick Cleveland (seriously, google it), and nobody suggested that’s over sex. Granted he’s devoted the other two thirds to winning arguments with straw figures representing his exes, but, OK Sorkin’s a special case.

    Also, I hate to say it, but that picture, even out of context, is a serious spoiler for season 3.

    Monday, October 19, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  5. Samantha b. wrote:

    And a female writer for Letterman has come forth to say that she left the show due to a hostile work environment:

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 8:48 am | Permalink

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