November is a time for many things — raking leaves, Thanksgiving, and breaking out the boots that have been stored in the back of the closet since April. But November is also the time of year for the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Awards. Now, this may not the biggest event of the award season, but it’s an interesting one all the same, especially when you look at the range of women chosen as honorees, like Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Chelsea Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.
But one woman was supposed to have been among this year’s award recipients, but she took herself off the list after she was unceremoniously fired from her job only to be replaced by a man, after she was called “polarizing” and “mercurial” — former New York Times Editor-in-Chief Jill Abramson.
I completely understand her desire not to be in the spotlight at a moment in her life that doesn’t feel award-worthy. Harsh critique is never easy to swallow, especially when it’s accompanied by some ruthless, gendered name-calling, as well as the revelation that efforts to move Abramson out of the editor-in-chief position didn’t come until after she discovered she was being paid less than her male predecessor and was working to change that.
Abramson recently shared her decision to turn down the Glamour honor with a roomful of women journalists. When asked why she made that decision, she said she thought it would be nicer to be feted for whatever her next chapter is, rather than one that ended in on such a negative note.
As someone who has felt the not-so-kind wrath of people I thought were in my tribe, I disgaree with Abramson. I think this is exactly the year she should have put on a bright, sparkly evening gown and stood with Robin Roberts and Laverne Cox as an example of why the accomplishments of her life to date are award-worthy now, regardless of what the biggest newsroom boys’ club felt it had the right to do to her.
By all accounts, Abramson is going to have a new project that will undoubtedly be successful, since it’s got the financial backing of journalism mogul Steve Brill and, possibly, Arianna Huffington, she of the $300 million dollar sale to AOL fame, to create a place for long form journalism where the pay would $100,000 a story.
If this next venture is successful, I’m sure there will be another Glamour Woman of the Year Award waiting for her. But in turning down the honor this year, her high-profile decision sends the wrong message to women and girls. It says that no matter what you’ve accomplished or how high on your professional ladder you have climbed, you’re only worthy of honor in a moment when you’re up; if you’re down, and we all will be at more than one point in our professional lives, your work isn’t worth celebrating.
That’s an odd message from the woman who loved the New York Times enough to have its logo tattooed on her back, and proclaim, after being thrown under the bus by her male counterparts, that she has no thoughts of having it removed.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!