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February 14, 2005

Parting (Head) Shots

Carlytrash3

The firing of Carly Fiorina might not suggest gender was a factor, but it seems to be playing a substantial role in it’s aftermath.

I may have missed the mark with my previous Carly post, suggesting a sexual innuendo in the image Salon ran.  However, the coverage (and the amount of it) over the past few days has been curious.  If anything, there seems to be a split between the visual and the narrative.  The pictures seem to emphasize (or criticize) Fiorina’s excess vanity.  The words, on the other hand, seem anxious to reassure that the firing was gender-blind.

Take Sunday’s NYT follow-up article, for example.  This piece (Carl Fiorina? He’d Probably Be Out of Work, Toolink) goes out of it’s way to emphasize Fiorina would still have been fired if she had been a man.  Along the way, however, the article also raises the question of why the point is such a big deal in the first place.  Says Sheila W. Wellington, the former head of a women’s research organization, and a professor at  NYU’s business school:

Maybe she would have resigned if she were male, too, but you can bet that resignation wouldn’t get the attention it’s getting if her name were Carl and not Carly.

This morning, the paper ran it’s third prominent Carly story in three days.  In the follow-up to the follow-up, the NYT Business section ran a piece called Tossing Out a Chief Executive (link).  This article makes the point that Fiorina never adapted to Hewlett-Packard’s corporate culture, or paid respect to it’s long and storied history.  Acknowledging that the culture was ripe for change, however, the subhead suggests that Fiorina’s style might have been just “too raw an irritant.”  Coming back to Ms. Wellington’s point, however, would this insight be nearly as noteworthy if it involved a man? 

And, what about this image that accompanied the story.  (For some reason, Fiorina has already earned two collaged illustrations out of the three more prominent stories the Times has run.) Isn’t corporate history filled with high-profile, overly vain and self-promoting male “irritants” who were routinely discarded without such high profile equation to trash?

(Illustration: Tony Cenicola Jr. and James C. Best Jr. in The New York Times) 

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