There’s nothing wrong with being an old white guy. Some of my best friends are old white guys. Some of the greatest Americans are old white guys and many of history’s most important figures are old white guys. Moses. Aristotle. Benjamin Franklin. Tchaikovsky, Gordie Howe.
Old-white-guy-ness is not, in and of itself, an affliction or some sort of character flaw. Furthermore, it is not something you choose; you get it assigned to you, like lefthandedness or gym lockers. As an old white guy myself, let me just say it’s not my fault.
On the other hand, dear God, Kevin Roberts. Is he so addled by his oldness and whiteness and guyness to have lost the power to observe and to reason?
In an interview with Business Insider, the Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis head coach (whatever the hell that means) denied that sexism is a serious problem in advertising. He also asserted that male-centric notions of career achievement don’t necessarily apply to women, whose ambition he says is often satisfied without ascending to upper management.
"We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers ... 10 years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business, and I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: 'I don't want to manage a piece of business and people, I want to keep doing the work.’"
Does that sound familiar? It’s essentially the same argument propounded by Bill O’Reilly last week about the slaves who, in bondage, were put to work building the White House.
"Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government,” O’Reilly said. So, you know, don’t make the mistake thinking
that the darkies were unhappy; they just have simpler needs.
Now -- as memorably stated in the 1982 USA Today headline: “Men and Women: We’re Still Different” -- social science confirms many a cultural and perhaps hardwired difference in attitudes and behaviors of the two major sexes; it may well be that standards of career satisfaction and achievement are not entirely parallel for all men and women. But to suggest there is some sort of universal feminine indifference to promotion is simply idiotic, not to mention condescending, not to mention demeaning.
And to suggest that there is no glass ceiling in the male-dominated business culture is to ignore not only the overwhelming statistical evidence, but the heartrending experience of countless flesh-and-blood victims of the culture. This is simply denialism, in its ugliest form.
But Roberts wasn’t done. He also invoked the “self-interested-agitator” trope, accusing at least one industry critic -- ex-BBH exec Cindy Gallop -- of inventing or exaggerating a non-issue for her own cynical purposes.
"I think she's got problems that are of her own making. I think she's making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box]."
This, too, has ugly echoes from the civil rights movement and other struggles against entrenched evil in which the powers that be demonized the voices of protest.
The fact is, Kevin Roberts has no idea of what it is like being a woman in advertising -- which is, once again, not his fault. What is his fault, and repulsive in the extreme, is for him to dismiss women’s experiences, their struggles, their ambitions, their obstacles, their humiliations and even their literal sexual assaults as if they were vestiges of a Mad Men past. Does he not read the newspapers? Does he not see what is plainly in his midst?
Yeah, he’s a head coach, all right. He’s Coach Paterno. If you cover your eyes and ears, the evil does not exist.