Five analysts, 80 percent of them male, sitting around arguing with the one female analyst about equality and choice.
Earlier today on Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski called out Mitt Romney for his lie in which he claimed he pro-actively sought out female candidates during his term as governor of Massachusetts (the truth is that he didn't ask for "whole binders full of women;" rather, it was an independent group that presented qualified female candidates to both Romney and his opposition). Calling out the lie (and yes, she used the word "lie") is what journalists are "supposed to do," Brzezinski said.
Joe Scarborough and Mark Halperin responded by condescendingly trying to mansplain to Mika that she doesn't know what women care about. Laura runs down their juvenile responses here. In short, Brzezinski spent the entire segment trying to explain why workplace equality matters in this election while most (but not all) of the males at the table mansplained to her that she was wrong.
After seeing the reaction he provoked in Brzezinski, Scarborough responded with the type of condescending "but I really do value your work" talk that far too many women have had to endure:
BRZEZINSKI: You want to talk about the economy? Does anybody want to go there and look at the data?I'm pretty sure that if MSNBC execs seriously proposed renaming the show to "Morning Mika" or "Morning Joe with Mika" or any variant thereof, Scarborough's expression would look a little like this.
SCARBOROUGH: He understands. and can I just say also, I value you here --
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, I can see that.
SCARBOROUGH: -- at this workplace, and can I tell you I never had to bring in a stack of binders to find you --
BRZEZINSKI: -- No, no.
SCARBOROUGH: --and to notice your work.
BRZEZINSKI: Mark Halperin--
SCARBOROUGH: It should be "Morning Mika." I say that all the time. [...]
As it turns out, however, Scarborough doesn't value Brzezinski's opinion and fact-checking on women's issues because, as he later suggests, she's in the tank for Obama:
SCARBOROUGH: [turning to Brzezinski] You're frustrated, though -- and I think you should explain why you're frustrated. You've worked, obviously, with the White House on some women's issues. You're frustrated, obviously, when you see these polls that show the gap's closing, and you do want to know because you are close to it. And it's been in the press that you've worked on the White House Council for women.Nevermind that Brzezinski has expertise in analyzing pay discrimination, as Brzezinski herself reminds him ...
BRZEZINSKI: I've also written a book on the --You have to watch the video (below the fold) to truly appreciate the disdain dripping from Scarborough's voice when he interjects about that book. Why?
SCARBOROUGH: -- [sarcastically] did you really?
BRZEZINSKI: -- concern about equal pay...
That book was about equality at MSNBC. As Brzezinski explained in 2011, she's experienced pay discrimination firsthand:
"I had found out that I was the lowest paid at the table and sometimes by far," she said. "I didn't think I should be making more than any of you guys...but these [disparities] were vast." (How vast? In another interview, Brzezinski said she was making fourteen times less than co-host Joe Scarborough.)Brzezinski says it took her four tries with MSNBC's president Phil Griffin to "get it right" and convince her male boss that she "was certainly not 14 times less worth than [Scarborough]."
I've spent my career working in politics and law, both which are male-dominated fields. The scene from this morning's Morning Joe is all too familiar. I've been in Brzezinski's position countless of times—at a conference table, surrounded by men, having to explain the concept of equality to males who view the topic as nothing more than bitching or whining by the 47 percent of women who should consider themselves lucky to have a seat at the work table in the first place.
If you're a working woman, you've likely experienced that too.
Her exasperation, clenched jaw and dagger eyes are all familiar to those of us who have suffered the indignity of workplace discrimination.
So yes, Joe Scarborough and Mark Halperin and the rest of the dismissive not-so-gentlemen of TV punditry, binders do matter.
There's a reason Romney's remark went viral, and it's not just because of its awkwardness of phrase. It's because that phrase so perfectly encapsulates how many women know they're perceived by males in their workplace. Not as individuals with a unique worth but as faceless, vagina-bearing candidates whose worth comes from the fact that we're in a stack with other faceless, vagina-bearing candidates who will provide some faux veneer of equality to the lower half of the employee roster (never mind that the payroll roster will reveal a much different story). Binders full of women. Paychecks full of holes.
If women were judged in the workplace based on their skills rather than on their gender, the pay gap would be a myth.
But it isn't.
It's a vulgar truth in the American workplace. It's why Mika Brzezinski sat a table not knowing that the men around her were compensated far more than her for the same work. It's why you see more men than women on your TV every day talking about the issues.
And it's why we can't let Mitt Romney get elected.
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