What a fascinating time to be a leader who is a woman! (Note to the male bureau chief who once called me into his office to tell me that using an exclamation point is “too feminine.” No, it isn’t.)
Women are still far from achieving leadership parity in most fields, but some of the obstacles—the various manifestations of sexism that have kept that from happening—are at last being exposed and taken seriously (at least for now). The resulting societal tumult, even though it’s been ugly at times, has also been empowering. A weight is being lifted, one that women have been carrying for a long time, one accepted by society and by ourselves as the price of working in a man’s world.
Misogyny has deeply shaped me, and nearly stifled me. From growing up in a Jewish world where boys were golden, to pursuing an academic and journalism career rife with outright gender discrimination, to taking over the old boys’ club that was Moment in 2004, I found that men around me too often treated me as if I were a child or their lover. One prominent Jewish philanthropist even brazenly offered to fund Moment if I took a bath with him, a deal I am sure he never tried to strike with my predecessors—Leonard Fein, Elie Wiesel and Hershel Shanks. Fortunately, there were also many fantastic men—and women—along the way, who gave generously and selflessly of their time and resources, and I am deeply grateful.
Unlike the majority of serious publications today, Jewish or not, Moment is proudly women-led. This is smart business. Editorially, we inject critical ingredients into the discourse: We embrace intelligent thinking without shouting down differences in opinion. We promote civility by not trading in anger and grudges. Most of all, we eschew arrogance. Arrogance is one of my least favorite human traits and one of the things most wrong with the world. This includes sexual arrogance, the assumption held by some men that because they are powerful, they can do whatever they want.
Every day we are reminded of the perils of arrogant leadership. From the president of the United States to CEOs in media, business and other fields, arrogance has led to a breakdown of civility, increased polarization and an inability to act on behalf of the public good. It has also facilitated the culture of sexual harassment and bias that has blocked so many women from positions of power and ensured that the national narrative remains predominantly masculine.
Women bring special qualities to leadership. Before I go further, let me say this: There are men who possess some or all of these qualities, just as there are women who are as susceptible to arrogance and the corruption of power as men. The point is that the qualities I speak of can’t coexist with arrogance. These include a stronger inclination to collaborate rather than posture and provoke, a greater awareness of the critical role of tone in deliberations, more interest in inclusivity and tolerance, a willingness to help others discover what they think on their own by providing context, a greater concern for creating community and a more pragmatic approach toward finding openings for agreement. In short, all qualities our world desperately needs.
To celebrate these qualities in the hope of encouraging women and men to embrace them, we are designating 2018 as Moment’s “Year of the Woman.” Throughout the year, we will conduct interviews on the topic—some of them from a Jewish perspective—in private salons and public venues, culminating in Moment’s 2018 gala.
We will also shine a spotlight on women in each issue. In this one, opinion editor Amy E. Schwartz interviews legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick about #MeToo and asks our rabbis how they would counsel a sexual predator. In “The Consequence of Conscience,” Schwartz reports from Germany on the far-reaching impact of Angela Merkel’s decisive moral act of leading her country to accept 1.3 million refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries in turmoil. Culture editor Marilyn Cooper interviews author Francine Klagsbrun, whose new book, Lioness, reexamines the leadership legacy of Israel’s only female prime minister, Golda Meir. Our symposium on American Jewish literature features the powerful voices of Jewish writers such as Rebecca Goldstein, Allegra Goodman, Dara Horn, Alicia Ostriker and Jane Yolen. (We include brilliant men as well.) Arts editor Diane M. Bolz writes about Holocaust-era artist Charlotte Salomon, who told the story of her all-too-short life in paintings and words, an early evocation of the graphic novel. Eugene M. Grant fellow Ellen Wexler discovers the many Yiddish words for penis, and finds that Yiddish euphemisms for female genitalia reflect attitudes towards women in traditional Yiddish culture.
We return to our ongoing project exploring the growing gap between Israel and American Jews in “What Israeli Schoolchildren Learn about American Jewish Life,” by Israel editor Eetta Prince-Gibson. Deputy editor Sarah Breger interviews Saudi Arabia expert and Brookings Intelligence Project director Bruce Riedel for insight into Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his kingdom’s complicated relationships with the United States and Israel. Columnists Shmuel Rosner and Marshall Breger write about Israel, and senior editor George E. Johnson rediscovers a 16th-century Kabbalistic ritual seder for Tu B’Shevat.
Enjoy! I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.