Leading “the girls”

So the New York Times has hired its next chief dance critic, to replace John Rockwell: the fine Alastair Macaulay, of London. Some day, I will write a long post about the short Rockwell reign and the endless Anna Kisselgoff era: all the things they did wrong, and the few, right. But today–with deadlines coming out of my ears–I just want to say: I can’t think of a more serious and worthy critic writing today than Macaulay, and still I am dismayed.
The prospect of a man leading “the girls”– as Rockwell liked to call the three freelancers, ages 28 to 40something, who have been busting their behinds at the Times for the last two years–would be distasteful in any case, but particularly in an art form with a vast majority of women. Women are most of the dancers, at least half of the choreographers, most of the audience members and most of the writers, though not the paid writers.
Women haven’t been particularly well-represented in journalism. Perhaps it is because in journalism you have to be willing to improvise–to say what you think with hardly any time to think it–and women are more inclined to want to be sure of themselves before they make their thoughts public. Or they are until their mid-30s, when they realize that their conscientiousness is getting them nowhere. That’s how it was for me and many of my friends, anyway.
The Times hired someone with a long and impressive track record–a man, of course, because who’s going to hire an old woman?
That Macaulay hails from London is another slap in the face. The Times couldn’t come up with one worthy critic from its home town? Because it is low on funds, dance is largely a local matter. All sorts of dance species have evolved here, never to be seen elsewhere. A Londoner wouldn’t know about them. Of course, Macaulay will have “the girls” to cover for him until he’s up to speed.
My suggestion to the Times: make a co-appointment. Have TWO chiefs, like you do with the movie critics. Make the other one a New Yorker and a woman. If she has fewer credentials, well, of course. Let her grow into the job.

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