I’m generally not in the habit of rejoicing over other’s misfortune’s, but I’m making an exception for the unceremonious firing of Judith Regan from her job at HarperCollins. Regan’s ultra-tacky attempt to publish O.J. Simpson’s hypothetical confessional is reason enough to regard her fall as a good thing; to compound that, we’ve also learned that LaRegan sealed her fate by claiming that she was persecuted by a “Jewish cabal” of three Jewish staffers at HarperCollins and a literary agent. (Maybe she can now form a publishing venture with Mel “Get Over It” Gibson.)
I will here freely disclose that my distaste for Regan is, at least in part, personal, since I’ve had a chance to be on the receiving end of her (in)famous temperament. In May 1999, while promoting my book Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, I was invited to appear on Regan’s now-defunct weekend show on Fox News on a panel on feminism and men (alongside Barbara Ehrenreich, John Podhoretz, and my former professor Lionel Tiger). As it happens, my book contained a bit of a swipe at Regan — funnily enough, somewhat related to the O.J. Simson case.
As some may recall, in 1995, during the Simpson trial, Gordon Clark, the husband of prosecutor Marcia Clark, filed for temporary custody of their two children, aged three and five, claiming that she was “never home” and he was better fit to care for the children. This sparked an outcry from feminists, who saw the move as an attack on career women. (Never mind that when Marcia Clark filed for divorce, she admitted in her petition that her husband had always had an equal role in raising the boys. Or that at the time of his custody bid, she was working 16-hour days and weekends while he was usually home by 6 p.m. Or that she wanted him to pay more child support — out of his $36,000 a year to her $96,000 — so that she could hire babysitters, instead of letting him spend more time caring for his own children.) Regan wrote a piece for Newsweek titled “An Open Letter to Mr. Clark,” in which she wrote that a truly good father does not try to take the children away from the mother and flatly asserted that, while women and men are equally capable of ambition and success in the workplace, women are more capable when it comes to raising children.
I commented on this as follows:
A few champions of embattled mothers, such as publishing hotshot Judith Regan (herself embroiled in a custody fight), openly advocated discirmination against fathers: “Women are simply better equipped biologically for parenting young children.”
Almost from the start of the show (unfortunately, there’s no transcript available and I don’t have a tape handy), Regan ripped into yours truly, claiming to be outraged by the charge that she advocated discrimination against fathers. (I’m not sure what else to call the advocacy of blatantly gender-based maternal custody preference.) She also scoffed openly at my argument that fatherlessness is often due not to men walking away from their children, but to men being pushed out of their children’s lives, dismissing as irrelevant the fact that two-thirds of divorces involving children are initiated by mothers. In the second half of the show, probably irritated by my insistence on defending my viewpoint, she tried to simply shut me up; every time I tried to speak, she would interrupt me to direct a question to another guest. This became so blatant that one of the other guests, I believe Lionel Tiger, asked Regan to give me a chance to speak.
The best bits, though, were off-camera. During the first or second break, Regan told me that I must had a “cold and distant mother” because it was obvious that I hated mothers. (At that point, I probably should have walked off the set, but I contented myself with informing her that my relationship with my mother was just fine.) When the show was over and I was walking off the set past La Regan’s desk, my gracious host told me once again that I was grievously wrong to think that father absence was often not the fault of fathers. “Then why is it that it’s mothers who initiate divorces two-thirds of the time?” I asked. In response, Regan shrieked, “Because all those men are pigs! And I hope that some day, you marry a guy who chokes you and gives you a black eye!” (as she alleged her ex had done to her).
And there’s a postscript. (No, I did not marry a man who choked me and gave me a black eye.) At a conference a year or so later, I ran into Diane O’Connell, who had co-written Sanford Braver’s Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths. O’Connell, who had either seen or heard about my run-in with Regan, told me about one of her own: she was all set to co-write some sports figure’s autobiography which Regan was interested in publishing, and met with Regan to discuss the project. Then, a couple of days later, the offer was abruptly withdrawn. O’Connell learned from her agent that Regan had blackballed her after learning about her co-authorship of the Braver book, which is sympathetic to divorced fathers.
I can’t really say that I bear Regan a personal grudge. Being used for target practice on national television was not a lot of fun, but it probably did sell a few books (all the mail I got as a result of that appearance was sympathetic, with several people telling me they were appalled by Regan’s behavior toward me). My issue with her is not that she was rude to me, it’s that she’s an anti-father bigot. (A friend who used to work for HarperCollins, not directly for Regan but with a few people who had direct contact with her, told me that she was famous for referring to the father of her children as “the sperm donor.”) Another sad thing is that women like Regan claim — and perhaps sincerely think — that they are disliked because our culture labels strong, independent, aggressive women as bitches. Unfortunately, sometimes the label fits.