Putting a woman in charge won't fix what's wrong with Fox

Another FOX News shakeup as lawsuits pile up
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Story highlights

  • Jill Filipovic: Women were key to ousting O'Reilly, Ailes, Shine. But that doesn't mean the old boy network will change
  • A woman is replacing Shine, but this presents a host of complications -- including the Glass Cliff

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, and the author of the new book "The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness." Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Over at Fox News, great men are falling -- and women are not only the ones bringing them down, but replacing them. The latest man ousted at the network is Bill Shine, right-hand man to the disgraced former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, himself given the boot after years of sexual harassment allegations came to light (and costing Fox $20 million in a settlement payout).

Jill Filipovic
Fox News star anchor Bill O'Reilly was also fired after he was accused of sexually harassing his female colleagues, resulting in $13 million in settlements paid out by Fox and O'Reilly (Ailes and O'Reilly both deny the accusations).
Let's pause here to note that it was women, including Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and the many women who have accused O'Reilly of harassment over the years, who brought down Fox's top dogs. Whether or not this portends a new day for the old-boy network -- well, we will see.
    With Ailes, O'Reilly and Shine gone, there are a few men -- Tucker Carlson replaced O'Reilly -- but the women of Fox seem to be ascending: Suzanne Scott is taking over much of Shine's role.
    This, unfortunately, is typical: When companies are in crisis because of poor male leadership, that's when they tend to put women at the head. And then when the sinking ship inevitably goes down, it's a female leader, and not her male predecessors, who shoulders the blame. It's such a common occurrence that social scientists have even given it a name: The Glass Cliff.
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    Whether the women of Fox will be able to walk the company back from the precipice is an open question. As is the issue of the company's culture: Now that sexual harassment at Fox has consequences (at least sometimes), will it end?
    That seems unlikely, especially if the network wants to maintain its image as a conservative mouthpiece. Many in the American right remain suspicious -- some even hostile -- to women's rights and freedoms, and the Trump administration has made a spectacle of mocking "political correctness," of which sexual harassment claims are a part. Trump himself has been accused of both sexual harassment and sexual assault, and he wrote his comments and actions off to "locker room talk" ("boy talk," his wife, Melania Trump, called it), saying they were taken out of context by overly-sensitive liberal feminists.
    Many in the Trump base seem to believe that sexism doesn't really exist (or at least doesn't matter) and that we would be better off bringing America back to the "Mad Men" days, when women were mostly at home and boys could be boys. After all, if his supporters are determined to restore America to some mythical earlier model -- that is, to "Make America Great Again" -- how exactly does that play out for women?
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    You can bet it reflects the same ethos Fox champions on air. Is it any surprise that accounts of what was going on behind the camera come off as positively pre-modern, with men apparently given nearly unlimited rein to behave badly?
    At Fox, the women who now stand on the glass cliff have also long allegedly enabled male misdeeds, according to press reports. They've allegedly covered for men like O'Reilly and Ailes, and even undermined women who reported harassment. That doesn't bode well for future female Fox employees.
    It's going to be awfully hard for the network to have it both ways -- to propagandize for good old American patriarchy while also respecting, supporting, and promoting its female employees. Fox, notably, only gave serial harassers the ax when its advertising dollars and, more importantly, its hoped for deal with Sky News, were threatened. Capitalism, not any moral or ethical concern, was what toppled the company's giants.
    Fox's viewer base is old white conservative men. They may like seeing attractive blondes on camera, but they want their red meat -- and that doesn't mean feminism or even fair treatment for women. It's a good thing that the worst harassers and those who covered it up are out at Fox. But it may not mean any real change is coming.