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Penis! Penis! Penis! Archie Comics Co-CEO Charged With Gender Discrimination

This is why we can’t have nice things. Nancy Silberkleit became co-CEO of Archie Comics–home of the beloved and socially progressive characters Archie, Jughead, Kevin Keller, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch– in 2008 after her husband’s death. Now male employees are claiming she called them

penis

instead of by their names, brought bikers to business meetings as intimidation, and basically acted in awful ways, along with wanting to undermine the cheerful and wholesome nature of Archie Comics. According to the New York Daily News, in 2011 Silberkleit’s co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater

filed suit seeking her ouster her in 2011, charging she was unstable and threatening to run the company into the ground.

That case settled last year, with an agreement that Silberkleit would have limited interactions with the employees, and that a go-between would represent her interests with the company…

The [new] dispute erupted earlier this year, when the go-between Silberkleit selected, Samuel Levitin, filed papers in Westchester  Surrogate’s Court charging that she’d become unhinged – and even wanted to tart up beloved characters Betty and Veronica. He said she needed to be removed altogether.

This is behavior that if true makes Nancy Silberkleit look awful. Tarting up Betty and Veronica!? That’s blasphemy! What’s next, having Sabrina sacrifice a baby to her Dark Lord Satan?  (Silberkleit returned the favor, responding that Levitin has sexually harassed her, and asking that he be removed as go-between). Oh, and penis. [cont’d.]

I’m not going to say Mrs. Silberkleit is crazy, because calling women crazy is a way to diminish them, and gives a vague, dismissive umbrella explanation for behaviors of any gender.  So while she may not be crazy, she definitely has a unique management style. According to a $32.5 million law suit filed in October, 2012 the five  plaintiffs, including Archie president Mike Pellerito and editor-in-chief Victor Gorelick, are

seeking a court order keeping her two miles away from the office, and say her “deliberate and disturbed campaign of outrageous conduct” has them so freaked out an armed guard’s been posted in the office…Silberkleit, they say, invited Hell’s Angels to Archie’s Mamaroneck offices in an apparent effort to “intimidate” them, and has repeatedly inquired about the whereabouts of the handgun and 750 rounds of ammo her husband kept at the office. She’s also stalked the employees and their families, the suit says.

Additionally, the employees filed a gender discrimination suit against her, something her lawyer wants dismissed because

white guys aren’t members of “a protected class.”

Okay maybe not discrimination, but certainly one could argue she made the work place uncomfortable by calling the men “penis” instead of Victor or Mike. The quintet of white men claim that Silberkleit used her

“gender as a weapon” by yelling “Penis! Penis! Penis!” during a business meeting…”[T]he word ‘penis’ became somewhat of a campaign slogan and her preferred method of referring to employees in lieu of their names.”

What if a man had called a female employee

vagina

or

sugar tits

–is that okay? If it’s not okay to call a woman by her body parts rather than her name, then it’s not okay to call a man, be he white or green

penis

(Calling someone an asshole is gender non-specific, though it carries a different connotation than penis or any slang term for vagina, each of has its one shades of meaning)

Silberkleit won’t step down and says the charges are

untrue and twisted..I have not had any interactions with these people. It’s all very puzzling. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads.

So either Nancy Silberkleit is the victim of a vast conspiracy to remove her as co-CEO, a conspiracy possibly based in sexism and ageism that is straight off a small screen soap opera like Dallas rather than out of  Riverdale, home to Archie and his pals. Or she maybe needs to rethink her management skills, which if the charges are true, pretty much suck.

And as far as the plaintiffs having no standing because of (white) male privilege, if you wouldn’t stand for that behavior in a man, then don’t take it from a woman. That’s truly what being non-sexist is about.

Images: Private collection.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.