Leaving Gender at the Door

February 26, 2013 § 110 Comments

Interviewer:  So, why do you write these strong female characters?
Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Because you’re still asking me that question.

What I see whenever I sit at my desk at home.

What I see whenever I sit at my desk at home.

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NSFYE (Not Safe For Yahoo! Employees)

So, Marissa Mayer banned working from home for her Yahoo! employees. Hilarity ensued.  Not really. More like polarization between women has intensified.  I have a vague sense male CEOs and workers are sitting down with popcorn to watch the catfight and go “Rawr.”

I worry that our reactions, no matter how well-intended and articulate and based in truths, aren’t wholly productive.  Why is it more outrageous for a female CEO to ban flextime than for a male CEO?  I don’t think it is.  It’s a questionable business decision, and only time will tell if it is a good one, but would the outrage be as severe if it came from a man?  I doubt it, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Let’s talk about the policy itself.  It constricts parents of both genders.  It constricts adults of both genders.  It constricts any male or female who would like to enjoy the benefit of staying home with a sick kid, taking an aging parent to the doctor, or giving blood at a time that is convenient for them.  In this post I wrote last June, I posited the following:

Ideally, in order for one spouse to have true flexibility in and control over his or her scheduling, the other spouse would have it, too.  Because for every mother I know who needs flexibility to support her career, I know a father who needs flexibility to support his family life.  For every mother who needs control over her schedule so she can present a case in court or put on a hard hat and climb into the sewers, there is a father who needs flexibility to leave work early to coach his daughter’s softball team or make dinner while the mother is making closing arguments.

Let’s talk about the person who issued the policy.  Marissa Mayer never claimed to be a pioneer/crusader for the family-friendly workplace.  Au contraire.  I think she made it very clear from the time she was hired that work was her priority. Frankly, this policy change doesn’t surprise me at all.  My friend, Elissa Freeman, wrote a piece defending Mayer, and even expressed the hope that

(m)aybe, just maybe, Mayer has a grander plan. Once she has the credibility of saving a company and winning the respect of Wall Street, she will have the potential of standing on an even grander soapbox for carving out family friendly policies. Policies that even the old boys will have to take into consideration.

Maybe, though I doubt she will, because that is not who she claimed to be or what she claims to want.

I understand having higher hopes for a female CEO of such a large company.  (I, too, cheer a little louder for the underdog when they break through barriers, whether it is a female CEO, a gay couple getting a marriage license, or the New York Mets breaking .500.)   Yet, just because a person is in possession of a uterus doesn’t mean she also possesses wisdom, empathy, or vision.  As a matter of fact, I know of plenty of women who hurt the causes of gender equity and families in general.  Last January, I decried a new rule by the Federal Reserve making credit cards available based on individual, rather than household income. In that post, I was urging women to get more involved in politics.  Then, I did more research on the Federal Reserve.  Three of the five members at the time were women.

It’s understandable women feel thrown under the bus by one of their own.  I’m disappointed, too.  But I’m inclined to be cautious with my criticism.  I fear we do more harm than good by having different expectations for women in power than men.  I worry when we criticize a person rather than a policy.  I don’t want to cloud the very important issue of family-friendly work-places and productivity by calling Marissa Mayer on the carpet for being a FEMALE who made a certain decision rather than a CEO who made a certain decision.  Counterintuitive as it seems, advancing gender equity might be better achieved by leaving gender OUT of it.

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Brave New World of Parenting

February 19, 2013 § 34 Comments

I am so proud of my kids.  Most people are proud of their kids, but this week, I feel especially proud.

My husband and I did something very scary this weekend.  We left the kids home by themselves overnight.  It was my daughter’s idea.

Now, those of you who have declared us delusional and insane, please allow me to explain how this situation evolved.

My parents, incredibly generous souls that they are, have in the last few years taken a new approach to birthdays and anniversaries.  Once a year, between my sister’s birthday and mine, they treat us and our husbands to dinner and tickets to a Broadway show.  This covers all four of our birthdays and our two anniversaries.  It is a real treat for us, as we sisters and our men are really never able to double date – just the grown-ups.  They live in New York, we’re in Baltimore, and when visits happen, they’re entire-family-style.

This year, my daughter launched a gentle protest.  She has a job, likes to sleep late in her own bed on the weekends, and didn’t feel like being schlepped up to NY so her parents and aunt and uncle could go out.  She’s 16, one of our sons is 14, and the other son is 9.  They all love seeing their NY family, but she was angling to stay home.

“I’d arrange all my rides myself – to and from work.  If I made any plans, I would take care of finding transportation.  You wouldn’t have to worry about any of it.”  Ya know, except for the worrying about it that I ‘d normally do if I was 200 miles away.  Older son is catching wind of this, and starting to like the idea.  I mean, if his sister wasn’t going, maybe he could stay home, too – he won’t admit it, but he likes family visits more when she’s around.  Then came the potential clincher.  “Think about it – we could take care of Leo (9YO) and you guys could have a grown-up weekend without the kids!”  Oooooooh, she’s a sly one, she is.

We said we’d think about it.  We mulled.  We discussed.  We asked Leo if he would rather come with us or stay home if the big kids were allowed to stay home.  He said he’d rather stay home.  Truthfully, we felt if Leo stayed home, there were actually FEWER chances of irresponsible behavior on the part of the older kids.  They really adore him and take great care of him if we’re not around.  I consulted my parents about this potential arrangement.  My father would give Emma the keys to a new Lexus if he could, but my mother is a little more reserved in what she thinks is okay to allow the kids to do.  So, when SHE said she thought with the right preparation and precautions, it would be fine, I exhaled and the deal was done.  “But I want TO GET CREDIT for this, got it???  Your kids OWE ME.”  “I promise, Mom, they will know of your part in this,” I assured her.

We prepared them ad nauseum.  We put safety nets in place.  We established simple and hard and fast rules, like the boyfriend couldn’t come over after work, the garage door had to stay closed, no candles, GPS on their phones must be ON at all times, no word of it on any social media, etc.  We enlisted a few of our neighbors and a close friend to keep their cell phones on in the event of a medical or safety emergency.  We advised the neighbors to keep their eyes and ears open for smoke, parties, roaming zoo animals, anything that might seem out of place in our tiny neighborhood with houses very close to one another.  They agreed, and even spoke some encouraging words about how mature our kids were, and they weren’t worried.

So, after breakfast hugs and squeezes and warnings and copies of instructions and phone numbers strategically placed in practically EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE, Dave and I got into the car and drove off.  We couldn’t believe it.  We were really at the stage where we could go away for a night?  Birds chirped, holding the ends of rainbows in their beaks, leading the entire way up the New Jersey Turnpike.  We didn’t even double to check to see if the kids were with us when we left the rest stop.  We were pretty okay with this, despite the slight, nagging fear that the house would look like this when we came home:

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We made random contact with the kiddos a couple of times, knew Emma got safely to work and back, texted with Nicky about the pancakes he was making Leo for dinner, and knew when they were all home for the night.  My parents even joined us for dinner, so it was a rare TRIPLE date.  I don’t think that has happened for 17 years.  After dinner, we saw “Book of Mormon” and laughed and laughed.  Spoke to the kids in the morning, grabbed bagels and took off for home.

It worked!  We pulled it off!  The kids pulled it off!  They were fine, didn’t miss us, and barely noticed when we walked through the door.  They noticed the Brooklyn bagels we left on the counter, but otherwise, it was as if we never left.  We congratulated ourselves, and patted the kids on the back for being so mature, responsible, and trustworthy.  They’re growing up.  So are we.

(P.S. Then later that night I got into bed at midnight and got a text from Emma saying she needed a ride home from a party that was being busted up by the cops and she was cooperating with the cops but she couldn’t leave until they spoke to me and when I got there and she blew zeros on the breathalyzer they let her go and I told her ass she was lucky she didn’t get a citation and we gave her a painful lecture at 1 a.m. and then I got into bed at 2 am and then at 3:30 am Leo came into our room and threw up.  The end.)

Go Daddy Inspires This Go Mommy to Go BYE-BYE.

February 6, 2013 § 22 Comments

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Maybe I joined them because I had heard from others more experienced that their product really was the best available at the time.  Maybe I stayed with them because I had already paid for 2 years of my domain name.  Maybe I stayed because I had actually had very good customer service help from them, and had never experienced any difficulties with my site.  I’ve often gagged at their aggressively sexist advertising, but I am a technophobe, and the less I have to deal with the mechanics of my domain name, the better.  I gagged, but I swallowed.

Well, I am proud to say I refuse to swallow any more.  I’m embarrassed it has taken me this long, but for the sake of so much I care about and write about, I am throwing Go Daddy out.  Their 2013 Superbowl ad was the proverbial straw.

There is so much wrong with their advertising campaign in general, I don’t even know where to begin.  Feel free to go to Google or YouTube for examples.  I would rather not link to it here.  Suffice it to say it has always been blatant in its promise of pornography and objectification of women.  The ads that did make it to television (many have been banned) invite you to visit the website for the longer, unrated versions of these commercials.  Feel free if you’re into long close-ups of the unadorned female genitalia. I have no problem with pornography (well, that’s not true – many things about it bother me) but I’d rather not see it advertised on something I’m watching with my 9-year-old.

Don’t get me wrong.  The ads that make it to TV aren’t pornographic, but they are clearly USING pornography to sell their product, and I can’t in good conscience participate in it any more.  I know my measly site with actual subscribers only in the double digits, and average monthly views in the triple digits realistically means  nothing to them.  I also know that the very same thing that motivates me to cut ties actually propels them to great success.  Doesn’t matter.  They’re still gone.

Here are some other reasons I can no longer stomach Go Daddy.

1.  Their recent ads are based on the notion that brains and beauty don’t often come packaged together.  They are mutually exclusive in Go Daddy’s eyes.  Except in THEIR product.  They can make being smart sexy!  Because lord knows when you see a beautiful woman, it’s WAAAAY too much to ask that she have intellectual substance, too.  And lord knows if you see a man who isn’t a Calvin Klein model, there’s no WAY he can have a sexy side.  This premise is so insulting to BOTH genders, and it does way more harm than good.

2.  Danica Patrick.  One step forward, three steps back.  Her breakthrough career in the man’s world of racing opened doors for women, although she’s always been comfortable using her beauty to get ahead.  I’m not sure a female racer who looked like Jabba the Hut would have made it that far – even if she had the talent.  But Danica Patrick DOES have talent, and I don’t fault her for using her looks to further her racing career.  By lending her name and image, though, to such blatantly sexist advertising – advertising that does its level best to REDUCE women to sex toys and nothing more – I’d assert she is making it MORE difficult for women to succeed and be taken seriously in ANYTHING they undertake.  I mean, seriously – is this a career path you’d recommend for Sam Gordon?  The 9-year-old girl who plays football, and DESTROYS any team she’s playing?  Not with her looks, mind you – but with her incredible talent?

3.  “A Perfect Match.”  This is the title of their 2013 Superbowl ad in which an Israeli (female, did I really need to say that?) supermodel represents “Sexy” while a pudgy, red-faced man shaped like a water balloon represents “Smart.”  They kiss for at least 20 seconds of the spot.  We’re treated to close-ups of their mouths and slurpy audio that goes with their kissing for almost that entire time.  My family room and everyone in it at the time wanted to poke out their mind’s eye and ear with a fork.  If it was possible, I’m sure the wall onto which the TV is mounted would have ripped itself from my house and run into the woods screaming, “MAKE IT STOP!!!  MAKE IT STOP!!!!”

Now, before anyone gets all up in my grill about if the guy was hot, would I have liked it any more, let me be clear.  No.  No, I would not have.  I will be honest with you – I dislike being that close to anyone engaging in anything sexual no matter WHAT they look like.  Unless, of course, I am one of the people involved.  I’d be willing to bet many people feel that way.  When you engage in sexual activity in public – on a park bench, at the movies, etc., you make it very difficult for people NOT to look at you.  Of course, I can look away, but when I am in public, I resent being put in that position.  When I’m watching the Superbowl with friends and family, I shouldn’t find myself diving for the remote frantically trying to find the “Mute” button.

To me, Go Daddy is the Howard Stern of the advertising world.  Smart, successful, funny – because to be fair, quite a few of their commercials are smart and funny – but so degrading to women that I cannot support them with my business.  Here’s the bottom line.  The degree to which Go Daddy demeans women is so egregious, for me it completely erases any positives their services have to offer.  Their tactics go beyond entertaining.  Beyond offensive.  Beyond sexist.  Beyond aggressive.  We’re bordering on sociopathy, here, and I’m done.

Smoove Moves

February 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

If you’re not a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, I totally understand – it doesn’t exactly have a wholesome, universal appeal.  However, we in the Worthington household are HUGE fans.  On that show, JB Smoove plays what might be the funniest and most outrageous recurring character in any comedy series, hands down.  Meet Leon Black, in this EXTREMELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR CHILDREN scene, passing himself off as a Jewish accountant named Danny Duberstein, who overcame (fictional) Groat’s Disease…

Here’s a compliation of some of his best Curb scenes – also ENSFWOC…

When we saw him in DC doing stand-up, he was every bit as hilarious and disgusting and lovable as Leon Black, but add brilliant to the mix and you have JB.  Here are some of the reasons we spent almost 2 straight hours laughing.

InSANE physical comedy – he’s as at home imitating women who are good at walking in high heels (think Beyonce,) and women who aren’t (think Tyrannosaurus Rex,) as he is imitating a gentleman from the 1780s settling a dispute with a pistol (think, I dunno, Aaron Burr.)

Metaphors as disgusting and ridiculous as they are accurate…like how the difference between twisting the nipple of a small breast vs. a large one.  Cracking a safe vs. spinning a roulette wheel.  Sound effects, physical comedy and all.  On the pervasiveness of crime in Detroit?  Want ads that say “Stolen Car For Sale.”  Threat pages instead of Obituaries.  “Jack Thompson – you might not want to show up to work tomorrow…”

Harvey Korman moments.  There were at LEAST 3 times when he started giggling and had to stop the show to compose himself.  It is impossible not to laugh at and with a comedian who is laughing.

The best, though was afterwards – he was signing posters and t-shirts for the fans, and we waited to get a poster for our 14-year-old son (who may or may not have been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm since he was 10 or something *cough*.)  I kid you not, this was one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met.  He was as sweet with the young, embarrassingly worshipful frat kid who kept coming back for more autographs and pictures and fist bumps as he was with the loud lady who kept inserting herself into his routines from the audience.

When it was our turn, and I smiled and held my hand out, he shook mine with both of his and asked, as if he REALLY wanted to know, “Do you enjoy yourself, tonight?”  I said, “Oh, my god, are you KIDDING me?” and he beamed and said, “I am SO glad to hear that!!!”  Having been a parent for almost 17 years, a middle school teacher for 3 years before that, I consider myself someone with a pretty finely attuned bullshit detector.  None here.  Perhaps I was star struck, but I really got the feeling he was happy to hear it.

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Dave said, apologetically, “We’re kinda your more low-key type of fans compared to the others in line…” which made JB laugh a great belly laugh and put his arm around Dave saying, “That’s alright, that’s alright…”  We told him about our indoctrination of Nicky (Emma, too, but Nicky’s really the hard-core fan) to the Curb club at an age so young some might consider revoking our parenting card, but he (not surprisingly) loved it and wrote a great note to Nicky on the poster we bought.

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And if you want to know what the “Long Balls” reference is, here ya go.  http://www.ranker.com/list/best-leon-black-quotes-from-curb-your-enthusiasm/movie-and-tv-quotes?format=SLIDESHOW&page=3

At the end of the show, he promised to bug Larry David to do another season of Curb.  We’re hoping hard here, at the Worthington house, that he succeeds.

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