March 8, 2013 § 13 Comments
This is not, I repeat, NOT a review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In.” So there.
Is this what it’s come to? Fairly or not, Republicans have the reputation of being the party of “My-Way-Or-The-Highway” mentality of policy and politics. They are famous for closing ranks around the most powerful among them, and flinging anyone who dares to deviate from the standard party line to the ground. If a Republican deviates, suggests a compromise, or reaches across the aisle he or she is met with derision and accusations of anti-patriotism from fellow Republicans. Frozen out. (While this is, of course, not true of all Republicans, and Democrats engage in this behavior, too, it’s a fairly common perception.) At any rate, as a result of this infighting and the results of the last election, many are (rightly or wrongly) ringing the death knell for the Republican Party. Are Feminists heading down the same road?
Not only are women slamming Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg for being out of touch with the average worker, we’re slamming each other for slamming them. How many layers of disgust and venom must we pile on one another before the insanity stops? Dare to call BS on Mayer’s new Yahoo! policy or Sandberg’s new feminesto (feminist + manifesto = feminesto. It’s just fewer syllables, k?) and you are a “hater,” “absurd,” and (I loved this one…) “Dowdian.” As if it were in insult to be quoted by Maureen Dowd. Dare to support or defend Mayer or Sandberg, and you’re setting back the cause of Feminism or insensitive to the needs of mothers. Why such polarization? Is it necessary? Is it productive?
What are we doing to elevate the level of discourse? Joanne Bamberger (full disclosure – a friend of mine) wrote a powerful piece in USA Today about Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg. She cogently argued that the duo is setting standards for the workplace that are destined to foster resentment and guilt among mothers in the workforce. I don’t agree with everything in the piece (I’m not sure, for example, that Sandberg isn’t interested in giving women a hand up,) but much of it rings true, and I definitely get where she is coming from. Mayer’s decree is tone-deaf and feels much more like it comes from the castle tower – though as I’ve said before, time will tell if her banning flextime and working from home was a good business decision. Sandberg’s exhortations that women stand up for themselves in the workplace and not be afraid to ask for more than they’re offered seems to come from a better place, but still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of people who don’t have the luxury of using their vacation days to launch a movement or a book tour.
In the meantime, Joanne was called a “hater” and had her scholarship questioned because she didn’t explicitly state in her piece that she had read Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” before she critiqued it. (She HAD read the book, by the way.) When I heard this, I marched (as much as one can march on a laptop) right over to those other articles, my protective side having been called to the surface, ready to defend my friend. I read Joan Walsh’s piece in Salon magazine. Apart from lumping Joanne in with the “haters,” I actually found myself agreeing with a lot of this article. I haven’t read “Leaning In” myself, but I certainly would now, just to see whose version I feel it more closely resembles. I like the advice Walsh described about asking for more than you’re offered, and choosing your spouse wisely so that you are supported in ALL of your important goals, including career, and her defense of Sandberg seems sound to me. I disregarded the snark (which was definitely there,) detracted from the piece.
Anna Holmes’ piece in the New Yorker also smacked down many who criticized Sandberg, but with much more derisive language and, it seemed to me, outright hostility. She takes great liberties in her assumptions of the critics (my friend, included). However, I actually happen to agree with her on other points, particularly when she identifies one important problem with the criticism of Sandberg. She’s “galled…by the subtext that because Sandberg is rich she can’t possibly be sincere in her advocacy of women.” So even as I truly disliked the tone and knew some of her presumptions to be false, I found something of value in the piece.
At the risk of sounding like I’m sighing, and saying, “Why can’t everyone think more like I do?” – well, WHY CAN’T EVERYONE THINK MORE LIKE I DO???? I can disagree without resorting to name-calling. (Though I did call the guy from Suspension Notice a Drama Queen.) I can hear an opposing viewpoint without taking it personally. You know what? I can even hear someone being critical of my viewpoint without being insulted! Unless, of course, we’re talking about the Mets or the Orioles. That’s personal.
I’m a big believer in diversity of opinion and background being a strength rather than a weakness. The intense pressure to conform to the thinking of whatever the group troubles me deeply. Joanne has every right to be critical of Sandberg and Mayer without being labeled a hater. Holmes and Walsh have the right to disagree with Joanne’s criticism, and can do so very eloquently WITHOUT the name-calling and baseless accusations of her not having read the book. Why must we make this PERSONAL, people? Shouldn’t we, as women and feminists, be setting the standard for mature discourse – given the appalling LACK of it from our predominantly male legislators?
Maybe I’m naive, but I believe everyone has something to contribute. Furthermore, I feel a responsibility to distill the information and discussion down to what speaks to me and helps me learn. To take from the criticism what makes sense, and maybe call BS on the parts that don’t – while doing my damnedest to be respectful of the people with whom I’m disagreeing. The more rational the critique, the more powerful in my eyes. But when was the last time rationality sold magazines? That might explain why I don’t make enough to file taxes…or buy a copy of “Lean In.”
April 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
Oh, for the love of Pete.
Okay, I am not a news junkie – nor am I an expert on anything other than being minimally overscheduled. I just really need to vent here. Bit of a tantrum – sorry in advance.
Hillary Rosen and the dubiously-named “Mommy Wars?” Eager to pounce on the slightest misstep, Republicans and Stay-at-Home-Moms are up in arms about her comments about Ann Romney. Is there ANYONE who really thinks Rosen’s comments were an attack on SAHMs? That she was saying parenting is easy? That she was pitting working mothers against mothers who don’t have (paying) jobs? Is this really about life choices? NOOOOOO!!!!! (You can watch the clip and see the resulting Twitter comments here.) Today Rosen apologized for her remarks, but, crap. We are one touchy nation.
What is so obvious to me is that all Hillary Rosen was doing was calling bullshit on Mitt Romney for holding up his wife as a voice of the struggling, disenfranchised women of this country. The end.
What kills me is the backpedaling. It drives me nuts. Why can’t Dems stand behind their people? David Axelrod calling her comments offensive. Obama people saying “Oh, she doesn’t advise US…” Axelrod, why aren’t you coming out and saying, “Come on. Substance and context, please. She wasn’t saying SAHMs don’t work HARD. She was saying ANN ROMNEY doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor, and to hold her up as someone who can accurately convey to Mitt how concerned women are with economics is a wee bit disingenuous.”
Hold the phone, though – here’s where I scold the Dems for pouncing on Mitt Romney in the same irritating way. It’s not often you’ll see me making an argument defending Mitt Romney, so savor it, but frankly, bad behavior irritates me regardless of the political party from which it emanates.
Remember when Mitt was in Michigan? When he made those ELITIST, SNOBBY remarks about Ann having a couple of Cadillacs? Read the NYT article about it here. My reaction at the time? “Oh, for Christ’s sake.” My fellow liberals and Democrats – he was in MICHIGAN. Cadillacs (and many other American cars) are made in MICHIGAN. He was talking to AUTO WORKERS. Give the guy a small BREAK, please. Romney is wealthy and shouldn’t have to apologize for it or make himself seem like a blue-collar worker. I don’t care how much money he makes – I care how much SENSE he makes. (Which is why, of course, I vote for Obama…)
Remember when Romney’s advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom uttered the famous Etch-a-Sketch analogy? (See Talking Points Memo’s take on it here.) People were horrified – Dems were elated – Republicans were cringing – something else to pounce on!!! Really, though, was Fehrnstrom saying anything we didn’t already know about politics? That politicians of all stripes, if their eyes are really on the prize of the presidency, have to say what people want to hear? That in some parts of the country people have wants and needs that conflict with the wants and needs of people in other parts of the country? That said conflict will result in contradicting statements coming from a candidate? And that once that candidate has secured the nomination the campaign essentially starts from scratch? I don’t like it – it’s not pretty or elegant or even fair. It is, however, the nature of politics. Rare is the politician who says what he or she truly thinks regardless of where he or she is in the country; who says the same thing regardless of audience. Well, put it this way. Rare is the one who makes it up to the presidential race.
I swear, I just want to send everyone in this country to their rooms for a time out. You know, to think about how they can improve their behavior. All this outrage and drama over people essentially revealing what they are and how politics works? The ease (and even relish) with which so many people are offended? Bill Maher did a great op-ed piece in the New York Times about this, calling for a national day of not apologizing.
Here is my plea to politicians and citizens alike. Politicians, a little more backbone wouldn’t kill you. Citizens, a little more depth of thought would be great. And for all of us, a little less dependence on the shallowness the 24/7 news/entertainment cycle needs to feed the parasite that passes for public discourse in this country.
There. Now I feel better. Thanks for listening.