Regulatory chiefs are often market experts or academics. But Ms. White spent nearly a decade as United States attorney in New York, the first woman named to this post. Among her prominent cases, she oversaw the prosecution of the mafia boss John Gotti as well as the people responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She is now working the other side, defending Wall Street firms and executives as a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton.
And it did not disappoint. I think this article articulates Tina’s feminist approach in the book, and in life, well:
Fey’s strategy for dealing with everything from entrenched discrimination to garden-variety chauvinism is to write a joke, a better joke than the other people in the room. You see, some of us have forgotten this basic point: Responding to a situation with humor, as opposed to, say, dead-serious self-righteousness, is a rhetorically effective way to get a political point across.
Overall the book was amazing. I laughed outloud at least ten times. I could relate to Tina and wanted her to be my bestie. I admired her, learned about life and motherhood and career, and never felt her dragging a topic out beyond it’s best length. She was warmer when talking about 30 Rock, her daughter, and her husband, balancing her “tough girl feminism,” but I hope the book she writes in her 50s is even more vulnerable.
Kate Bolick’s article in The Atlantic is well-worth the long read if you’re pondering gender and marriage. She summarizes a lot of the important, current dialogue of feminism: what is the new shape of marriage? are there enough suitable male partners for the modern, successful woman? why is the 1960s marriage widely seen as the marriage model anyway? can single be enough?
Kate’s summary of social historian Stephanie Coontz’s history of American marriage is important. They both argue that a mom-in-kitchen, dad-at-work marriage was a reality for only a minority of American history. Why do we focus on that model so much? Is it because it was most recent? Or because our gender roles are connected to that model most strongly? I think both, but knowing the history makes me more sure that marriage is fluid, changing, and will adapt to the modern woman.
What Coontz found was even more interesting than she’d originally expected. In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, she surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible. She’d long known that the Leave It to Beaver–style family model popular in the 1950s and ’60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.
Kate’s stats on men were the most extreme I’ve read, and pretty depressing:
An analysis by Michael Greenstone, an economist at MIT, reveals that, after accounting for inflation, male median wages have fallen by 32 percent since their peak in 1973, once you account for the men who have stopped working altogether. The Great Recession accelerated this imbalance. Nearly three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost in the depths of the recession were lost by men, making 2010 the first time in American history that women made up the majority of the workforce. Men have since then regained a small portion of the positions they’d lost—but they remain in a deep hole, and most of the jobs that are least likely ever to come back are in traditionally male-dominated sectors, like manufacturing and construction.
And her honest examination of the single woman is the best part. Kate talks about “all the single ladies” and tries to find a place for them in today. Should single women be enjoying their solo days as a phase before they finally find a mate, or can we accept single as a permanent status? I think she lands on the idea that single women who don’t settle for a mate can and must accept their single lives as enough, and that doing so requires some societal or at least peer group acceptance of the lifestyle (Kate goes abroad to find such acceptance).
[T]he single woman is very rarely seen for who she is—whatever that might be—by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status.
This is not to question romantic love itself. Rather, we could stand to examine the ways in which we think about love; and the changing face of marriage is giving us a chance to do this. “Love comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part that craves that piece of chocolate, or a work promotion,” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and perhaps this country’s leading scholar of love, told me. That we want is enduring; what we want changes as culture does.
I can’t do it justice. Read it all or at least skim.
I’ve had many conversations with level-headed men and women friends about feminism, women in business, women in politics, gender equality, and this blog which have ended in this place:
“But women are emotional. They shouldn’t have to repress their emotions and feelings and their nature is just better suited to the home. And maybe teaching, maybe nursing. It’s not that women are inferior, they’re just different and they shouldn’t be forced to behave like men.”
I actually agree with a lot of this. I agree that men and women usually have a lot of differences. I agree that most women experience and embrace more emotions than most men, and I think we handle and express them better more often. I also agree that we should not have to “behave like men” (which I understand to mean being sort of the opposite of emotional).
What I don’t agree with, is the conclusion that because women are more emotional, they cannot be business leaders or politicians alongside men. Women and men have different strengths. The idea that being emotional is bad for business is so entrenched in our culture that we can easily fail to see that being emotional can also be great for business.
I always start with the example of Sheryl Sandberg when I rebut these level-headed friends, because she’s awesome and her career makes the argument well. Sheryl is the COO of Facebook now, was a VP at Google before that, and was chief of staff at the Department of the Treasury before that. She speaks often and well about women in business (TED talk here) and walks the walk.
I think Sheryl is successful not because she subverts her emotional side, but because she uses it. Can you imagine that a woman’s social nature and intuition could benefit a company like Facebook which is based on connecting people? Can you see how female passion and creativity could be good for Google which succeeds because of innovation and pushing boundaries? As chief of staff I’ve got to believe that social skills and the ability to read and listen to people helps to manage a group of people in a demanding organization like the Treasury. The “soft” and “emotional” nature of women that gets such a bad rap in business is a strength when used as one.
I know you’ve all had a female supervisor that you call a bitch and think is a poor leader because of her mood swings. Heard it, been there. That’s not the only way to play this out, though. Try thinking about the differences between men and women in this more positive light instead. Male leadership and directness and logical nature ain’t always exactly what is good for business either, right? Oh, you’ve also had a male boss who lost a client because he didn’t properly see and meet their needs? It’s just not so simple.
The linked article here discusses Obama’s impending nomination of Tara Sonenshine for the position of secretary of state for public diplomacy. Beyond her twenty-something years of experience in media and foreign relations, I think it’s possible that Tara may also helpfully bring some of her lady skills to a job focused on diplomacy. Women are excellent listeners. We are sympathetic and empathetic and we seek and create solutions.
Another official told The Cable today that Sonenshine “understands that the key to public diplomacy is revitalizing the morale of the people who serve in it, and she understands that public diplomacy practitioners have talents and need to be empowered to do things they are not empowered to do now.”
The job, right now, also looks like it could use someone who is motivational and encouraging and creative with human resources. A socially-minded woman can be great at changing the culture of an organization and shifting human capital to be most productive.
Get it, girl.
Ambition in women is not rewarded all the time, and in this documentary, it is celebrated.
A year and a half ago I started writing a book that comes out today.
I am so terrified, you guys. Not because I don’t think the book is great-– which it really is, I swear-– but because it is the first thing I’ve ever done creatively that is 100% me. There hasn’t been a more…
With Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ announcement today that Heather Bresch — company president and daughter of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin — would succeed outgoing CEO Robert Coury, the number of female CEOs on the Forbes Fortune 500 list reached 18, a new record.