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“She’s doing it the way she wants to do it”: Abramson vs Mad Men

Peggy Olson questions herself

Woot!  Talk about timely.  Matt Weiner batted one out of the park last night with Mad Men.  He encapsulated in one episode what many woman go through in the working world every day.  Quick summary: Peggy Olson is the creative for an ad for Burger Chef.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Don, her former boss, now works for her.  Pete, the sales guy, says that when it comes time to give the presentation to the client, he thinks Don should give the presentation, not Peggy.  That’s because Don is the voice of authority, Peggy brings the emotion.  She’s the woman and therefore the Mom voice.

Fans who have followed this show since the beginning must have snorted their G&T through their noses at that statement.  Peggy deliberately rejected motherhood because she “wanted other things”.  But it’s not the motherhood/emotional part of Pete’s stupid assessment that’s important.  It’s that Peggy is NOT the voice of authority, even though she’s capable, bright and in charge of the strategy.

This is what Jill Abramson and other powerful women have been facing.  No matter what their title says, they are ultimately not the voices of authority.  Some dude is.  In Abramson’s case, it was her publisher.  Sulzberger has recently come out saying that it wasn’t gender that forced Abramson out but her management style.  Well, of course!  She was probably just crazy enough to believe that when it came to management decisions, she would get the final say because she was the executive editor.  Instead, I’m guessing that every decision she made was questioned.  If everything was going well, it was because she had talented people working for her.  If a decision went wrong, it was a zillion times worse because she was the agent who made it happen.

Hey, Pinch or Punch, or whatever your silly nickname is, we have seen this play before.  Her authority is only relevant when it turns out wrong.  If everything is going right, she doesn’t get any credit at all.  How many times have I been to presentations where a guy talks and he’s given praise and helpful suggestions.  He even gets to finish.  But when a woman gets up to talk, it’s perfectly Ok to talk over her, force her to explicitly detail every decision and calculation, and then point out the flaws bit by bit until the end can’t come too quickly, if she’s allowed to finish at all.  I’ve even seen male underlings do the dirty work of tearing into a female rival’s work with the ferocity of a Rottweiler while the rest of us sat in stunned silence.  It’s rude, vicious and serves to strip a woman of all authority.  She can’t help but question herself.  What crime did she commit to merit such a public dressing down?  There’s no reason for it except competition.  And they do it because it works.

So, yeah, it’s very simple to make every management failure to look like the biggest mistake in the world if you train enough eyes on it, don’t hold back on the disrespectful criticism and don’t stop the nasty criticism once it starts.  Men are allowed to make mistake after mistake.  Their mistakes don’t count unless the company or top brass is embarrassed, like Howell Raines embarrassed the NYTimes by hiring and promoting Jayson Blair.  But a woman is NEVER allowed to make mistakes because her authority is already so shaky that anything that goes wrong doesn’t look like a learning experience but a catastrophic failure.   That’s a perfect way to inhibit creativity.  Just drop a house on someone the minute they take a risk and get it wrong.

But back to Peggy and Don.  Don was her mentor.  Yes, yes, this is fiction.  But in last night’s episode, he turns up at her office and gives her, not the answer to ad, but something far more important.  He helped her believe in herself and her instincts again.  He gave her the support she needed.  In the last scene, she has the confidence to go on and do it her way.

Now, it’s just a TV show, fergawdssakes, but come on, guys, we’re fricking half the population and it’s the twenty first century already.  Mentor your female colleagues and when the challenges to her authority start flying (and they will), stand up for them.  Is that so much to ask?  Otherwise, you might end up with this guy:

Obama Arrives In New York

 

Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately):

 

Yeah, that went well.

*********************************************************

Speaking of Hillary, now that Tim Geithner is out with his book featuring himself as the savior of the global financial system while the rest of us, you know, suffer in the name of shareholder value, let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners (as authors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi assert was a missed opportunity):

 

So there you have it, folks.  We saved the banks but doomed the economy and many unemployed peoples’ careers due to what may turn out to be an insufficient number of Penis Years.

Now, I realize that there are going to be some bloggers on the left that will roll their eyes and laugh and insist that it was a lot more complicated than that.   I will not deny that many of them were victims of a stellar campaign that convinced them to vote against their own best interests and that campaign should be a textbook case of a social psychology experiment in situational influence that we should all study.  But when it comes right down to it, penis years had a lot to do with it.  We are condemned to suffer by a bunch of dicks.

 

VP debate tonight and stray thought from 2008

Tonight is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe “the cop between my brain and my mouth is at the donut shop” Biden and Paul “Ayn Rand is my goddess” Ryan.  We should do another live blog but since the body language thing has become chic this year, maybe we should watch and listen this time.  OR, we could turn off the visuals and just listen.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons Barack Obama did so poorly in his first debate appearance this year is because in 2008, he was actually running against Sarah Palin.  Oh sure he was.  That’s all the general campaign was about, how much smarter and more qualified Barack Obama was compared to Sarah Palin.  John McCain hardly entered the picture at all.  I think I noticed it back then too but it didn’t occur to me that this might be why his debate performances in 2008 were not a fiasco.  He was all confident and cocky about beating Sarah, that was the real race that his campaign had set up in everyone’s mind.

Plus, he was running a game of “whack a racist”.  ANY criticism of Obama was twisted to be a racial slur.  It was quite effective.  Combined with his race against Sarah, how was a liberal supposed to effectively evaluate Obama?  Any legitimate criticism of him was muted and he was running against a woman who the left had dehumanized and characterized as the stupidest person on the planet.

This year, it’s different.  Visually, Mitt is very presidential.  He’s a big, tall man with presidential hair and an engaging vital manner.  He’s also a Republican, which in my humble opinion, is unforgivable.  But that’s not the point.  As Obama supposedly believes, debates are sideshows.  From a policy perspective, they’re meaningless.  But I think they serve a purpose that can’t be underrated.  In the modern debate, we get as close as we can to hand to hand combat between chieftains of competing clans.  It *is* physical.  That’s why it was important that Michael Dukakis looked short, that Richard Nixon sweat and that Barack Obama looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It might have also done in Hillary because at 5’7″, she had to look feisty to compete with his taller frame and longer limbs. He took up more space and with a female opponent, he strut his macho stuff and acted dismissively when she talked. It might not have been enough that she was the smartest person in the room who had done her homework and could whip up a policy in 30 seconds flat.  To the liberals and progressives who were afraid of losing again, she had to look more like Boudicca than Hermione Granger.

Boudicca, ass-kicking queen of the Britons
(bears striking resemblance to Julia Gillard)

Nevertheless, she took him on and won her debates with him to such an extent that he refused to debate her again during the primaries after she beat him in Pennsylvania. He sought out a friendlier crowd in NC the next day to lick his wounds, flip her the bird and brush the dirt off his shoulders.  It has often been said that he doesn’t like confrontation and that NC appearance showed that he was much better at acting like the mean BMOC when he was with his adoring fans than taking her on and losing to her again.

It’s been awhile since I read MoDo but I dropped into her column yesterday and she seems to have matured ever so slightly.  She’s not so flip these days, probably because her mancrush in 2008 turned out to be far worse for women that the woman she mocked for two decades.  Maybe she’s learned her lesson.  She also seems more than a little alarmed.  Oh sure, Obama will do better next time.  Someone will have figured out how he’s supposed to debate a real general campaign opponent.  But MoDo suggests it’s more serious than that:

Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.

The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant.

Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around.

At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”

It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate. His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years.

The debate was an uncomfortable window into Obama’s style in all things presidential.  What is urgent to you is not an emergency to him.  He’s smaller than we thought, less secure, confident and sure of his experience.  He doesn’t look like the alpha male commanding his clan.  He’s the guy who seeks assistance from the moderator with ingratiating comments.  That Obama doesn’t stand a chance against a real presidential candidate and not the carefully crafted illusions his campaign spun for him to do battle with four years ago.  And that is the weak prince we have had in office for four years while the barbarians knocked down the gates.

In a way, a strong showing by Joe Biden this evening might just do Obama in.

*********************************
And here’s another quote from that MoDo column that I find deeply disturbing:

Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

Can someone confirm whether he really said that?
Unbelievable.

Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard explains what sexism and misogyny is to the opposition

It’s rare that a woman in power gets a chance to tell the conservative males in government  to STFU about sexism.  I think women around the world have had it up to here with the misogynistic crap and now we’ve got one of our own going on the offensive.  It’s a thing of beauty.  Julia Gillard is not a one off.  She just happens to have enough power to get the message out.  (H/T Yves Smith at NakedCapitalism)

Katiebird asks “how did we get here?”

Update from GregT from the comments:

The Democratic Party has been the victim of a corporate takeover. It happened gradually at first, then completely in 2008. Instead of taking the direction wanted and needed by the public, the top-down infiltration of the party reached its climax in the spring of 2008 and steered clear of a corrective course. Barack Obama was a candidate not ready for prime time. No experience, no real knowledge of policy issues and no real interest in governing. But he was the quintessential yes man and Wall Street knew he would go easy on them. So the Street identified him as their preferred candidate . They used their money and their expertise in marketing to sell him to the voters. They probably got crossover help from the GOP that cycle. The Street knew Obama had potential as a ” pitch guy ” and so they played that up. Hillary Clinton was in the way, so she was vanquished to make room for the Great Savior. And even then,despite all that was done for him, he needed help to win the D primary and he needed the fall of Lehman to secure the presidency.

Those who voted for him in 08 have been used. Rather than admit it, too many have continued to support him long past the expiration date. The debate just proved it. He brought a knife to a gunfight because a knife is all he has. He wouldn’t be in his current job if he knew how to wield a gun.

That’s what happened.

And here is Quixote’s take from a different thread:

Dump your best candidate: get someone second rate. Deal with downstream consequences forever.

It reminds me of Krugman’s point that the reason the USA keeps veering away from single payer health care, starting in the late 1940s, is that there are too many white people who can’t stand the thought of black people getting some benefit from the program. Racism is the reason the country has this health care boat anchor around its economy, dragging the whole country down.

Well, in 2008 we had one more instance of too many people who couldn’t stand the thought of listening to a woman. The fact that she was the best person for the job didn’t enter into it. Sexism has always been a supertanker boat anchor dragging the country down, but 2008 was a critical time to go and necklace ourselves with it.

*************************************

No, she is not referencing Talking Heads.

She’s asking how it could be that in 2008 we were desperate to elect a Democrat to roll back the conservative excesses of the Bush years and what we ended up with is a plan endorsed by BOTH candidates to screw anyone under the age of 60 out of their PRE-PAID Social Security and Medicare funds.  I think we can see from Wednesday night’s debate why it is that Obama has been so ineffective as president.  Maybe what we saw is the way he always is in negotiations with his opposition.  Scary thought, eh?  Now, he is a national joke after Wednesday’s performance.  Oh, he’ll look better next time but we can’t unsee what we’ve seen.  If he’s like this with the insurance industry, and Wall Street and the Tea Party conservatives, we are all well and truly fucked.

Basically, in 2008 we had a choice between rehab and co-dependency when it came to the financiers, who knew the crash was coming.  And the financiers chose the enabler and funded him.  It wouldn’t have worked except there is a peculiar tendency of Americans that the financiers and Obama’s campaign milked for all it was worth.  It worked.

How did they do it?  Here is the video that shows a big reason why we’re here.  Don’t misread this video.  It’s not a celebration or glorification of anyone.  It is a condemnation of the way Americans, and specifically a certain segment of Democrats, took leave of their senses and brought us to this point.  This kind of treatment went beyond anything Al Gore or John Kerry ever faced and should never happen to any candidate ever again.:

The choice was between the person who kept on going after the media and opposition told her to ditch all of her help and quit vs the guy who had a LOT of assistance from the media, the party and Wall Street and who was lifted and carried across the finish line.

We underestimated one candidate and overestimated the other.  And That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are here.

Excuses, excuses

Why *this* picture?

I don’t know why I am surprised at this but it looks like some of the lefty blogosphere guys are circling the wagons around Obama over Anita Dunn’s allegations that the White House could have been in court over the hostile working environment for women.  Kevin Drum is the latest to try to defend the president’s honor:

There really do seem to be legitimate complaints on this score, but on one of the most dramatic quotes about this, there’s a striking mismatch between what Ron Suskind heard and what he reported in his book. Here’s what he said he was told by former White House communications director Anita Dunn:

Looking back, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace….Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace for women.

But here’s the full quote:

I remember once I told Valerie [Jarrett] that, I said if it weren’t for the president,this place would be in court for a hostile workplace….Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.

This doesn’t necessarily change the substance of the charge about the White House atmosphere — though it might, depending on what Dunn meant — but it definitely changes what it suggests about Obama himself. Why on earth did Suskind leave that bit out? It’s only eight words, and it’s not as if he was short on space.

Yes, let us split hairs, Kevin, and turn this into another kerning dispute.

Do the eight words matter?  I’m listening to the book right now and I haven’t gotten to that part but from other posts I have read on the details, I would say, No, the eight words are not that important in the whole scheme of things.

From what I can tell, the infractions were obvious early on.  They included meetings that women were not invited to attend, expertise not listened to and a distinct lack of direction from Rahm Emannuel, who failed to signal to the campaign leftovers that election season was over and some of these women were their seniors. The women staffers initially attempted to get Obama’s attention but he brushed it off as an artifact of the campaign.  Then, they went to Valerie Jarret, who, IMHO, took exactly the wrong approach and attempted to “pinkify” the female experience at the White House with women only activities and baby showers.

From my own perspective as a female in a male dominated industry, I have something to say about this.  I don’t think women are that put off by the occasional F-bomb.  It’s a little startling the first time you hear it but you get used to it and then feel comfortable slinging it around.  Throwing footballs around in the office?  Also not a problem as long as they’re the Nerf variety and you are not made to play monkey-in-the-middle.  It’s the power plays that are going on in the background to which no woman is invited that is the single most irritating, infuriating and unfair thing about working with guys.

It wasn’t always this bad and from the two companies I have worked for, it seemed to me that the problem was worse at the international company compared to the American company. But even a lot of American guys still act like any promotion of women in their midst is a direct threat to their affirmative action program for white men.  You can’t hire one single woman more than they think is acceptable before they start whining about how “more qualified men” were overlooked as if we didn’t already have more than our share of mediocre men in our midst.  Come on, Kevin, Ezra, Josh, Ta Nehisi, it’s true, isn’t it?  How many prominent writers that are quoted at length on our lefty blogosphere are women?  It’s always the same *guys* who are working at The Atlantic, WaPo and Mother Jones.  Digby is getting her share now but it took a long time for her to get off her asteroid in the Oort Belt and into mainstream circulation and she is a much more perceptive writer than someone like Ezra Klein who seems to be adopting the values and attitudes of his editors and mentors.  Anyway, I digress.

I suspect that for women working in the White House, there was a sense that things had already been decided before they entered the meeting room.  There were unannounced meetings in someone’s office where projects were discussed, strategies planned, and work divided up that underlined the impression that the women who were supposed to be doing that work were not very relevant.  Am I right, ladies?  I suspect that Obama’s lieutenants had proteges and they were not female.  And those proteges were given a lot of responsibility and airtime to make themselves look important and responsible and trusted with information that women did not have access to.  Their executive hair was already sprouting.  And here were these women, come from academia and prestigious positions of their own who were sidelined.  They study and work very hard to become experts at their subjects and they are upstaged by some male asshole who seems to have the ear of the most powerful people in the room.  Well, that’s what it sounds like from what I have read.  How did *that* happen??

So, they took their complaints to Obama and he ignored them.  It’s not that they were not being assertive enough.  It’s that the lines of authority had already been established and they were established between the senior and junior men and not the women.  And who could blame them?  It is human nature for people to gravitate to people most like themselves.  Men will choose to hang out with men because it’s more comfortable.  That’s why it is so important for the guy at the top to set the tone with his direct reports and make the rules so that this doesn’t happen and everybody doesn’t waste their time, make bad decisions and suck up taxpayer money.  But in Obama’s White House, Rahm, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner were the head honchos and, apparently, they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to pivot away from outrageous sexist behavior to a more professional working environment.  With the exception of Hillary Clinton, how many times have we seen pictures of meeting rooms in the White House where all of the participants were male?  More than *I* can count.

The meetings with Jarret went on until the women finally had a dinner with Obama in November 2009.  That’s almost a whole year before he finally got around to taking them seriously and it was a very important year in terms of the economy. In the meantime, Obama continued to have pick up basketball games with the guys.  What’s up with that, anyway?  Couldn’t anyone find a bat and a softball so everyone could play?  And baby showers, Valerie?  Really?  Even in my workplace, men attend baby showers.  It sounds like males and females were even more segregated in the White House than they are in some uncomfortably hierarchical international companies. What we had was an attempt to suburbanize the experiences of the genders where the men had the equivalent of hanging out in the garage and the women sat in the living room and talked about their labors and deliveries.  It’s so dumb I’m surprised the women went along with it. Maybe it made the personal experience bearable but I can’t see how it made the professional experience better. Jarret and Obama should have worked harder to provide more opportunities for the sexes to mix so that they saw each others as human beings with similar interests and aspirations.

So, maybe Obama was the only thing that spared the White House from landing in court.  On the other hand, what were the women supposed to do?  If you can’t get the President to enforce an open and transparent working environment, what makes you think you’re going to get better treatment at the EEOC?  And the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the women of Walmart, who were experiencing the same kind of bullshit on a much vaster scale, didn’t have anything in common to bring a class action suit.  If the dudes aren’t groping you in the hall closet, if you’re only complaint is that opportunities are passing you by, you haven’t got a case.  So, that’s that.

Really, it’s shocking that the guys of the lefty blogosphere haven’t caught on to the pernicious way that the misogyny of the 2008 primary season has added to the hostile environment of the workplace for professional women.  I could swear that the problem has gotten worse, or maybe I’m just more attuned to it these days, but it seems to me that the unchecked sexism of the 2008 election season has given guys the green light to act with impunity in the workplace. When forcing a female manager out of her position or  laying off junior staff who mostly happen to be women could mean the end of careers, some of these guys may be getting away with murder.  Why are guys like Kevin Drum so quick to defend other guys for this kind of behavior unless they were themselves benefitting from the backroom deals and male exclusion zone?  Are they feeling any kind of ping of conscience for taking advantage of advantages that are not available to women?  Is Barack Obama so insensitive and conditioned that he thought some of his most talented women were just bitching over pick up basketball games?

Like I said before, everything can be measured.  That’s where the truth of the matter will manifest itself.  In these days where everything is digitally recorded somewhere, there is no need for the “he said/she said” defense.  Honest, well intentioned people who value fairness will want to get to the bottom of this problem in the most objective manner possible.  Would that include Kevin Drum?  Let’s get the data from the emails, phone calls and meeting appointments.  Let’s see who sequestered information and whose requests for information were ignored.  Let’s roll the tape on the way meetings were conducted.  Let’s see who got the plum assignments and from whom.  Let’s see who was described in terms of acceptable social behavior and who was praised for accomplishments.  And then let’s develop some guidelines so this doesn’t happen in the White House, or any other place of business, ever again.

If Suskind’s book sheds some much needed daylight on the way women are treated in the workplace, he will have done us all a big favor.  I can tell you that the first chapter, focussing on the way Timothy Geithner treated Elizabeth Warren, had my blood boiling.  I’m betting that he could have never gotten away with this if she were a man.  Same with Hillary Clinton, although, now that she has proven herself to have a set of three titanium testicles by surviving a lot of outrageous sexist behavior, she seems to have won some sort of grudging respect.  But no woman should have her expertise and credentials sidelined in order to preserve a hidden hierarchy and mentoring system to which she has no chance of belonging.

The answer is no, Kevin.  Dunn’s extra eight words didn’t significantly change the meaning and Obama didn’t make things better.  If he had made things better in the beginning when it first came to his attention, this crap would have never made it into the book. Dunn’s allegations were hardly the only ones.  The inattentiveness to their complaints reinforces our perception of Obama as being a poor manager who doesn’t set a good example and doesn’t care how his female employees are treated.

But we suspected that before the election.  Now, we know for sure.

UPDATE:  I followed this link from Eschaton to a Elizabeth Warren video.  Remember, according to sources close to him, Tim Geithner was planning to develop an “Elizabeth Warren Strategy” which was to be “a plan to engage with the firebrand reformer that would render her politically inert.”  But he settled for barring her from running the agency she created.  Geithner’s got to go.

 

Pass it around.

And here’s her website where you can make a donation and keep the firebrand burning:  Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

Told’ja

So, the truth comes out about what it’s like to work as a woman in the White House. In Ron Susskind’s new upcoming book, Confidence Men, Women in Obama’s White House felt excluded and ignored:

A new book claims that the Obama White House is a boys’ club marred by rampant infighting that has hindered the administration’s economic policy and left top female advisers feeling excluded from key conversations.

“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind due out next Tuesday, details the rivalries among Obama’s top economic advisers, Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. It describes constant second-guessing by Summers, now at Harvard, who was seen by others as “imperious and heavy-handed” in his decision-making.

In an excerpt obtained by The Post, a female senior aide to President Obama called the White House a hostile environment for women.“This place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.

[...]

It says that women occupied many of the West Wing’s senior positions, but felt outgunned and outmaneuvered by male colleagues such as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Summers.

“I felt like a piece of meat,” Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, said of one meeting in which Suskind writes she was “boxed out” by Summers.

Dunn told Suskind that the problems began during the 2008 campaign. At one point she was viewing a television ad with other campaign officials and was shocked to see no women in the spot.

“There isn’t a single woman in this ad,” Dunn said. “I was dumbfounded. It wasn’t like they were being deliberately sexist. It’s just there was no one offering a female perspective.”

The ad was later reshot, with women included.

“The president has a real woman problem,” an unnamed high-ranking female official told Suskind. “ The idea of the boys’ club being just Larry and Rahm isn’t really fair. He [Obama] was just as responsible himself.”

Based on interviews with more than 200 people inside and outside the White House, Suskind’s book comes as Obama faces the lowest poll numbers of his tenure, and deep discontent over his economic policies.

According to the book, female staffers, like Dunn and Romer, felt sidelined. In November 2009, female aides complained to the president about being left out of meetings, or ignored.

Dunn said in the interview that her husband, now-White House lawyer Bob Bauer, was “surprised to see me as someone who could be talked over in meetings.”

The short story, it’s typical corporate under-the-radar discrimination.  The women staffers and cabinet members will no doubt be told that they are being too sensitive or paranoid but after their work fails to get the recognition it deserves or requires, she’s going to feel the stress of always being on the outside looking in and missing the crucial milestones necessary to get a promotion and exercise power.  When the crucial decision making meetings happen, she won’t be aware of them.  They might be impromptu, like during lunch at a table where few women are invited to join.  Or at golf games.  Or a meeting may be arranged where the scheduler has a propensity for the hierarchical and no juniors are invited, most of those juniors happening to be women.  Or the female staffer may need to gather information and sends out a survey email, which for some unknown reason, several more senior sycophants fail to respond to.  Or at a department meeting during your presentation, the guys talk over you or interrupt you or speed up your presentation or slow it down so they can ask you questions that were not in the scope of the presentation.  If you’ve been taking data, you’ll have realized by now that men rarely receive this kind of treatment, but it all contributes to making you look just a little bit unprepared or not quite knowing what’s really going on (because you weren’t there when they told the guys what was really going on).  Heck, you’re lucky you get a chance to present at all.  The stars get their 45 minutes of fame at every meeting while you have to book a slot months in advance.  That kind of stuff.

Oh, Ladies, I have seen it all.  These are deaths by a thousand paper cuts.  It’s disrespectful, isolating, humiliating and prevents you from looking like you’re doing your best job.  But it’s not grabbing and propositioning.  Without the sexual aspect, this more pernicious and devastating career stalling form of discrimination never gets the proper attention it deserves.  The fact that this is happening at the Obama White House does not surprise me at all.  I’ve seen this report coming for two years now, ever since the bunch of guys who run Obama’s campaign thought it would be a great idea if Michelle took on a more traditional first lady role.  Let her stay at home with two school aged adolescents who no longer require full time care.  She can garden in her spare time and lecture all the other mothers about nutrition.  It so fits the upper middle class suburban mother demographic.  Her sphere of influence is to set an example of what a demure, respectful, “had my fun in my career but now find complete fulfillment as a full time mother with a lot of time on my hands to make you feel inadequate as a mother” should be.  This is the game in the suburbs, who can outmother.  Who chauffeurs more, who is more alert to safety issues, who sets more limits on their childrens’ {freinds, TVtime, sugar ingestion, independence}  She is a throw back to the woman who defers, whose identity depends on her husband.  I’m sure the evangelicals are eating it up with a genuine jesus plated spoon.  But her example does not help the women who are tasked with working with her husband and his cabinet.  The specter of Michelle, digging in the garden like a good PTA mom, contributes to an attitude that women don’t put their careers first.  They can’t handle it.  They’ll stress out and go home.  But the worst type of stress is caused by male generated obstructions that keep you from getting your work done efficiently.

The kind of behavior described in Susskind’s book results in a lot of lost opportunities.  There won’t be a lot of thinking outside the box if half of the staff doesn’t get heard or taken seriously.  It’s a waste of talent.  It costs us money.  Think of Christina Romer, giving the right answer as to the size of the stimulus package, overridden by Geithner and then having to fight for the privilege to give her input during meetings when guy after guy were called on and she was passed over.  If I were her, I’d be pissed.  But let me guess what happened when she brought it up.  She was told she wasn’t being a team player, that she was too sensitive.  What she really meant to say was, “I had something important to say and now you are going to make your decisions without hearing it”.  And they probably did.  Romer stuck it out for a couple of years and then had enough and went home.  It’s real discrimination all right but there’s no definition for the disrespect and dismissal that happens day after day.  It’s pervasive and nebulous.

What could the White House have done differently?  Well, first, it could have refrained from running such a bloody relentless, sexist campaign.  Second, it could have instituted a training program and guidelines and hold violators accountable.  That might have included instructing male staffers to answer all phone calls and emails promptly no matter who was requesting, it could have monitored the response time to those requests and analyzed the data to determine who were the biggest offenders, if could have had meetings videotaped and analyzed for inappropriate indifference to the input of female attendees or interruptions of her presentation.  It could have analysed the words used to comment on the presentations of men and women.  A computational linguist might have been hired to to this.  The White House might have made a rule about golf outings.  All golf outings must be composed of equal parts men and women.  Same with any on-site activity.  Male or female only lunch groups should be discouraged.  It’s hard to monitor off-site activities but any opportunities that result in the male staff taking their shirts off in a bar while their female companions remain clothed should be discussed as to the messages sent to all members present and the public at large.  How about a dress code?  You can’t force guys to take off their ties but there has to be a female equivalent to give them power.  Find a way to get rid of symbols of male authority and female subordination.

Have training sessions that explain how damaging it is to refer to assertive women as “not team players” or “hard to work with” or any other code word used to undermine her authority.  For too long, women are coached to walk a thin line and never be too assertive or two passive so as to not upset the mens folk.  It never works.  Women can always be criticized for something.  This coaching of female staff is completely wasted because the violators of creating this hostile workplace (and trust me, it is very hostile) are never held responsible for their behavior.  That behavior makes it very difficult for women to present their ideas and work in a manner that will be recognized and will get things done.  And when you hire women on your staff and let the men act like cock-of-the-walk assholes, the only ideas you’re going to get to work with will be the ones generated by cock-of-the-walk assholes and women will despise you because none of your solutions seem to have anything that will make their lives better.

What we’re seeing at the White House is the same kind of cut throat, kill your enemies behavior seen in corporate culture.  That culture is exacerbated by the business school class that is always trying to climb over the broken back of the person who stands in their way of the next position up the ladder.  It seeps down to all levels of the corporation and becomes intensified among the rank and file where keeping one’s job becomes a vicious and nasty game of musical chairs.  Most upper managers are men and they identify with men and many women are left without mentors or the respect they need to stay in the game.  That’s why you can see departments lose 80% of their women staffers during a layoff and never blink an eye.  Of course, some areas and fields of expertise are different than others but when the women of MIT set out to document the atrocities, they found that it wasn’t just all in their heads.  It’s real.  But it can be fixed, if there is the will to do it.  It doesn’t look like the White House thinks this is an important issue to tackle.

The fact that it’s happening at the White House and that Obama hasn’t done anything in 3 years to mitigate it, speaks volumes to me about just what kind of president he is.  Corporate, sexist without even knowing it, probably dismissive of complaints, oblivious that there’s a problem at all and incurious about why it is that so many of the people he promotes and listens to are male.

Ladies, we KNOW these guys.  Why in world would we ever want to vote for another man for president is beyond me.  Obama seems to be taking this country backwards to the 60’s.  He has learned nothing.  And sexism, far from being unimportant in the whole scheme of things, like rescuing the economy, it is the linchpin as to why the economy is in as bad shape as it is.  Sheila Bair wanted to nationalize the biggest banks, Christina Romer wanted to double the stimulus package.  They were both overruled.  The next in line to be press secretary, Karen Finney, was passed over so that Jay Carney, a dude on Biden’s staff could take the position.  What happened there?  What was even more shocking is that Nancy Pelosi wasn’t initially invited to the talks about the debt ceiling crisis.  That’s inexcusable.  No-, really, I’m amazed that the media let them get away with that.  The only person who seems to know how to command attention and respect in Obama’s cabinet is Hillary Clinton.  And we don’t even know the whole story there.  (I’m betting she doesn’t put up with un-returned phone calls and emails)

This book should be good.  I’m using one of my last 2 audible credits to snag one.  But if I were one of the Obama girls who latched onto him to look cool and aspirational instead of old, stupid and menopausal, I’d be feeling pretty stupid right now.  Big mistake.  Massive.

Gawker still doesn’t get it


As I’m sure you all know by now, the website Gawker published the salacious details of an alleged no-sex one night stand some guy claimed to have had with Christine O’Donnell. This was too much even for Andy Sullivan, and NOW as well as most feminist bloggers condemned the article.

So did Gawker apologize? Not hardly.

What’s missing from most of the criticism is this essential bit of context: Christine O’Donnell is seeking federal office based in part on her self-generated, and carefully tended, image as a sexually chaste woman. She lies about who she is; she tells that lie in service of an attempt to impose her private sexual values on her fellow citizens; and she’s running for Senate. We thought information documenting that lie—that O’Donnell does not live a chaste life as she defines the word, and in fact hops into bed, naked and drunk, with men that she’s just met—was of interest to our readers.

Much of the criticism leveled against us is based on the premise that we think hopping into bed, naked and drunk, with men or women whenever one wants is “slutty,” and that therefore our publication of Anonymous’ story was intended to diminish O’Donnell on those terms. Any reader of this site ought to rather quickly gather that we are in fact avid supporters of hopping into bed, naked and drunk, with men or women that one has just met.

Our problem with O’Donnell—and the reason that the information we published about her is relevant—is that she has repeatedly described herself and her beliefs in terms that suggest that there is something wrong with hopping into bed, naked and drunk, with a man or woman whom one has just met. So that fact that she behaves that way, while publicly condemning similar behavior, in the context of an attempt to win a seat in the United States Senate, is a story we thought people might like to know about. We also thought it would get us lots of clicks and money and attention. But we thought it would get us clicks and money and attention because it was exposing her lies.

Well then, since “exposing lies” justifies their publishing the lurid allegations about O’Donnell’s alleged sexual history, I guess candidates no longer have any right to privacy whatsoever. Everything is fair game.

Jeebus, can you imagine the can of worms that would be? But somehow I doubt we’ll ever see an unmarried male candidate slut-shamed for what was (even if true) legal and consensual sexual behavior.

Whoever this putz Dustin Dominiak is, I hope he never gets laid again in his entire life. It would serve him right.

One last note: Before anyone complains about me posting another defense of a evil wingnut racist homophobe anti-abortion Tea Partier, I ain’t happy about it either.

If these fucking so-called progressives would stop being sexist assholes, I wouldn’t have to defend people like Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin.

I don’t care if the Republicans do it too or did it first.

IT’S WRONG.



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