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Irony-Jawed Angels

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Joanne Bamberger is one of those Vichy feminists so often to be found on the left side of the political spectrum. She can be found variously posting stuff to HuffPo, her blog, PunditMom, or speaking before Netroots Nation on the wonders of political activism via Twitter. She lives in Washington D.C. and works from home now that she’s a mom, and spends her time wearing her badge of woman-momdon to further the causes of Democrats. Like most Vichy feminists, she is not in the habit of questioning her ideals or her allegiances.

Which is why she has caught herself in the newest, latest, greatest of catfights among upper-crust feminists of the world. There is an old saying about monkeys in trees looking up, and all they see is assholes. So it is with life, thus so it is with women. Bamberger is naturally upset that the niche she’s carved out for herself is being threatened by women with higher attainment than her. Those damn monkeys at the top, you see, want to make changes to workforces that don’t apply to her, but may indeed cause her to be judged.

Enter Sheryl Sandberg, that nepotistic, privileged bitch, and Marissa Mayer, the ungrateful CEO of Yahoo, who are shaking up things up for the comfortably pajama-clad mommy-blogger. But not just her, you see, but for all women, who are entitled to highly successful careers, even if they have to wear their pajamas at home to do it.

Sandberg, who is the COO of Facebook (and, it should be noted, Mark Zuckerberg’s sister), has just published a book, which, if Bamberger had anything to do with it, would be titled Lazy Women and the Bosses Who Pay Them.  As it is, the book is actually called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which is about women making different choices that might, you know, actually lead to leadership positions. Stuff like, stop gossiping at the water cooler and go gossip with the boss like the big boys do.  And, of course, Yes, you will have to work late–a lot–if you want to make Vice President.

Mayer, for her part, had the unmitigated gall to have a baby and only take two weeks off, and as if that weren’t enough to set women back to the 1890s, she followed it up by eliminating telecommuting positions at Yahoo. How dare she! Expecting people to show up at work in the age of computers? Oh, hell no, boss, I’ve got a puking kid to cuddle. He pukes every. single. day. I’ll meet my deadlines after, thank you very much.

This is all very ironic, I think, considering where first and second wave feminists were actually coming from, and considering the major rhetorical error Bamberger makes in her USA Today editorial. In it, she says:

The message coming from these C-suite moms is less about empowerment and accountability than it is about guilt. Guilt for women wanting to work remotely in order to manage their lives and provide for their families. Guilt for not acting with more ambition. Guilt for daring to put their children and spouses on equal footing with their careers.

Guilt is never a good motivator. Mayer and Sandberg, even if they have good intentions, are setting back the cause of working mothers. Sandberg’s argument, that equality in the workplace just requires women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps (though she does acknowledge the need for a shift in national policy for working families) is just as damaging as Mayer’s office-only work proclamation that sends us back to the pre-Internet era of power suits with floppy bow ties.

Oh my, we can’t have the floppy bow-ties back, now can we? And why in the world would you want power suits, when there’s, like, pajamas, for reals?

The major rhetorical error Bamberger makes is excoriating these women for dispensing advice or creating policy that, whether or not it was intended to, makes her feel guilty. You can’t shame people in the left’s world, anymore, unless they are dirty Republicans, white men, or wealthy C-suite women. Well, I guess stay-at-homes moms who don’t earn a paycheck for their labor are also fair game, but I digress. My point is that she goes on to use–you guessed it–guilt to try to shame these women into silence. Typical Vichy feminist maneuver. Like, shut up! You’re harshing my stay-at-home buzz, bitches!

Here’s her guilt-wrapped critique:

No hand up

With the launch of Sandberg’s “Lean In” effort and Mayer’s office-work only proclamation, two things are apparent: Both have forgotten about the women who came before, enabling them to land in their lofty positions in the first place.

And the duo don’t want to extend the same hand to anyone else. Instead, they’ve launched the latest salvo in the war on moms.

See how she does it? Sandberg and Mayer are ungrateful wenches who are not paying proper homage to the women who came before them. And they are not willing to help women on their way up, who, traveling in pajama-gear as they do, obviously need it.

But what really drives me crazy about Vichy feminists like Bamberger is not the on-the-face-of-it contradiction and standard momfare of “do as I say, not as I do,” but the fact that she’s the one clinging to the Victorian model of Mother-as-Angel-of-Hearth-&-Home. She just wants to carve out exceptions for it. For her kind more specifically. And by her kind I mean the kind of privileged, uncritical, white upscale monkey’s assholes who populate the suburbs of D.C.

Because seriously. Try making that lunch from home that she ordered at a fine dining establishment over the interview with politician X. Better yet, try delivering it to the table from home. Yes, let’s have potential candidates for jobs interview with mommies in the home. And while we’re at it, can’t we just create super-long vacuum hoses so that janitorial staff who happen to be mothers can suck up all the garbage from their working class apartments while they tend to little Johnny’s ABCs lesson?

It’s a privileged lifestyle, and one not every mother can take advantage of. More importantly, it’s not one every mother would choose. One of the greatest blessing of modern feminism is that children no longer have to be assigned to females for all their care. These days, it takes a village, thank goodness. So what was the point of all that fighting for equality if we now demand to be treated with exception? And how, exactly, is that any different than the Victorian morals from which women fled with such venom and verve? Did Elizabeth Cady Stanton fight so hard just to have to accept employment responsibilities on top of her existing duties as mother? I think not.

It may be worth asking just who is setting back whom here.

Because there are sometimes serious problems with working from home, up to and including loss of productivity and poor time management. That’s not even counting the countless networking opportunities people working from home miss out on, connections that could, you know, lead to job advancement. Could it possibly be that women like Sandberg and Mayer, who’ve been out in the trenches and who’ve made it to the top, however that happened, might have some good advice or policies to help women get ahead? And shouldn’t they be allowed the agency to say it or implement such policies?

Not for Joanne Bambergers of the world. Because if that happens, their niche goes the way of the Ann Romneys of the world, by which I mean fodder for smart Democratic operatives on news talk shows and for the snickering masses. See, giving up the Angel role is fine for women who want it, but other women ought to be allowed to cling to their quaint notions of motherhood if they want to, and they ought not have to suffer for those choices they are making.

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One thought on “Irony-Jawed Angels

  1. Hat-tip to WCMB for teaching me the phrase “Vichy feminist.”

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