The Yahoo board of directors has just hired Marissa Mayer to be the company CEO.
The board has the right to hire whomever it wishes for whatever reason. The marketplace will decide whether it was as bad a choice as its last five CEOs or whether it was an inspired selection.
Those who have a strong opinion in the matter can express their views by buying Yahoo stock, selling the stock they own or shorting the stock.
Two aspects of the story have driven the public debate. First, Marissa Mayer is seven months pregnant with her first child. Second, she has stated explicitly that she is not a feminist.
First things first. The Yahoo board knew that she was pregnant when they hired her, and apparently they considered the possibility that late pregnancy and childbirth would compromise her focus on the job.
They decided that it would not. Again, the market will decide.
Some commentators have thrilled to the fact that Mayer is so wealthy that she will be able to outsource motherhood. Her son will be brought up by an army of nannies and wet nurses.
On that score the decision lies with her and her husband. By all reports Mayer does not think it’s going to be a problem.
Mayer has never been a mother before, so perhaps her optimism about how easy it will be is not very well grounded.
Allow me to offer the perspective of Kara Baskin, writing in the Boston Globe:
But I also feel sort sad, because for all her success, she’s clearly unprepared for the reality of caring for a newborn. I can’t help but think that something is going to get short shrift from Mayer, whether she likes it or not. I remember thinking that I could work during my maternity leave—and I did, a bit, because the extra freelance income was helpful. At the same time, the entire process was not “very quick” at all, and I felt completely and utterly out of the “rhythm of things.” Granted, I wasn’t trying to run a company—and thank god I wasn’t. I spent much of those first three or so months in a hormonal fog, confined to yoga pants and milk-stained T-shirts that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1999.
I’m sure Mayer will make the situation work for her however she can, whether that means hiring an army of nannies or installing some kind of high-tech baby-cam from which she can run meetings while playing virtual peek-a-boo or, you know, trying to work flexible hours. Still, she sounds awfully optimistic about her ultra-short maternity leave. Forget nice things like wanting to stay home and bond with your baby for a little while: After pregnancy, you’re emotionally drained, you’re tired, you’re wrung out. You want to lie around and stuff your face with chips and have people bring you things. Surely she’s Googled this.
It is good to hear the voice of experience, unfiltered by ideology. It is good to read about the experience of a woman who did not see her ultimate responsibility in life to be a feminist role model.
Naturally, feminists are in a huff about Marissa Mayer because she is not a feminist. Actually, movement feminists are always in a huff, so it’s not too surprising.
Some time ago Mayer made a statement that offended their sensibilities. She said:
I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist. I think that I certainly believe in equal rights, I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so in a lot of different dimensions, but I don't, I think have, sort of, the militant drive and the sort of, the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it's too bad, but I do think that feminism has become in many ways a more negative word. You know, there are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there is more good that comes out of positive energy around that than comes out of negative energy.
Writing a blog called Feministing—whose title seems to want to reference something called fisting, whatever that is—Chloe Angyal told Mayer off:
And Marissa, it is too bad that feminism has become a negative word. You know what's also too bad? Your failure to acknowledge that without feminism, you could never have become the CEO of Yahoo.
Just as President Obama believes that if you built a business you didn't really build it, feminists insist that Mayer did not achieve what she has achieved by her own hard work and determination. In their eyes, she owes it all to feminism.
Angyal does not claim responsibility for any negative effects might have issued forth from feminism.
Feminist recruiters like to say that any woman who believes in equal rights is ipso facto a feminist. Mayer has understood that the movement has become infused with negative energy, especially in its cult-like insistence that women identify as members of it.
Feminists believe, as an article of faith, that men and women are in a state of permanent conflict, that without feminism men would have oppressed and brutalized women forever, chaining them to their stoves and forcing them into domestic servitude.
In truth, many women have gained rights and achieved success without feminism having a hand in it. Since many of the advances in women's rights are obviously beneficial to society as a whole one must assume that society would have instituted them, with or without feminism. In feminist mythology, however, men are so evil that no progress would have been made without struggle.
By now, feminism has become so relentlessly negative that it has alienated a woman like Marissa Mayer.
One thing is certain, a woman who is going to manage a business cannot see men as the enemy, as a vast right wing patriarchal conspiracy designed to keep them barefoot and pregnant.
From a feminist perspective, Mayer has declared that she does not see her goal as establishing gender parity in the workplace.
She told Slate’s Hanna Rosin:
I am much less worried about adjusting the percentage than about growing the overall pie.
Mayer wants there to be more programmers, both men and women. Fair enough, but only as long as the market, not the government, determines the ratio.
For all Larry Summers and I know the male brain is more apt to yield programmers and other assorted programmers than the female brain.
If that is true, legislating gender parity will also produce competitive weakness.
In business, the problem is always the competition, and the competition, coming mostly from India is, I suspect, not creating the best programmers because it is trying to institute gender parity.
A woman who rises to the top of the corporate hierarchy must make good management and profitability her primary goal.
Of course, Mayer is not as bad as Facebook executive Lori Goler who told The New Yorker that worrying about sexism is a “complete waste of time.”
If I spend one hour talking about how I’m excluded, that’s an hour I am not spending solving Facebook’s problems.
Clearly, movement feminists who spend nearly all of their time worrying about sexism did not take kindly to these words.
The feminist sisterhood is so upset by Mayer’s free choice not to be a feminist that they refuse to accept it.
On Jezebel Katie Baker explained that Mayer is not free to choose:
But Mayer needs to accept that she's not just one of the boys and therefore has a responsibility to acknowledge that her rise to the top is noteworthy. You can choose whether to use the word "feminist," but you don't get to choose whether to be a feminist role model.
Mayer might well be a role model for women. So might Anne-Marie Slaughter. But still, it is disrespectful to force her to identify with a negative ideology when she does not want to do so and when she does no believe that she owes her life to it.
Refusing to allow Marissa Mayer a free choice about whether or not she wishes to be part of the feminist cult reveals another side of feminist negativity.