Feminists do not want a woman executive to make executive decisions. They insist that she make feministically correct decisions. If she doesn’t do as they want, they will punish her and undermine her authority.
Feminists do not believe that a woman executive’s decisions should be judged in the marketplace. They want to judge her themselves in newspaper columns and blogs. If she does not respect the party line, she will be excoriated for being retrograde, reactionary and retarded.
Alexandra Levit, for example, has just written a rant about how Mayer has dashed Levit's great feminist hopes. Feeling rejected and repudiated, Levit accused Mayer of hypocrisy, of going back to the Dark Ages and of being passive aggressive.
In her words:
And what makes it even worse is that such passive-aggressive behavior is so stereotypically female. You know all the male CEOs out there are thinking: “leave it to a woman to find an indirect, non-confrontational way of getting rid of people. If she were a man, she’d just pick up the axe and cut.”
When Levit uses a psychiatric term like passive-aggressive she is slandering, and therefore undermining Mayer as emotionally unbalanced.
Had Levit bothered to think about what she was saying she would have noticed that there is nothing passive about issuing a directive. Asking everyone to play by the same rules is neither passive nor aggressive.
If Levit is right that Mayer really wants to cull the Yahoo staff, then she must also be a mind reader. But then, why does she think that it is better to be a man about it and to pick up an axe and cut? Why does Levit assume that men are naturally brutal, violent and abusive?
In truth, most corporate officers, male and female, try to exercise the greatest tact in firing people. They do not go out of their way to traumatize people they are obliged to let go.
If Levit is right that Mayer was trying to induce some people to resign, then the new policy might have been a way to reduce the workforce while allowing everyone to save face. If that is true, more power to her.
Of course, Levit had wanted Mayer to be a great feminist role model. Now she is acting like a jilted lover, excoriating Mayer for failing to fulfill her ideologically driven expectations:
Like many of you, I had high hopes for Mayer. I thought she would set a great example for all women who strive to lead families and companies at the same time. But instead, she has betrayed her biggest supporters and may just have convinced everyone else why it’s risky to put a woman in a top position.
As for Yahoo!, it will be interesting to see if and how the company comes back from this. How much will the inevitable mass exodus of talent hurt? Will Mayer be forced to reconsider her policy, and how much face will she lose inside and outside Yahoo! as a result? Will the struggling company get back on its feet, or, during this disruptive, transitional time when other organizations are moving forward but Yahoo! is moving backward, will this be a final nail in the coffin? What do you think?
Allow me to analyze Levit’s rhetorical strategy. I would have examined the substance of her argument, but there is none.
Even though Mayer’s new policy will not be implemented until June, Levit has already pronounced it a failure. She describes it as something that the company will need to come back from.
To the best of my knowledge Levit has no managerial experience to speak of, yet, she denounces Mayer’s policy as “backward.” Since other high tech companies, like Facebook and Google have the same policy, though informally, does she believe that they are backward too?
To Levit, the policy has failed because Mayer’s “biggest supporters” feel that she has betrayed them. Apparently, she is thinking about all of her feminist co-cultists who believe that Mayer must make the ideological cause ahead of her responsibility for managing the company.
Do you honestly believe that anyone ever gets to become a CEO by putting ideology ahead of a company’s best interst?
When it comes to the question of whether Mayer can lead a company and a family at the same time, what makes Levit think that she will or could possibly do both, or that it matters to Yahoo's bottom line?
Clearly, putting a woman in such an important job does comport a risk, only not the one that Levit identifies. Mayer faces one problem that no male CEO would ever face. She is being attacked by a band of feminist scolds who are ginning up a lot of bad publicity and are inciting Mayer’s staff to ignore her directive. These feminists are producing a flood of agitprop that is designed to undermine Marissa Mayer's authority. And they are doing so because she is a woman. Misogyny, anyone?
Yet, if Mayer rescinds her directive she will, as Levitt notes, lose face. For a CEO, losing face is very bad indeed. It is extremely difficult to manage a company if everyone thinks that you will change policies because you have been subjected to outside pressure.
Those who believe that a woman should have the opportunity to lead a company should hope that Marissa Mayer succeeds.
Surely, one understands why Marissa Mayer has never had any use for feminism. But Mayer is not the only non-feminist among the successful woman executives in Silicon Valley. Many of them have figured out that if you spend your time seeking out grievances you will have less time and energy to do your job.
Hanna Rosin even suggests that Mayer’s success signals the eclipse of feminism:
When I interviewed the women in Silicon Valley for my book, The End of Men, my impression was not that they did not notice that most of the programmers and entrepreneurs were men but that they willed themselves to ignore it, because dwelling on sexism is “complete waste of time,” as Lori Goler, Facebook’s human resources director, said in a New Yorker profile of Sheryl Sandberg. “If I spend one hour talking about how I’m excluded, that’s an hour I am not spending solving Facebook’s problems.”
If such a band of smart and successful women have no patience for the term feminism, then the term is, whether we like it or not, getting relegated to history.