In a different world everyone would be cheering the success of Kellyanne Conway. After all, she was the first woman to run an American presidential campaign… and her candidate won.
In our world, however, feminists aligned themselves with Hillary Clinton and considered her loss to be a loss for women. They have treated Conway as someone who was consorting with the enemy. Or devil.
Not entirely without reason. One must say that many of Donald Trump’s remarks and attitudes about women were insulting and degrading.
Many feminists conflate what is good for feminism with what is good for women. Yet, feminism is an ideology. It is a system of beliefs. It seeks to attract adherents and to advance a political agenda. The agenda is invariably to the left-of-center. At times, it is radically to the left. Promoting what is best for women is not necessarily the same as forming a vanguard to attack male power and to overthrow the patriarchy.
If a woman is applying for a job or working for a promotion, she should be judged as men are judged: in terms of job performance and company loyalty. But if she is trying to advance a feminist agenda, or any other ideological agenda, she will be seen as less than loyal to the company.
The more feminists protest the more companies will tend to question whether female employees are more loyal to their company or more loyal to feminism. No one talks about this openly, but it is not helping women to succeed in the business world.
Feminist cheer when a woman strikes out against the patriarchy by attacking her boss for sexual harassment, even to the point of damaging his career. Yet, other staff members will see her as disruptive, someone whose loyalty is to something other than the company. This feels totally unjust, because it is unjust. But, business does not run according to the laws of justice.
Moreover, if women are believed to pose a threat to male executives they will, as happens in Washington, D. C., be excluded from private meetings, trips and projects. One might consider this to be unjust. It is unjust. And yet, if women see themselves as feminists first and employees second, they will be perceived as not working for the best interests of the company, but for their cause.
I am not saying that women should not call out sexual harassment in the workplace. I am simply pointing that such actions exact a price. They make all women into potential threats, thus to be kept at a distance. As for whether the attacks on male sexual harassment has diminished the incidence of male sexual harassment, I would venture that it has simply made it more subtle and perhaps even insidious.
No one mentions women who engage in sexual harassment, but they certainly do. And, a man or a woman can be an appallingly bad manager without engaging in anything resembling sexual harassment.
In any event, Kellyanne Conway has achieved an extraordinary success. Does her success enhance the reputation of women political consultants? Of course, it does. Does it advance the feminist cause? Apparently, not.
Strangely enough, a woman whose achievements are inalienably her own ran a winning campaign against a woman who achieved very little and was largely riding her husband’s name. The nation’s feminists have risen up to shower Conway with contempt for having undermined their cause.
One needs to ask oneself whether they are concerned with what is best for their cause or what is best for women? Feminists will tell you that the two are identical, but try telling that to Kellyanne Conway.
Anyway, Conway was recently in the news because she declined to take a job in the Trump White House. Her reason: she has small children and she wanted to be more hands-on, more present in the home until they had grown up. She was not saying that she would stop working. She was saying that a White House job would have consumed her, to the point where she would have neglected her children.
A mother’s role, she seemed to be saying, was inalienable. She did not want her children to be brought up by nannies and she did not want them to feel that she had abandoned them. For the record, her husband is a partner in a law firm.
Feminists were appalled. They believe that all women should have the freedom to choose, but only if they choose what feminists want them to choose. Acting as though mother and father are not interchangeable roles is unacceptable. It’s heresy. If you think otherwise you will be banished from the Feminist Paradise.
One recalls that Anne-Marie Slaughter, card-carrying feminist, chose to give up her job as director of policy planning in Hillary Clinton’s state department because her fourteen year old son had been suspended from school, had taken up with the wrong kind of people and had been arrested by the police.
Faced with a difficult moral decision she decided to place her duty to her child above her duty to Hillary Clinton. She added that women cannot have it all and that anyone who says so is lying to young women. For the record, Slaughter’s husband was the lead parent in their marriage. He was a professor, which gave him more time to spend at home.
Many feminists were seriously torqued because they thought that Slaughter had betrayed the cause. By their lights, what is good for feminism must always trump what is good for your family. If that means sacrificing the well-being of your child for the cause, so be it.
Other feminists gave Slaughter a pass because she sprinkled her articles with calls for more government sponsored day care and the like. The notion that her teenaged son would not have had problems if he had had access to better daycare facilities was so risible that most feminists took it to be true.
Anyway, Kellyanne Conway recently provoked the feminist furies by explaining that a mother’s presence in the home is essential. She was saying exactly the same thing that Anne-Marie Slaughter was saying:
She caused an uproar by saying this:
I do politely mention to them the question isn’t would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who’s going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to . . . Would you want the mother of your children to? You really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.
Husbands and wives; mothers and fathers. Who knew that the two were not just a couple of social constructs designed to oppress women?
Suzanne Monyak responded on Slate:
The problem with Conway’s comments is not that she values her family or spending time with her young children. It’s that she seems to believe that it is the onus of the woman in a family to sacrifice her career opportunities so that her husband may have his. Even more troubling, Conway implies that no good mother should take on such a job—an attitude that feels ripped out of Mad Men.
Monyak is suitably confused. No one said anything about a woman sacrificing a career opportunity to allow her husband to have his. The question involved the difference between mothers and fathers, point that seems completely retrograde to Monyak.
As for her point, it does happen that women sacrifice career opportunities for their husband’s. Such has never been Conway’s case, but other women have faced similar choices. Different women and different men will make different choices, but a man who sacrifices his career advancement in favor of his wife’s—think of Slaughter’s husband, Andrew Moravcsik who proudly claimed to have done so—might discover that his decision is not exactly doing wonders for his sons. It's a question of being a good role model.
The Slaughter-Moravcsik debate never really addressed this issue, but having a man as lead parent causes problems that no one cares to address.
As for the non-interchangeability of parental roles, a recent study has shown how important it is for infants, babies and other children to hear their mothers’ voices. Yes, that would be a mother’s voice, not a father’s voice. The biology is clear and unambiguous. It was not socially constructed.
Aeon has the story:
It is no surprise that a child prefers its mother’s voice to those of strangers. Beginning in the womb, a foetus’s developing auditory pathways sense the sounds and vibrations of its mother. Soon after birth, a child can identify its mother’s voice and will work to hear her voice better over unfamiliar female voices. A 2014 study of preterm infants showed that playing a recording of the mother’s voice when babies sucked on a pacifier was enough to improve development of oral feeding skills and shorten their hospital stay. A mother’s voice can soothe a child in stressful situations, reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increasing levels of oxytocin, the social bonding hormone. Scientists have even traced the power of a mother’s voice to infants’ brains: a mother’s voice activates the anterior prefrontal cortex and the left posterior temporal region more strongly than an unfamiliar voice, priming the infant for the specialised task of speech processing.
Let’s see, when a baby hears his mother’s voice it stimulates cognitive and brain development. You might feel that this shows that God is sexist, but the truth is the truth and biology does exist. These facts are not social constructs.
Does it still matter when children grow older? Apparently, it does:
While it makes intuitive sense that a mother’s voice has special power over infants and toddlers, what happens as children grow up? Daniel Abrams, a neurobiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, and his team of researchers set out to answer this question using functional MRI (fMRI), a neuroimaging technique that measures brain activity by detecting metabolic changes in blood flow. The researchers examined 24 children between the ages of seven and 12, who had normal IQs, had no development disorders, and were raised by their biological mothers. While in the MRI machine, these children listened to recordings of nonsense words spoken by their mothers or by other women. The researchers specifically chose nonsense words so as not to trigger brain circuits related to semantics. Regardless, the children were able to accurately identify their mother’s voice more than 97 per cent of the time in less than one second.
The researchers wanted to know what happened in a child’s brain when they heard their mothers’ voices:
A mother’s voice activated a wide range of brain structures including the amygdala, which regulates emotion, the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, which are part of a major reward circuit, and the fusiform face area, which processes visual face information.
The team found that the more neural connection between these ‘voice-selective’ brain regions and those related to mood, reward and face processing, the more social communication abilities a child had. In other words, the neural fingerprint of a mother’s voice within a child’s brain can predict that child’s ability to communicate in the social realm.
So, it makes sense to believe that Slaughter’s sons, aged 10 and 14 suffered from her absence. It might not serve an ideology that systematically ignores scientific evidence that would not affirm its dogmas, but it matters to children. A mother like Slaughter or Conway has to decided which is more important, advancing the feminist cause or being the best mother one can be… especially when you see that being an absent mother harms your children. Sometimes you cannot do both at the same time.