Thursday, February 28, 2013

Marissa Mayer and the Feminist Freak-Out

The Marissa Mayer feminist freak-out continues.

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.


Dennis said...

I wonder if Ms Rosin recognizes her role in so many women eschewing the term feminist or feminism? I would think that any woman with the skills and abilities to lead would not be wished to be identified with something that identifies them with a bias towards any group of people. What is it that confuses feminists about the term leadership? What is it about the best qualified person for the job that throws them into such a rant? When do they accept that success has been attained and now it is time to move on? How many people's lives do they have to ruin including their own before they finally figure it out.

Sam L. said...

Feminists believe (it appears to me) that the reason they and women generally don't advance to leadership positions or good jobs or whatever is because of the influence of men. Because they know (KNOW) they are first-rate, Grade-A, downright superb people and no other explanation makes sense. Additionally, they hate any POV not their own.

I could be wrong. They, of course, can't admit the possibility.

Dennis said...

What feminism has wrought.
Who knew that when women talked about a "boy toy" that they actually meant underaged boys? It makes one wonder what feminists would say if men talked about "girl toys" as "cougars" do? And one wonders why women in large numbers don't want to be associated with the term feminist or feminism?
I remember a feminist woman commenter on this blog stating that one cannot blame feminism for everything and thinking at the time how this is a woman who ascribes to a philosophy that blames men and boys for everything bad that has happened throughout history, or should I say "herstory," the present and in the future. Does she not see the hypocrisy in that statement? I guess that is the difference between feminists and other people. We know that the vast majority of people are just trying to live their lives the best way possible whether they are male or female and feel that they retrying to meet their potential.
When one runs a business one is in it to bring that business up to its potential and provide the product or services required by those who would buy it. It is NOT to make the "sisterhood" happy. Marissa Mayers seems to me to be doing what she thinks Yahoo needs and that is what she was hired to do. Good for her. NOTE: I do not have a very good opinion of Yahoo, especially their customer service.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

The interesting thing is that these casual sexual encounters between female teachers and underage male students are so common. You link to The Daily Caller's gallery of teachers who indulge this kind of activity, but it is worth noting that the DC has run more than a few of these galleries.

In a world where men are constantly being tarred as sexually abusive and where women are seen as victims, somehow or other a woman who is trying to explore her sexuality seems to see herself as incapable of doing anything wrong.

Dennis said...

I know we have a growing problem in Florida with female teachers preying on underaged boys. I suspect that if someone gathered this information from all of the states that most would be shocked by its prevalence. Worse yet is that they hardly ever do jail time. It is almost as if society gives them a pass for deviant behavior that would get males far stiffer penalties. No pun intended.
In my more cynical moment I wonder if parents who send their male children to public schools should be charged with child abuse. I suspect that is why one is seeing so many different ways available to school ones children. The same is true for colleges and universities.
If one can afford it, by whatever means, they need to get their children out of public schools.

Sam L. said...

Why did liberals stop calling themselves that and become "progressives"? It wasn't the GOP, but they themselves who by their actions made 'liberal' a bad word. Feminists have done the same; they just haven't come up with another term for themselves.

I will say that when I was a teenager, if an older woman had offered herself to me, I'd have thought myself the luckiest kid in the world.

Dennis said...

Anonymous said...

Oh God, take a chill pill. A few squabbles on the internet does not constitute the death of feminism. The only one who's all lathered up is you.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I was quoting Hanna Rosin's argument... try reading a little more carefully.

Dennis said...

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I had seen this story... amazing and frightening. If he had not disarmed the gunman and the gunman had shot him, would he then be a hero?

Dennis said...


So you won't feel insecure about feminism.
It is good to see how to handle that insecurity. Reading a few of the links might help.
When are people going to recognize that they are what they are and just enjoy being themselves?

Dennis said...


If the above link is too explicit or does not meet the standards of your blog I won't be offend it if you
remove it.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

It's from Slate... isn't that a family website?

alevit said...

Hi Stuart, thanks for your post on my recent piece about Marissa Mayer. I'm actually not a feminist, not really. Although I don't have CEO experience other than running my own small company, I was a vice president in Corporate America for 10 years. I have seen how hard it is for female executives to be taken seriously and rise to positions equal to those of men. I don't think Marissa Mayer had feminism or anti-feminism in mind when she made her decision either. I just feel that she did not think it through properly. Even with two months of perspective, I see the mandate as wrong on so many levels, and yes, I'm not a fan of how the whole thing looked to the public at large coming from a young, newly minted female CEO. In any case, I appreciate your thoughtful rebuttal.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Alexandra for your response. My information, from public and private sources, suggested that Marissa Mayer inherited a terrible mess at Yahoo. It makes sense that she would have tried to impose some order and discipline, to say nothing of some collegiality on the chaos she found. If most of the company had acquired bad work habits and had lost any sense of cooperation and collaboration, breaking the habit was not going to be an easy thing to do. MM did not give a bunch of pep talks or hold a bunch of meetings. She imposed some order on the chaos. It is never an easy thing to do, and it never happens without some level of pain. I think that the issue involves breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones. It's hard enough for individuals... so I am willing to give her some slack when it comes to turning around a dysfunctional corporate culture.

In the end, the policy will be judged on whether the company's fortunes take a turn for the better. For now, they have. But, we shall see over time.