Why Must We Disagree With Successful Women?

Sheryl Sandberg has a new campaign. Beyonce has a sexy dance at the award show. A woman is running for political office. And, reliably, in every instance, you will hear women’s advocates disagree with what she is doing.

This should happen for the simple fact that women are not all the same, and we don’t all think the same. We sure as hell don’t have the same experiences. Yet surprisingly, this fact is little acknowledged within mainstream discourse. One woman’s actions are interpreted to speak for what is possible for the whole. We do not do this to heterosexual white men.

If a heterosexual white man is elected into office, we don’t comment on the message he is sending to other heterosexual white men. We comment on his ideas. If a woman has enough privilege to share her ideas with a broader audience, which remains relatively rare, we insist upon placing a frame around her that simultaneously evaluates all other women and urges women to disagree with her.

It is precisely because women in the public eye are interpreted as representing the whole that women, including but not limited to feminist women, are under pressure to so vehemently disagree with the actions of women in the public eye. We have been presented with a vision of gender empowerment that gives women one to a few slots among a sea of other slots primarily occupied by heterosexual white men. We are supposed to celebrate the few women leaders we have, and encourage ourselves and others to be just like them. What this means is that someone else has already beaten us to the punch. We are, in other words, encouraged to compete with other women rather than insist that heterosexual white men share power to the extent that a diverse array of women can share an equal seat at the table.

When a strong woman acts, the next step in the social media world is to talk about her ideas or actions in relation to that woman. A referendum on her action ensues. It is beneficial to analyze, disagree, and parse out new opinions, yes. Women are not all the same.

Still, it would be nice to see a referendum on the practice of assigning women and in particular feminist women the job of picking apart the actions of the comparatively few women leaders we have. It is both radical and necessary to call for a culture of abundance, where more than one type of womanhood is celebrated and supported, and more than a few women get to speak for the whole. The whole is never going to be one woman speaking for all women; that form of feminism is out-of-date. Let’s also rewrite the sell-by date on the practice of demanding women  reply to and vehemently disagree with the actions of the pathetically small number of women at the top.

If we are truly engaged in a zero-sum game for increasing the options available to women (a premise a culture of abundance rejects anyway), a handful of brand-name women with platforms are the wrong target; white heterosexual men are not called upon to defend the way patriarchal dominance means they are evaluated primarily for their ideas every time they try something new.

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Cosmo Says Male-Dominated Workplaces Are Great Places To Score A Date

For decades, Cosmopolitan magazine has been enthusiastically converting the mainstream, feel-bad-about-yourself mythology of girl-meets-guy into a mainstream, monthly infection. You’re supposed to only want guys (duh), and be validated through men (it’s so exciting!), and make yourself pretty so he’ll like you (eat a smaller lunch and tone those glutes!) and taking this matter into your own hands is empowering (and here are some bonus sex tips to help make him moan, because the sex is about the pleasure, or at least his).

Telling women that male-dominated workplaces are great places to score a date is taking this yuck to a whole new level.

From The Best Places to Meet a Guy (emphases mine):

Hot spot: A Fortune 500 or tech company

The draw: How’s this for a fab job perk? Twenty-two percent of people met their spouses or long-term significant others on the job, according to a survey by Vault.com. But all careers are not created equal, guy-wise. If you’re searching for a new position, consider working for either a Fortune 500 company (75 percent of incoming full-time associates at top banks, many of which are in the Fortune 500, are guys) or a tech company (men make up 75 percent of the technology workforce, according to the National Science Foundation). Hint: Once you’re in, join the office Super Bowl pool.

Find it near you: Visit hoovers.com for a list of companies. The following Fortune 500 companies have an impressive guy-to-girl ratio: 

    • California: 75 percent of new hires, as of their latest report, at Cisco Systems, an Internet networking business, are male; cisco.com.
    • Nationwide: At Dominion, an energy company, 78 percent of staffers are male; dom.com. And 70 percent of Hewlett-Packard employees are men; hp.com.

Hot spot: A political rally or campaign

The draw: The hottest political organization these days is the Save Darfur Coalition, which is dedicated to ending the genocide in Darfur, the western region of Sudan in Africa. Stars like George Clooney are getting involved in the movement, and the number of members (read: smart, passionate guys) is rapidly increasing. If you feel fired up for the cause too, check out upcoming rallies, vigils, roundtables, and concerts. Or join a political campaign. The best part: Many senatorial and gubernatorial campaign teams are male-dominated. The atmosphere is intense (you’re all working hard toward a goal: the candidate winning), and there’s a set end point (the election), which lends itself to a live-for-the-moment attitude that’s conducive to love connections.

Find it near you: Visit savedarfur.org/events or electionprojection.com for a list of candidates by state.

Yes! This is real! ZOMFG. Cosmopolitan is proudly presenting the glass ceiling as an aphrodisiac. Why rage against the machine when you can run your leg alongside it? You are being encouraged to research companies run by dudes not so you can demand answers or take away your business (which would be totally valid ways to seek empowerment), but so you can seek a job for the purpose of finding someone to bang you. Not once is it suggested that seeking a job in one of these boys clubs might be about advancing your career or the status of women (which would also be totally valid ways to seek empowerment). Nor is it suggested there is something wrong with these ratios.

But wait! Not only are men doing it pretty much by themselves in the big companies for the big salaries, they are also doing it in politics. It’s even “the best part” that “many senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns are male-dominated.”

While holding individual women and their sexual choices responsible for the second-class status of women is not a feminist activity, we have every right to be concerned that Cosmopolitan is suggesting that women should go into male-dominated workspaces on the prowl for mating partners. This kind of sludge serves to reinforce sexist ideas about women in the workplace and suggests that we might be working hard and showing enthusiasm not because we care or want to get promoted, but because we want to get laid. All while managing to simultaneously avoid addressing and also celebrate the skirts off the power differential of a man pursuing a more junior woman in the male-dominated workspace.

Cosmopolitan calls itself a “cheerleader for millions of fun, fearless females who want to be the best they can be in every area of their lives.” In 2014 it’s hard to believe the best we can be is holding fewer than one in 10 of the top-earner slots in Fortune 500 companies and maybe also taking it on the copy machine.

If you would like to see Cosmopolitan stop turning “Lean In” into “Sleaze In,” drop them a line at inbox@cosmopolitan.com.

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