(Photo: Martin Klimek/ZUMA Press/Corbis; Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)
New York Magazine has a piece out this morning, which discusses the issues that professional women face, titled “Symbolism on Board: Marissa Mayer and the lessons of Sarah Palin.” The article is centered around Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, who is dealing with much of the same issues Governor Palin has faced throughout her career. It reads:
[T]here is the subgenre of stories populated by female leaders who take on a position at a moment when their femaleness is in its fullest bloom, when they are hormonal and exhausted from the rigors of bearing and raising children. No longer a “woman who,” no longer just a symbol of achievement, such a woman will instead incite a feeding frenzy of opinions and judgments. This is true of Marissa Mayer—37 years old, six months pregnant, and the new CEO of the foundering Internet company Yahoo. Just as it was true four years ago, when Sarah Palin agreed to run for veep while her fifth child, Trig, was only a few months old.
The common tut-tutting elicited by those two very different women shows how the debate over gender and ambition so often devolves from broad principles to personal perception. If you like the female dynamo in question—if she’s relatable, to you—then you tend not to worry about her priorities. And if you don’t, you do. Thus Mayer is heralded among left-leaning working mothers as a heroine and more: an antidote to the gloomy conclusion by Anne-Marie Slaughter in this month’s Atlantic that women “still can’t have it all.” You go, girl is the general feeling on Jezebel.
This double standard is not lost on Palin, who weighed in via e-mail on Mayer, her appointment, and her pregnancy: “There was obviously a lot of partisan hypocrisy about this issue during the 2008 election. I’ve been criticized for working with children and even having babies while serving as a city’s CEO and then as my state’s CEO. But I would have been criticized for not doing it as well.” The ambitious woman pursues her professional aspirations while having small children, or she remains childless in order to pursue her career—and either way she draws derision.
Palin’s point gets at perhaps the real takeaway from Slaughter’s Atlantic article and the conversation it started. In her piece, Slaughter raises high-minded calls for changes in policy that would mitigate trade-offs between family and career—and since the story’s publication, she’s been picked to death by critics calling her overprivileged, clueless, and lucky to have married an academic who could look after their boys while she was traveling the world as a State Department adviser to Clinton. Though she may not see it, her life—like Mayer’s, like Palin’s—is proof that as a woman, you can, yes, have at all. But as working mother, you just can’t win.
You can read the entire article here.