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Bad News for People Who Like Good Girls

Newsweek has a piece on their website right now entitled, "How To Get A Raise: Stop Being Good" by Jessica Bennett. In it Bennett reviews a new book, Rachel Simmons' The Curse of the Good Girl which is about how raising girls to be "good" can actually be, well, bad when it comes to their careers. The book sounds pretty great, though not necessarily surprising. (Guess what? Women are socialized to be too nice to be taken seriously in the workplace!) Still, it's nice that Newsweek is addressing these issues for the not-necessarily-feminist set.

However, a lot was missing from the article, and a lot was there that frankly shouldn't have been. For example, as a photo essay accompaniment to the piece, Newsweek gives us "11 Powerful Women That Make Men (and Other Women) Squirm". While writing about the problems of the "psychological glass ceiling" that keeps many women from feeling confident in the workplace, isn't Newsweek perpetuating that same shit by basically calling women like Hilary Clinton, Martha Stewart, and Anna Wintour (and yes, they are all white women except for Yoko Ono) terrifying?

wintour-powerful-women-330.jpg

The "squirm"-inducing Wintour, via Newsweek

Now don't get me wrong. I think the women on the list are inspirational captains of industry (for the most part) and should be celebrated. (Though it would be nice to see a few more faces of color and differently-abled ladies in there.) It's just that, right after an article that explains why women are thought of as total bitches if they assert themselves at work, Newsweek has cried "Bitch!" at 11 women who have asserted themselves at work. Not as progressive as they claim to be, are they?

In addition, at no point does this article include a cultural critique of men and the patriarchal norms that govern many workplaces. Perhaps part of the reason why women are devalued and asked to remain "good" and complacent has at least something to do with their male counterparts? And what about the notion that traditionally "feminine" characteristics like compassion and creativity should be rewarded in the same way that the "masculine" traits of assertiveness and bottom-line productivity are?

Sure, a step in the right direction is exactly that. But why does it have to include a step back as well? Why can't we celebrate women who have achieved great things without simultaneously vilifying them? And why can't we point out the "psychological glass ceiling" so many women face without simultaneously blaming them for not being masculine enough?

What did you think of this article? And what about the photo essay? Do you think they are on the money with their list of 11 powerful women, or do you have some of your own edits to share?

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Comments

5 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Stop seeking approval

That, in my never-humble opinion, is the secret to success. In a previous career in the film industry I watched as talented, qualified, industrious women got over-worked and underpaid while talentless, unqualified men got promoted. I was probably the only woman in the office who agitated and demanded better pay. I got it and eventually, because I did, the other women had me to point to and they got raises as well. But what got me was how willing they were to just suck it up. I have *never* been willing to suck it up because I don't care whether people like me. You know what people like? Competence. You know what else they like? Confidence. And I'd venture to guess that despite (maybe even because) of my pushiness, my colleagues, both male and female, actually did like me. Sure, people will chatter bitchily about powerful women like Anna Wintour and Hillary Clinton. Who cares. Let them chatter. Anna's the one with the front row seat.

SOS

I'm sure your brazenness was valuable to other women where you worked, but isn't it all just the same old shit until we get that critique of male (or female) bosses and the patriarchal culture that dominates many workplaces that Kelsey is talking about? Without that, we're still asking women to play a very complicated game, that most importantly, men aren't asked to play. Women should be confident, women should stop seeking approval. But everyone in a workplace seeks approval in one way or another. So what's really wrong is the way women seek approval. That's a troubling assertion if we're not willing to critique the patriarchal aspects of society, because through the lens of the patriarchy, often anything women do is deemed less valuable by the nature of women doing it. Men get to be whomever they want. Doesn't having to watch your back at every moment of the day, constantly second guessing how your actions will be viewed, tend to hold a woman back a lot more than having been raised to be nice?

SOS's comment

You said: I'm sure your brazenness was valuable to other women where you worked, but isn't it all just the same old shit until we get that critique of male (or female) bosses and the patriarchal culture that dominates many workplaces that Kelsey is talking about? Without that, we're still asking women to play a very complicated game, that most importantly, men aren't asked to play. Women should be confident, women should stop seeking approval. But everyone in a workplace seeks approval in one way or another. So what's really wrong is the way women seek approval. That's a troubling assertion if we're not willing to critique the patriarchal aspects of society, because through the lens of the patriarchy, often anything women do is deemed less valuable by the nature of women doing it. Men get to be whomever they want. Doesn't having to watch your back at every moment of the day, constantly second guessing how your actions will be viewed, tend to hold a woman back a lot more than having been raised to be nice?

Oh! Holy Mother of GAWD!!! Kelsey totally blew the whole argument with her "women of color and patriarchal culture" comments. She had a great argument before and after that boat-sinker of a comment. Wet behind the ears in a not-too-important-college is what those comments say. Seriously, I am a woman, not of color---but I have some really big-deal "women of color" friends who are SO successful that they cannot find a "man-of-color" to cohabitate with them. I'm talking serious power women. You, little girl-child, aren't in the club...If you were you (and Kelsey) wouldn't use terms like "patriarchal culture" or "women of color". You would eat the ground up beneath your feet and you would be the person that everyone talked about--and not because of your color or even your gender. Alas, everyone does have their place. Power women never, ever use the word "bitch". That is for weak men and the women that love them.

I will say one thing, that I do think is quite important. I have seen, in the last 20 years, women in upper-middle level positions be incredibly bitchy. Unnecessarily cruel and mean to their subordinate employees, especially young women. They are trying to be a "bitch" thinking that that is the key to success. They will NEVER be successful. EVER. They really think that they're so slick, that they are really working it. I will say that, No, they are not slick, they will not get ahead, what they have is a very small, brittle mind-set and someday, in the not-too-distant future, they will be using words like "patriarchal culture" and "women of color" as they watch women they didn't think worthy achieve much more than them. Real women, even the toughest, help one another.

Develop Confidence

I'm with Lauren...stop seeking approval. Develop your own worth and self-confidence. I wrote a much longer reply to this post at www.alphawomenwithopinions.com Personally, I think it's archaic to still go around calling yourself a bitch to justify being a strong, independent, self-confident and opinionated woman. We need to get pass the psychological glass ceilings we set on ourselves.

bitch vs strong/independent/smart/ambitious

the real problem with the newsweek article is that it does nothing to dispell the powerful woman = bitch argument. nobody likes a bitch, just as nobody likes a bully/macho man. to get ahead, a man should not beat up a rival, he should outdo him in achievement. same goes for a woman. in terms of management/office relationships, women and men should both be fair to other employees/colleagues, and in so doing, maintain respect (which they will already have earned through their accomplishments). perhaps i'm being idealistic, but comparing good to bitchy seems off to me. they are worlds apart, and as the father of two daughters, i can only hope that my girls become strong, good, fair leaders in the workplace and the home, and don't fall into the trap of being nice or bitchy (both of which are bad traits in my view)
the lack of insight in the newsweek article bothers me because it appears to have been written by a young reporter, who (perhaps rightfully) has a bone to pick with society, but doesn't quite yet know what bone to be picking. but at least it's spurring discussion...