Marissa Mayer and the Failure of Trickle-Down Empowerment – The Daily Beast
2017/01/13 Leave a comment
Valid commentary by Erin Gloria Ryan on how the focus on those at the top, their successes and failures, often overshadows the overall context, realities, and class:
Mayer may not have identified as a feminist, but men who hate women sure celebrated her stumbles as though she was. A curious amount of schadenfreude followed any announcement of a problem at Yahoo. It seems her existence rubbed some observers the wrong way. And some who would have legitimate reasons to critique her work seemingly shied away, out of fear of being roped in with those who would howl about a woman being happy and successful no matter what her job, or how good she was at it.
This combination of voices—idiotic critique from those who would hate something no matter what, combined with reticence on the part of the thoughtful to offer useful critique from a place of good faith—is something that seems uniquely zeitgeisty, especially when it comes to powerful women. And, in that sense, Mayer’s rise and fall stands out as something that makes more sense than most things that have happened in the last 12 months.
In recent years, there’s been an upswell in corporate feel-good feminism. The type of feminism that means well but tends to focus on fighting the battles and celebrating the victories of only the most privileged among women, whether or not those women believe in those principles. The type of feminism that envisions that the collective action of all feminists will push women up the ladder one at a time, and that she, upon reaching the top, will reach down and pull more women up behind her.But that capitalist model leaves everybody who wasn’t already within arm’s reach of the chosen women behind. As the front of the line advances skyward, the women at the back of the line move further and further from the c-suite. How can women identify as part of a group with common interests and values if it seems the loudest voices in that group are telling the least privileged that the battle they should be fighting is one that allows Marissa Mayer to have a nursery in her office? Who cares if a movie star is making millions less than her male counterpart if the U.S. still has an embarrassingly high maternal mortality rate among women of color? Having a female president is not the same as all women becoming the president. Looking at a glamourous photoshoot of a female Fortune 500 CEO in Vogue is not the same as being able to afford child-care. Feeling good isn’t the same as progress.
It seems feminists want so strongly for a woman to be a visionary CEO, a tech genius, a president that they’re able to overlook glaring flaws, that they’re unwilling to critique or to be tolerant of honest critique from others. We want superheroes; we’ve got plain old human beings.
It can be tough to tease out legitimate skepticism of the work of women like Marissa Mayer from misogyny; misogyny has been practicing blending in for years. But it’s also silly to pretend that trickle-down feminism, that which trusts those at the top will somehow benefit those at the bottom in any tangible way, is a tenable focus for advocates of gender equality. Nobody can lift that many bootstraps on her own. Even with Alibaba money.