How To Be a Lady CEO in 8 Patriarchal Steps

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I’m not sure what part of this Vogue article is the true singularity of patriarchy-approved packaging for a powerful, successful woman like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, but here are some contenders:

  1. The lead photo, in which Mayer lies upside down and prone on a chaise lounge, with flowing long hair and dead eyes, holding a tablet with an equally dead-eyed woman’s face on it.
  2. The first paragraph, beginning with Mayer rattling off numbers. You could be forgiven for thinking that she’s talking about something related to the prestigious job that she spent years earning, but she’s really just talking about her own age and her baby boy.
  3. The all-important “neg”: “On business issues, she speaks awkwardly, piling as many likes into a sentence as Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. But when she gets on to technology, she turns effortlessly articulate.”
  4. Juxtaposing Meyer’s “geek” cred with the breathless description of her outfit, coupled with the allegation that Mayer’s success is not her own, rather that “the paradox of being both glamorous and a geek” explains Mayer’s success as Yahoo’s chief executive.
  5. “Tonight she is wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress, with daubs of yellow, blue, and green on a white field, reminiscent of her most famous product: the Google home page. At some point, the guests notice that she’s vanished. She calls this her ‘CEO exit,’ disappearing upstairs without good-byes while the party carries on.”
  6. Evidence of Mayer’s dedication and perfectionism in business: “Mayer recently hosted an APM reunion at her house; she took time to write a personal note in each of the 200 commemorative photo books.”
  7. More evidence of Mayer’s dedication and perfectionism in business: “What might otherwise look like a crazed level of micromanagement serves a purpose.”
  8. The paragraphs dedicated to praising Mayer for “forgetting” she is a woman, which include such classics as: “I really had just been very blind to gender. And I still am” and “Mayer . . . was often asked how it felt to be the only woman on engineering teams. She’d answer truthfully: She hadn’t noticed”.

Wow, thank You, Vogue! You have taught me that I need only authentically disavow my womanhood, then I can become a CEO. Once I do that, I can transition seamlessly into being the Platonic ideal of traditional upper-class white femininity. I’ll rock designer outfits, keep myself model-skinny, host lavish parties, and outsource my childcare needs with the best of them. And, . . . AND! Because I know that sexism has never affected me, I won’t mind when the intelligence, dedication, and attention to detail that make me good at my job are described either as “crazed micromanagement” or filtered through my perfect feminine charms. I just know I can attain that perfect balancing act as soon as I shed this pesky feminism.

Rad-Femme Lawyer

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  1. Randle Aubrey August 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Y’know, I never really cared for Mayer all that much. Some of the stuff I’ve read about her and her business practices has struck me as rather morally objectionable. All the same, she certainly deserves better than a trite puff-piece like this one. Despite whatever grievances anyone might have against her, climbing as far as she has in such a male-dominated industry is worth a measure of respect, and not of the sort that makes a mockery of her womanhood.

  2. Rad-Femme Lawyer August 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Yeah I’m not a fan of hers myself, for many reasons. I could probably say the same for a lot of CEOs, and I wouldn’t have to make them seem less accomplished in order that they be “relatable” or “approachable” to do it.

  3. Juwan Dickerson August 21, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I don’t want to speak from a position of male privilege here but I don’t necessarily see a big problem with the piece written on Meyer. We all acknowledge that Meyer is a very intelligent and successful businesswoman that has climbed to the top of her field on her own merit and grit and is turning around a company that was on the brink of failure. However, this is Vouge that you’re talking about and Vouge isn’t really into hard hitting business journalism. It’s a fashion magazine and its going on and on about her clothes, decorating choices, the lavish parties, and the photographers are going to pose her to look like a fairy model using an Instagram filter because that’s what girls like right?

    Meyer may be a success story or a role-model for any person seeking to become the top of their field regardless of gender, race, orientation, etc. And reading more of the article it does paint a balanced picture of Meyer successes as a smart businessperson. It’s not too problematic at least to me it’s not. But I would never try to discount your opinions. I just think that this magazine was just trying to frame her story in a way that will appeal to its readership.

  4. Juwan Dickerson August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Oops I forgot to close my italics, just to be clear I meant the “that’s what girls like” comment to be tongue in cheek.

  5. Rad-Femme Lawyer August 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Juwan, I take your point that it is Vogue. However, the image they project of Marissa is one of submission and frivolity, not one of power. I’m speaking literally in regards to the photo they shot of her: imagine how different it would be if they showed her standing, staring straight ahead, feet firmly on the ground, in the same fierce outfit. That says, “she’s fierce as hell and she loves clothes”. In contrast, posing her upside down looking submissive sets a different tone.

    Moreover, the article praises Mayer for “not noticing” sexism. That strategy is one that some women choose, but it’s a coping mechanism, not evidence. Sexism exists, even if some powerful women say that it does not. Besides, I don’t believe for a second that Mayer hasn’t noticed she is one of the 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs who are women.

    Finally, the author belittles how Mayer speaks, and the way she runs meetings, two essential aspects of her job. Although the social aspects of her job/life may be relevant in Vogue, the article describes a CEO as exacting and demanding, and acts like that’s a bad thing. All CEOs are exacting and demanding and smarter than the room, or if they’re not, they should be. And no other profile of a male CEO I have read has so much commentary designed to make those personality features “less threatening”.

    Thank you for reading, and for your comment.

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