And here I was thinking that we should demand structural change

The Times has an article on two new books about how women can get ahead in the workplace. I’m sure that we’ll hear a lot about both of them in the next few weeks/months as the media trips all over itself at the opportunity to spew misogyny while not actually being held responsible for it. How bad is it? Even the Times thinks its sexist.

“Seducing the Boys Club” is equal parts autobiography and how-to manual. Ms. DiSesa bases her recommendations on her 35-year career in advertising.

[. . .]

She lists seven deadly sins — humility, timidity, cowardice, submissiveness, blind obedience, visible fear and hypersensitivity — as common female traits to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, she also warns women to avoid male tendencies like getting “drunk with power.”

The two principal tactics advocated by Ms. DiSesa are seduction and manipulation. After bundling them together in a glib Madison Avenue abbreviation, she declares that, “All the men in our lives — the ones we work with or live with, admire or desire, and love or hate — are easier to control if we master the Art of S.& M.” Why would men fall for such tactics? “First of all, they love seduction,” she writes. “And second, they are oblivious to manipulation.”

Ms. DiSesa points out that sex and seduction are not one and the same. The first implies sleeping one’s way into the executive suite, an approach she deplores. The second, as she illustrates in rambling anecdotes, is more about using sophisticated charm and sugar-coated words to win the support of male business associates.

“One of the greatest tools, or weapons, we have as women is flirting,” she says, later adding, “Men like women who like them.”

[. . .]
There are no maybes in “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business.” Mr. Flett describes himself as a “reformed alpha male” who is now dedicated to helping women outwit alpha males.

Mr. Flett says the foundation of the 21st-century business model is “authenticity.” But instead of recognizing the new paradigm, he says, many women keep hiding behind personality masks to play roles like Mother and Geisha or try to pass themselves off as “one of the boys” by feigning interest in macho sports like ice hockey. At the same time, he accuses other women of committing a laundry list of typical female mistakes he details in chapters with subheadings such as “Taking Things Personally,” “Making Excuses” and, in a description of perhaps the most egregious mistake, “Not Keeping Secrets.”

But Mr. Flett also seems to contradict himself. “Women don’t have to become men in order to be successful,” he says. “In fact, they should appreciate that they hold a lot of the skills men attempt to learn.” That said, he proceeds to advise women to act more ruthlessly. Among the dictums he says he has learned from his own male colleagues are “Success is yours for the taking,” “Leadership is given to those who take complete responsibility” and “The world drives over weakness.”

But Mr. Flett also seems to contradict himself. “Women don’t have to become men in order to be successful,” he says. “In fact, they should appreciate that they hold a lot of the skills men attempt to learn.” That said, he proceeds to advise women to act more ruthlessly. Among the dictums he says he has learned from his own male colleagues are “Success is yours for the taking,” “Leadership is given to those who take complete responsibility” and “The world drives over weakness.”

Did you catch all of that, ladies? Don’t sleep your way to the top, but act in a way that will make everyone think that you did. Flirting is great because men are stupid, and even great business men who manipulate people day in and day out don’t know how to spot the kind of manipulation that involves pushing our your boobs. It’s our only hope: flirting is the best “weapon” we have. Since we don’t have brains or anything.

Also, must we tell you again? Stop gossiping and crying to keep yourself out of trouble. And please, mothers/geishas, quit dusting your boss’ office and decorating with doilies. Unless that’s part of your flirting, I presume.

You know, I’m well aware that the business world is still run by men and women are constantly being forced to adapt to the patriarchal rules and make sacrifices to survive. But you know what doesn’t help? Reinforcing the ridiculous MRA claim that women are the ones with the true power because of our innate role as the gatekeepers of sex. Telling women that in order to become equal to men and get them to stop thinking that we don’t belong in the workplace because we’re all manipulative whores, they must start using flirtation as a manipulative device? Hmm. Sounds like someone’s goal isn’t equality. Like maybe the guy who says that women are a great contribution to the workplace so long as they stop acting like sensitive whiny bitches, which they do all the time.

*Checks calender* Yup, it’s 2008, folks. We’re still only making seventy-something cents on the male dollar, sexual harassment and other gender discrimination run rampant, maternity leave is a distant dream, and this is what we have trying to pass as a solution.

[NOTE: An earlier version of this post accidentally contained a link to “adult” material. This was obviously not intentional. I was doing a Google Image Search for an image to go along with this post (didn’t find a good one) and while searching for “flirt” and “boss,” porn unsurprisingly turned up. There is a bug with FireFox (as some users may know) that causes the URL to stick in the address bar at the top of the screen when a large number of tabs are open. I didn’t click on the link before deleting it, but can only assume that this is what happened without my noticing after I closed the tab. I sincerely apologize to anyone who clicked on the link, and hope that you know it was a really bizarre accident.]

0 thoughts on “And here I was thinking that we should demand structural change

  1. Melanie

    Just checking – is the “two new books about how women can get ahead in the workplace.” link supposed to be to a “workplace fantasy” porn site?

    Otherwise – I’ve seen both these books in the media lately and it just boggles the mind that someone could be so oblivious as to offer this as good advice to women in the business world. Thanks for writing this.

    Reply
  2. Realist

    Have you read the books? or just Harry Hurt’s stunted book report?

    Sorry, but Harry Hurt apart from being a pathetic writer is a man barely in touch with the issues that we women face in the workplace.

    I read Seducing the Boys Club and have a few things to say. As a 41 year old woman in a boys club, it’s a must-read….it’s smart, insightful and witty. Clearly Harry Hurt doesn’t have a sense of humor. But mine is intact

    Ms. DiSesa’s book does not propagate sleeping your way to the top, nor flirting your way to the top. It does not pretend men are dumb or stupid or that women don’t have brains.

    For Heavens. read the book and form an opinion.

    Reply
  3. Kristen

    Books like these (which my cousins invariably send me) always irk the shit out of me. I prefer my grandmother’s advice…”Be yourself and to hell with the consequences.” That advice has gotten me two graduate degrees, a job that I love, and this year at least a very large bonus. Perhaps I should write a book… 😉

    Reply
  4. Realist

    I’d quote the whole book if I could as opposed to taking random quotes out of context.

    You know what irks the shit out of me.

    MISGUIDED OPINIONS.

    Read the book and then we’ll talk

    Reply
  5. Cara Post author

    Okay, Realist, well I’m not talking about the books. I think it was pretty clear in the post that I haven’t read the books and was commenting on the article itself. So you can talk about the books, but I’m talking about Ms. DiSesa’s representation of her own work. If this is how the author chooses to portray her book, people can hardly be blamed for assuming that it’s sexist crap that they don’t want to read. Her remarks sure as hell aren’t going to get me to buy it. So hey, maybe the book is great. But if that’s the case, she sure as hell needs some help with describing what is in it.

    Reply
  6. Cara Post author

    Oh, and you know what irks the shit out of me? Stating an opinion and then refusing to back it up with an actual argument. You can think I’m “misguided,” but at least I’ve stood by my opinion and been willing to argue it, instead of expecting everyone to believe what I said just becuse I said it.

    Reply
  7. Kristen

    Okay.

    To clarify, I skimmed this book at my local Borders at lunch. I did find a number of her “techniques” distasteful, stereotypical, and somewhat condescending (to men ironically). Her stories were interesting and I could relate, but its much like all the other “empowerment” books for women…useless.

    So I’m now taking bets on how long before someone sends this to me. The over/under is two weeks.

    Reply
  8. Heather

    “Women Don’t Ask” is probably the best book I’ve read to help be do anythign more efficiently when it comes to work and salary. Misquoted or not, I’m not a fan of the flirting ‘strategy.’ Do people tell men to flirt their way to become CEO? I don’t think so.

    Reply

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