Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

How Conservatives Despise Women

David Brooks disses women; Gail Collins is pissed!

No, this post isn't a recap of the 2012 election and the Republican Senatorial "rape" candidates.

Nor is it a review of how nothing characterized the most recent Papacy better than its repression of nuns.

It's about the most courtly of conservatives, the New York Times' David Brooks.  Brooks is notable for never becoming angry or getting in frays with the liberal commentators who regularly join him on media panels.  (Oh, that leaves aside his legendary enmity with fellow New-York-born New York Times Jewish liberal — only in this case he remained a liberal — Paul Krugman.)

Most notably, Brooks conducts a regular jocular debate (called "The Conversation") in the Times with fellow columnist, liberal Gail Collins.  Unlike Brooks (and Krugman) Collins is not from New York or Jewish.  Oh — and Collins is a woman.  These traits combine to make Collins approach her liberal-to-radical agenda gingerly — most notably through her characteristically "light" humorous touch.

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The exchanges between the Brooks and Collins are thus light-hearted, self-deprecating, and excrutiatingly polite. But there's one thing that really sets Collins off — messing with women's career options — a concern reflected in her best-seller, When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.

This sets the stage for the contretemps in the Times between these two even-keeled, collegial, bantering jousters around Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  The phrase "lean in" has become an instant meme: it says to women "don't wimp out — I know you've got a lot on your plate, but you deserve to lead the world," or some such.

A lot of women have objected to Sandberg's confident — not to say cocky — suggestion that women can do it all.  After all, Sandberg can marshal a lot of help in support for her lifestyle and job from her corporate tower.

Brooks stepped into this fray with glee, seeming to find in it an opportunity to diss women — especially opinionated women — you know, like Collins.  Note his careful phraseology — and his totally ignoring Collins' ire throughout their exchange:

David: Somehow I feel I’m traipsing onto somebody else’s turf if I wade into the Sandberg debate and start telling women they can’t have it all. I say this even though I am rigorously consistent on this matter. The very definition of conservatism is: You can’t have it all. No matter who you are, you can’t have it all. The universe is specifically structured to prevent this. Still, this feels like an intra-female debate. 

[Translation: Cat fight!  But, anyhow, conservatives know that human beings have a miserable lot in life.  Well, except for a few successful media stars like myself — but I don't flaunt it!] 

Gail: If “having it all” means fame, fortune, happiness and perfect body tone, then obviously you’re right. But when it comes to women, “having it all” has historically referred to being able to have both career and family. And if you define career as going for the top of your profession — C.E.O. or law firm partner or presidential candidate or whatever — it’s still generally much harder for women to combine that with raising children. In college, the guys aren’t worrying about whether they’ll be able to pursue their career dreams and still have kids. . . . 

Just saying “you can’t have it all” is like saying “there’s no problem here.” I can’t buy that as long as the United States Senate is only 20 percent female and the group of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s is made up of only about 4 percent women C.E.O.’s. 

[Translation: You're either nuts or some simpleton conservative if you don't see that women continue to be denied the same access to power and success as men, which is what we're discussing, jerk!] 

David: I would only add from a neutral Swiss perspective that the whole Sandberg debate reminds me that while feminists have been rooting for female success for decades, many writers in that camp never seem to like specific females who are actually successful. 

[Translation: Far be it from me to enter into a dispute among the fair sex!  I will say that feminists claim they want women to be successful, then they resent like hell when another woman is successful — those cats!] 

Gail: David, I have been to 10 million gatherings of feminists celebrating successful women. Ten billion. This idea that women who make it are objects of scorn is totally crazy. There was a cover on Time this week with a picture of Sheryl Sandberg and the headline “Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Successful.” That’s ridiculous. You can criticize somebody’s ideas without criticizing their achievements. [emphases added] 

[Translation: You're crazy, you pig.]

David: The other thing I’d note is that there is no self-righteousness so virulent as the self-righteousness an upper-middle-class writer adopts to criticize the out-of-touchness of an upper class writer.  The inability to afford a second home seems to be regarded by some people as a mark of their own God-like purity. Not that I’m interfering in this fracas. Not me. Strictly neutral. 

[Translation: Intellectual women writers — you know, like you Gail — are jealous of Sandberg's wealth, success, and bestsellerdom.] 

Gail: Someday perhaps there will be a fairer and more perfect world in which the media devotes more time to eviscerating the work of unsuccessful writers and the controversial ideas explored in their unpublished books. 

[Translation: Drop dead, David — we criticize books that are getting attention because that's where the action is.] 

Relax, dear reader: This seasoned couple will soon — has already — regained its balance as they jab artfully and good-naturedly at one another about easy topics like wars, the economy, education, and electoral politics. 

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Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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