Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.
How much of modern-day America do women really control? Can you make a career out of only interacting with other women? (I’m not saying you should, but is that now possible?) Is an all-women MBA a good idea? What can we learn from Sara Blakely’s new billionaire status?
But first: The Reformation! And let’s explain the title of this piece.
In 1558, Protestant reformer John Knox published a tract entitled The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.
He was opposed to the Catholic queens of Scotland and England, as well as, by the way, all women.
“For their sight in civil regiment is but blindness; their strength, weakness; their counsel, foolishness; and judgment, frenzy, if it be rightly considered.” (Full text here.)
Following The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (it’s kind of fun to keep cutting and pasting the full title, which is really, in keeping with the times, The First Blast of the Trvmpet Against the Monstrvovs Regiment of Women), Queen Elizabeth I came to power, and despite the fact that she was also Protestant, she was really not that into John Knox, for some crazy reason. (Bitches are frenzied! Or, in the parlance of 1558, phrenesied.)
The Monstrous Regiment of Women is now the title of a hilariously reactionary Christian DVD. Quoth one Amazon commenter: “The practice of submissive women telling other women how happy they are in their subordinate state is as old as dirt.”
Considering all the Palins and Bachmanns (and Coulters and Ingrahams) popping up everywhere – that is, there are female politicians for every political bent – men who have problems with women as “civil magistrates” have … problems. See below: “Emily’s Lust!”
You know the Westboro Baptist Church? The awful one that pickets funerals and that basically nobody at all supports? I don’t want to link to it, but I’ll tell you – in the 1990s, the Internet was still a baby, and you didn’t just assume that everything had a website. So, when you discovered that something crazy had its own website, it was like digging up an old Roman coin in your backyard or something.
So, when I discovered that the Westboro Baptist Church had a website, and that they were scanning in their daily, hand-drawn fliers and posting them as PDFs, I was fascinated. And then I found one portraying the then-mayor of Topeka as the whore of Babylon, and I laughed so, so hard, and emailed it to everyone I knew, and I felt like this magical flier was the misogynistic equivalent of someone who is spouting homophobic hate speech while, literally, rocking his penis in and out of the mouth of his masseuse, Julio.
This morning, I woke up wondering if I could find this flier.
I remembered what dorm room I was in when I laughed uproariously. I deduced that it was 1998. Fortunately, GodHatesFags.com has archived 365 fliers per year going back to 1991. It is possibly the most compendious hate collection IN THE WORLD. In less than 45 minutes, I had looked through 365 PDFs, to find this:
SO MUCH HAPPENING. First, Sappho did not rule Lesbos. She was a poet. Poets have never ruled anything.
“Perversion” is not actually a very good way to obtain real power in society (see: Anthony Weiner). There’s also some strange conflation of being “corpulent” and “homely” with being a whore. (ALL THE THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT WOMEN ARE ONE THING OKTHANKS.)
And then, the Whore of Babylon is pulling the strings on … lady judges and lawyers! Are those lady firefighters and soldiers? (DRAW BETTER PLEASE.) The electrical worker on the post? Is he/she someone you’d want to operate like a marionette puppet in order to rule society? Really?
And then finally, in handwritten letters – written in the sky above Topeka, natch – “They Castrate Weak Men.”
Well, at least now we can see what someone’s worried about.
I swear, this crazy flier from 1998 is burned into my soul. I was reminded of it when I read a post on TheGrindstone informing me that there exists an all-women MBA program. I clicked on some links. Every article about Simmons College that was not on the Simmons College website was followed by nasty – fucking nasty – comments from men. (Try the Wall Street Journal piece, for instance.
Here’s what the “monstrous regiment of women” looks like at the Simmons MBA program: There’s a lot of focus on nonprofit work and sustainability. They have a new green building. They examine case studies of women business leaders; in fact, b-school professors at Harvard have borrowed these case studies. It’s cool if you’re part-time: most of the students are, because they have other obligations. You can get a joint MBA/MSW (that’s a Masters of Social Work).
Oh, those monstrous women! THEY CASTRATE WEAK MEN.
I must admit, the idea of an all-women MBA program appeals to me for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. None of the men in my career circle are sexist in any way I can tell. (This is particular to New York; when I was running a company in Virginia, asshats abounded).
But regular MBA programs attract what I might call extreme male personalities. And they certainly attract people who have no ambitions in life other than pushing money around (I have bundled your mortgage with 10,000 others and sold it to the Chinese, muhahaha!) and creating no value whatsoever. I mean, most jobs don’t really make the world a better place, but I’m not especially excited to meet those people
I don’t think that women are automatically morally better than men. But I do think that people who choose to go to business school are already a self-selecting population, and that women who choose to go to women’s colleges are not representative of all women, and that women who choose to go to an all-women’s business school are a fucking interesting bunch of people, at the very least. Were I going to go to business school, I’d want a business school where douchebag comments are called out immediately by students who articulately point out that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism are all intertwined. I want a douchebag-free business school.
The nasty comments garnered by articles about Simmons mainly fall into two categories: the legitimate (if insultingly expressed) view that women who attend an all-women business program will not be prepared to do business with men, and random, virulent misogyny apparently typed key-by-key with a penis that couldn’t find anyone nearby to rape.
I’m not copying the really nasty stuff (something about how women are trying to be men so much that they need to have test-tube babies?) But quoth one, more moderate commenter – who wasn’t trying to be sexist:
“In my MBA program there was no ‘Male Leadership’ per se. Just leadership by the most able for a particular task.”
The “per se” is really key there. Does this really make you want to go to this guy’s MBA program? It’s like saying, “Why fix inner-city public schools? Those kids don’t go to college anyway.” FOREHEAD HITTING GROUND, REPEATEDLY.
So, allow me to circle back around to careers, and mention that Sara Blakely – founder of Spanx – is a billionaire.
She’s also the youngest self-made female billionaire. She started her company with $5,000, while working full-time. From Forbes: “She owns 100% of her private company, has zero debt, has never taken outside investment and hasn’t spent a nickel on advertising.”
Unlike certain “women-owned” fashion businesses where some man is pulling the strings behind the scenes: not so, in this case. Of the 125 Spanx staffers, only 16 are men. The CEO’s name is Laurie Ann Goldman. When Blakely was engaged to her now-husband, she had to sit him down for a special talk: her company didn’t just make millions – it made hundreds of millions. He started crying: “I was just so happy for her.” (He now goes around happily telling the press that Blakely is “50% Lucille Ball, 50% Einstein.”)
I’m strangely fascinated by Blakely’s story because 1) she made her money entirely from women, and surrounded by women, 2) she’s not an entertainer (entertainment has always been an exception, in some ways, to rules that kept women and minorities shut out of opportunity, and 3) she’s weird, in the same sorts of ways that male billionaires are. (She snuck into stores and placed her product in racks near the register; she went on a reality show to promote her product and ended up setting a world record in “climbing a rope ladder the equivalent of a 17-story building.”)
Here are my favorite pieces of Blakely advice from all the press that’s surrounded news that she’s joined the billionaire list:
“My family knew that ‘Sara’s working on some idea’ but I never told them what it was,” she says. “Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.”
“Blakely has strong views about her wealth. ‘I feel like money makes you more of who you already are,’ she says from behind a mirrored desk in her plush Atlanta office, stirring a bowl of take-out soup and exhausted from a sleepless, flu-ridden night. ‘If you’re an asshole, you become a bigger asshole. If you’re nice, you become nicer. Money is fun to make, fun to spend and fun to give away.’
(In Bullish: How to Use Your Career to Make the World a Better Place, I wrote a whole subsection entitled, “Money isn’t evil; it simply magnifies the desires of whoever holds it.”)
I write for women and give seminars for women. I teach test prep and write educational books, but I feel that I have a certain specialty in teaching math to women who are terrified of math. (Note: There is no gender gap in math performance in Asia because no one told girls they were supposed to be bad at it, and because math is viewed as the result of hard work rather than as the product of inherent talent.) When I tutor high school kids, it’s almost always moms I talk to about it.
If I wanted to run a career in which I sold my services to women and women only, I could.
I’m not saying that I have any desire to do this. Why cut out whole market segments, and exempt yourself from the camaraderie and mentorship of men who are excellent at what they do? And plenty of men need math help, too. (And, for the record, in Bullish: How to Run Your Career Like a Gentlewoman, I was very clear that “with great power comes great responsibility”, that “some women are bad people,” and that using any newfound power to sexually harass or discriminate against men is wrong.)
But I’m saying – and here’s my point, if you’ve been patiently waiting for it (thank you) – that the reality of being able to run an all-women career in a variety of fields casts new light on the typical advice that we all have to man up and run our careers like dudes.
As you may know from my columns here and on TheGrindstone. I have written extensively about asking for money, talking more about money, marketing yourself, speaking up, pitching, neutralizing jerks, and helming your own future.
So, yes to all of that. But did you know that women-in-business books from the ‘90s and before recommended studying sports metaphors so you could talk more like a dude? (“We’re in the bottom of the ninth on this quarter’s sales figures.”) Fucking bullshit.
Dude culture no longer has a place in the workplace. Or at least it shouldn’t.
As John Knox wrote, regarding the Monstrvovs Regiment of Women, “For no man ever saw the lion make obedience, and stoop before the lioness.”
If our society was based on EATING GAZELLES, yes, I think feminism probably wouldn’t have happened. Fortunately, the gazelle-predation stage of our society has ended.