I seek women of my age or stage who look cool and proud and smart and stylish and modern. I imagine they recognize one or more of these qualities in me and we acknowledge each other as we pass, silently. ‘I see you, lady!’
Rudy Giuliani has said and done some odious things since he was declared “America’s Mayor” after 9-11. Getting in bed with Trump was one of them but making matters worse, he took it upon himself to explain why, in his opinion, Trump would have never had an affair with someone like Stormy Daniels.
“I’m mean look at her,” he said in a televised interview, disparaging Daniels as not attractive enough, not educated enough and not classy enough for the likes of Trump. His facial expressions—a wince, an eyeroll and the kind of Borscht-Belty mugging Trump himself deploys—dismissed even the “remotest possibility” of a Daniels/Trump affair. And then he felt the need to add that he couldn’t respect a woman who sold her body for money. “I mean, come on.”
“You misogynistic fool. Are you kidding me? Just look at Stormy Daniels? Just look at yourself,” Mika Brzezinski responded, frostily, after playing a clip from Guiliani’s speech. “Let me tell you something. Stormy Daniels could indeed bring down this president, so I hope you all just look at her.”
Co-host Joe, wisely, refrained from interrupting her, or saying anything at all, as Mika continued, which was a nice piece of theater unto itself.
So many baffling things about Guiliani’s words but some of them include: Trump already admitted to the affair, you fool, and Marla Maples is nobody’s idea of classy and, by the way, FLOTUS, at one time, also “sold her body for money” (see photos below).
At the gym this week, half-listening to a throwback workout playlist, it struck me how casually misogynist—or at the very least, patronizing—the lyrics I grew up on are. The song that stuck me was BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” which heralds the working man, while dismissing “the girls,” who were “just trying to look pretty.” Other hits, all anti-female anthems: “Some Girls” (Rolling Stones, who also gave us “Stupid Girl”), “California Girls” (Beach Boys) and “Fat Bottomed Girls” (Queen). By contrast, “American Woman” (The Who), lets the “girl” grow up only to turn her away with:
“Don’t come hangin’ around my door
I don’t wanna see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you.”
And there’s everybody’s favorite date-rape Christmas Carol, “Baby It’s Cold Out There,” just a tale of a girl trying to leave, only to get roofied by a guy who wonders, Weinstein-like, “What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?” while she wonders, woozily, “say what’s in that drink?”
It’s the Seventies in Iowa City and my sisters and friends, Mindy and Jocie, and I are putting on a variety show in the basement, which concludes with “You Are Sixteen…”—basically an Aryan youth mansplaining life to a girl just a year younger than he is. The big finish:
“You need someone, older and wiser, telling you what to do-ooooo (sing it out). I am seventeen, going on eighteen, I-I-I-ll, take caaaaaare of you-oooooo!“
Pause is the title of a essay by the poet Mary Ruefle about menopause. It is long and, in many ways not my experience. I never felt suicidal, wanting to kill myself “with a steaming hot turned-on iron.” Ruefle (hmmm… sounds like rueful?) writes in the third person, telling you what you will feel, with no small amount of conviction, which is why I feel the urge to disagree with her. However, this part sounds right to me, especially the italicized bit:
You have the desire to leave your husband or lover or partner, whatever.
No matter how stable or loving the arrangement, you want out.
You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.
This, and other behaviors, will horrify you. You will seek medical help because you are intelligent, and none of the help will help.
You will feel as if your life is over and you will be absolutely right about that, it is over.
No matter how attractive or unattractive you are, you have been used to having others look you over when you stood at the bus stop or at the chemist’s to buy tampons. They have looked you over to assess how attractive or unattractive you are, so no matter what the case, you were looked at. Those days are over; now others look straight through you, you are completely invisible to them, you have become a ghost.
I do feel invisible, which, Frances McDormand tells me is the best thing that will ever happen to me:
‘You become sexually invisible to both men and women. You gain the power of not giving a shit,’ McDormand says in a profile about her in the NY Times Sunday Magazine.
And I love Ruefle’s last lines, finally hopeful, and explaining why the pause exists in the first place:
You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.
Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known.
I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to help millennial women climb the corporate ladder — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated to not show a gender bias leading the “why they don’t” discussion.
And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive—and patronizing—attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way: They are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear to work. As a theme, the objections are mostly about ignoring social queues and not adhering to “normative” workplace behavior.
It should (but doesn’t) go without saying: what’s “normative” changes constantly. I try to remember this when I find myself rolling my eyes at generational differences in the workplace. It’s also worth knowing they’re rolling their eyes back. I’m thinking of the time I referenced “the ladies room” only to overhear one female employee grousing to another: “why the f***k is a grown-ass woman talking about a ‘ladies room?’” The truth is, adapting to a changing world is how any of us survive— in the workplace and on the planet. And I don’t intend to stop adapting now, even if the change agents are women 35 years younger than I am. A partial list of what I’ve learned:
- Casual references to calories, dieting and “I feel so fat” are not OK
When I was the rising generation, a certain kind of striving-to-be-inclusive female boss would attempt to cozy up with “just us gals” chat like this. Fifty-something leaders, myself included, need to celebrate body positivism as a great leap forward.
- Pronouns matter
I got into a ridiculously heated discussion over using they/them when referring to an individual, so as to honor their not choosing to use he/she/him/her. My wrongheaded objection was based on grammar — an individual can’t use plural pronouns, I said. I was so, so wrong. The argument ends here: yes, they can, whatever Chicago Manual of Style might think.
- (Office) Clothing, optional
Women miss the point when they judge each other on clothing choices: bared midriffs, ripped jeans, lacy bralettes worn over tops. Too long, we’ve had men characterize us by how we dress. Let’s not do that too each other, OK?
- Don’t use prissy punctuation on Slack
I’m an editor. I like a well-placed semi-colon and the proper use of a one-m dash. But Slack (or a text) is not the place for them.
- Stop all that ‘splaining
Sometimes, when you’re the boss of people in the room or simply when you happen to be the one talking, you talk over people about something you know less about than they do. This is a kind of abuse of power, at worst, and borderline offensive, at best. And by “you” I mean “me.”
- Girl, not interrupted
I’ve been stunned—in a good way—at my younger female colleagues easy deflection of manterrupters. It’s not harder than this, as it turns out: “Give me another sec, I haven’t finished my point, Andrew.”
- I am not her mother
There’s slightly icky workplace type called the Office Mom, who helps the young’uns personally and professionally (whether they want her help or not). It’s all too easy to see your daughter or son in like-aged colleagues, but they’re not actually your children, let us remind ourselves to remind ourselves.
Put another way, it’s best to steer clear of anachronisms like “the ladies room.”
Hell hath no fury like a woman silenced. Like Trump’s Nasty Woman putdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rebuke (and silencing) of Elizabeth Warren last night only fanned the flames of female fury. Here‘s how it went down: Warren began to read a letter from Coretta Scott King’s feelings about a prior Jeff Sessions’ appointment. McConnell objected to both the reading of the letter and to Warren’s history of outspokenness, even after she is asked to stop talking. Then came the line.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Instantly, this has become a rallying cry for women in government, in the workplace and in relationships to “persist” in the face of would-be male silencers. Writes Heidi Stevens for The Chicago Tribune:
“Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you.”
Or push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”
Sometimes the floor remains yours; sometimes you get rebuked and silenced by your colleagues.
But you say what needs to be said. And here and there, you inspire a rallying cry.
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Playbill reports that actress Carol Channing turned 96 this week and, by the looks of her, she’s sticking with her winning style: tousled silver bob, foot-long lashes, big red lips, a dress like a disco ball. I was about to write that I best remember her in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” but in skimming the libretto, I recall none of this: devil-may-care paperclip salesman? ‘several white girls tied up to be sent off to Peking?’ And somehow all of this adding up to ‘the happiest motion picture hit of the year?’ Funny, too, how Millie is thought of as “modern” when she takes a job of a stenographer, then marries a millionaire.
Regardless, many happy returns Miss Channing!
More from the Sister Support file, from the former editor of Seventeen, Ann Shoket. I reserve judgment except to say: I need a side hustle. What does this mean, where do I find one and whom or what, exactly, am I hustling?