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Don't Hate Her Because She's Successful
March 22, 2013 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Don't Hate Her Because She's Successful: The Last Psychiatrist on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
posted by prunes (157 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the blog post:

No, this is a setup, the Time Magazine demo is never going to be COO of anything, as evidenced by the fact that they read Time Magazine. Much more importantly, they are not raising daughters who are going to be COO of anything. So why is this here?

The first level breakdown is that this is what Time readers want, they want a warm glow and to be reassured that the reason they're stuck living in Central Time is sexism.


What the fuck?
posted by lunasol at 2:01 PM on March 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Sheryl Sandberg is the future ex-COO of Facebook, and while that sounds like enough of a resume to speak on women in the workplace, note that her advice on how to get ahead appears in Time Magazine. Oh, you thought that Sandberg's book is news worthy in itself, how could you not do a story on this magnificence? No, this is a setup, the Time Magazine demo is never going to be COO of anything, as evidenced by the fact that they read Time Magazine. Much more importantly, they are not raising daughters who are going to be COO of anything.


Didn't the Last Psychiatrist use to be at least sort of coherent, or am I thinking of some other blog? This is bizarre, inexplicably bitter, sub-literate ranting.
posted by dersins at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or to be less thread-shitty: that is awfully classist and provincial.
posted by lunasol at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Every time I start to read a Last Psychiatrist piece, I think, "This is clever! I should read this more often!" Then I get a third of the way through and remember that I do not understand this writer's tone at all.
posted by purpleclover at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's a magazine?
posted by Fizz at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't tell what they're trying to say either.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:03 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I prefer pieces that have at least some sort of thesis. This was rambling.
posted by GuyZero at 2:08 PM on March 22, 2013


I like that pastabagel's writing has gone from subtly, insidiously hinting at a fucked-up worldview to blatantly shouting it at the top of its lungs.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love the acronym COO. If the position was shared they'd be Co-COOs.
posted by jonmc at 2:10 PM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski: "I can't tell what they're trying to say either."

"No, I really like you", says Sheryl Sandberg: ~slaps "DRINK RUM READ MY BOOK" sticker on the forehead~

Start here:
If you doubt this, observe that of all the advice Sandberg via Time gives to women, the single piece (in)conspicuously absent from the Time article is the most important: ask for more money. Duh. Ask for less hours. Ask for something real, that can affect your life, instead of the cosmetic, "trappings of power" gimmicks like titles or prestige-- the very things that would appeal most to a narcissistic culture obsessed with broadcasting identity, requiring not just external but visible to others validations of their worth. NB: it's not that Sandberg herself didn't say ask for more money-- she did, e.g. in her book and in the British "Americans are money hungry pigs" Guardian. But that advice cannot appear in Time. What the Time article made a big deal about was that she fought for pregnancy parking spots, that's the progress, you go girl, Sandberg is also fighting for the right to cry at work, Jezebel was right, feminism is moving.

Employers take note, Americans, especially American women, can be easily convinced to forgo money if it's not enough money to be flaunted or if something else can be.
and work your way around.
posted by boo_radley at 2:12 PM on March 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love the acronym COO. If the position was shared they'd be Co-COOs.

Would they warble as they fly?
posted by notsnot at 2:12 PM on March 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Rory Marinich: "I like that pastabagel's writing has gone from subtly, insidiously hinting at a fucked-up worldview to blatantly shouting it at the top of its lungs."

Also I think pastabagel is pastabagel and The Last Psychiatrist is The Last Psychiatrist.
posted by boo_radley at 2:14 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Start here

Skip part IV, though, unless you prefer your misogyny frothing rather than thinly-veiled.

I like that pastabagel's writing


Wait, what?
posted by dersins at 2:16 PM on March 22, 2013


Is The Last Psychiatrist still a wornout pseud with a pointless shtick? I need to know before I invest five more minutes of my existence in reading their crap.
posted by Jehan at 2:19 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's at least half a bottle right there, if the other half was lunch.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chief Operations Officer is the ultimate crappy job title.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:22 PM on March 22, 2013


This is one of those Markov-chain things, right?
posted by jquinby at 2:22 PM on March 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


How can you work in media and not understand media? The fact that feminism is in the mainstream means that it doesn't exist, it is no longer real, in the same way that when you hear "gun control debate" it's a lie and "fiscal cliff" is an easy to market, safe distraction from the structural problems that can never be named

This is great, as is most of the LP's oeuvre. But just as when the War Nerd gets FPPed, there's a lot of whooshing point-missing in this thread; something about this style seems to fail to mesh with the expectation of straightforward earnestness that's become house style around here. I mean, there are certainly plenty of reasons to disagree, but fewer to discomprehend.
posted by RogerB at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


I like that pastabagel's writing

Wait, what?


I think PB and TLS are like co-bloggers on the TLS-spinoff site, whatever that was called. PB comments a bunch on TLS IIRC.

I do not think they are the same person, although stranger things have happened.
posted by grobstein at 2:24 PM on March 22, 2013


something about this style seems to fail to mesh with the expectation of straightforward earnestness coherence.
posted by Jahaza at 2:26 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you've wasted as much time reading about Sheryl Sandberg (i.e. spending time "anywhere nothing useful is happening") as I have in the past few weeks, this was actually a remarkably refreshing take.
posted by newrambler at 2:30 PM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wait, what?
posted by chinston at 2:33 PM on March 22, 2013


something about this style seems to fail to mesh with the expectation of straightforward earnestness that's become house style around here.

I don't think the style is really the issue here. I don't know what you read, but I'm reading a screed that waffles between Marxism, bile, and misogyny.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 2:37 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought this was fantastic.

the Time Magazine demo is never going to be COO of anything, as evidenced by the fact that they read Time Magazine. Much more importantly, they are not raising daughters who are going to be COO of anything.


Why would lunasol say 'what the fuck?' about that? It's obviously true.

As for 'inexplicably bitter' - surely everything about Facebook-tech-COO-billionaire fucko-appstore-death people is going to make you bitter?
posted by colie at 2:38 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Page won't load for me, and apparently it's not just me.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a screed that waffles between Marxism, bile, and misogyny
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:45 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


reading this was like running at top speed through the snark forest with my eyes closed. i have no idea what's going on.
posted by echocollate at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: Marxism, bile, and misogyny waffles.

MMM waffles.
posted by sweetkid at 2:49 PM on March 22, 2013


MMM waffles.

So, is the bile or the Marxism the bacon...?
posted by Noms_Tiem at 2:50 PM on March 22, 2013


Same here, rtha.

Maybe that website needs a better Chief Operations Officer.
posted by MattMangels at 2:51 PM on March 22, 2013


It's a completely coherent and not at all waffling essay, and people who assert otherwise are — sorry, there's no nicer way to say this — either reading it lazily, trying to skim, or just totally missing the point.

Let me translate some of it into sincere earnest directness for you. The piece has a single subject: the fawning media "debates" over that stupid book. It also has a single thesis about that subject: that it is an epiphenomenon of a media system meant to absorb dissent and desire into an emotional matrix which can convince working people to settle for their unhappiness and keep working and working more, because the life they really desire is unattainable.

I don't think the style is really the issue here. I don't know what you read, but I'm reading a screed that waffles between Marxism, bile, and misogyny.

"Screed" and "bile" are judgments of the style — it's very clearly intended to be a bilious screed, much like the rest of the LP's work. Nothing wrong with that: bilious screeds are a lot of fun sometimes. On the other hand, "Marxism" is your impression of the content (you're not exactly right about that either, but it's certainly true that a large portion of its argument is at least implicitly anticapitalist and it's trying to do a lot of ideology-critique, and if you don't like/agree with those things then you probably won't like/agree with the essay). But your perception of "misogyny" is 100% misreading, based entirely on the hyperbolic sarcasm of the essay's — again — style.
posted by RogerB at 2:53 PM on March 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


I think the charitable reading of TLS's take on feminism is that American feminism has settled for symbolic, empty victories that disturb or threaten the system not at all, and allow them to go right on systematically oppressing, but man does he skirt some problematic language sometimes.
posted by anazgnos at 2:54 PM on March 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think it's interesting that at times, feminism gets subverted by privileged interests into a sort of theatre designed to make people feel bad for thinking unkind things about the rich, when in fact as the class enemies of the majority, the wealthy deserve our animosity virtually by default -- the extremity of their privilege is unearned.

I sometimes work with extremely disadvantaged people, who are often that way because of intersectional gender and class oppression, and more, but even with regular exposure to the social services community and the people themselves, I still hear more concern about the effects of sexism on Beyonce Knowles-Carter than on them. Believe me folks, Beyonce Knowles-Cater and Sheryl Sandberg are doing OK. Their empowerment trickles down exactly as effectively as their cash.
posted by mobunited at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


I think it's interesting that at times, concern about wealth inequality gets subverted by male-privileged interests into a sort of theatre designed to make people feel bad for thinking unkind things about misogynists.

I wanted to RTFA, but the site seems to be down.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Post is busted.
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2013


There is a "Cosmo Careers" magazine? Well, fuck.
posted by mek at 3:09 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


your perception of "misogyny" is 100% misreading, based entirely on the hyperbolic sarcasm of the essay's — again — style.

Ah the old "just kidding" defense.
posted by dersins at 3:12 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


still loading fine for me.
posted by anazgnos at 3:13 PM on March 22, 2013


the hyperbolic sarcasm of the essay's — again — style.

So I'm not sure if I want nothing but direct earnestness but sarcasm is, like salt, best applied with a light touch. This essay is like a piece of rock-hard salt cod. if that's your taste, I guess that's OK. I don't think it's surprising that it's not to the tastes of many. To the point of being impenetrable.
posted by GuyZero at 3:18 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah the old "just kidding" defense.

It's not a defense, it's a description. Because yeah, he's kidding: that is, using misogynistic language hyperbolically in order to make a point about gender politics. The underlying point is, pretty clearly, a feminist one. But if you are opposed to the use of misogynist language even when not in earnest, then yes, you will not like this essay. And that's precisely what I'm talking about when I say it doesn't seem to mesh with the house style around here.
posted by RogerB at 3:19 PM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just want to note in addendum that I did like the essay, being something of a connoisseur of rants, do largely agree with it's presumptions and analysis, and, having fuelled my own writing at times with one or another spirit, consider whatever volatiles were consumed in the making of it to not have been wasted.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:22 PM on March 22, 2013


I spent an hour or two reading through this guy's archives once.

I began my reading impressed with his writing and ideas; he's an intelligent and interesting thinker at his best, but I ended with a sense that his primary commitment is to maintaining a fortress of intellectual self-regard. He seems to be seduced by the temptation of believing that his conclusions represent the hidden essence of things, and that any ideas not consistent with them can be dismissed as symptoms of an interlocutor's ignorance, lack of intelligence, or some other fundamental limitation. Eventually, the general bullying tone of the writing and the appeals to the inaccessible authority of psychiatric wisdom repelled me enough that I quit reading, with relief.

The impression I got is of a writer bursting at the seams with his conviction of his intellectual and moral superiority, and with his contempt for others. I'm sure there's some valuable stuff in there, but I actually don't have the masochism to wade through the rest to find it. Also, it's just greedy to pretend to be Nietzsche, Freud, AND Mencken at the same time, and that offends me.
posted by thelonius at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2013 [31 favorites]


For a more positive take on Lean In, Katha Pollit's column in "The Nation".
posted by small_ruminant at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


his conclusions represent the hidden essence of things, and that any ideas not consistent with them can be dismissed as symptoms of an interlocutor's ignorance, lack of intelligence, or some other fundamental limitation.

Mom?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:24 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hello, I want in on the crazy too, but shit's* not working for me.

* interestingly enough, today my vet casually used the word 'shit' maybe four times in a non-feces-related manner.
posted by item at 3:30 PM on March 22, 2013


I began my reading impressed with his writing and ideas; he's an intelligent and interesting thinker at his best, but I ended with a sense that his primary commitment is to maintaining a fortress of intellectual self-regard.

That was exactly my experience. I kept waiting for the word "narcissist" to come through -- he explains how most people or concepts he disapproves of are inherently narcissist. Sometimes he's right, but it's hard to tell. And his misogyny sometimes -- I mean, come on, the "borderline sleeve"?

That said, this does touch on the reason I've largely tuned out of the "having it all" part of the feminist debate. I don't want it all. I saw part of it, and it was all emails at 3 am and constant stomachaches. I just want enough to get by while I write and find other reasons for being alive.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:30 PM on March 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Metafiter: like running at top speed through the snark forest with my eyes closed.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:32 PM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think he's worked out a theory that narcissism is the dominating element of our society. He's probably right there, or it sure feels that way a lot of the time.
posted by thelonius at 3:33 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you've wasted as much time reading about Sheryl Sandberg (i.e. spending time "anywhere nothing useful is happening") as I have in the past few weeks, this was actually a remarkably refreshing take.

I've attempted and discarded two "Lean In" FPPs. This is like diving into the icy cold sea. In a good way. For those of you who didn't make it to the end:
Unfortunately-- and this is exactly the trick of it all-- it sounds crazy to say, "wait for true love!"-- it sounds regressive to say that pushing yourself at work might not be worth trading your family, but that's the trick, the system has framed that question as binary, as if there were no other possibilities, no middle ground. The system has made it so that you can only choose one side, "aspire to be a COO!" or "don't be a COO-- you should be home with your kids!" It is a classic double bind, and you can't ask: for the entirety of my life, these are the only two choices?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:36 PM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


So his point, if I understand it, is that getting distracted by non-monetary incentives at work is a way for employers to exploit workers. Okay, fine. Men who buy into this idea are "smart, get paid way less than [they] are worth and, most importantly...will never dare ask for more money." Women who make the same mistake, on the other hand, "think the the secret formula for success is Dream Job + The Right Partner + Great Wardrobe = Yes I Can!"

And then there's the part about how "family must go" if women participate in workforce, and his extended meditation on the photo that went with the article:
This is a picture of a 'Lean In,' which I assume is why they're all wearing low cut tops. ZING. I can only imagine they are talking about the season finale of The Bachelor...My personal vote for Lean In valedictorian is the woman at the bottom left, I don't know her life or her medication history but she has the diagnostic sign of her cuff pulled up over her wrist in what I call "the borderline sleeve," that girl will have endlessly whipsawing emotions and a lot of enthusiastic ideas that will ultimately result in a something borrowed/something blue. Hope her future ex enjoys drama, he's in for seven years of it.
I'm sorry, how is this not rank misogyny?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


People read these magazines on the toilet, they don't base their lives on them. I bet working Moms are jealous mostly of people they know, not of some Randian tech queen in a Time cover story.
posted by thelonius at 3:41 PM on March 22, 2013


The impression I got is of a writer bursting at the seams with his conviction of his intellectual and moral superiority, and with his contempt for others.

This times 100.
posted by aspo at 3:42 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew TLS as Times Literary Supplement far too long to be reeducated now.
posted by jfuller at 3:42 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh and, which gender is usually known for thinking that video games, foosball tables, and being known as a Great Hacker Ninja Rockstar make working 90-hour weeks reasonable?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:53 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


"But this isn't some kind of failing of marriage itself, some structural defect in a system that's been running for thousands of years, the problem isn't marriage, the problem is you. You think the string of butcheries in your past are the fault of monogamy? As they say everywhere, the single commonality in all of your failed relationships is you. Time to get a cat.

No, she just means when you get married, to pick someone who supports your goals." In other words, a business relationship? Arranged marriage, only this time by Match.com's algorithm?


This entire screed is like this, and makes me feel like I've been cornered at a bar by a very drunk, recently divorced stock brokerage cold caller. 40 minutes of What's Wrong With Feminism unless I manage to remember how to navigate the mobile in my pocket by touch alone, and sound off a ring tone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


Last Psychiatrist needs psychiatrist.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:02 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't totally agree with the article, but I don't think it's incoherent (I would, instead, say that a lot of stuff that gets linked here from the Atlantic, Financial Times, Forbes and Gawker Inc. is the really incoherent stuff, it's just got a shiny polish on it and says something that we all want to hear).

The thesis is in the last three paragraphs, I'll paste them in as a favor for those who like to comment but don't ever actually feel like reading the article:

The system's ideal woman is the single mother, she's produced with her uterus and is willing to go all in on production/consumption, she has no choice. I'm not saying she wants to be a single mother, I'm saying that's what the system wants her to be. That's feminism. You can get married too, as long as he'll make it so you get in at 8.

Unfortunately-- and this is exactly the trick of it all-- it sounds crazy to say, "wait for true love!"-- it sounds regressive to say that pushing yourself at work might not be worth trading your family, but that's the trick, the system has framed that question as binary, as if there were no other possibilities, no middle ground. The system has made it so that you can only choose one side, "aspire to be a COO!" or "don't be a COO-- you should be home with your kids!" It is a classic double bind, and you can't ask: for the entirety of my life, these are the only two choices?

Love is dying, the system is killing it. The only acceptable portrayal of fulfilled love is with vampires and BDSM billionaires, not because those men are great but because there's no worry you'll meet one, enjoy your little fantasy. Now back to work, whore, you need fulfillment.

I believe that if you wanted to summarize this a bit more it'd be like this: the Sandburg media blitz uses two American middle-class leftist ideals and pits them against one another. A strange variety of feminism is posited so that people can drape themselves in it and feel like progressives, while actually being complicit in an exploitative and destructive form of work-yourself-to-death capitalism. In this way if people want to be feminists then they must (by extension) support global capital. It's an intentional and devious trap which allows for in-name progress while maintaining an effective status quo. In this way you can effectively pay people as little real money possible to run your empire and make up the difference in a meaningless fantasy called 'their personal brand'.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the article, but that's what the central thesis was, in my opinion.

The impression I got is of a writer bursting at the seams with his conviction of his intellectual and moral superiority, and with his contempt for others.

This describes most intellectuals in the hallowed halls of 'acceptable middle-brow social critique' too, in all fairness.
posted by codacorolla at 4:07 PM on March 22, 2013 [24 favorites]


The problem isn't a structural one, it's you. And you, and you, and you.....you're all broken, weak losers, who couldn't work with the system. How many people have to have problems with marriage until it isn't all their individual fault? Before it's obvious that there are societal problems with marriage, perhaps related to our economic arrangements? Surely if no one could stay married, you'd have to conclude there was a problem other than that every single one of them sucks.
posted by thelonius at 4:10 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Granted there are a couple too many sarcastic asides, but the nut of the article/post is:

The feminism debate, labeled equivalently as "gender discrimination" or "women sabotage themselves", is not about women, it is about LABOR COSTS, making working for something other than money admirable.

Or, what codacorolla said, except if you ask me the middle-brow social critique is the space occupied by the Jezebel-ly cheerleaders of Sandberg being on the cover of TIME. It's a hollower victory than it appears, and TLP is pointing that out.
posted by dhartung at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you've wasted as much time reading about Sheryl Sandberg (i.e. spending time "anywhere nothing useful is happening") as I have in the past few weeks,this was actually a remarkably refreshing take.

Related: I started this thread not knowing what the Last Psychiatrist meant and read the post as the LAST psychiatrist was weighing in because everyone else already had.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aw man, I remember the halcyon days of blogging where no one had editors and you could bury good points in self-indulgent, borderline misogynistic language and dismiss anyone who disagreed. Good times.
posted by klangklangston at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


A strange variety of feminism is posited so that people can drape themselves in it and feel like progressives, while actually being complicit in an exploitative and destructive form of work-yourself-to-death capitalism.

This makes no sense. In a dual-career family, you have two workers with inconvenient family responsibilities and demands for work-life balance. In a single-career family, you have one worker who can put in the long hours and even move the family across the country if he needs to. Which is more attractive to "the system"? If every worker had the same outside demands on their time as a parent in a dual-career family, "work-yourself-to-death capitalism" wouldn't be possible any more.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:26 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always enjoy the Last Psychiatrist and wouldn't want to change a single granule of their massive coke dose.
posted by forgetful snow at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This makes no sense. In a dual-career family, you have two workers with inconvenient family responsibilities and demands for work-life balance. In a single-career family, you have one worker who can put in the long hours and even move the family across the country if he needs to. Which is more attractive to "the system"? If every worker had the same outside demands on their time as a parent in a dual-career family, "work-yourself-to-death capitalism" wouldn't be possible any more.

Well, that's just my reading of the article, and I'm certainly not going to debate you about something that I don't even entirely agree with myself. If you'd like to engage more fully with the material in the FPP then feel free to, it doesn't take too long to read.
posted by codacorolla at 4:42 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Last Psychiatrist use to be at least sort of coherent
Not in my experience. Not sure how this isn't "Single-link-op-ed" with a heaping of crazyblogging.
posted by delmoi at 4:44 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work for a female CAO at a multimillionaire dollar nonprofit who reads Time Magazine.

I'll call and tell her she can't be CAO anymore.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:45 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read something once about how magazines like Cosmo [and also here, Time magazine] include a 'feminist' story as a form of editorial vaccination that cheers some women, rails against, say, FGM [but others black women], tut-tuts over anorexia, covers an inspirational orphanage-desert surgeon story etc. Having a tiny bit of feminism in your system makes you immune to a wider scale rebellion. [ie stop shopping]

Having three pages in a magazine otherwise saturated with misogyny and patriarchal views of women, doesn't create a framework of feminine solidarity. The feminist article has just allowed us to feel okay about reading the rest of the magazine. This works against real uptake of feminism's wider goals by making us feel that we have been empowered - look, women being equal ! - in between dieting, competing with other women, simpering to men, being enmeshed in the values of a Lookist culture. Marie Claire is an obvious example for me.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:50 PM on March 22, 2013 [25 favorites]


multimillionaire dollar nonprofit
posted by ennui.bz at 4:53 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think he's worked out a theory that narcissism is the dominating element of our society.

Not exactly a novel theory, given that there was a whole book written about it over 30 years ago. In fact TLP's arguments remind me quite a bit of Christopher Lasch, but without the intellectual generosity and affection for the lives of ordinary people.
posted by Cash4Lead at 4:55 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, it all rings of Christopher Lasch, and maybe booze.
posted by methinks at 4:59 PM on March 22, 2013


I found myself halfway through the comments still looking for a thesis statement.
posted by thorny at 5:20 PM on March 22, 2013


I think he's worked out a theory that narcissism is the dominating element of our society.
Which is obviously an somewhat narcissistic thing to do
posted by delmoi at 5:21 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems actually to be a feminist article that analyzes and criticizes a sort of "feminism" that's gotten very popular on the Internet lately. The Last Psychiatrist says in this entry,

"The system's ideal woman is the single mother, she's produced with her uterus and is willing to go all in on production/consumption, she has no choice. I'm not saying she wants to be a single mother, I'm saying that's what the system wants her to be. That's feminism. You can get married too, as long as he'll make it so you get in at 8."

Talk of this sort (hopefully) leads to women (and men) thinking, 'fuck the system! i'm not getting (or getting someone) preggers at 15, having to work two crap jobs, barely having time to see my kids let alone my friends, and basically laboring (producing at work and re-producing the labor force) entirely for The Man.

In other words, this is a different sort of feminism, one that seems to encourage actions much more radical than tweeting complaints about dongle jokes.
posted by pickles_have_souls at 5:35 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know that Adria Richards describes herself as not a feminist, right?
posted by klangklangston at 5:40 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered two things:

1) why these kinds of critiques always seem to come from men and always have a heaping helping of "joke" sexism in them

2) why it's even some worthy intermediate leftist goal, in the first place, to support iniquitous power relations, even if the system they're embedded in is rotten

In other words, yeah, capitalism is exploitative; keeping women away from the levers of that power is even more exploitative. "Seats at the table" matter; parking spots for pregnant moms matter.
posted by downing street memo at 5:48 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


1) why these kinds of critiques always seem to come from men and always have a heaping helping of "joke" sexism in them

AFAICT from the examples that have been brought out in this thread there's no "joke" sexism there; the author is (sarcastically) making explicit the overtly sexist signifiers that are everywhere in what he's reading. Like, he's (she's ?) not making misogynistic jokes about the women in that picture (in part IV) that was posted. We're just given the reading that is demanded from that picture by our stupid, shitty culture.
posted by junco at 5:57 PM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


To me it was strange that Sheryl Sandberg's book was hailed as feminist at all. Opponents of equal pay often claim that women get paid less because they are less committed to their jobs -- the story here is that there's no discrimination, women could get the tops jobs and more pay, they just aren't as ambitious.

This is one of the main points of her book. She just phrases in the language of self esteem therapy, so it's an issue of self-sabotage and feeling like an impostor, which I guess sounds vaguely feminist so it gets a pass?

It's a lengthy exercise in blaming the victim. Not even in any kind of obscure way, no deep reading is necessary -- it's perfectly transparent. It's a book aimed at women that tells them that they're causing their own problems.

I've seen a few critiques along the lines of "If you read carefully, you'll notice that this advice doesn't apply to working class women." True, and you don't have to read carefully to notice that this doesn't benefit middle class women either.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:06 PM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


To me it was strange that Sheryl Sandberg's book was hailed as feminist at all.

From the article:
One of Sandberg's three Time-approved points is that women "leave before they leave," which means that instead of planning early to advance in their career, they plan early to leave their career. Here's a very revealing excerpt, read it closely:

But women rarely make one big decision to leave the workforce. Instead, they make a lot of small decisions along the way. A law associate might decide not to shoot for partner because someday she hopes to have a family. A sales rep might take a smaller territory or not apply for a management role...

"So true!" Slow down. The trick is most employable women are at best at the "sales rep" level, not the lawyer level, but because of the juxtaposition you never think: why the hell would a sales rep want to be a manager? "Oh, because it's a lot more work." Is it a lot more money? "Well, no, it's a little more money." So you want me to work a lot more now for the possibility of eventually getting a job that pays only a little more money? "Yes, stupid, it's called a promotion." It sounds like a scam. "No, it's a stepping stone to Nominal Vice President In Charge of Situations And Scenarios." Does that pay more? "What are you, a communist? 401k matches 50% of the first 6%." In other words 3%, ok, am I on a prank show? "Free GPS tracker in your phone and laptop." Thank you Yaz, my forties are going to be great.
posted by junco at 6:10 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I had the impression from the post about grad students on food stamps that The Last Psychiatrist was a woman, not that it makes a real difference, but I was wondering how people were so sure that the person under the username was a man.
posted by codacorolla at 6:16 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's not lose sight of the fact that "narcissism is the dominating element of our society" is an incredibly lazy and analytically useless generalization. It's hardly competent cultural criticism or whatever that's supposed to be. How would you buttress such a vague assertion, and more to the point, how could it be refuted? Even if we accept for the sake of conversation that it's true, in what way would that understanding of our current historical moment's peculiar pathology inform our ability to make sense of the world and how is it more than awareness of the reflexivity that characterizes the age of mass media? It just seems less like a genuine insight than a geriatric complaint about generalized, contemporary moral defectiveness which, like Republican-brand social diagnoses, situates and contextualizes social problems in the realm of the individual's failings.
posted by clockzero at 6:33 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't Hate Her Because She's Successful - Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

What if instead of hate, one has indifference because:

1) has some kind of administrative position in Facebook.
2) The leader of FaceBook has a demonstrated history of a willingness to use people's passwords on other systems and calls anyone who trusts him a "dumb fuck".

Really, why should anyone give a damn about Sheryl Sandberg?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:36 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You know that Adria Richards describes herself as not a feminist, right?" --
posted by klangklangston at 5:40 PM on March 22 [+] [!]

Yes, yet she espouses many of the ideals of feminism, and many folks categorize her that way because of it.

Of course her theories and those of the now popular version of feminism often don't end up taking into account (or even being aware of) the difficulties faced by the vast majority of women. The bit of the article junco quotes, above, speaks to that. (Or at least speaks in that general direction.)
posted by pickles_have_souls at 6:52 PM on March 22, 2013


No, this is a setup, the Time Magazine demo is never going to be COO of anything, as evidenced by the fact that they read Time Magazine. Much more importantly, they are not raising daughters who are going to be COO of anything. So why is this here?

This would have been a much-favorited comment on MeFi a few years ago, 'cause its funny and a bit true.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:06 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Let's not lose sight of the fact that "narcissism is the dominating element of our society" is an incredibly lazy and analytically useless generalization. "

The last psychiatrist, because all the good ones left.

"Yes, yet she espouses many of the ideals of feminism, and many folks categorize her that way because of it. "

That's a weasely way to say that you characterized her as one in order to contrast this article with tweeting about dongle jokes despite the fact that it wasn't an accurate portrayal of the situation.
posted by klangklangston at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the past two weeks Sandberg was anywhere nothing useful is happening, and I'm going to include Facebook in that. Some cry-baby over at Jezebel was thrilled that Sandberg was featured all week on Access Hollywood, holy Christ, she thought this was a good thing. "Feminism is back in the mainstream in a big way," she wrote, I assume in between quaaludes, "the women's movement is actually moving." How can you work in media and not understand media? The fact that feminism is in the mainstream means that it doesn't exist, it is no longer real, in the same way that when you hear "gun control debate" it's a lie and "fiscal cliff" is an easy to market, safe distraction from the structural problems that can never be named, here's one: for any heterogeneous population, the expansion of a "welfare class" is logically inseparable from the entrenchment of an aristocracy, can't have one without the other once you get bigger than 20M, ask Bismarck. "Does he write for Time?" No. But keep this in mind every time you hear how great it is Bill Gates is curing malaria after leaving us all with Windows.

What part of this, besides the Bill Gates snark, isn't funny or a little bit true?

Employers take note, Americans, especially American women, can be easily convinced to forgo money if it's not enough money to be flaunted or if something else can be.

The same should apply to men, the difference is working men have an Act I backstory: two generations ago and back the whole game for men was the money, the lifestyle, the house/wife/car-- getting rich. I'm no fan of unions but they played it straight: if you're going to sacrifice your whole life and lower back for the benefit of a faceless corporation then you've got to get paid. But young, aspirational women can be convinced that working longer, "a seat at the table", "promotions" to management-- these are worthy goals: Sandberg said so.


This is very coherent, and very damning.

I don't see people's problems with the piece.

Read it a couple of times, it'll make sense and you won't like it.


This sums up the whole blog.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:19 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of the points TLP makes, about work being all a crock anyway so it's stupid for women to buy into the fantasy Time and Cosmo are pushing (OR LESS CHARITABLY AND MORE ACCURATELY: women who buy into this fantasy are stupid), as well as the supporting points about how men have also been tricked into accepting perks in lieu of better pay, were made in the comments section of this recent post on Marginal Revolution.

This comment in particular sums it up pretty well:

I also think that we have to assume that we are not in an equilibrium situation, that young women may be riding a female “ambition swell” which is partly a product of their mothers’ feminism coupled with a genuine increase of opportunity and access to power. Young, successful women still get to feel like pioneers; young men are instead much more skeptical of the ambition that made their fathers so dreadfully boring and not exactly fulfilled. Everybody talks about “transcending materialism” but I suspect that many young men are actually doing it, reaching their 30s with jobs that allow them to buy Playstations, pizza, beer and dope, which they share with their bros (possibly also their band). Is it so weird to not want more than this? After the “ambition swell” generation, I suspect that many women will also develop a parallel version of this extended adolescence.

If you read the original post, be warned that there's a lot of explicit sexism on display.

As much as I think it's totally rational to opt out of the rat race and find fulfillment in love, marriage, and family, as TLP advocates in the end, some of the things the article dismisses as merely cheap status symbols - because how much money you make isn't the ultimate, portable, quantifiable status symbol, right? - are actually important. Whether pregnant women are accommodated at work is important. Whether engineers enjoy the environment where they'll spend more than half their waking hours is important.

Of course these are things employers do because they're cheaper than pay raises, but unless you are more concerned with never letting anyone, anywhere, pull anything over on you than on enjoying your work environment, why wouldn't you also welcome improvements to your work environment? Welcome them and then ask for the pay raise.
posted by subdee at 7:24 PM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


In other words, yeah, capitalism is exploitative; keeping women away from the levers of that power is even more exploitative. "Seats at the table" matter; parking spots for pregnant moms matter.

Those "seats" are actually deckchairs, and like the Titanic there aren't enough lifeboats for everybody.

AFAICT from the examples that have been brought out in this thread there's no "joke" sexism there; the author is (sarcastically) making explicit the overtly sexist signifiers that are everywhere in what he's reading.

Aha! Not so drunk as we were led to believe.

Chief Operations Officer is the ultimate crappy job title.

Unless you happen to work on a Galaxy Class starship.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:36 PM on March 22, 2013


I found the idea of pregnant mom (? some haven't given birth yet) parking spaces ridiculous. What really matters is availability of a nice quiet room to pump in.
posted by marble at 8:04 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "borderline sleeve" is to hide evidence of self-cutting.
posted by borges at 8:50 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


TLP: it's not that Sandberg herself didn't say ask for more money-- she did, e.g. in her book and in the British "Americans are money hungry pigs" Guardian. But that advice cannot appear in Time. [presumably because it's not what "the system" that wants women to be good little worker bees would want or permit]


And yet...


...working women are routinely tossing $560,000 away. We’re doing so by not uttering one all-important sentence during one all-important event. Upon being hired for our first jobs, we’re not saying: “Now, can we negotiate my salary?”

The price we pay over the course of our careers by not negotiating our starting salaries: $560,000.


Source? Time Magazine.

Though I guess facts don't have much effect on a conspiracy-based view of the world.
posted by shivohum at 8:52 PM on March 22, 2013


It's really hard for me to take Sandberg giving advice to rest of us seriously, so I found TLP's post refreshing.

Really, if you are a woman who wants to be successful, try this:

1. Have an upper middle class background and parents who can pay for college
2. Do well in school.
3. Go to an Ivy League College
4. While at college, make powerful friends.
5. Go to a top tier business school.
6. Work for a top tier management consultancy.

From there you are pretty much set. I have seen it work for women other than Sandberg too.

Hard work is a poor substitute for many of those advantages, but it doesn't hurt, might not help either.
posted by borges at 9:06 PM on March 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Though I guess facts don't have much effect on a conspiracy-based view of the world.

Yes the existence of exploitative capitalism is a conspiracy...it doesn't exist.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:57 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]




Just as a matter of interest, is The Last Psychiatrist a psychiatrist at all? Or is that just an internet name?

At one point, in the most recent article, he writes: "When I was in my 3rd year of medical school and we all had to select our tax bracket, the Asian women went into surgery, ophthalmology, or the last two years of a PhD program, you know where the borderline sleeves went? Pediatrics, which I think is technically sublimation but I'm no psychiatrist."

So, he's a doctor (or at least went to medical school), but he's not a practising psychiatrist?

"This doesn't mean Asian women don't experience sexual discrimination, it means that when an Asian woman succeeds, the other women in the office don't get to experience sexual discrimination, so they're left only with sexual harassment."

Hmm. Really.

Also, the conclusion in all of his essays seems to be "narcissism" - almost never structural problems, even when (as here) the soul crushing ideology he is talking about has a clear structural origin and expression. So, even when I agree with him, I feel, somewhat wryly, that most of his essays could pretty much be replaced by this.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:54 AM on March 23, 2013


The last couple of articles from TLP suggested to me that TLP is a woman, not a man.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:56 AM on March 23, 2013


TLP has mentioned several times on this site and his blog that he is a man.
posted by sweetkid at 5:10 AM on March 23, 2013


Yeah it's not like this article ended up saying anything particularly interesting, complex, or insightful. You could encapsulate its entire argument in a two-second quip and lose a lot of poorly-written puffery along the way.

This describes most intellectuals in the hallowed halls of 'acceptable middle-brow social critique' too, in all fairness.

Does it? Because Gene Weingarten is able to write lean and powerful pieces of writing, having learned to, you, write. Matt Taibbi and Charles Pierce can do the bilious rage thing without pulling our their dicks and jumping up and down to let us all watch them fleeble-flobble around. David Foster Wallace? Dude was long-winded, but I never read an article of his that wasn't at least half comprised of really, really funny jokes. Ta-Nehisi Coates? Guy is just a solid writer, all around.

I don't read a whole lot of middle-brow social critique, so this is a short list of names, but it's not like "good writers who say interesting things about contemporary society" are in short supply. And most of them are actually good at writing, good at insight, and good at not sounding like misogynist bitter sacks of crap. I'm not saying there's no glimmer of a good thought in this essay, but it takes a couple not-so-interesting thoughts about feminism and capitalism, thoughts that your average College Democrat knows well enough to talk your ear off in the cafeteria, and does the thing all the Last Psychiatrist posts I've read done, which is inflate those ideas enough that they can do their undertone of "fuck everybody who isn't me".
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:34 AM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


The narcissism-as-the-axis-mundi factor in almost all of TLP's rants always makes me think of epicycles in trying to resolve the revolutions of planets in older models. Whether geocentric or heliocentric models, the purported absolute center of perfect-circle orbits had the inconvenient fact of apparently retrograde motions of the planets at predictable points.

So to force the model to fit observed reality, the model has to include epicycles on the orbits' deferents. More and more of them depending on the model's purported axis of revolution, clashing with the complications of more precise observation of what reproducibly happens.

The whole problem came about because of the dogged assumption that heavenly orbits were obviously perfect circles, even if composed of one big perfect circle and smaller perfect circles along the deferent. Obviously, heavenly motions will be perfect geometric form, and the perfect geometric form of a single infinite cycle is a circle. What else could it be?

Making the leap to the realization that orbital dynamics are actually much better described and modeled as ellipses defined and formed around shared centers of gravity rather than a perfect set axis point made all those epicycle complications go away.

The strained analogy here is, of course, that those epicycle-laden model still had meaningful factors to them. They could absolutely describe and predict the motions they were modeling--a little imprecisely, and overcomplicated, sure, but still usefully. The sun and Earth are important from proportionality of real mass and perspective of measurement, and assert a significant effect on the entire system's orbital dynamics and the modeling of same--so big that it's absolutely easy to see how it distorts thinking about exactly how central that effect is. Narcissism as a driving cultural force is likewise a real, useful factor; the way it informs and shapes unconscious cultural systems is important.

But locking into treating it as the set axis point of all leads you right into needing epicycles, sometimes tortured overcomplications. Also lots of rum.
posted by Drastic at 9:44 AM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really like TLP whenever I read the blog, but I only come across the stuff other people recommend so maybe there's a selection effect. Still, this seemed pretty smart to me. I like his work in the same way that my colleagues sometimes describe liking Zizek (who I usually can't stand): it's funny, provocative, and insightful in a way that requires a little Hunter S. Thompson gonzo to pull off correctly.

That said, I had two major issues with the piece:

1. "Alone" seems to actually write drunk, and here he was complaining about it a lot in a way that makes me think he's worried about it. If he's got a drinking problem, then I'm pretty sure dealing with that would improve his writing and clarity, without selling out to the Law of the Father or the Man or whatever.

2. Perhaps related: I only ever see his "critical" mode. In much the same way as Lacan, it looks like he doesn't really have a therapeutic meta-theory, or even any theory at all of melioration. So his pieces often come off as too much Frankfurt school "critical theory," not enough utopian "appreciative theory." Is more money better than a place at the table or status equality? Maybe, but what is the money for? More consumption? That's going to be a non-starter, too, for him. Ownership? Then you're an oppressor and not the oppressed, so that's no good. I'd like to see him take on the project of describing, when he says what is wrong, what would be better, even a little, even an improvement. But I'm betting he's got all sorts of complicated Lacanian transference issues with the difference between "analysis" and "therapy" and the superiority of analysis.

I guess I think TLP is smart enough to be better than just media criticism, even though I really, really like his media criticism. (The wedding ring observation is pretty fantastic, for instance: I wouldn't have seen that, but now I can't unsee it.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:12 AM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, the conclusion in all of his essays seems to be "narcissism" - almost never structural problems, even when (as here) the soul crushing ideology he is talking about has a clear structural origin and expression.

Yes, but isn't the real problem that TLP hurls the accusation of narcissism with so much vitriol, as if he is trying to make the reader feel ashamed? The unwillingness to feel shame is part of the culture of narcissism—many believe that narcissism is a defense against shame. So you could argue that wanting to focus on structural explanations rather than the individual is as another way of preserving our narcissistic innocence, our sense of being innocent victims and so on. The problem is that TLP tries to embrace the infinite, excessive shame that narcissism represses, as if this is the truth. But it's not the truth, it's just the other side of the coin, the dark underworld of the narcissist. Simply shining a light down there is no solution, and TLP has not escaped from the problem that he diagnoses.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, there's something psychologically wrong with me because I like my long sleeve shirts to be long enough to keep my wrists warm, like those hiking shirts with the thumb holes?
posted by eviemath at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2013


In much the same way as Lacan, it looks like he doesn't really have a therapeutic meta-theory, or even any theory at all of melioration.

Hey, man, Lacan does too have a therapeutic meta-theory!
posted by OmieWise at 1:20 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, I liked this piece as well, although with reservations. I didn't find it misogynistic per se, and I think the point was explicitly feminist. I do think that the sheer joy in trading in misogynistic tropes is off-putting, and I think in general that TLP's insistence on framing his contrarianism as rooted in his superior intelligence does his thought (which I frequently think is good) a disservice. I would love to see more specifics from the folks who think this is misogynist about where and how it is. One person gave an extended quote, but didn't do more than assert that it was misogynist on its face, which was not true for me when read in context.

I do believe he is a psychiatrist (despite someone upthread miss-reading his sarcasm), and as a psychotherapist myself I think that his clinical and diagnostic acumen is very impressive. The bit about "borderline sleeves" was very funny and very true, although clearly not (and not meant to be) dispositive.

Re: TPL's clinical acumen: one of the least pleasing thing about Metafilter is the tendency to dismiss people's thought within their area of expertise, without understanding either the area or the person in question's thought. One can reasonably argue that TPL is wrong, and that he might be a poor communicator insofar as he is reaching beyond a clinical audience, but as someone with more than a passing familiarity many of the clinical issues he addresses, I haven't found myself disagreeing with him very often.
posted by OmieWise at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it is cutting/great/effective/satirical "fake sexism," then I wonder why I Blame the Patriarchy's hilarious and incisive satirical hatred of men (to make many very good points about feminism, often just as skeptical about capitalism and 'power feminism') isn't as tolerated-- nay, lauded-- on the blue.

I'm just gonna guess that it's because it's incredibly easy/lazy for men to write long screeds using "found" misogynistic language for "punch" and claim that it's in the service of women, even while most women don't really generally like it, find it unsympathetic and alienating, and are used to men claiming women aren't doing enough for The Movement, just thinking about their dumb selves and their dumb pregnancy parking spots. (I don't know if breast pumping rooms are dumb and worthless too.)

The weird thing to me is that I think that without women doing shitty, thankless, corrupt, capitalist piggy style work, women are going to be even worse off. If some women have the drive and ambition to hack and slash their way through government and are also going to fight to maintain the right to an abortion (even for stupid and career-advancing reasons), then hey, it's their joy ride. Thanks ladies.

I tend to agree with TLP's perspective in that most of my life goals are family- and 'love'-oriented, and I find them much more fulfilling than most of the prestigious, high-powered successes I've had over the last few years. I went to a prestigious university for four years-- loved it, loved my subject (literature), had a blast, moved home, got a job as a bank teller, and was blissfully happy for two months while I worked a normal job with decent pay and benefits and went home at night to my big extended family and friends. I left work at work, made a paycheck, and spent most of my time with people I loved. And now I'm heading off in a week to do editing work (supposedly my ideal career path) for a big shot and then ship off to D.C. for a political studies program I was very lucky to get into and nothing in my heart really tells me either of those options are any more "right" than staying right where I am, right now.

This is a conversation my boyfriend and I have a lot, actually. We like to be holy fools for each other and our families and the love of good things.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:35 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree, there is much to respect and enjoy (in the Lacanian sense) with TLP, and the delivery may be confounding. If the writer's identity and expertise must necessarily remain opaque (TLP could intuitively seem the smartest narcissist in the office or warehouse to many baffled-and-shamed readers), at what point does the spectacle of Gonzo Shrink and the Echo Chamber become a vanity blog for the "TLP" brand? I find myself both rooting for and worrying about the writer.
posted by methinks at 3:10 PM on March 23, 2013


Hey, man, Lacan does too have a therapeutic meta-theory!

Is it: the best analysis can do is help you realize there is no cure?

Or is the meta-theory: analysis isn't therapeutic? Analysis never ends?

Either would explain the Seminars.

I haven't found myself disagreeing with him very often.

One reason for this might be that he rarely makes a claim that is either true or false. I guess "women with too-long sleeves have borderline personality disorder" is a claim, but he never comes out and says that and I'm not sure it's true.

Or even take the wedding ring observation. That seems really smart, but what does it mean? He nevers says what it is about Time that makes her hide the ring, or what it is about Cosmo Careers that makes her show it: I can guess, but I have to guess, he didn't tell me. And aren't they the same audience? Isn't that the whole point? So even my guesses are kinda of wild of the mark.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:52 PM on March 23, 2013


Also want to add that if I remember right, the MeFite reaction to IBTP was "what is this insane, psychotic, incoherent man-hating rambling, this fucking woman needs her head examined"* whereas the reaction to TLP-- another satirical, Marxist critic of gender among much else-- is "well, the self-important, woman-hating garbage is a MESSAGE about what is said 'out there' and not an actual indication of anything TLP would actually say about women... "

Which isn't to say that TLP is a misogynist (it's hard for me to even care, because while I sympathize with his class critique, his priorities for feminism seem pulled out of his ass**), but that we seem to give a lot more credence to misogyny-as-satire (hilarious, commonplace) than misandry-as-satire (what the FUCK is going on here), even when they're nearly identically sharp and oblique in tone.



*I exaggerate slightly, but I remember approximately one woman having anything good to say about Twisty or IBTP in the thread in question and the rest was incomprehension and cries of indignation over the slander of men.

**I mean, I agree about not throwing your life away on a career you will one day bitterly hate and feminism being co-opted by high-income interests, but it's not like this idea was not already in play.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:01 PM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would love to see more specifics from the folks who think this is misogynist about where and how it is.

TLP's piece was misogynist because he characterized people who are motivated by non-monetary incentives as smart and underpaid if they are men, and Cosmo-brainwashed airheads living an Office Barbie fantasy if they are women. It was misogynist because he made disparaging comments about the appearances, clothing, mental health, and relationships of women pictured in a business article. It was misogynist because he argued that a marriage where one partner supports the other's dreams and ambitions represents The Death of Love and The End of Family -- but only when the woman is the one with the dreams.

Lots of privileged, wealthy capitalists write business books. Sheryl Sandberg's is getting so much positive attention because she's a woman, and it's getting so much negative attention because she's a woman. Strong feelings about it one way or the other from someone who doesn't care much about business books in general are likely to result from his views on women in positions of power, not from his views on privileged, wealthy capitalists.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:21 PM on March 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


I guess "women with too-long sleeves have borderline personality disorder" is a claim, but he never comes out and says that and I'm not sure it's true.

Well, that's part of why he fails, because I don't take that to be his claim. I take his claim to be something along the lines of: There is a particular clinical presentation, that includes but is not limited to dressing in layers that are at once fitted and protective, and that includes the wearing of fitted sleeves (not simply long sleeves) that are pulled down over the tops of the hands, that can often times signify someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. I have found this to be true in my own experience, although it is by no means a diagnostic indicator, and it is a correlation not a causality. It is always part of a larger clinical picture. It comports well with the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder might be better understood as complex PTSD (ala Judith Herman), a response to (usually sexualized) trauma during childhood.

The other clinical observations I can remember agreeing with were from several years ago, which is how long it has been since I've read his blog.

Re Lacan: I believe that it was subsequent Lacanians who claimed no cure from analysis. Lacan thought that acceptance of the impossibility of fulfilling desire and the impossibility of accounting for the unconscious, were curative. There's more, but I don't want to get too serious.

Are you suggesting that Zizek was not cured? You philistine!
posted by OmieWise at 4:53 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lots of privileged, wealthy capitalists write business books. Sheryl Sandberg's is getting so much positive attention because she's a woman, and it's getting so much negative attention because she's a woman. Strong feelings about it one way or the other from someone who doesn't care much about business books in general are likely to result from his views on women in positions of power, not from his views on privileged, wealthy capitalists.

As it does here, although I disagree that that is because he hates women. I'm usually sympathetic to the "this would not be a thing were it done by a man" argument, (see Amanda Palmer), but when the "thing" is "giving women advice about how to succeed," I think the discussion needs to take that into account.
posted by OmieWise at 4:56 PM on March 23, 2013


To all those who think "read it again, it'll make sense, and you won't like it" (whatever) is the height of brilliance, keep in mind that it's the attitude of every jackass who's made a "women! they can't drive!" joke since the beginning of time. (Or... driving.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:58 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


And yeah, as a woman with a body who has to wear clothes and make money, this article read as pure hostility. Low-cut tops! Humiliate them! Long sleeves! Humiliate them! Painted nails, makeup? Humiliate them!

I get that there's a critique of some bullshit going on there, but as an actual woman I'm caught in a bit of a bind. I guess the point is that I'm supposed to be content with my disproportionate poverty and unsupportive partner.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:14 PM on March 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, the point is that the rat race sucks and we're all chumps for wanting a part of it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:17 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except that men are smart, sad chumps, and women are airheaded chumps who should be humiliated for their choice of sleeve length-- apparently there's an important difference.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:38 PM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not only is the "borderline sleeve" bit insulting, it totally frames the situation in terms of her "future ex" - "hope he loves drama!" That's much less "hate the rat race ladies" and more "the womens are crazy, good luck bros."

I don't hate everything by TLP and have liked his comments on this site, but this piece is a bunch of WTF.
posted by sweetkid at 9:41 PM on March 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I should have been clear that while I think the observation re borderline sleeve is a good one, the rest of that section was the part that made me the most uncomfortable in the whole piece, and I agree that it's insulting.
posted by OmieWise at 6:40 AM on March 24, 2013


I quite liked the article.... and Didn't really think it was misogynistic at all. Referencing currently existing misogynistic tropes is not the same thing as misogyny.

I thought the Borderline Sleeve comments were just like the Hoody CEO references to Zuckerburg. Its magazines like Cosmo that perpetuate these kinds of myths.

I thought it was a well thought out deconstruction of the propaganda effects of these magazines in constructing our reality
posted by mary8nne at 8:06 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the borderline sleeve was one of the most disgusting parts of the article of all; having a laugh about self-harm while summarily ignoring why a lot of young women engage in self-harm may have been "satirical of misogyny" but it just comes across as privileged, tone-deaf and sexist.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:41 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it isn't about self-harm, but don't let that get in the way of your disapprobation. I've shown this piece to several other clinicians, men and women, and all have commented favorably on the borderline sleeve observation, although not on the subsequent sentences.
posted by OmieWise at 11:28 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sincerely: Is psychiatry a "helping profession"? Is it a professional responsibility to express compassion for people's struggles? Does the work reward a callous personality or does it lead to compassion fatigue? Is gallows-humor a necessary release valve amongst colleagues? Does warts-and-all journalism humanize a profession?
posted by methinks at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2013


Is it a professional responsibility to express compassion for people's struggles?

I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean is it ethically incumbent on people in helping professions to act professionally in professional situations, such as when confronted by people suffering from the things the professional works to alleviate? The answer is probably yes. If you mean does that ethical imperative extend to the person's entire life, such that even with people they are not professionally treating, or in situations where treatment is not at issue, they need to always "express compassion," the answer is obviously no. And it's a really strange question.
posted by OmieWise at 1:50 PM on March 24, 2013


Yeah, it isn't about self-harm, but don't let that get in the way of your disapprobation. I've shown this piece to several other clinicians, men and women, and all have commented favorably on the borderline sleeve observation, although not on the subsequent sentences.

If it's not about self-harm, what is "borderline sleeve" meant to be about?

I'm also just curious why that line grabbed you so much OmieWise.
posted by sweetkid at 1:54 PM on March 24, 2013


The 'borderline sleeve' comment struck me as something that was true and funny, and I say that as someone who knows many people who deal with self-harm. It's so incongruous in a random stock photo.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2013


But OmieWise is saying it's not about self harm.
posted by sweetkid at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2013


The idea of "signs that can tell you if a chick is crazy" is not exactly new. She has "crazy eyes"! She has a cat! She expects you to listen when she talks about her opinions! I do give him credit for coming up with the oddest one I've ever heard of, but I still see no reason other than sexism to apply it to a woman from a news photo in a business story.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I get the "borderline sleeve" joke, and you could make similar jokes about a lot of things-- greasy middle-parted blonde-highlighted hair, that particular shade of metallic blue nail polish, whatever. It basically says "drug-using female from a movie about bad things that happen to drug users."

But I don't really see any reason to apply it to a woman in a stock photo in the middle of a business story, either. I mean, I guess it's like if a guy in a stock photo business meeting were wearing aviators on his head? Like, "look at that douchebro, he's in for a lifetime of slugging natty ice," idk. On its own I wouldn't call it sexist (maybe insensitive at worst), but the fact that the joke is all about her future ex putting up with her psycho behavior, that strikes me as sexist, especially since he uses misogynist language for "color" throughout most of his writing, especially when it comes to talking about relationships. He likes it, he thinks it's funny, free country. But it's also fair game to call it sexist, imo.

Like I doubt that the joke about aviators-guy would be, "look at this douche, get ready to put up with his stupid drunken lawn-chair-breaking date-rape yard antics for the next seven years before you leave his ass, future ex-girlfriend," because I do think this guy is unconsciously talking to men, most of the time. Even when talking to women.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:56 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


You kind of have to know TLP's shtick to understand his presentation, although if you look for it you can see he usually does make clear, or at least attempt to make clear, on why he says what he says. His point is usually to try to get you to question the presentation, including his, yours, and everyone else's. If you want to say he's sexist and misogynist then feel free, but if his very point is to get you to question the presentation of what you claim makes him those very things then you may be stopping a bit short. Yes, it does make it kind of a tautological argument and I agree that in very specific, context stripped, instances he is using inflammatory sexist remarks.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:34 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I think I said above, "borderline sleeve" struck me because it's an apt description of a part of a particular kind of (female) self-presentation that women suffering from borderline personality disorder often use. That self-presentation walks a (purposely) fine line between seductiveness and self-protection, hence the fitted sleeve pulled part-way over the hand. This particular element of that self-presentation is something that I have seen in many women who also displayed traits associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. This may, in fact, be the divide between those who think this is a clever turn of phrase, and those who do not: as I said, of three psychotherapists I showed this to, two (one man, one woman)independently and without prompting from me commented on the "borderline sleeve" phrase with a chuckle. The third said "meh" when I asked him. You can see this dividing line in Ralston McTodd's comment where he (?) calls it the "oddest [description of crazy he has] ever heard of." It is neither odd nor inapt to the people I know who have actually done clinical work with people with BPD.

I will agree, especially on rereading, that the rest of that section is particularly objectionable and sexist. I think the guy wrote it because he likes to be sort of an asshole, but I don't think the phrase itself is necessarily sexist, in the manner that Ralston insists it is.

Now, the phrase itself is a bit dismissive, and might be jarring for that reason, but does not to my mind signify an uncaring attitude toward suffering. OBs delivering a kid who looks like they might have birth defects use the phrase "FLK" to describe the kid. FLK is shorthand for "Funny Looking Kid." The phrase is neither diagnostic nor meant to be cruel, it is meant to signify that something about how the baby looks fits a pattern of possible disability, and it is meant to do that within the group of delivery doctors and nurses. There are other things that may raise cause for concern without having a pithy phrase attached. E.g., a colleague and I were doing a case consultation last week, and the young woman presented to us was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. In the description of her presentation and life were included the facts that she was quite obese and also quite sexually promiscuous. One of our primary recommendations was that she be assessed for a history of sexual trauma, not because being promiscuous or being overweight are diagnostic indicators of past trauma, but because the two together are part of a presentational pattern that one sees very often in survivors of such trauma. This may seem more self-evident to folks, but it is an observation basically the same as that about "borderline sleeve."

I have very mixed feelings about BPD. One the one hand the cluster of symptoms that goes into a diagnosis of BPD really does seem to describe a subset of patients with mental illnesses, particularly those who have lifelong trouble with stable interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, I think the diagnosis is often used as derisive shorthand for someone we should all stay away from (it is often used this way on Ask Metafilter) and that someone is almost always a woman. It's a very gendered diagnosis, and men who display the same traits are often diagnosed with the much less stigmatizing Narcissistic Personality Disorder. My biggest objection to the way TLP talks about it in his article is that he does not make clear how people with BPD are victims of the disorder, not simply folks who don't know how to act. When I teach on psychopathology and diagnosis, which I do every other semester, I always take great pains to lay out the feminist argument against BPD, which I did when I last taught it, two weeks ago. I prefer instead a conception of the disorder as a response to trauma, which is present in the childhoods of many many people diagnosed with the disorder. To anyone conversant in the debates about this, I signaled that allegiance in my reference to Complex PTSD in my post earlier in the thread. I am a clinician who never dismisses difficult patients with the word "borderline," which is pretty unusual as anyone who has spent time with therapists or psychiatrists knows.

I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that psychopathologists have their own shorthand for talking about mental disorders that does not always take into account the sensibilities of people who are not well-versed in the area. I have no doubt, and assume it is the case, that this is true for every profession under the sun. The phrase "borderline sleeve," is a great example of such shorthand. It is merely descriptive, and is certainly not meant to suggest that everyone who wears their sleeve that way has BPD, or vice versa. I hope I've made my own allegiances clear, but they do not preclude me from finding the phrase apt, amusing because it is so apt, and useful.
posted by OmieWise at 3:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that psychopathologists have their own shorthand for talking about mental disorders that does not always take into account the sensibilities of people who are not well-versed in the area. I have no doubt, and assume it is the case, that this is true for every profession under the sun. The phrase "borderline sleeve," is a great example of such shorthand. It is merely descriptive, and is certainly not meant to suggest that everyone who wears their sleeve that way has BPD, or vice versa. I hope I've made my own allegiances clear, but they do not preclude me from finding the phrase apt, amusing because it is so apt, and useful.

All that being said, if we take the generous interpretation that "borderline sleeve" was just a sort of inside-baseball term used among otherwise compassionate professionals, I think it's not hard to imagine how someone reading an article that is rife throughout with directionless and often dismissively misogynist language would not really be given pause to see "borderline sleeve" as something that ought to be taken out of context of the entire article; that we have any evidence, given the rest of the screed, that this phrase wasn't sexist and belittling.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:08 PM on March 24, 2013


I guess you mean that you won't take me at my word. Which is ok, but doesn't make me want to take your contributions seriously either.
posted by OmieWise at 4:21 PM on March 24, 2013


I think the "borderline sleeve" bit would be fine, useful, and kind of interesting if we were talking about gallows humor or in-jokes among mental health practitioners. But we're not, we're supposed to be talking about women trying to get ahead in the workplace. So when TLP is basically like, "this woman is borderline, her ex must love drama," that's why people are seeing it as a misogynistic "how to tell a woman is crazy, watch out bros" type swipe.
posted by sweetkid at 4:28 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, as I think I've tried to make clear in several different ways, I am not defending the use to which he puts the phrase, I am defending the phrase as an apt description devoid of latent sexism. Jesus.
posted by OmieWise at 4:51 PM on March 24, 2013


I'm not sure what you're upset about OmieWise, I thought we were having a conversation here.
posted by sweetkid at 4:52 PM on March 24, 2013


I guess you mean that you won't take me at my word. Which is ok, but doesn't make me want to take your contributions seriously either.

That isn't at all what I mean. Please read the comment again. What I'm saying is that even if the "borderline sleeve" term is one common to otherwise compassionate professionals, I think anyone reading this term within the context of this remarkably sexist rant could probably be forgiven for not seeing this term as one devoid of sexism. Especially being used in the way that it is in the piece. Your unwillingness to take what I say seriously is duly noted.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:58 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm upset because this is how the conversation looks:

Someone: Borderline sleeve is a horrible sexist phrase.

Me: no it isn't. It's descriptive in a particular way.

Someone: yes it is because the person who used it used it in a sexist way.

Someone: why isn't it sexist ow?

Me: here are the reasons not to throw the phrase out with the sexist bath water, even though it was used poorly.

Someone: (no engagement with actual reasons) it's a sexist phrase because the person who used it is sexist.

That is a frustrating "conversation."
posted by OmieWise at 5:04 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's a really strange reading of the conversation, and I'm not going to repeat points I already made. I do, though, want to emphasize I take you at your word when you talk about the use of the term in professional circles and professional contexts.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:10 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree, very strange reading of the conversation. I don't think anyone's insisting you can't use it to describe patients. In the context of the article, it's sexist and noxious. To expand, see mine and Marisa Stole the Precious Thing's most recent comments.
posted by sweetkid at 5:22 PM on March 24, 2013


Well, I won't do a bunch of quotations, but that's how the conversation has largely appeared to me.

This is moot, however:

I finally had a chance to talk this through with my wife, who is a psychotherapist with a lot of experience working with trauma, and hence, people diagnosed with BPD. Her take, which I will henceforth adopt as my own, is that because of the history of sexism inherent in the diagnosis of BPD, and the lack of a corollary "indicator" in males with BPD AND because of the particular focus on clothing and gendered self-presentation here, the descriptor "borderline sleeve" is inherently sexist. FWIW, and I think this makes her reading much stronger, all she knew about this was taking a look at the picture, with my description of the phrase and my interpretation of its meaning (it is not something she recognizes from practice.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:02 PM on March 24, 2013


I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean is it ethically incumbent on people in helping professions to act professionally in professional situations, such as when confronted by people suffering from the things the professional works to alleviate? The answer is probably yes. If you mean does that ethical imperative extend to the person's entire life, such that even with people they are not professionally treating, or in situations where treatment is not at issue, they need to always "express compassion," the answer is obviously no. And it's a really strange question.

I thought the issue of insider language was complicating this thread, and you've addressed that. Thanks. I know professionals who carry a stoic sensitivity around the clock, and others who enjoy being sort of assholes off the clock. None are martyrs, any of them I'd trust with my loved ones. I also recognize that jarring-and-dismissive can be alarming to some people who feel vulnerable. If anybody and everybody is starting to read TLP, or any specialized journal, it's going to be a symbolic minefield. TLP has generous intent, I believe that, even when those biases are revealed. It would be up to him to consider what they mean.
posted by methinks at 7:41 PM on March 24, 2013


"Borderline sleeve" is shitty and perhaps inherently sexist, but also introducing this woman in terms of the poor future ex she's going to fuck with (sucker! but also, women sap men of their energy) really nudges it in that direction too. I'm not saying the diagnosis of BPD is a trifling matter, it's a complicated history, but I could see TLP making a hilarious joke about how fun crazy chicks are to fuck (from behind!) in the next sentence, and however "satirical" it was, it's as old as the hills and I'm personally over it.

I like reading The Exile too (hey, lay off) but I have the same difficulties reading their thoughts about women and sex-- there is apparently a specific type of chill woman who wouldn't wear a low-cut top to a business meeting (dumb, Sex-In-The-City-watching Career Barbie) but also isn't a fascist prude, and understands the male yen for prostitutes but also stays out of the whole subject somehow by not being an actual prostitute (poor dears) but seemingly just having a Good Attitude about them from afar. That good attitude is understanding/enabling, i.e. defending sex work as merely a subcategory of capitalist exploitation, and calling critiques of prostitution bourgeois and... boring, I guess. I feel like a hypothetical woman is being posited-- not because no women have negotiated these difficulties, but because the ideal woman worthy of respect is pretty much just one who conveniently sidesteps any issues that gendered exploitation and male-centrism might raise. Men can see prostitutes and remain above exploitation as long as they muse in a general fashion "this is kind of fucked up" afterward-- when sex workers start talking about the specific ways that sex work affects them, men aren't listening.

Same with the two seconds I spent acquainting myself with Hipster Runoff-- I read two long articles about Zooey Deschanel and Lana Del Rey and the complexities of wanting to fuck them while also wanting to revoke their indie cred-- which fine, I understand the potential for satire of the fragile hetero male position there-- but most of the rest of the articles were generally ripping them apart for their scared, anorexic looking public images and hack talent.

Women are media-saturated images for men to "unpack" (she's hiding her wedding ring, you can see her ribs, her sexuality is being sold as talent) in a way that seems to particularly target the actual woman's vulnerability and sexuality. i.e., Zooey Deschanel is an idiot for starving herself and not being that talented, she's responsible for the fact that men are seduced by her into holding idiotic positions about "authenticity" and music. Women are morally responsible for playing the capitalist game, but most of all, they're stupid and sexually humiliated. The women in the business meeting stock photo aren't real, and ostensibly the point is that the image itself is exploiting us in the way it's staged to promote particular ideals of White Female Success in the Boardroom-- but what is reprehensible about it is that the women are wearing attractive clothing (a Great Outfit) and holding blue pens like bimbos and one of them has a borderline sleeve, because they're really just stupid and crazy and fuckable and that's the problem, that more women are going to end up stupid and crazy and fuckable because there's no way there's an operating brain in there under all that breast tissue and exploitation. They're less people than weak humanoids always on the brink of humiliation at the mercy of men, and once they topple over the edge, they're not worthy of discussion as actual subjects under capitalism. They're just idiots who internalized the male gaze and thus rapidly lost all human interest value. Alternatively, men are exploited because they're simply distracted, and overall they're in a noble, inevitable decline purposed by some Republican shitheads somewhere else.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:33 PM on March 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


My wife, too, was not happy with the piece, but for her it was less that it was sexist and more that it was arrogant and took too long to make its point. If the point is that Time and Cosmo are sexist, that doesn't take very long. If the point is to show some of the ways in which they are sexist, that should probably be done a bit more clearly and with a lot less drunkenness and asides.

But a lot of the stuff you're ascribing to him isn't in the article. I don't see anything like this "stupid and crazy and fuckable" line: I think you're conflating TLP with some of the other sites you mention. Really, he doesn't talk about sex much, at all, but rather about the ways that women undermine themselves and how media helps them do it by feeding a fantasy. For another thing, I don't think he's as nice about male "nobility" as you're making him out to be, and I think he's just as prone to describing male mistakes as female ones, though not necessarily in this particular piece. What I see him saying is that smart men fall for things that smart women would never fall for: the fantasy of laid-back casual dress as a substitute for wages commensurate with productivity. In general, the psychoanalytic approach is to say that we're all stupid in really obvious ways and that our pathologies and coping strategies are what make us so stupid.

I'm also less convinced that TLP is being misogynist in that section than OmieWise. I take TLP's point in the contested section to be something like this: the group of women in the photograph are unrepresentative of both actual professional women and of the traits necessary for success. Sure, it's a stock photo, but the stock is a fantasy, and a pernicious one. He's describing how the picture promises success and respect under conditions that would not actually lead to success and respect. In contrast with Sandberg's alleged feminism, he's describing how Sandberg's own editorial choices are anti-feminist.

It was Sandberg who chose the stock photo, and that photo does have women in low-cut blouses seemingly having a good time in their meeting. I've been to a lot of meetings and this one looks better than all of them, so yeah, it's a fantasy. So if it's a fantasy, then it has ideological content: it's selling something we want instead of something we need. What's it selling?

Now that Omiewise isn't supporting the borderline sleeve line, I dunno, but it seemed to make sense in the overall arch of the article: Time and Cosmo are presenting a fantasy, and in the fantasy work isn't work, it isn't hard, it's easy, and in the fantasy we still get to think of ourselves as sexual beings in the workplace (and that matters more than who's the boss and who gets paid what). Yet even in the fantasy marriage is in tension with work, and at the level of fantasy that tension is being worked out so you can have both, so that love and work are not in messy tension but totally resolvable like in any good rom com. So if the audience is (as TLP claims) women who "downshifted" then the fact that the stock photo has characters from Sex & the City and not real workers matters. And the fact that this Manic Pixie Dream Girl with the "borderline sleeve" is somehow incongruously in the frame matters, too.

I think this is the crucial line: "If I worked at a female-friendly place like Facebook," says anyone masturbating to this picture, "I'd totally have time to get my nails done."

Sure, it's a jerky way of saying it. But isn't that basically what Sandberg's version of feminism in the Time piece amounts to, both in the explicit prescriptions and the implicit fantasy?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:04 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


TLP's post on makeup and self-respect is better than this one.
posted by subdee at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2013


Everything he wrote about love in the Sandberg article makes no sense to me-- no, as a feminist I was not taught that love was a fantasy. He seems to be mad at all the more-hardcore-than-Dworkin career feminists who also enjoy reading Fifty Shades of Gray, a demo I'm not familiar with.

And no, that photo doesn't say to me "if I worked at Facebook I'd have time to get my nails done!" it says "if I worked at Facebook, I'd probably dress smartly and do my nails and makeup," like every other job I've ever had. If people have a problem with makeup, fine, but I'm confused about what these supposed messages are that women are just lapping up. A chic workplace doesn't imply any extra time or money for looking chic; it implies that you will have to look chic in order to be rewarded in the workplace. He says that at first-- that Zuckerberg can wear a hoodie, while women are supposed to want to wear a great dress-- but then it becomes about women masturbating to the idea of getting dress-up time at work, which makes no sense. His remarks about why black women were left out of the pornographic staged photo don't make sense to me, and this:

This doesn't mean Asian women don't experience sexual discrimination, it means that when an Asian woman succeeds, the other women in the office don't get to experience sexual discrimination

actually does not make sense to me on any level, no matter how many times I read it. It doesn't line up with any of my workplace experiences of sexual discrimination. It's a stereotype about Asian women being cold and inscrutable, basically. Anyway, I have fun comparing this

the right to NOT have to get dressed up is sold to men as a perk, but look at the alchemy: it is 100% certain that if you think it's wicked that your job has casual everydays, then you are smart, get paid way less than you are worth and, most importantly, you will never dare ask for more money.

and this

You might ask, well, how do we get women who read Cosmo and Jezebel to aspire to something greater? Your question is illogical. It's not because Cosmo and Jezebel attract dumb women, no, not exactly, it's that they teach their readers to want certain things over other things. They teach them how to want. What resists them? Nothing. Then who can unbrainwash them? No one. The person that should have was their mother, and they read Time.


No, they're not "exactly" dumb. And really? Their mother? Even just in this one paragraph:

The same should apply to men, the difference is working men have an Act I backstory: two generations ago and back the whole game for men was the money, the lifestyle, the house/wife/car-- getting rich. I'm no fan of unions but they played it straight: if you're going to sacrifice your whole life and lower back for the benefit of a faceless corporation then you've got to get paid. But young, aspirational women can be convinced that working longer, "a seat at the table", "promotions" to management-- these are worthy goals: Sandberg said so.

Are women idiots or does Time magazine think women are idiots? The line is blurry to me.

It's a lazy, weak dichotomy-- the more I read his blog, the more it comes off as lazy ranting. Even about makeup. He's attacking silly "choice feminism," which is great, everybody get a foot in the door, but he's doing it with significantly more vitriol and enjoyment of the word "whore" than the 10,000 feminists who have critiqued it before him. I would so much rather read a grouchy, bitter feminist take on these issues than a man who thinks he solved the puzzle and therefore has carte blanche to joke indulgently about sluts and doggy style in his manifesto because hee funny (also men love sluts and doggy style, women need to be reminded on a regular basis).

The trick is most employable women are at best at the "sales rep" level, not the lawyer level, but because of the juxtaposition you never think: why the hell would a sales rep want to be a manager? "Oh, because it's a lot more work." Is it a lot more money? "Well, no, it's a little more money." So you want me to work a lot more now for the possibility of eventually getting a job that pays only a little more money?

As a former sales rep who never applied to be a manager because I didn't want the extra responsibility-- I wanted a paycheck and to zone out at work and go home not thinking about my job-- the raise I would have gotten as a manager wasn't negligible. Was it as much as it should have been? Are any wages what they should be? Should I stay unemployed rather than take an insultingly minimum-wage job that I can't support myself on? I mean, despite their paltriness, these raises make a concrete difference. Women want the raises, they really do. They might not know how to ask for more money, but they do have a basic understanding of personal finance. I guess he's critiquing a very bubble-headed aspirational upper-middle class type of woman here (she's not "smart," like an underpaid man-- she's not "exactly" dumb). I have noticed lately that the last two movies I've watched about aspirational women-- The Devil Wears Prada and The Five-Year Engagement-- having nothing to do outright with having babies, but both of them imply that it's impossible for women to have a career and a personal life at the same time, despite the fact that men have had to do it for a good long time now. Both of them imply that for men, work/life struggle is a necessary evil, but for women it sours their character, and they should quit their jobs or else change jobs to a new job where they help out their husbands by serving hot dogs.

I don't necessarily think that a career as an academic is better than a career serving hot dogs in a trailer with your husband (The Five-Year Engagement), but somehow it's always the woman who gives up and becomes a helpmeet. Men don't need to look for a wife who "supports their goals" because it's understood that women should. If women look for a man who supports their goals, holy fucking Christ. Of course Jason Segel is fulfilled by running a food truck, and of course Emily Blunt is fulfilled by helping him.

I mean, he outright says it: man = smart, woman = not "exactly" dumb. This is supposedly just about the Jezebel set, but apparently the Jezebel set encompasses all women who like something he hates or dress in a way he thinks implies psychological issues. It seems more just like "women" to me. (And their useless mothers.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:16 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Great points, stoneandstar. I'd say I'm sick of debating this, but I'm really not; this is the kind of "gonzo" sexism that's become popular among some subgroups on the left, and I'm thrilled to see it in a slightly less coded form than usual. The idea that this is some kind of "shtick" or "trope" that's clearly not sexist if you really understand it makes no sense unless TLP meant the exact opposite of what he said. Example:
  • SEXIST: "Get back in the kitchen, ladies! Childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing." The second sentence isn't jokey at all. The writer clearly thinks this is a very serious problem and women not doing enough cooking is a major contributor.
  • NOT SEXIST: "Get back in the kitchen, ladies! Your children are FAT FAT FAT and it's all your fault!" The writer is using hyperbole to draw attention to sexist rhetoric about the issue and thinks that the problem is overhyped, or that women's refusal to cook shouldn't be blamed for it.
Unless TLP actually meant that "leaning in" and egalitarian marriages are terrific things and their critics are sexist, he is the sexist. I don't need Lacanian meta-analyses or an intimate familiarity with his oeuvre to determine whether or not I'm hearing messages that I hear every day as a woman with a career.

Also, when someone tells me that prestige and respect and professional fulfillment are for suckers, I take them more seriously if they don't have a blog where they identify themselves by their highly prestigious and respected profession.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 12:02 PM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think you've misread the line that you're interpreting as "women = not 'exactly' dumb." It's not about dumb and smart, it's about fantasies being cultivated by media and not resisted by unmediated relationships. So he doesn't "outright" say the thing you says he outright says, he says that dumb/smart is irrelevant when you learn about womanhood from Cosmo and not from your mother. Which goes back to the point he makes in the makeup article about women's solidarity being even more necessary in a misogynistic world, and fantasies getting in the way. Which seems both right and consistent, if also somewhat well-known among those who pay attention.

Look, I plan on teaching my daughter about feminism, but I recognize that there's only so much I can say: a lot of it, she has to learn from watching and relating to her mother and the other women in our lives and social circle. Which a lot of mainstream feminists have been saying for a long time, but those feminists don't make it into Time and Cosmo, Sandberg does.

I also don't think he says all men are smart: he says guys who value their clothing choices over higher wages are guys who are smart but won't ask for more money. Smart doesn't count for much, in this case: what matters is that materially they're no better off than if they weren't smart. The conditional there ("if you are a guy who values clothing, then you are probably smart but underpaid") doesn't seem to lead to the generic claim that men are smart and women are dumb, any more than, "if you are an Asian woman, then you are probably the woman getting promotions in your office" suggests that Asian women are cold and inscrutable.

I would so much rather read a grouchy, bitter feminist take on these issues than a man who thinks he solved the puzzle

That's totally reasonable. I'll probably read both for a while longer, but TLP needs to get his act together.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:09 PM on March 25, 2013


therefore has carte blanche to joke indulgently about sluts and doggy style

So I left this out of the quote because I couldn't find him doing this: could you point me to the quotes? Ctrl-F didn't help.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:15 PM on March 25, 2013


On a side note because I'm still stuck on this "borderline sleeve" thing: fitted long sleeves covering the base of the hand is a feature of androgynous hiking fashion, androgynous grunge fashion (ok, arguably not the fitted part), feminine bohemian fashion, and a number of other fashion subcultures that I thought of yesterday but have forgotten in the time between then and having the opportunity to post a comment here.

OmieWise, your more extended clarification helped me understand where you are coming from, thanks. But please keep in mind that most of us are reading this as non-mental health professionals, reading a link from Metafilter which we do not think of as a specialized forum for mental health professionals, that is making this comment about a stock photo in an article that was decidedly not aimed at a specialized audience of mental health professionals. It was not clear to me before your big clarifying comment that a component of your argument was that TLP writes for a specialized audience not a general audience and thus should be understood in that context.

Regardless. Noticing a detail such as mode of dress in a diagnostic context where it is merely one piece among many others is very different from using that same detail in complete isolation. Using the sleeve detail entirely in isolation to postulate a mental health diagnosis (which may not be what TLP was doing, but sounded, to my initial read at the time, like what you were advocating in your earlier comments) would be the same sort of logic fail as taking the fact that all apples are fruits (maybe almost all women diagnosed with BPD have this mode of dress; I don't know) and concluding that all fruits are apples (a large number of women with this mode of dress do not have BPD - most of my fellow female students back in high school, for example).

There's an argument to be made, too, that regardless of tone and whether or not TLP was making good points about sexism in the workplace and surrounding individual women's options for juggling career and personal life, the pathologization of women's health and women's difference is another well known way in which sexism manifests. And if TLP was trying to make a subtle point about that through satire at the same time in a piece that is ostensibly focused on a different topic... could be, but he's no Voltaire.
posted by eviemath at 7:49 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Or, in other words: what anotherpanacea's wife said.)
posted by eviemath at 7:53 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You may mean what my wife said. anotherpanacea's wife reportedly said that TLP was arrogant and too long-winded. But who knows?
posted by OmieWise at 11:12 AM on March 26, 2013


Feminism's Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In? is by Kate Losse, a former Facebook employee, who has some interesting things to say about Sandberg and women's progress at Facebook:
Unlike Sandberg, most women who work in tech startups do not have seats in the front of the rocket ship. Women in tech are much more likely to be hired in support functions where they are paid a bare minimum, given tiny equity grants compared to engineers and executives, and given raises on the order of fifty cents an hour rather than thousands of dollars. According to Sandberg’s advice, these situations iron themselves out when you are on a rocket ship: women are promoted and their positions naturally improve. “What difference does going ‘back’ four years [in title and compensation] really make?” Sandberg writes of one woman asked to start on the ground level. But what if women, even in a company like Facebook, are still paying a gender penalty that nothing but conscious, structural transformation can cure?

I came up against such a penalty in my career at Facebook, which spanned from customer support to international product management to Zuckerberg’s writer: in late 2008, after working my way up from the support team to product management in the engineering sector, I was promoted to a more demanding managerial position. But there would be no raise. “You’ve already doubled your salary in a year and it wouldn’t be fair to the engineers who haven’t had that raise” (never mind that a year earlier engineers had been earning anywhere from $70,000 to $140,000, as opposed to $38,000 like I had). Far from being equitable, the concept of fairness was being deployed to explain why I needed to work for less so men wouldn’t feel resentful, as if my rapid career rise posed a threat to them, which it didn’t. At Facebook of all places, there was plenty of money and career growth to go around. If this kind of salary containment was happening to women there, I can only imagine what justifications are used in less cash-flush companies to level women’s salaries downward.

Leaning in, then, starts to look like it can benefit companies more than it benefits workers, if companies refuse to commit to equitable pay. ”More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment for all women,” Sandberg writes, though she was already working at Facebook when I experienced this particular gender penalty. In the narrative Sandberg provides, the situation I experienced wouldn’t have happened. But the fact that it did provides anecdotal clues as to why Lean In focuses on the problem it does: women’s presumed resistance to their careers rather than companies’ resistance to equal pay. Why not focus on renovating the pay structure so that women aren’t denied raises in order to make male peers more comfortable? The faster my career accelerated at Facebook, the more my financial returns diminished, until my workload was being elevated but not my salary or equity. Leaning in, then, starts to look like it can benefit companies more than it benefits workers, if companies, while asking that their women employees “lean in,” refuse to commit to equitable pay.
posted by purpleclover at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Speaking of the "borderline sleeve," as eviemath notes, it's definitely a feature of much fitness gear, including the entire category of "yoga hoodie" and the fleece jacket that I just bought my son from H&M. (It was from the boys section.)
posted by purpleclover at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2013


You may mean what my wife said. anotherpanacea's wife reportedly said that TLP was arrogant and too long-winded. But who knows?

Well, both, really:)
posted by eviemath at 1:35 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't let that other guy favorite your comments! If you mean my wife is better you should feel free to say that and let it stand!
posted by OmieWise at 5:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


anotherpanacea, I was drawing on his blog in general, not just this particular article-- he uses lots of colorful language about women.

any more than, "if you are an Asian woman, then you are probably the woman getting promotions in your office" suggests that Asian women are cold and inscrutable

I CONSTANTLY come across this idea that because Asian women are successful, they don't notice/care about sexism and aren't affected by it in education or the workplace. It's just not true, unless you think all Asian women are Tiger mothers or something. (Please let's not have a derail about Tiger mothers.) I mean, I know a lot of successful Asian women, most of them care about sexism. By a lot. Maybe middle-class white women have a problem seeing them in stock photos, I don't know. But his GOTCHA moment about how Asian women succeed, therefore all these white women are bitching is just stupid assumptions. (He frames it in terms of "white women not wanting to see Asian women represented," but the idea is that white women don't want to see Asian women because in real life they're cold and unsympathetic and inscrutable, and he is the one bringing this interpretation to the table.)

"Gonzo sexism," perfect.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:13 PM on March 26, 2013


And if TLP was trying to make a subtle point about that through satire at the same time in a piece that is ostensibly focused on a different topic... could be, but he's no Voltaire.

Exactly, exactly. Damn, y'all are so on point.

And TLP knows shit about female solidarity, jesus. I'm excited as a passing bisexual woman to go tell gay people I think they need more solidarity, because it all just seems like a bunch of bitchy infighting to me! Shape up, group!
posted by stoneandstar at 5:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, not that isn't sexist pay inequality. But Facebook and its Valley bretheren have their own particular classism: the cult of the engineer.

I came up against such a penalty in my career at Facebook, which spanned from customer support to international product management to Zuckerberg’s writer

I'm going to assume the writer is not an engineering or computer science graduate. Which is fine. But there's a huge, HUGE bias against these people. Especially in Google and any post-Google Valley company that's basically trying to duplicate Google's culture.

Now, there's a pretty clear overlap of women and non-engineers when you look at university enrollment, but part of the issue she describes is rooted in something separate but parallel to sexism. Although perhaps some will disagree and suggest that bias against non-engineers is just a cover for sexism.
posted by GuyZero at 5:41 PM on March 26, 2013


TLP reacts to the Dissent piece:
The crucial point is a meta one: Sandberg herself is being used in exactly the way Dissent says she is getting other women to be used. Whatever Sandberg believes she is doing, the system is using her as a battery (to get women to work harder, for less money, in exchange for the trappings of power– fame, titles, prestige.) If we believe Sandberg is earnestly trying to advance women in the workplace, then the system is using her (comparatively) cheap labor for the purpose of enhancing that very system, not changing it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:37 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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