Despite inheriting the title of Woman Who Has It All in Chief, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer doesn't want to lead the feminist tribe, according to comments she said over a year ago that have resurfaced in light of her recent scandalous order to end all work-at-home arrangements at Yahoo. So maybe now people who champion the feminist cause can stop using Mayer as a figurehead and start treating her like what she is: the chief executive of a major company in turnaround.
"I don't think that I would consider myself a feminist," Mayer said during an interview with PBS' Makers in February 2012. There, you heard it straight from her mouth — she doesn't want to be a part of the club, and her objections are mostly to the word "feminist," which she associates with connotations like "militant drive," a "chip on the shoulder," and "negative energy."
Mayer has distanced herself from the female cause before, Slate's Hanna Rosin says: "She always resists framing the issues as women’s issues. 'I'm not a girl at Google. I'm a geek at Google,' she likes to say," writes Rosen. But because of her position, pregnancy, age, charm, and pretty face, Mayer has become the de facto queen of the feminists. For every article written about Yahoo's next move, there are 25 others declaring that Marissa Mayer Has It All. Its a title bestowed upon her unwittingly, just because she did kind of have it all, as far as the basics of women moving up in the world are concerned — namely, a spot at the top and a family, at the same time. So now when she does anything to set back said cause — her two-week maternity leave, say, or banishing telecommuting — the feminists get mad because she's not living up to the feminist cause she never signed up for in the first place.
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Since Mayer is not and does not want to be the leader of the modern women's movement, it's time to stop judging her executive decision under that shadow. The whole work-at-home memo has nothing to do with most women in the United States anyway. It might have some damaging effects on Yahoo workers who have work-at-home arrangements right now, but do any of these highfalutin feminists really work at Yahoo? Not really. Employees do: "I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set em up in the cube next door?" the husband of one Yahoo employee told AllThingsD's Kara Swisher. But Yahoo does seem to offer some sort of daycare set-up.
So, yes, the end of the feminist crusade against Marissa Mayer needs to end, because she never claimed to lead one anyway. She just wants to make her ailing company successful again — which, when you think about it, is almost a feminist cause in its own way. Because, if she fails, then she'll be the woman who sunk the company. Remember what happened to Carol Bartz? She warned that Mayer changing Yahoo's culture would be the hard part ,and look what happened to her.
- Marissa Mayer