Women. With Credentials.
When Joel Epstein of the Wall Street Journal shared his opinion about Dr. Jill Biden’s title, my reaction was visceral. It felt to me like a gut punch. We are still commenting on Hillary’s hair?
It brought me back to the 1980s. Fresh with my own credentials — a degree in Engineering from Stanford University and a Professional Mechanical Engineer license — I had secured my first position as an Industrial Power Engineer at a Fortune 500 company. I faced off head-to-head with a crusty electrical foreman who declared: “I don’t like working with women. You should be home with your family.” I retorted, “What decade are you from? 1870? Put a bag on your head!”
In retrospect, I can say this: at least he was honest. We shared a laugh, and later an excellent working relationship. Still, with countless industrial customers with whom I worked, I felt I needed to be twice as good as my male counterparts in order to be considered by them as even minimally competent.
A couple of years later, when I accepted my first leadership role, I was one of the youngest to serve as a division Customer Operations manager. Our family moved so that I could accept the job, with my then-husband agreeing to care for our two children, as I took on this challenging role in a whole new city.
A colleague asked me: “How does your husband feel about you taking this job?” I wish I had a strong retort this time. Perhaps: “Would anyone have dreamed of asking me that question if I were a man?” Instead, I answered his question and silently accepted the premise.
Fast forward to 2020. At a time when we have endured a nauseating four years of overt racism and sexism at the whims of a narcissistic president, I, and many other women, have reached a point where we are no longer willing to put our energies into the careers and egos of narcissistic or misogynistic men or anyone who seeks to diminish our light. We will not be silent and thus be complicit in our own oppression, subjugation and diminishment. Why should we?
Look where it has led us.
In the past, I have chosen silence and that is on me. Rather than confront, I have chosen to leave situations where my value and accomplishments were diminished by those (all white men) who took credit for my work. I never called them out. To this day, they imagine themselves to be politically and spiritually evolved.
Even those who claim to be “woke” may not fully understand the work ahead. as I see it, we must strive to transform the dominant narrative of denigration and diminishment of women, people of color, those on the margins, and especially the life forces of our living planet. If we are to survive, we must lift and highlight inspiring examples of what is possible.
Today, society rewards the clever put-down, the oversized ego, serving those that trade in this currency with even more money and power. We have been building to this point for awhile now. So, do not be surprised when the reactions to even small injustices seem out of proportion or even histrionic.
In the past I have been complicit in my silence. No more.
This past week, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the public reaction on social media to the Epstein piece was deservedly swift and harsh. My own response wasn’t poetic, but it was from the heart:
Then, in a tone deaf move, the Wall Street journal decided to defend its opinion piece with a statement:
“These pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration or the political censors in the media and academe” — WSJ Editorial Page Editor Paul A. Gigot.
So, not only did the WSJ defend the piece, they doubled down and blamed the new administration!
Good grief. To anyone paying attention, the social media outrage to the Wall Street Journal opinion piece wasn’t orchestrated by the incoming administration. The response was literally a multitude of women like me — who are deeply tired of sexism, misogyny and are not going to stay silent in the face of it any longer. There is a reason why the January 21, 2017 Women’s March was the largest march in US history.
To Paul Gigot: sure, people have a right to their opinion. But any troll can be “provocative” on the internet. If you are a leading newspaper, you have a responsibility to both lift society and understand the mood. Further, if you are going to use sexism to be “provocative”, don’t whine when you are called out for your sexism.
In my view, the least the Wall Street Journal could have done is apologize. If they had it would have been a one-day story. But I am wiring this well into the second day.
It is time to call on the WSJ to do more. Much more.
I expect that a leading publication like the Wall Street Journal should look for ways to celebrate accomplished women and people of color. Rather than add to the cacophony of trolls, how about striving to uphold justice? How about furthering and uplifting society at a time when it is sorely needed? At the very least, strive to not denigrate anyone, especially someone who is a role model to others.
@WSJopinion: Kiddo, you need to do better.