Reader BW sent this on to me yesterday, Penelope Trunk’s “The Terrible Career Advice Women Give Each Other.” Her advice to women professionals boils down to:
- Don’t listen to older women, look for male mentors because older women give terrible advice.
- Prioritize marriage and baby-making, because if you wait until 30 you’re doomed.
- Don’t bother reporting sexual harassment–everyone knows it happens all the time, so learn to deal with it.
- Don’t read advice books on how to lead. “You want to know what book was most helpful to me in my career? The Sensuous Woman. I found it on my parents’ bookshelf sometime during grade school, when I knew so little about the mechanics of sex that I had to read the book five times to figure out what was going on. But by the end of my multi-year study of The Sensuous Woman, I learned something important: If you are your true to yourself, and do what feels right to you, then you will be good in bed. Once I internalized that, I realized the same is true with leadership. Good leaders are, above everything else, their true selves. If you cannot be your true self, then no book will make you a good leader. So spend time on self-knowledge instead of business books.”
I agree that most business books are total bullcrap. (Read Niccolo Machiavelli instead, I always say.) But The Sensuous Woman? Srsly? Did an older male mentor suggest that to you, too, Trunk? It’s too bad you’re so against reporting sexual harassment–because you’d certainly have a case if that’s what happened!
I suppose if we younger women follow her advice to the letter, we can stop reading after #1: “The whole time, I have found that older men gave me great career advice and older women gave me bad advice.” Why does she bother trying to give other women bad advice, when her first point is that we shouldn’t listen to other women?
My bet is that she’s trying to eliminate the competition. A former colleague of mine described this as the “Queen Bee Syndrome.” Queen Bees according to her definition are women who succeeded in a professional workplace when there were no other women, and they percieve other women as rivals to their success, not as mentees or possible allies. I have learned that not all women can be counted on as allies–that’s for sure! But Trunk’s “postfeminist” vision of the workplace isn’t any place I want to inhabit. (Fortunately, most of the commenters seem to smell a rat, too.)