Missing persons alert!

If any of you can find the disappeared daddies in this article, please let me know.  I’m terribly worried about them!  Why, I wonder, is no one looking for them or asking them to do anything, not even apparently their own wives and children?

It sounds to me like Sheryl Sandberg’s and Marissa Mayer’s advice is for people who want to succeed in the real world now.  Even if the U.S. abandons its history and temperament to offer free child care to all children from birth to age 6, that still won’t completely level the playing field between men and women (although it certainly would help!)

Here’s the raw truth:  Just as you can’t have 0% body fat in your 40s unless you’re spending 6 hours a day working out, you can’t get to be a COO or CEO if you’re picking up the kids after school every day.  This is an utterly ridiculous expectation.  Demands for “flex time” for mommies only, even if successful, are just another way of mommy tracking people.  There’s a reason ambitious men choose partners who aren’t equally ambitious and who are happy to pick the children up after school.  Women need to be cannier about the men they partner with if they want to be on the COO or CEO track.

23 thoughts on “Missing persons alert!

  1. UGH. I hate those kinds of articles. And I seriously do not think that Sheryl Sandberg is selling guilt.

    She’s telling women to not give up because they’re afraid of failing if they try to get everything they want. If they try, they might end up getting everything they want. If they don’t try, then that’s got the same outcome as trying and failing, but without the chance of actually succeeding and the knowledge that at least you gave it a try. That’s the opposite of guilt. It’s giving people a growth mind-set.

    But I understand that’s a really complicated concept, and it’s soooo much easier to talk about guilt and mommy wars and other crap.


  2. Sheryl Sandberg can only appear to be selling guilt to people who are looking to buy it. Hey, I couldn’t be her–no way. And she’s got hella better advice for how to follow in her footsteps than I do, so why not hear what she has to say? (I agree with you about the “lean in” message. Go for it! You know you’ll never succeed if you don’t try.)

    Just compare the reception that Sandberg’s book is getting compared to Lee Iaccoca back in the 1980s, or to anything the “oracle of Omaha” has to say. America loves its CEOs and COOs and will slavishly listen to any scrap of advice they have to offer us proles, unless they’re women, in which case all we can talk about is how they have nannies and not everyone has nannies so they should therefore STFU.


  3. And they hire fellow women to clean their houses, the bitchez. So oppressive. Barbara Ehrenreich, admirable in most respects, has doled out blame on that front.


  4. The view that CEO, COO, CFO and other COWs need a 7/24 schedule is very US. Originally, Europeans had long vacations, 8-5 days and even started to look at 4 days work weeks. In the US, engineers, managers have no overtime; just work until you drop.

    Our view is hysterical, inefficient and stone agee. People do not perform well around the clock. We use breaks to rest and rejuvenate.

    My chair claims to work all the time; these are the demands of the job according to him. He just doesn’t know how to work properly.


  5. My partner took the hit so that my career could thrive. We couldn’t pay for full-time childcare until I added a consulting gig on top of my regular academic job. Sick days are only just starting to not be a catastrophe although Autistic Youngest is a great schedule-buster. Thank goodness my university doesn’t mandate my being in the department 8-5!

    Until people see family-friendly policies as vital to all workers, women who parent or elder-care or have the possibility in people’s minds of so doing at some point in the future will be seen as drags on the system by virtue of their gender. Ugh!


  6. Women need to be cannier about the men they partner with if they want to be on the COO or CEO track.

    I don’t disagree with that, per se, except that there needs to be a recognition that that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not the being canny part, but the finding of these men aspect. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how mainstream feminism so rarely takes into account racial differences in their prescriptions, and this is one of those instances. There was a spate of irritating articles that came out a year or so ago about how black educated women were disproportionately single. I don’t remember the exact statistic but it was very high. The solutions offered were irritating, and I wasn’t convinced by the motives behind these pieces, but they were tapping into a reality that black women who have reached a certain level of accomplishment will find it very difficult to find suitable partners.

    In other words, I don’t think the assumption that career women need to be more savvy about who they partner with holds up, without the necessary corollary that being a COO/CEO, hell even being a professor, may in fact mean that you remain single. Or in other words, some women pay a much steeper price for career success than others. On Twitter especially, I’m seeing a real fracturing among feminists, where young feminists of color are really disenchanted with the priorities of mainstream feminists like Sandberg.


  7. To me, Sandberg is talking to a very particular demographic of educated career women, who have the choice in whether to lean in or not. It presumes a) that women have the opportunities to lean in (which not all do), and b) that they have the option of not doing so (which in some careers is a risky move, especially if you don’t have a wealthy partner waiting to take care of you). But, if we accept that, I think her advice is quite interesting. I’ve not read the book, but I have listened to the TED talk, and I was struck by the idea that some women were preparing for maternity leaves (often years in advance) by leaning out. I think its sad that those very few women who are in a position to be hugely successful (in conventional terms) place limits on themselves, on top of all the very real external limitations that will slow them down.

    Having said that, I generally think it’s problematic to promote a sort of careerism that runs rough-shod over people’s basic right to a work/life balance; that refuses to recognise the NUMEROUS studies that demonstrate that working long hours does not increase productivity, but does increase burnout; the promotion of a culture where being visible at your desk is more important that doing a good job; and where people are expected to long hours of overtime for no pay, which allows rich companies to exploit staff and contributes to unemployment by not sharing the labour equitably. If we are going to have a social movement, why aren’t we fighting for a better way to work, to live? That would be much more exciting.


  8. There is a lot to unpack here – these issues are very complex, as @frogprincess and @feminist avatar have noted, and those complexities need to be talked about. The parts that I’m most passionate about are the ones mentioned by @kosembos and @feminist avatar in her second paragraph. Work/life balance is not a mommy issue; it’s not even a parent issue. It’s a fundamental worker’s issue. The US work culture is out of control. What’s more, it’s not even that great in terms of productivity. It’s not effective. I agree with Historiann’s point about mommy tracking and that’s absolutely the way part time, flex time, and working from home has been used in the majority of cases. Maintaining a two-tier system is not the answer, not for women and not for workers in general. Working mothers have been at the fore-front of articulating this issue, and they should be acknowledged for that; at the same time, we need to move beyond the mother framework and talk about work/life balance and optimal work productivity for everyone, because it is an issue that affects everyone. As in many other cases, what benefits mothers, actually benefits everyone.

    But to circle back to Sandberg a moment, I don’t think it’s fair to lump Sandberg’s advice on leaning in with the culture of corporate careerism. There are people at the top who have demanding jobs who will probably always work longer hours than those lower on the ladder. At the same time, there are many ways in which SS’s advice applies to non-CEO types who also eschew drowning in unhealthy work culture. Of course academics like myself have some advantage, because we already have the benefit of a built-in flexible work schedule (nobody cares if you leave the office on Friday to “work at home” when working at home means shopping, going to yoga, going skiing, or actually working at home). What Sandberg is saying, imo, that’s so important is this: don’t give up your dream of an ambitious career before you’ve begun (as in, don’t decide you can’t have work and babies so start out scaling back your career before a baby is even on the scene). That is, don’t make assumptions about the kind of life or career that will work before you *before you try to make it work*. There are lots of ways life can surprise us. I had no idea how ambitious I was until I was years into a t-t job with one baby in tow. I loved my long maternity leaves and being with my baby, but the further I got in my career, the more my career meant to me, and the more I was willing to put up with to keep going on the path I wanted to go on. I think of myself as someone who has it all (book-baby-t-t at an R1); I also have a husband who lives 350 miles away. When I was pregnant with my first baby we faced a devastating series of conversations about where we would live, what jobs we would have, how we would make things work. I told my husband I was going to quit academy, follow him to his tiny college town in rural flyover state, and stay home with the baby. My book was done, maybe that was enough. He was like, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in my life, there’s is no way I’m going to let you quit your job. He was right. I was panicking, not thinking. We’ve made the distance thing work, even though it’s really hard. I was able to lean in, not opt out, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do that. (At the same time, I also ‘get’ how privileged I am to be able to do that. I’ve been helped tremendously by family, and other structural benefits.)


  9. I’m really pleased to find a space in which the response to Mayer/Sandberg is not that they’re the she-devils of the world. They operate in very specific environments, primarily among high-salaried people living fast-paced work lives, and they’d like to see more women be a part of that world. Assailing them for speaking from their vantage point is counter-productive; as with anyone, it’s important to recognize their social location and evaluate whether their advice is meaningful.

    And, yes, Mayer could be more flexible in policy-making, but you know what also sucks: 1) when only the single women plan and show up to events, meetings, and workshops (see: my department); and 2) wanting to think with, talk to, and brainstorm with your peers/colleagues and finding them ensconced at home in ways that prevent such interaction. There needs to be some mechanism that allows for flexible scheduling while also cultivating an ethos of showing up/leaning in/being present–physically and intellectually.


  10. To be fair: I don’t think Sandberg’s advice applies to most women, let alone all women. It’s mostly for women on the management/COO/CEO track. When most women don’t even have college degrees and have jobs that are considerably less glamorous than Sandberg’s (or mine, even), her advice really isn’t applicable.

    Yes, American work culture is crazy. But for people who are alive, educated, and working now, the long-term changes we’d all like to see are not going to be made in our working lifetimes. If anyone thinks she might want to be on the COO or CEO track, I’d listen to Sandberg and Mayer now.

    Frogprincess, you are right: for many straight women, it’s not whether to partner with a type-A or type-B partner, but rather if one can find a partner at all. However, the evidence from straight, white marriages suggests that men tend to be more a hindrance than a help in terms of career advancement.

    Sadly, Janice’s experience remains all too exceptional. My department has recruited only two straight women who relocated male partners with them, whereas all of the men in my department who were married at the time they were offered their jobs had wives who followed them.


  11. I need to find the missing men who want to partner with an intellectual, feminist (straight, white) academic before I can address the missing daddies. I will say that among my friends — smart, very well-educated women — I still see deference to male partners’ careers and desires. And when I ask, as curiously and politely as I can, why they make these choices, I usually get flak for asking or dribble about the male partner liking their job more (see Sandberg) or making more money (see Sandberg).

    It’s one of the reasons I adore an MD friend of mine who is going abroad to, gasp, the “developing world” with her 5-month-old to do really cool and important public health work; her MD husband is taking unpaid leave and will assist her with her work and be the primary childcare person. I like the role reversal. Yes, they have jobs where taking unpaid leave is possible and doesn’t kill their bank account, but the change has to start somewhere.


  12. This is to address the missing daddies question. I am a woman married to a man. We have a toddler and a baby on the way, and we both work full time. He’s in the corporate/tech world, I’m in academia. While he is an active father and shoulders a decent amount of household responsibility, I do a lot more on that front. I am the one who coordinates child-care and meals, makes sure there is toilet paper in the house, milk in the fridge, and clean towels in the linen closet. A few factors have played a big role for us:

    1. His job requires extensive travel and he has clients in different time zones who generally expect him to be available for calls and responding to emails when they are in the office. My job does not require those things.

    2. Not unrelated to (1), I would not have chosen a career track that required the level of presence my husband’s does. In that sense, I suppose I did ‘lean out’ before I had kids (or even a husband). I love my work and am passionate about what I do, but like Perpetua, I wouldn’t have guessed in my early 20’s how ambitious I would end up being. One of the things that attracted me to my particular department was a relatively family-friendly culture.

    3. Related to (2), my husband makes considerably more money than I do. This makes our lives easier in that we can live close to work in an expensive city, can afford to have someone clean our home, and can get take-out or go out to eat when life gets too crazy to fix dinner or pack a lunch. On some level, this definitely makes both of us prioritize his career over mine in a way that probably isn’t good.

    4. Workplace expectations differ for us. Some of this is based on our particular work environments, but I think a lot of it is also based on gender. When pregnant with my first child, there were two significant occasions when I was ‘helpfully’ excluded from projects, both times by older, considerably more senior men. Nothing like this happened for my husband at work while we were awaiting the arrival of child #1, but he did have one client say something along the lines of, “You’re not going to take ‘paternity’ leave or anything like that, right?” when the [male] client realized a baby was on the way.

    How to make the daddies appear? Obviously, that’s a big question without a simple answer. For us, I think one thing that would have really helped is generous paternity leave that my husband was expected to take. This would have made my transition back to work easier and would have, I think, resulted in better balance between us in terms of feeling accountable for child care. My husband was technically entitled to some leave, but he was convinced that taking more than the several days he did would not have been looked upon kindly. I suspect he was right that the ramifications for him taking leave would have been different than they were for me. Problem is, for the expectation to change, someone has to go first… someone has to be the dad in the corporate office who announces he’ll be gone for 8 weeks when his wife goes back to work, or whatever.


  13. The coverage of Mayer and Yahoo! has been driving me mad. How would this be covered if she was father (if at all)? Since I started paying attention to her (during her time at Google) I have thought that she’s really, really tone deaf to her privilege. And even while I/we might critique a man for the same privilege wielding, I can’t imagine seeing it in the press like this.

    Also, she has a nursery in her own office, so that must mean there is free, excellent daycare on the Yahoo! campus, right? right?

    But, yes, where are the Daddies? I have waded a bit too far into the muck of comment sections, and I’ve been (not at all, really) surprised by how many people don’t mention it at all. Or, the common “my wife works at home so we don’t have to pay for day care.” Um, if you are caring for your child you are not working? How is that not obvious to people? Back to my experience of working in the academy, stay at home spouses are pretty rare in my department, especially going forward. However, when my husband was on the market for a job in the sciences, he never met a professor with a kid who didn’t have a stay at home spouse. Happily, this was true of female faculty as well, but it was notable either way. We do have female friends from graduate school that are dual-career science academics with 2+ kids, but the mothers in those relationships are superstars. Of course, scientist assistant professor male superstars we know have… no kids and usually no partner yet.

    Back to the Yahoo! outrage, I suspect one issue is failing to pull apart at least 3 separated but related ideas: 1. flexible schedules (where you take care of the kids queue at home and then work during nap/when mommy gets home from her job 2. working from home flexibility (where you can go into the office as needed), and 3. working remotely. I have a lot more to say, but busy busy.


  14. “And, hey: wasn’t this thread supposed to be about the missing daddies? Only Thefrogprincess has addressed the Man Question at all! So. . . where are they?”


    Around the way, where I stay the missing daddies are imprisoned, dead or heading that way, partially because of Corporate America.

    The deep thing is that white women “feminist” always jump up and down when they get silenced from the conversation, and rightfully so. Yet they do it all the time to people of color especially the poor ones. I was taught when dealing in a culture of violence against women that the first rule is every thing goes on the table and there are no sacred cows.

    Sheryl Sandberg’s and Marissa Mayer’s advice is actually for white women who want to put a preverbal dress on the continuation of white supremacy.

    or as bell hooks said

    “It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism,” to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for ALL PEOPLE, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, Domination, and Oppression.”
    ― bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism


  15. Invisible Man–thanks for commenting. I agree with you that Sandberg’s advice is mostly for a privileged few. I don’t think it’s racial as much as it is a class-based privilege (although it’s not like race and class aren’t intertewined, as you note.) She’s talking about how women like her can follow in her footsteps–women with college degrees, etc. I would note, too, that although many feminists (like me) are talking about her, I don’t think she would say this is “advice for feminists.” I believe she would say that she’s offering advice for people who may want to emulate her in some way.

    I don’t think Sandberg thinks that married heterosexuality is a necessary component of that kind of corporate/business world success. That’s part of her world, and she writes from the perspective that for most straight, white women, husbands and children are more often hinderances than help.

    Throughout American history, what white women have found oppressive (or at least a hindrance)–marriage and licit motherhood–were unattainable dreams for most black women. This is something that more white feminists should think about.


  16. On the where’s the daddy’s issue – we don’t have any children, but my husband gave up his full-time, permanent job to follow me to another country and a temporary contract. He was then unemployed for 5 months before getting a 0.5 gig, and finally over a year later getting a full-time, permanent job in the same industry as he left. He is much more transportable than me though, so it does help. I guess this makes it feel easier to justify ‘following’ me, but ultimately it’s also because he wants me to succeed as much as I do.

    And my brother is currently taking 4 months paternity leave to be with his new baby. This was at least partly financially motivated. His partner earns more in 3 days at her professional and degree-necessary occupation, than he does in a week in his current no-skill, minimum wage job. She took the first five months of maternity leave (where you get paid at a higher rate in the UK) and swapped to him when she got put down to the lower rate parental leave wage bracket. By the time she was due to go back, she was desperate to get out of the house though, so this wasn’t just about money. He got some (illegal) stick from management about taking leave, but the financial excuse shut them up (as they weren’t about to pay him more). Of course, this is in the UK where we have pay for maternity/paternity leave and where we now can swap it between partners part of the way through (this bit is new).

    So, I guess my point is some of us do find these men. I do wonder whether it helps that we came from a working-class/lower middle class background and did well, because two working parents is the norm for many people of my background- due to financial necessity. Moreover, as heavy industry dried up in my area, and were replaced by female-dominated service industries (many of which required qualifications), many women earned more than their partners and were more qualified. This definitely did cause problems in the past, but I think for a younger generation (like mine) who witnessed their parents living like this, it made the idea of higher earning, more qualified women seem more normal and so less threatening.


  17. Historiann

    My point is not so much about marriage, but when discussions between
    privilege white women about their challenges of breaking corporate barriers and how their loving husband are duplicitous in their hindrance,( not how they oppress) gets a neutral and non critical platform as part of feminist discourse at a time when Corporations are becoming increasing predatory against poor and working class women, children, people of color, etc. This just seems part of a drifting of white feminist away from the humanist/justice core of feminism, towards tacit support for white supremacy

    the women you are “featuring” are not talking about assuming a “Spook Who Sat By the Door” role, they are Corporate strivers and part of the problem. In my humble opinion, the article above belongs in some pro capitalist women’s business magazine, or Time Magazine, News Week, Fortune,Wall Street Journal,etc. unless there is a discussion about, what does it mean when a white women wants to assume leadership inside a white power structure that oppresses, every body else.




  18. Why don’t white men in positions of power have to assume leadership against the patriarchy? Why is it only white women? Why is it only the oppressed that need to fight for the rights of the more oppressed, when people are more likely to listen to the non-oppressed white guys anyway?

    Where are the daddies in complaints about privilege?


  19. This is a crazy teaching day for me, so I only have a minute. However, I think both of the last two comments deserve a reply. I am sorry not to have responded sooner.

    I think IM raises some worthy points about feminism. Is white feminism invested in the status quo overmuch especially with respect to class and race issues? He is right in that a lot of the feminist issues that get major media coverage tend to be those that affect for the most part bourgeois white women, especially very privileged white women. (I would argue that that’s at least in some part due to the media coverage of white bourgeois feminism and feminists as opposed to the other kinds of feminisms and feminists in the world, and that that’s not in fact feminism’s bias but rather media bias.) But I also think that he is right to ask white feminists to interrogate their position w/r/t the status quo. As historians, we know that some white women have benefited from patriarchy, and that even more have explicitly defended white privilege and social injustice when they perceived that it worked for them.

    At the same time I am also sympathetic to the point that nicoleandmaggie raises: why is it feminists (or white feminists) who are the only ones on the hook to fix all social injustices? I for one would never look to any COO or CEO to fix social injustices–that’s not their bag–but if we’re going to expect this of Mayer and Sandberg, why not expect it of corporate leaders like Richard Branson, Sergei Brinn, and Peter Theil too? (And whomever runs Apple now, and the Whole Foods guy?) Instead, these are people who tend to become advocates for conservatarian if not outright conservative ideals and values, and while some criticize their politics, no one says “you can’t advocate X until you deal with Y problem” to them.

    Again, I would never look to any corporate leader to provide leadership in social justice issues. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re not worth listening to if they have some ideas about social justice, understanding that they speak from a very rarified perch and that they are very unlikely to be social revolutionaries interested in wholesale change.


  20. Thanks, Historiann. While there are valid critiques to be made about unaddressed white privilege in feminism, I’ve been giving the side-eye to those arguments lately because they don’t seem to be used as anything but a derailing technique. Yes, educated white women have more societal privilege compared to women as a group and women of color as a group. But their issues are still issues, and if more women get to advance to those positions, as we hope and expect that they will, those issues will be waiting for them as well unless they are dealt with. Meanwhile, the elephant in the room is daddy privilege.

    I was surprised by the number of men I went to law school with who proudly proclaimed their intent to marry someone who would stay at home with the kids, and who I’m sure went on to do just that. This was in 2000, not 1970. One of these guys, who was a real asshat all around, said that his mother had stayed at home with him, and look how well he turned out, so he expected the same for his kids in order for them to be successful. Meanwhile, I, the offspring of a working single mother, was sitting next to him in family law trying not to punch him.


  21. Historiann;

    Do you seriously believe, white feminists have ever been the only ones “on the hook”? Even though they benefit from both affirmative action more
    than any other group, and are the secondary beneficiaries of white privilege, from the halls of congress, to corporate America, to higher education.

    Which is why I say, oppressed people of color, just as we put pressure on white males,
    also need to put pressure on white women who call themselves feminist to be “on the hook”. Not just because of the above privileges they receive because of their color, but also given that you are the closest to “them” and you bare their children, which I say creates a social burden to act, sort of like the women in the greek drama Lysistrata.

    I’m assuming that you are not fooled by the clever tactical installation of this President as any thing but a “darker face” on the continuation of white American male privilege globally at a time when darker nations are waking up, even with the sad passing of Hugo Chavez.

    Finally, when you say “Where are the daddies?” I’m assuming you mean the white males of the women who penned this article and are described in it.

    It’s my position that “these white-daddies are hiding behind the general term of “MEN” to escape direct blame (as white men) for their direct culpability in continuing to perpetuate these problems, not to mention Predatory and Disaster Capitalism. Now might I beg a question of you?

    What does it mean, at a time when white men are now a minority in America ( with far too much power), yet white women feminist, continue to make general declarative statements about “men”, when in fact, they should be addressing white men/white male culture, specifically? Is this rooted in white supremacy, that dictates the necessity for self preservation? In this case by specifically blocking unwanted attention and scrutiny from white American men as a specific group, which would be threatening to white privilege that benefits white women and white men alike?

    Again and as always, very erudite conversations in this cyber lounge.



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