Reason #Infinity Why Feminism Still Matters


A group of female former executives from Merrill Lynch are suing the company for a variety of forms of gender discrimination, one of which is that they were apparently all given copies of a book called Seducing the Boy’s Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top by a female ad exec named Nine DiSesa. New York magazine has some excerpts from that book that are truly appalling, like this passage on how to manipulate men into doing your work for you:

I play on their masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex.

“I can’t figure this out, and I’m exhausted,” I will say to one of the men at the office. “And if it’s not done by tomorrow, I’m dead.”

“I’ll do it,” he’ll invariably say. But his rescue mission won’t be truly satisfying to him unless I show my appreciation for the sacrifice he is making on my behalf. This is as crucial as saying thank you.

“No, no, you’re swamped, too,” I’ll say.

“I’ll make the time for it.”

“Thank you. I love you.”

“I know. You’re welcome.”

It’s like great sex. Everyone walks away feeling fulfilled.

Or this, on using flattery:

If you know you are going to have a contentious meeting with a man, you can defuse his anger before he even opens his mouth. Unless he is morbidly obese, there is no man on earth who won’t puff up at this sentence: Wow, you look great. Been working out?

Seriously, this is the advice they want their female executives to get on how to make it in the corporate boy’s club? It’s insulting to both genders.

Comments

  1. Chiroptera says

    …like this passage on how to manipulate men into doing your work for you….

    Huh. I admit I don’t know much about Business Administration (and they even give degrees in it, so it must be a real science!), but I’m pretty sure a male executive could just say, “get this done by tomorrow or you’re fired.”

  2. rory says

    @Chiroptera,

    But he won’t say that, because you know, men have an uncontrollable need for sex, so any time an attractive woman bats her eyelashes at us, we immediately snap into caveman mode and give her whatever she wants. It’s evolutionary psychology, doncha know.

    Yeah, easy to see how this kind of garbage is insulting to men as well as women.

  3. says

    It’s insulting to both genders.”

    [monocle pops out] By God, women count as a gender now? Mark my words, if this keeps up, they’ll ask for the franchise.

  4. John Pieret says

    So, basically, this is advice on how to sleep your way to the top without the actual sleeping part?

  5. eric says

    “I can’t figure this out, and I’m exhausted,” I will say to one of the men at the office. “And if it’s not done by tomorrow, I’m dead.”

    “I’ll do it,” he’ll invariably say.

    I would at least try to help anyone in my company out who said that. Regardless of gender, age, or job title. Because its the right frakking thing to do. Holy crap this says some nasty things about the author. Not only for manipulating people to help her out when she doesn’t really need it, but in thinking manipulation is necessary to make people act like decent human beings. I have news for you, Ms. DiSesa: its only folks like you that need to be tricked into helping a coworker in need.

    “Thank you. I love you.”

    Completely inappropriate for work. Have never heard it at work. Amazed anyone who has actually worked in a corporate culture could think this would work. Its far more likely to creep out ones’ coworker and make them uncomfortable.

    There is no man on earth who won’t puff up at this sentence: Wow, you look great. Been working out?

    Me.
    Its annoying on multiple levels. Most of the time its irrelevant to the topic of conversation – even among friends. Nobody likes a suck up. Its also mostly a transparent lie, and I don’t want people to lie to me, even if they think they’re doing it just to make me feel better. Lastly, because its a lie it can actually have the reverse effect and make me feel bad about myself. It makes me think “well, I know that’s not true because I haven’t been going to the gym and haven’t lost any weight since I last saw this person. Man, I should go to the gym more often. Crap, why can’t I get my lazy ass to the gym like I should?”
    If I buy a new suit or lose 20 pounds and someone says that, then I’ll happily accept it as sincere. But if you’re saying it on a typical workday for no apparent reason (or even coming from one of my friends in a typical conversation), its much more likely to piss me off than make me happy.

  6. DaveL says

    If she were really at the top, it would be more like “If I don’t get this done by tomorrow, I’ll be fired and left with nothing but a severance package totalling more than what five of our front line workers would make in their lifetimes!”

  7. says

    Wow and I thought it was bad when my company passed out copies of Who Moved My Cheese to every employee. Talk about clueless execs.

  8. exdrone says

    Modus, wow great post @3. Listen, brainy, I have to get to Ed’s other articles, and I’m just too exhausted to leave a comment here. Could you find the time to do it for me? You’re a dear. Have you been commenting a lot lately? You write great.

  9. Alverant says

    @EricJ
    I worked for a company in 2000 who gave everyone a copy of that book and made us read it. We were a small “tribe” their buzzword of 10 or so people. They fired me right after my birthday which was a week before Christmas and my last paycheck bounced. Later I heard the employees who were still there weren’t being paid period and they had to “reorganize” and later close down. It’s one of the few times where getting fired was better for me than staying there.

  10. mithrandir says

    Odin’s beard, what a load of cow-dung. Apart from the general misanthropy of the advice, there’s already a pretty nasty stereotype in the business world that women don’t work as hard as men and manipulate men to get ahead, and that crap plays right into it. Even if those tactics were successful in the individual case, they make things harder for the next women to come along, especially for women who prefer to get ahead by actually working.

    Of course, I’m also cynical enough to think that, past a certain point on the corporate ladder, it’s all about manipulation and appearing to work hard without actually doing it anyway…

  11. Abby Normal says

    When I let my coworkers know I’m struggling, they too offer to help. OMG, all my coworkers think I’m weak and secretly want to sleep with me!

  12. leni says

    I’m reminded of the timeless proverb, by which I mean tired but apparently still useful cliche, “shit floats”.

  13. meg says

    @eric #5
    You got me thinking, because I have said “oh, love you’ when people agreed to do work for me.

    However, my role has often required me to delegate work. Eg, as a PA in a mid level accounting firm, when the work came in, I would delegate it. My personality means I can’t say ‘hey, you need to do this’. Rather, it’s ‘can you take this job?’ If there was something unusual about the job I’d explain, and once they agreed to take it, I’d often sign off with a ‘love you’ or a ‘you’re the best’ instead of a thank you. But we had a great team that worked well together. The dynamics of that team allowed that, and it went both ways. When they needed me to do work for them, I’d get some similar sentiment back. This was from guys and girls. Also, I think I was definitely seen as the ‘heart’ of that team. I was the go to person when there was problem, often helped the junior staffers approach the partner, kept track of everyone’s workload, played roadblock with clients, etc.

    I think it’s all about culture. We had a relaxed one, away from clients and the public. And we got on well and respected each other. Maybe I was lucky to have such a team, and maybe I helped create it by trying to show my appreciation for their work all the time. I never said anything as a manipulative ploy, but as an honest comment.

  14. says

    I have to say this is rather insulting to both genders. #1 It implies women do not already know how to manipulate men. #2 That men would fall for a woman in this manner that was not attractive.

  15. lorn says

    Yes, it is insulting to both genders. It is pretty obvious when highlighted as manipulation and seemingly too obvious and simplistic to fool anyone. On the other hand it works more often than not. Obscure the blatant manipulation by placing it in the context of a workplace and couch the terms a bit and it is simply amazing the numbers who are manipulated.

    This case is centered on the sexual side of manipulation but that is just one of many gambits. Sex works particularly well on sex starved men past their prime who, despite the evidence to the contrary, like flatter themselves by thinking of themselves as at least potential ‘players’. But there are many forms. Add subtle physical threats, disability, helplessness, nepotism, and insider status to the list of options to use if you want to game the system. I’m sure there are many others. Any/all of them work some of the time.

    Even people who know it is a manipulation get drawn in for a variety of reasons. Some people just can’t help themselves. Sometimes it is an ego thing where they have to play the hero, be the better person, or ‘go the extra mile’. Other times it is entirely practical.

    Individual failures are often seen as part of a group dynamic. Complaints get laid off onto the complainer. Work groups and offices often get judged on their overall performance and by any means the work an individual is assigned is necessary to complete the groups mission. Any failure becomes the group’s failure. An individual failure is seen as a leader’s failure to motivate or lead.

    Booting out a person can also be litigious and costly. Every subtle mistake on a written directive or e-mail can be introduced as evidence of conflicting goals and contradictory priorities. Possibly harassment. Smart people privately keep copies of every communication as a war chest if things turn nasty. Manipulators tend to know the terrain better than most and use it to their advantage. Count on at least the threat of a harassment suit. From either sex. I’ve seen one person who was being escorted from the building ‘injure’ themselves on the way out collect a big check. Company will sometimes provide a golden umbrella, smaller than a golden parachute, just to get people out the door without a fight. Just another cost of doing business.

    If someone, either sex, wants to shirk their duty through use of disability or sexuality a leader has to weigh their options carefully. What is good for the leader’s career, the group’s prospects, the company. Doing their work for them is often the best way to go. Life isn’t a morality play. Sometimes it is better to put up with a parasite, let it pass while vowing to avoid the problem in the future, than go through the pain and suffering required to dig it out.

    This isn’t unique to office work. On construction sites there are almost always a few lay-about who, for familial or legal reasons, cannot be fired. Some people call them “fleas”, as in ‘on a dog’. If you are an effective leader you may be able to get some work out of them using exhortations and/or some mix of subtle shaming and peer pressure. Good luck.

    In the long run most shirkers using manipulation, sexual or otherwise, develop a reputation and people put up their guard. Nobody wants to have to do someone’s work in addition to their own. They start quietly documenting every failure and violation and building their own war chest. Manipulators who think they have the world by the balls can get lazy and sloppy. They fall into traps, set themselves up, or just fail to get hired. You can manage the numbers and effects downward but the problem has no cure.

  16. Michael Heath says

    mithrandir writes:

    there’s already a pretty nasty stereotype in the business world that women don’t work as hard as men and manipulate men to get ahead, and that crap plays right into it.

    This is a strawman of what I think people in Corporate America generally observe and conclude.

    There’s an understanding that for business professionals, i.e., salaried, executive, owners, partners; women in general don’t put in the hours men do where this partly explains why we don’t see a higher ratio of women in upper management and the executive level in key operational functions. However, there’s enough exceptions from both sexes that would it would be idiotic to apply this understanding to specific individuals, decisions, or policies. There are ample number of women who work as many hours as men, and plenty of men who won’t put in a lot of hours either.

    As a long-time corporate manager/executive from the tech industry back when it was growing very quickly and there was almost always far more work than people to do the work. I’ve observed both the rule of thumb and the exceptions. I’ve had women workaholics for bosses, including some with children one’s husband was the primary caregiver. I also had very talented men working for me that had no ambition to rise above their current station given the commitment in time it took to take more senior positions where they preferred to prioritize their family over their career.

    I also don’t remember any of my women managers working less hard than my male managers. I do remember my women managers didn’t have the support at home that my men managers enjoyed, so that right there filters out the number of women candidates.

    And let’s not forget the cultural pressures that managers are well aware of regarding women business professionals, i.e., the commitments on their time in regards to their work hours combined to the hours needed to care for their children and household duties were often well beyond that of their husbands. There continue to be a lot women who work longer and harder overall when you include job and the household, whose careers are stymied relative to the careers of their spouses given the greater commitment they make in total but less at work.

    What’s also harder for women business professionals in a global economy who are primary caregivers is that they disproportionately can’t travel to the extent men do, which limits their development and therefore makes it harder to compete for more senior positions. Traveling managers and executive positions are incredibly taxing on one’s time, especially in a global economy where a short commute is east-coast/west-coast and a real trip is from the U.S. to another continent, but also very rewarding in terms of career development.

    Lastly, I did not observe, “women . . . manipulate men to get ahead, and that crap plays right into it.“. And I speak not only as an individual contributor, manager (all levels), and executive, but also as someone who spent a significant amount of time with hundreds of my employers’ suppliers and customers. This was in the tech industry; so perhaps this is true in some industries, but I’m skeptical it’s a trait in tech.

    People generally worked in good faith with each other and did what they could. Those that rose through the ranks did so because of smarts, talent, having a “big engine” (i.e., got shit done), and a commitment to work that was frequently infeasible for more females than males; specifically, those with families.

  17. Michael Heath says

    Re my last point, which wasn’t sufficiently laid-out. I not only didn’t observe “women . . . manipulate men to get ahead, and that crap plays right into it.“, but more to mithrandir’s point, I also didn’t observe people falsely believing such a thing.

  18. John Hinkle says

    “I can’t figure this out, and I’m exhausted,”….

    I tried this multiple times on women at different jobs. All I ever got was something along the lines of, “Suck it up big boy. No one signed the ‘Life is Fair’ contract… and by the way, look at the time. I’m late for my harmonica lesson.”

  19. sailor1031 says

    “Those that rose through the ranks did so because of smarts, talent, having a “big engine” (i.e., got shit done), and a commitment to work….”

    Yeah! Right!

  20. Michael Heath says

    sailor1031 responds to me:

    Yeah! Right!

    Did you miss the premise I laid-out:

    . . . the tech industry back when it was growing very quickly and there was almost always far more work than people to do the work.

    When a company’s growing their bottom line 35% a year, you can’t afford to hold people back. The opposite occurs, many people get opportunities prior to their being prepared to take on more responsibility. Sheesh.

  21. Childermass says

    Huh. I admit I don’t know much about Business Administration (and they even give degrees in it, so it must be a real science!), but I’m pretty sure a male executive could just say, “get this done by tomorrow or you’re fired.”

    How about, “I need you to get this done by tomorrow” and skip the threat.

  22. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    I play on their masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex.

    “I can’t figure this out, and I’m exhausted,” I will say to one of the men at the office. “And if it’s not done by tomorrow, I’m dead.”

    I saw this play out when I was attending a technical school, in the labs. It did not end well for the young women who were relying on batting eyelashes and flattery to get a classmate or even the lab assistant to do their work for them.

    After falling for it once or twice, the students would say, “If I have time, I’ll help you later, I have a lab to finish.”

    And the already immune assistants would say, “If you have a specific question, I can answer it, but the main purpose of the lab is to develop skills, and you have to do that for yourself.”

    Some of the young women were seriously annoyed that it didn’t work. Apparently they had been using the technique successfully in high school.

  23. Don Williams says

    1) I am late to this thread because I got diverted by the ad below it “Goggle banned this video”. Given a choice between listening to Ed Brayton versus listening to an attractive woman with big tits, I’m afraid I go with the ad.

    2) And I have always wondered if liberal men mainly support feminism in the forlorn hope that doing do will get them laid.

  24. caseloweraz says

    “Thank you. I love you.”

    “I know. You’re welcome.”

    It’s Princess Leia and Han Solo!

  25. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    I took a intro to business class in high school. The (female) teacher told the girls in the class to always clench their butt muscles, because, “You never know who’s watching. *winkwinknudgenudge*”
    Gross, right?

  26. eric says

    Meg @14 – fair enough. I have no problem with a less formal work environment, and I’ve certainly used phrases like “that’s great” or “you’re the best.” But I would probably personally never say “I love you” to a co-worker, and I’d think it wierd and disturbing – not flattering – if someone said it to me.

  27. Thumper; Atheist mate says

    @eric

    I think the written form makes it sound more formal than it would in real life. I don’t think she’s suggesting looking someone in the eye and saying “Tank you. I love you”. It would more along the lines of “Aw thanks, loves ya!”. Still weird, but nowhere near as weird as what the book suggests. Certain women at my work use it a lot; it’s the tone of voice that somehow makes it OK.

  28. says

    Troll Williams trolling:

    2) And I have always wondered if liberal men mainly support feminism in the forlorn hope that doing do will get them laid.

    Answer: No, now fuck off.

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