September 19, 2013

"There is a sharp, mildly enraging profile of clothing designer and retailer Eileen Fisher in the style issue of The New Yorker this week."

Notes DoubleX blogger Jessica Grose:
The writer Janet Malcolm, concealing a shiv in her “interestingly plain” Eileen Fisher duds, paints Fisher as frustratingly meek, and her business style as passive aggressive. What’s the mildly enraging part? Fisher refers to this business approach as “feminine,” as if women leaders can’t be straightforward about their demands....

Malcolm sits in on a meeting at Fisher Headquarters (in my hipsturbia hometown, Irvington, New York), where the exclusively female workers speak in incomprehensible code about “facilitating leaders” and “delegation with transparency.” Then the meeting ends with the ringing of a bronze bell. “I ring a bell to remind us of timelessness,” one woman says. Then a gourd is passed around and each woman says something when she gets her hands on it, like, “I feel humbled and honored.”
Grose emphasizes the gender stereotyping (which includes joking that the male employees are all in the warehouse, as if everyone forgot, because it's against men, that sex discrimination is illegal). In addition to that, I find the religionish rituals creepy. It's awful — or maybe for some it's great — to have a job that feels like you're in a cult.


This reminds me of some of the comments on yesterday's post about the "Lean In" circles. For example, Deirdre Mundy wrote (using some stereotypes that I am noting, not endorsing):
Actually, "women supporting other women" often just acts as a new iteration of the classic "gossipy office clique." It's why I prefer to work in mostly male environments. The men are happy if everyone does their job and goes home. The women want to make it all about supportive relationships and bonding and over-analyzing every social interaction.

So, if you're an introverted woman who just wants to do a good job and who has a life outside of work... these circles of 'leaning in' are positively Dante-esque.

43 comments:

Henry said...

"Mildy enraging" is "passive aggressive".

PETER V. BELLA said...

More rubbish from over educated people with no intelligence. Sheesh, doesn't anyone show up just to work?

Sam L. said...

Can't win for losing. Sexist stereotypes everywhere!

Emil Blatz said...

Hey Lou! Quit hogging the gourd! Those of us on dis side of da room need some gourd too!

Julie C said...

Oh good lord.

If you've ever seen these clothes, they are essentially expensive tents and sweatpants in shades of brown and dark green. It's all elastic waists and volume. Clothes for aging hipster grannies, who apparently don't mind passing around gourds.

I think (hope!) that this says something about Fisher's generation. I certainly can't imagine Marissa Mayer passing a gourd around at the close of a meeting.

Maybeline said...

"The men are happy if everyone does their job and goes home."

So not true. Men are incredible networkers. My husband, my husband's male friends are all into networking. Yes, many times they just go home. But many times they go out and work it, whether it be for drinks after work, on the golf course, etc. The "lean in" crowd (which I have my own issues with) is just part of a trend in trying to get women to network as well.

As far as Eileen's gourd - this would drive my own "femininity" insane!

Smilin' Jack said...

Then the meeting ends with the ringing of a bronze bell. “I ring a bell to remind us of timelessness,” one woman says. Then a gourd is passed around and each woman says something when she gets her hands on it, like, “I feel humbled and honored.”

Women--can't live with 'em, can't....uh, what's the second part of that saying? I suddenly forget.

Crunchy Frog said...

And then on the fourth Saturday of the month, they all go out in the woods, adorn themselves in body paint, and prance with the deer.

As an exercise in team building, of course.

Andy Freeman said...

Does this support or argue against the claim that fashion is the equivalent of sport?

Tarrou said...

Well, the good point is, all those men in the warehouse should be readying that lawsuit. It's always great when the feminists just come right out and say they want men for grunt slave labor, and don't consider us equals. Clears the air, sets the battle lines. Hope the company gets sued into bankruptcy.

fivewheels said...

"My husband, my husband's male friends are all into networking. ... they go out and work it, whether it be for drinks after work, on the golf course, etc."

See, this is the thing about women who over-worry about secret male schemes. I do this too, but it's only because we want drinks and like golf. It's not a sinister master plan. And any women who want a Jameson in a dirty glass in a dive bar are welcome.

ALP said...

The men are happy if everyone does their job and goes home. The women want to make it all about supportive relationships and bonding and over-analyzing every social interaction.
**********************
So very, very true. My male partner and I are both unemployed and seeking work. He is a mechanical engineer, I am a paralegal-paper pusher office type. Whenever we have interviews - they could not be more different in terms of how we are viewed as potential employees. My boyfriend's interviews are solely focused on his technical abilities - can he do the job?

I have two hurdles to clear: can I do the job AND will the other women in the office "like" me? Will they want to "bond" with me over coffee? Will we be able to form warm, supportive relationships?

As the daughter of an Italian-American, I have a forthright style of speaking - very passionate - which doesn't go over well in the typical passive-aggressive, Pacific NW office - where waving one's hands while one speaks is nearly a crime. I know that on more than one instance, I was put in the "reject" category when interviewing to work with an especially quiet, meek group.

The Eileen Fischer meeting with the "speaking gourd"? That's exactly the type of eye-rolling bullshit I can't tolerate. They would have been right to NOT hire me at Eileen Fischer - after one "speaking gourd" meeting, I'd bring a meat cleaver to the meeting so I could chop the thing into tiny bits all the while screaming: "MEETINGS ARE TO GET SHIT DONE, SHOULD BE AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE, AND SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF VEGETABLES!"

mikeski said...

How can something be "mildly enraging"?

Tarrou said...

"Women--can't live with 'em, can't....uh, what's the second part of that saying? I suddenly forget."


Can't fuck beer. This being the internet, I fully expect that proverb to be proven wrong.

Anglelyne said...

Julie C: If you've ever seen these clothes, they are essentially expensive tents and sweatpants in shades of brown and dark green. It's all elastic waists and volume. Clothes for aging hipster grannies, who apparently don't mind passing around gourds.

Reminds me of some old "Absolutely Fabulous" episode. Maybe they do the gourd malarkey to pretend to themselves that they're not just another producer of badly-tailored, low-quality clothing, shaking down undiscerning consumers with marketing gimmicks.

I looked at their website. Sustainability! Teh Environment! Holistic vision! Supporting women! Lol. The pages linked under "human rights" are masterpieces of weasel-speak. Probably using the same textile factories Walmart t-shirt suppliers contract with.

Sam L. said...

Oh, ALP! Please, calm thyself. Harsh their mellows, not yours.

traditionalguy said...

Italian women are different. They have no fear.

David said...

mikeski said...
How can something be "mildly enraging"?


Remember "the zipless fuck?" Female concept. Made Erica Jong rich and famous.

dbp said...

"MEETINGS ARE TO GET SHIT DONE, SHOULD BE AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE, AND SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF VEGETABLES!"

Please Althouse, I have never asked for anything before--if possible can you add a like button to comments?

Cruising Troll said...

"MEETINGS ARE TO GET SHIT DONE, SHOULD BE AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE, AND SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF VEGETABLES!"

Well, that'll cut the invite list down by 80%!

Iconochasm said...

What’s the mildly enraging part? Fisher refers to this business approach as “feminine,” as if women leaders can’t be straightforward about their demands....

So, my understanding of the terms "feminine" and "masculine" in these sorts of contexts was that they were blanket terms, referring to groupings of adjectives associated with traditional gender norms. That anyone being gentle, empathic, non-resistant, etc was being feminine, and that anyone being bold, adventurous, leading, etc was being masculine. Feminists appear to have some wildly different understanding of these terms that I cannot pin down, because it constantly seems to shift depending on what's necessary to the outrage of the moment.

Am I incorrect in my understanding of how those to terms are used? Or is this an echo-chamber jargon issue?

Maybeline said...

ALP, Since engineers tend to have limited personalities (I say this as someone who loves engineers and lives in a family of engineers) they do not have to pass the social test (will this person be impossible to work with). My husband interviews quite regularly in another field in which assholes are not uncommon and the social test is relevant, even amongst men. A candidate has skillz but is a dick? Won't get hired. I think of this when I hire and my field is majority female. Will this person be a "team player" as the saying goes, or will they be impossible to work with? It's not about clucking about at the water cooler.

St. George said...

Gourds are not vegetables.

John Constantius said...

See, this is the thing about women who over-worry about secret male schemes. I do this too, but it's only because we want drinks and like golf. It's not a sinister master plan.

Bingo. Maybeline, your husband and his male friends are not networking. They're not "working it". They're drinking and playing golf. That's it.

The reason women often feel frustrated and left out when they accompany men on these kinds of events is that they expect it to be something more than that. They try to talk business and all of their male colleagues haven't got the slightest interest in talking business. That's why they're drinking and golfing. If we wanted to talk business we'd be in the office.

ALP said...

Maybeline: right back at you - daughter of an engineer in addition to dating one for two decades. Once engineers get into project management and senior positions, I agree personality matters more. But at the bread-and-butter level, it seems that if you are alive and can do the work, you'll do.

Gourds are not veggies - yeah, I know. But once that Italian PASSION gets a hold of you...veggie, fruit, refugee from a Thanksgiving centerpiece...whatever! The point is made with the meat cleaver, not perfect language.

Mumblix Grumph said...

"Passing The Gourd" sounds puzzling and mildly arousing.

David said...

"MEETINGS ARE TO GET SHIT DONE, SHOULD BE AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE, AND SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF VEGETABLES!"

I would suggest that the main effect (and possibly purpose!) of office meetings is to turn everyone at them INTO vegetables! :-)

David said...

"MEETINGS ARE TO GET SHIT DONE, SHOULD BE AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE, AND SHOULD NOT REQUIRE THE PRESENCE OF VEGETABLES!"

In my own experience, office meetings are designed to turn the attendees (not "participants") INTO vegetables! :-)

Scott M said...

So not true. Men are incredible networkers. My husband, my husband's male friends are all into networking. Yes, many times they just go home. But many times they go out and work it, whether it be for drinks after work, on the golf course, etc. The "lean in" crowd (which I have my own issues with) is just part of a trend in trying to get women to network as well.

I think you missed the point about the "go home" part as it relates to men on the job. It had nothing to do with networking and everything to do with day-to-day operations.

therandomtexan said...

St George: I don't think she was referring to the gourd when she said vegetables.

TN Mimi said...

This was a MUCH better article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/business/a-retailer-eileen-fisher-shakes-off-storms-impact-to-reopen.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Matthew Sablan said...

"I have the conch," Piggy said. But, alas, he was in the warehouse.

LBJay said...

mikeski said...
How can something be "mildly enraging"?

Same as "That pissed me off" as opposed to "I'm really fuck'n pissed!"

Laurence Kahn, D.C. said...

Pleae don'f forget that the point of all the Woman-Centeredness is to trick other women into paying $200 for a rag that cost $4 to make.

Laurence Kahn, D.C. said...

Please don't forget that the point of all that Woman-Centeredness is to trick other women into paying $200 for a rag that cost $4 to make.

jimbino said...

Yeah, I knew some Aggies, not real literate, who got drunk and spent all night in a warehouse.

RS said...

I agree.

I have worked in a division where "women supporting women" meant that from the Senior VP down to my then group leader level, my entire management chain was female and definitely a clique who went so far as always eating lunch together at their own table. (And no it did not have extra seats for men)

We spent many hours per quarter in diversity classes which praised superior female culture and openly denigrated "aggressive" male culture based on "unearned gender preference". Not to mention the standard chant that white preference is the reason anyone not-of-color had ever succeeded.

We stopped making progress but instead focused on developing the process to create processes which would naturally lead to new product developments.

And the path to ANY men being promoted was non-existent.

I was encouraged to place mediocre female and minority reports into management development programs, white and Asian male recommendations of truly superior talent seem to meet with no luck.

I was really glad when the house of cards collapsed from lack of results and proudly have not attended a Diversity Workshop since.

PJ said...

Sablan won the thread.

Maybeline said...

When you have drinks, play golf and have fun you are also forming friendship of some sort and develop comfort with that person. When you want something from that person, much easier to approach them later and much easier to be thought of by your colleagues when an opportunity does arise! I see this happen all the time with both male and female "fun" networking. My "mommy networking" led me to my present fabulous job.

John Constantius said...

Maybeline, what you say is true -- but if the reason you go drinking and playing golf is to "network" and lay the groundwork for future professional opportunities, it usually comes across as creepy.

The key to successfully networking (as you call it) is to not try to "network". People usually can tell when you're genuinely friendly and looking to have fun as opposed to trying to use them for professional opportunties.

Tscottme said...

This is what I have noticed about female-dominated environments. They aren't ever happy you did EXACTLY what was required. You must also demonstrate you LIKED doing it or otherwise had the appropriate emotion while doing what was required. It can be like a "re-education camp."

You must not only do what is required, but think what is required, and like/dis-like who/what is required. Emotional fascists, one might say.

Maybeline said...

So many people here seem to be disgusted by women at work! It's funny, because so much of the behavior that is being described as a "woman thing" I see across the board whether boss / colleagues are male or female. Long-winded meetings, a focus on "team player" mentality, networking, etc. It's all pretty ubiquitous! You all should hear yourselves ;)

Hucbald said...

I've had meddlesome female supervisors who were so bad, I quit the jobs. Absolutely hate working for women exactly because of this kind of ridiculous garbage. Men who have a good work ethic just get the job done with no bragging or griping.

Fortunately, I'm retired now, and no women have anything to say about anything I do anymore. It's as close to heaven as a man can get on this earth.

I suppose I'm a sexist fossil for believing that the workplace was better before women got so involved in it, but that's the way it is. My dad made enough so that my mom never had to work, and I had a magical childhood because of that. Those were the days.