When I first read that Yahoo’s new CEO was Marissa Mayer, I started dancing the feminist fandango.
She’s Yahoo’s first female CEO!
I swept out my arms.
She’s a 37-year-old Fortune 500 CEO!
I fluttered my fingers.
She’s pregnant, too!
Feet, don’t fail me now.
I flapped the hem of my linen dress with 2 percent spandex and shouted to our dog, “Franklin! Feminist fandango!”
Cross your right foot over your left foot; slam down on the ball of your right foot; pick yourself up off the floor; step back and to the right with your left foot. Apologize for smacking the dog’s ear as you step down on the ball of your right foot again, and raise your left foot high, and — oops! — forget what comes next and miss the tabletop by 1.2 inches as you tumble back to the floor, where your puppy smothers you with kisses.
What a glorious day for joyful feminists across the land.
Then I heard what Marissa Mayer had to say about her milestone moment:
“I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist. … I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions. But I don’t … have sort of the militant drive and … the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that. And I think it’s too bad, but I do think ‘feminism’ has become, in many ways, a more negative word. … There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that there’s more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy.”
What successful young woman in 2012 would say such a thing?
Marissa Mayer, that’s who. I saw it with my own eyes in an online clip of her interview with “Makers,” a series by PBS and AOL.
This was no right-wing blogger’s Photoshop hatchet job. This was PBS.
It has to be true. True that she said it, I mean.
As a joyful feminist — and there are so many of us — I offer this short tutorial on behalf of my people.
Over the years, you could find many things on the shoulders of feminists of a certain age. Baby spittle, for example, and spaghetti straps. Suntans and boiled wool. Pads that made us look like linebackers in stilettos. Long hair so luscious it lengthened the guilty prayers of churchmen sitting in the pews behind us.
Our shoulders have swayed under the clasped hands of friends trying to keep their balance as we howled with laughter. They’ve sagged under heads of those same friends broken by grief. We long lost count of all the times we threw back our shoulders in defiance of someone else’s low expectations. Made them wish they’d kept their opinions to themselves we did.
In the past few days, I’ve examined the shoulders of countless feminists — there are so many of us, even here in the Midwest — and I can’t find a single chip. Unless you count my friend Paula, who recalls an unfortunate toddler meltdown in 1974, when her 2-year-old son repeatedly smashed a bag of Fritos against her chest after she told him she would not buy them. In that instance, she let the chips fall as they may.
If you think I’m being silly, well, I sure hope so. It’s how we cope in a crazy world where the gender wage gap is still huge and American women are back to fighting for the right to affordable birth control. If you can’t laugh while you battle for what’s right, you’re going to blow an artery. The face of virtually every feminist I know is a road map of smile lines and grin gullies. They smile and their eyes become starbursts. Years of practice, friends.
Marissa Mayer can call herself whatever she likes. We feminists are big on that. If she wants to distance herself from the suffragists who fought for her right to vote, heck, that’s her choice, too. You can see her point. Those ladies may have changed the country, but they were pretty darn humorless when prison guards force-fed them until they vomited. Eighty-one women, and not one of them could find a punch line? Please.
Mayer apparently wants to distance her professional ambition from the earlier feminists’ “militant drive” that made her career possible. God bless her ungrateful heart. As I always told my kids, you let people cut into traffic because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want a wave of “thanks.”
Listening to Mayer, you’d think feminists like me are all beasts of burden plodding through life wearing epaulets and Dr. Martens. On this, I must correct her.
Every women’s libber knows you’ve got to kick off your shoes to dance the feminist fandango.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.