Sexism For Clicks And Profit

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Michael Noer, Forbes.com’s executive editor for news, wrote an opinion column for Forbes.com that started out like this:

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women–even those with a “feminist” outlook–are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

His thesis is that “economic theory” and “a host of studies” demonstrate that men who want happy marriages should not marry “career girls,” who he helpfully defines as follows: “a “career girl” has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year.”

Blogospheric response to this column was apparently somewhat different than whatever it was that the Forbes folks were initially anticipating, or maybe they expected a strong negative reaction all along, it’s hard to tell the exact depth of the phoniness and subterfuge here. First Forbes rather ostentatiously pulled the column down, and then the company reposted it, repackaged as part of a “Point/Counterpoint debate,” so that it appeared more balanced and journalistic. It is accessible here, but please use the Gawker link at the bottom of this post instead for reasons that will become obvious if they aren’t already.

Not content to let Forbes get all the links, page loads, attention and advertising revenue from this contretemps, Jack Shafer at Slate.com wrote a bizarre column explaining that no one has “convinced” him that “the article…really insults women.” He closes his piece as follows:

What upsets you about the piece? Bore me with your fury at slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Obviously he is trying to free ride upon profitable sexism while positioning himself as relatively clean of hand and persuadable on the issues Noer raises, but Shafer is not nearly as subtle or clever as perhaps he thinks he is. I’ve linked to both the Forbes and Slate articles above so that interested readers can see what it is I am referencing and describing here in full text. Documenting the existence and location of the article is necessary, but I hate the fact that this gives both of these incredibly stupid and manipulative articles “linkage” that provides them with visibilty, higher linking rankings and enhanced page load numbers, because that is exactly what they seem to be gunning for. Maybe this post demontrates that I can easily be provoked into taking the bait on something like this, but at least I can simultaneously point out the orchestrated and instrumental nature of what Forbes and Slate have done here, reaping the harvest of sexism. On the bright side, it shows that both periodicals understand that there are a lot of online feminists who are motivated to challenge Noer’s normative claims. It’s frustrating, though, that the technology of the Internet seems to require playing into his and Shafer’s hands in order to critique and rebut them.

You can read more at Polimom, and Be A Human Being, and Indian Writing, and Pandagon, and other fine feminist blogs. I leave you with observations from Grendel at On The Turning Away:

It’s hard to escape the suspicion that the evocative and provocative Noer piece on Forbes.com that has generated an uproar in the blogosphere is not a (desperate) PR stunt to draw traffic to the Forbes.com site amid the summer malaise.

On Technorati, Forbes jumped to the No. 4 slot from nowhere when we last checked. A search for”Noer, Forbes”generated 150 blogs (ours included) as of this hour.

Evidence: as of last night, the original Noer piece that was pulled earlier in the evening was back, alongside with a counter or Petain-esque, depending on where you come from, piece by Elizabeth Corcoran,”Don’t Marry A Lazy Man.”

Gawker has launched a boycott of Forbes.com by providing links (embedded in this post) to both articles. As one Gawker reader commented, Forbes is for”men who are too dumb to read the Economist.”

To a cynical mind, this might be the first salvo by the octogenarian Forbes (mag) in the wake of a recent sellout to Bono’s PE shop, Elevation, by the Forbes family. As the cliché goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. One might add that desperation can sometimes backfire.

–Ann Bartow

Update: According to this Salon article, Gloria Steinem reacted to the Forbes piece as follows:

“I’m deeply grateful to Forbes Magazine for saving many women the trouble of dealing with men who can’t tolerate equal partnerships, take care of their own health, clean up after themselves or have the sexual confidence to survive, other than a double standard of sexual behavior. Since a disproportionate number of such unconfident and boring guys apparently read Forbes, the magazine has performed a real service.”

You can also read about Linda Hirshman’s reaction at Salon, in which she refers to non-career women as “dummies” and “bimbos.” Ugh.

Update: Christine Hurt had a few observations about the article here.

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0 Responses to Sexism For Clicks And Profit

  1. commentgbq says:

    I’m tired of people like Becker parading this type of prejudice as “scientifically verified.” It’s a problem similar to the one addressed by the SC in Palmore–in other words, it’s illegitimate to base one’s response to discrimination on actions that only end up entrenching the discrimination. The “career women” are only less valued because society does not accommodate two-earner families in the way it should.

    I also like your point on the people “cashing in” on the controversy..rather like Survivor’s transparent race game this season.

  2. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » “Career Women Bad Wives? Let’s Ask the Guys”