I heard from some who thought I was a bit too harsh in my criticism of the New York Times article Coveting Not a Corner Office, but Time at Home. I admit, I was irked. I was more than irked. First, it seemed to me that the article misrepresented much of the message of Sheryl Sandberg’s book and the drubbing she has taken in some quarters for that book seems to serve mainly to confirm her observations that women are discouraged from being ambitious. Second, the article appeared to try to make the facts fit a predetermined narrative that we all seen some version of hundreds of times. The article rehashed old stereotypes and presents this as “news” or as if it offers some new insight; and it takes an issue that the article admits is one of keen interest to both men and women and frames it as a “women’s issue.”
Hmmm. What’s not to like?
In the meantime, as I was musing on the reactions and the feedback I got, I discovered there was a part of this article I had missed – a slide show!
The slide show offers a series of photos that see almost like parodies of some Madison Avenue idea of what family life “in the heartland” looks like, or should look like, and is captioned with quotes from the article, as well as additional bits that are in equal parts funny and infuriating. The discoveries the reporter makes are that Ms. Uttech “took time to go out to lunch,’ she has “photos and family artwork” on her desk (are we to infer that Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t?), and that she has a book reading group that allows her “to be just a woman for a few hours.” (Nothing like reading for making a woman out of you. I suspect it sounded better in context.)
But the clincher for me was this photo. It shows Ms. Uttech loading laundry and offers this helpful insight: “Putting clothes in the dryer. She has learned to be intensely productive in her hours both inside and outside the office. On Fridays she can mix the two, working from home while doing a load of laundry on a quick break.”
Right. Because we know that laundry and household chores are her responsibility too, even though we learned earlier that “Ms. Uttech has also become an increasingly important breadwinner to her family, particularly in the years since the housing bust battered her husband’s construction business.”
But don’t get mad.