Soledad O’Brien. Screengrab image via Newsbusters.org.
Courtesy of a retweet yesterday, I came across a column journo/author/business woman Soledad O’Brien praised and shared with her audience on Twitter, one that was written by a Facebook executive by the name of Margaret Gould Stewart. Stewart is the Director of Product Design at Facebook and developed a serious case of the vapors over the audacity of questioners at business conferences to ask successful female public figures who also happen to be moms how they manage to juggle it all. More on that in a minute.
Here’s how it all started:
We continued on for a few tweets, with me letting her know my opinion on how absurd it was to suggest that female executives/moms being asked about how they manage the heavy responsibilities of motherhood and a career was insulting and diminishing. She countered that she didn’t think I “got the point.” At some point in the conversation, I told her I wasn’t a mother. This was what she said in response:
Y’all, this is codespeak in 2015 for: “You’ve been dismissed, your opinion isn’t worth including in this discussion, now STFU. Buhbye.” When I pointed this out to her, she became defensive and said she wasn’t telling me to shut me up, just that I was uninformed – because I’m not a female executive juggling work and child responsibilities at the same time. Because apparently my life experiences and my opinions formed based on reading, talking to, and listening to women who DO meet all the “right” criteria don’t matter.
Not surprisingly, a lot of followers – mine and hers – had much to say in response. But this was the gist of her “point” about the relevancy of opinions:
Got it? So let’s take this train of thought to the next level. If your opinion on whether or not it’s appropriate to ask a female exec on the work/life balance is “irrelevant” because you’re not a female executive with children, then the following also applies in Ms. O’Brien’s world:
– If you’re not gay, your opinion on gay rights is not relevant.
– If you’re not Latino, your opinion on issues impacting the Latino community are not relevant.
– If you’re not a woman, your opinion on so-called “women’s issues” is not relevant.
– If you’re not a gun owner, your opinion on gun rights is not relevant.
– If you’re not black, your opinion on “Black Lives Matter” and other similar protest movements is not relevant.
– If you’ve never had an abortion, your opinion on “the right to choose” is irrelevant.
– If you’re not in the military, your opinion on military matters is not relevant.
– If you’re not a college student, your opinion on college tuition is not relevant.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. It would be one thing to say that a female executive/mom’s opinion on this carries more weight because she’s “been there.” That I could understand and mostly agree with. But just shoving an opinion off the boat by saying it’s not relevant at all because someone don’t meet the exact criteria doesn’t exactly foster healthy dialogue, does it? What happened to diversity of thought?
It’s fascinating that in the day and age where so-called “feminists” are encouraging other women to stand up and “make your voices be heard!!!”, that we “need to hear from women from all walks of life!!” that someone as (presumably) progressive and successful over the last few decades like Soledad O’Brien would be so dismissive of the opinions of other women who don’t always agree. I think it’s pretty obvious that if I had agreed with Ms. O’Brien on Ms. Stewart’s pearl-clutching opinion piece, then whether or not I was an executive with kids wouldn’t have even factored into the equation, and she wouldn’t have made it an issue, nor given me the “talk to the hand” treatment.
Some people’s egos are too sensitive and fragile to be able to tolerate vast differences in opinions and passionate disagreement, I guess. Not the first time it’s happened with someone who has previously spoken out about the need for people to raise their voices, and I doubt it will be the last.
Oh, and about that ridiculous opinion piece written by Margaret Gould Stewart? Make sure you read it. It goes beyond the typical feminist hysteria you’re used to hearing about. Once you’re done reading that, check out my response to it – written after my back and forth with Ms. O’Brien.