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Friday Musings: Copping Out of Opting Out

Eyes on the worldby Yvonne DiVita

Earlier this week, CNN reported that Michael Douglas, the actor, is joining the FBI. His former "greed it good" movie role behind him, he now wants to take on greed and show people that greed is not good. At the FBI. 

I guess he's opting-out of the business world's focus on making money. He wants to help us with our financial woes - like the ones caused by banks all over the country. Does that make him ... bad? Is he allowed to do that? Opt-out of wanting more money, greed, whatever you want to call it?

Apparently, when women do it  - "opt-out" of the workplace, that decision is met with frowns, knotted eyebrows (mysterious decision, I guess) or outright anger. Because... we've worked so hard to be taken seriously in the workplace, how dare we opt-out when we have children? Because so many (or few, depending on how you look at it) of us have finally achieved the 'corner office,' how dare we pack up our briefcases and go home to change diapers?

Really, how dare we exercise our "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" rights?

I feel especially close to this topic because I opted-out, back in the day. I traded my day-to-day 'job' at the hospital I worked in, for stay-at-home mother status, much to my now ex-husband's chagrin. I wasn't on the track for an executive level job, so maybe it's okay that I decided to be a Mom full-time. According to a Forbes article on the subject, opting out is a bad thing. Opting-out is setting women's rights back ... eons. Decades. Whatever.

When I opted-out, I didn't even know that's what I was doing. Let me say that had I stayed in the
workforce, I would not have stayed in the same job. I would have found a way to excel, achieve, and attain executive status, somewhere, somehow. In fact, after my children were grown, and my then marriage was over, I did just that. But, I had stayed home for 15 years. Because it was what I wanted to do. And, looking back, I'm glad I did.

Let's move on from the idea of women "opting-out" to...women NOT opting-out but getting to a point where their unbridled success isn't what it used to be so the whole world is now criticizing them for - well, a different kind of opting-out I think. I'm talking Oprah and Martha Stewart. Everywoman

Adweek, in it's new publication focused on women (aren't we lucky, ladies, the whole world is beating a path to our doors - would that they would do so because we are smart, talented, and competent, instead of just...female, but I digress) has an article titled "End of the Everywoman" where they tout these two business icons as "two venerated queens". Queens who have lost their 'power' because... they opted-out of the areas they were really good at, and opted-in to places they can't control, the way they controlled daytime TV, magazines or "house paint." Unless in quotes, the thoughts are my own, btw.

Let's face it, Oprah and Stewart did command much of the women's market, the same way craftsman tools commanded the men's market. Women embraced them in their celebrity the way men embraced Warren Buffet. In the end, I object to Ad Week's new focus starting off with an article (written by a man) about two successful business women who are on new paths to success - recently launched. That their new endeavors are not yet wildly successful, is not to say they don't still deserve our admiration.

I object to this paragraph in its entirety:

"It might be that the next superwoman is merely waiting in the wings, though clearly it’s a tough trick to pull off—just ask Rachael Ray. Perhaps Katie Couric’s much-hyped return to daytime this fall will be just what women are waiting for. Or, what about Kelly Ripa? Wendy Williams? Snooki?"

Who is it that says "gag me with a spoon?" (Joan Rivers, if you didn't know)

BTW, Adweek, Ellen DeGeneres is doing a mighty fine job filling Oprah's shoes. Remember, even Oprah wasn't an overnight success.

For me,, the tone of this article, the content, the purpose is so anti-woman, I am already annoyed at Adweek for publishing it. This is tabloid reporting, at its worst. While the author of the piece, Tony Case, redeems himself somewhat at the end, I'm left foaming at the mouth with anger because this is the same kind of reporting the media has been doing for a hundred years, when it comes to women. As if all women do this, that, or the other thing. As if all women follow the Kardasians (I don't really care that they have xmillions in twitter followers - even dogs and cats Twitter, don't they?). I'm a woman and I know where the Kardasians, reality TV, and the likes of daytime talk show hosts, belong. In my "fun" folder.  <sigh>

This paragraph from the Adweek article has merit, but...still misses the point, IMBO: 

“We’ve become more about individual brands—ourselves included—and social media has built a platform that enables that,” said Pattie Garrahy, founder and CEO of the agency PGR Media, whose clients include Juicy Couture and Kate Spade. “We don’t want to be told what to do and how to do it. We have too many sources we can seek out ourselves now.”

"For those reasons, Garrahy sees the rise of a mentor on the scale of an Oprah or Martha “highly unlikely.”

Yes, individual brands abound, but even they are straining their necks to get a glimpse of someone they most admire, someone they wish  would answer their emails, someone they want to be when they grow up.

Head's up world: women are a lot like men when it comes to wanting and needing advice about... almost everything. There are certain people we look up to, certain people we respect more than others, and certain people we will follow to the ends of the earth. That those people may no longer be Oprah or Martha Stewart, doesn't mean they don't exist. Gamma Girl? Yes, social media (not Pinterest) has created her, and her influence is on the rise, but... with each Gamma Girl there is a Gamma Woman, who commands the attention of all the Gamma Girls and who, perhaps more silently than has previously been done, is influencing large groups of her peers. 

I'd say, pay more attention to the rise of the Gamma Woman. She's everywoman, of every age, and she never depended on Oprah or Stewart, though she may have admired them. And, she isn't opting in or opting out, she just is.

In the end, opting-out is a rude term to describe making a choice. The Gamma Woman knows this... and she makes her choices thoughtfully and purposely. 

Comments

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Beth

Never heard the phrase "Gamma Woman," but I now have it in my mind as a prototype. I can even see a couple of them who played a strong role in my life. Good content.

Gamma women don't happen overnight; it takes some hard knocks, making career opportunities for yourself, lots of tut-tutting from others, and a will to be what you are.

I entered the workforce in 1954 when, if you believed the magazines and newspapers, all women were stay-at-home mothers or spinsters. Options? nursing, teaching, secretary--until you married. Lots of "Gamma Girls" were keeping it to themselves and wondering what to do with those urges to be different than "everyone else."

After thirteen years at home raising children, I entered the work world...through politics...in an exciting position in the Indiana General Assembly and progressed through business ownership. By now it is 1972, and I discovered several things: 1, I was capable and could command attention with my skills, 2, that it was heady business, and 3, life wasn't so wonderful for other women..and joined the Women's Rights movement.

That opened my eyes, and now, having the perspective of many years behind me, women in the workforce have been a tremendous force in the growth we've experienced since the fifties and sixties. America couldn't get to a DOW of 12,000 without mobilizing women-power.

I applaud the generations that follow me--raising families (partners "opting in" or "opting out" of the workforce as it benefits the family unit), contributing to their community.

Actually, today is International Women's Day, and I think it is appropriate to celebrate by saying, "Great Going, Women." way. I'm proud of my contribution to today's world and pleased to have forums like this to share what I have learned.

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