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Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney

August 7, 2008 | Advertising,Books,Breast cancer,Colbert Report,Colin Powell,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Media,Movies,MSM,Music,Parenting,Pink,Politics,PR,Race,Research,SLBTM,Statistics,Television,U.S. government,Verizon,Work,Working Mother

I just finished reading Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. I received a review copy from the publisher, Modern Times, an imprint of Rodale, Inc.

As I was getting ready to write something about the book, I ran across Maloney’s July 29, 2008, appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. At first, I thought I would just include it with other links, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District – New York’s 14th – Carolyn Maloney
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Is it really funny that women get fired for lactating?

Here’s a quote from Maloney’s book.

I also heard numerous stories about difficulties in the workplace, including one woman whose male colleagues mooed outside the door as she expressed milk to take home and another woman being banished to do so in her car across the street from her office.

I didn’t laugh once while reading her book, but maybe I missed something. Exactly which issue that she wrote about was funny? Rape? Domestic violence? Burkas? Breast cancer? Or maybe prostitution? That link goes to a 2007 feature in Prism magazine, which Maloney reprinted on page 246 of her book and said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.

Depictions of prostitution in the media and popular culture (including the movie Pretty Woman) can be grossly misleading, even glamorous. In fact, street prostitutes are typically trafficked, exploited, battered, and often force-fed drugs by slavemaster pimps. This series of mugshots of street prostitutes, which documents their first arrest to their eighth, illustrates the reality of life on the street, which more closely resembles a descent into hell than a Hollywood movie.

Is that funny? If not, I’m confused about why one of the first places she went to discuss her book was Comedy Central.

The blurbs on the back of her book are written by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, Ellie Smeal and Arianna Huffington. (Geraldine Ferraro was also included in the online “praise” section for the book.) Were they slapping their knees and giggling at the sight of Colbert using a breast pump while Maloney smiled and kept her cool? If not, does that mean they just can’t take a joke?

I’ve written about the blurred lines between celebrity and politics. It’s as if something has shifted. Instead of looking back as former government officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the joke. Hey, they’re even in on the joke because so many things that happen in Washington are, well, a joke. Is that it?

Maybe I just don’t get the whole Inside the Beltway atmosphere. Is it really just a non-stop college kegger where everyone has to hit the beer bong and slam shots until they puke their guts out to prove they can keep up?

Sigh.

About the book

About the author

Excerpt

Maloney’s book is a fairly comprehensive list of women’s issues — what’s been done, what’s been undone and what still needs to be done. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, not much of the information is new, but it’s interesting to read about the issues from Maloney’s perspective as a policymaker.

She put a “take-action guide” at the end of each chapter, providing contact information for some of the groups and organizations working on specific issues. Her goal is to convince readers to do something, anything: “I hope to persuade you that any action in support of your beliefs matters, whether it is large or small, brief or time-consuming, successful or unsuccessful.”

She included women’s personal stories as well as her own story and a wealth of information from other sources.

She draws upon the work of Martha Burk (Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It), Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued), Jody Heymann (The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?), MomsRising (The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want – and What To Do About It), Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff (Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men–And What to Do About It), Joan Williams (Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It), Marie Wilson (Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything), among many others.

She also included some of her own research and highlighted inconsistencies between cultural myth and everyday reality.

Maloney mentioned Morgan Stanley, which settled a class-action sex-discrimination case for $54 million and then another one for $46 million, yet it consistently appears on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list, a topic I have written about many times.

You might think that Morgan Stanley would work especially hard to eradicate sex discrimination after so costly [$54 million] an episode. But the firm settled another class action sex discrimination suit in 2007 for $46 million — bringing its overall sex discrimination price tag to an even $100 million. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to a few good days of trading.

Despite these incidents, Morgan Stanley has been cited numerous times by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. That makes me wonder how bad things are at other companies.

While she pointed out the inconsistency of the companies that appear in Working Mother with their employment track record, she listed in the take-action guide the National Association for Female Executives, which might be a perfectly fine organization. But it falls under the umbrella of Working Mother Media, which publishes Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of the whole thing.

She also gave this example.

If you drive your Mitsubishi to the airport after filling its tank at Sunoco, board a Boeing-built plane for a United Airlines flight, use your Verizon cell phone service to call your spouse before you take off, and then bite into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ve just enriched six household-name companies that have settled or lost sex discrimination cases and lawsuits in recent years.

Right. At least one of those companies — Verizon — makes Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list year after year.

In the take-action guide at the end of the “Health Care That’s Always There” chapter, she recommended (among others) Dove’s Campain for Real Beauty as a way to “start health education early by teaching our young and teenaged girls about issues that affect them.” If you scratch the surface of Dove, you’ll find a wee bit of image manipulation of its own.

Unilever is the maker of Dove products (and major “research” funder), which are the basis for the Campaign for Real Beauty and its self-esteem education for young girls. Unilever also makes and markets Axe products, which exist in a parallel universe where the V.I.X.E.N.S. (Very Interactive Xtremely Entertaining Naughty Supermodels) and Bom Chicka Wah Wahs don’t have “real beauty” or self-esteem issues.

In “The Pretty Woman Myth” chapter, Maloney wrote about misleading portrayals of prostitution in popular culture and mentioned that the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006 went to ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’” whose lyrics include:

Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah

I remember when that happened, thinking, what?!? There was George Clooney, smugly patting himself on the back for Hollywood being “out of touch” for “giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” That was in 1939. Just how long was it, dear George, until the next black person was so honored? That would be 1948, then 1964, then 1982, then 2002. And just how far has Hollywood come, George, by glorifying “the black man” … as a pimp, not to mention portraying women of all colors as simply a venue for making money? Hollywood’s out of touch, George. Ya think?

Which brings me back around to the Comedy Central appearance.

If it’s a matter of reaching a younger audience? C’mon, they deserve more credit than that. It’s not only “the kids” watching Comedy Central, and “the younger audience” is watching much more than just Comedy Central. And there are tons of young, vibrant, intelligent voices on the Internet. Dust off the mouse and start clicking.

Besides, there’s not a damn thing that’s funny about this book. Just like the issues Maloney discusses in the book — the media and popular-culture myths that harm the efforts to improve the lives of real people — Maloney’s Comedy Central appearance did nothing but belittle and mock some very serious societal issues. The people behind the stories about sex discrimination, prostitution and unacceptably high infant-mortality rates (to name just a few) deserve much more than to become the butt of a comedian’s joke.

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Posted by Becky @ 4:10 pm  

18 Responses to “Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney”

  1. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah Says:

    Wow.

    Just wow.

  2. Tracy Thompson Says:

    A couple of points:
    1.Whoever booked that interview with the Colbert Report for her should be fired. And SHE should have her head examined for agreeing to do it. Christ.
    2. Stephen Colbert does brilliant send-ups. But for a send-up to work, the audience has to be smart enough to get it. The fact that this was a book about how women have NOT made much progress might–MIGHT, I say–have caused a person to think that maybe this was one of those ideas that wouldn’t work.

    About the only thing I can say in Colbert’s defense is that if this was the case, he was guilty of OVERestimating his audience, which would be a welcome change from what we usually get. But still.

    Great review, Beckers.

  3. magpie Says:

    You are awesome. Terrific review. And the Comedy Central bit is mind-boggling.

  4. Carolin Says:

    Just spreading some blogger’s good karma – I awarded you a little something. Come check it out! :)

  5. PunditMom Says:

    It was a pleasure to be on his show? I just don’t even know where to start.

  6. Kady Says:

    I’m here via PunditMom. I actually interviewed Congresswoman Maloney w/r the book, the interview is posted on the Momocrats site:

    http://momocrats.typepad.com/momocrats/2008/08/momocrats-exclu.html

    She brought up the Colbert interview and asked that I linked to it, but her tone was “frosty”.

  7. Kathy Says:

    I, too, have to say this is a great job! WOW! Kudos – and yer fambly is PROUD!

  8. Margaret Says:

    Go Becky!

    I’m clapping and cheering right now.

  9. Barry Nolan Says:

    I appreciate the detailed review of the book and the important issues that are raised – but could hardly disagree more with your take on Congresswoman Maloney’s appearance on the Colbert Report. Over the past 7 1/2 years, Colbert – and The Daily Show – has addressed some of the most serious issues facing all of us today – with piercing comic satire. From WMD’s and the war in Iraq, to the use of torture and the erosion of civil liberties, Colbert and Stewart have had leaders, authors, thinkers and doers on their shows – and have used the gentle social corrective of comedy to make some very serious points. There is no lack of serious angry demanding finger pointing discussion going on on television and radio. Thank heaven for a breath of fresh air – and for people like Congresswoman Maloney – who takes a risk and makes a point. It is just another form of sexism to suggest that women must be serious about all women’s issues all the time – even though men – from Mort Sahl to Lewis Black – can make a nice living thank you – pointing out idiocy and hypocrisy.

  10. Devra Says:

    Barry,
    I’m a big fan of Colbert as well as the Daily show, I don’t see where Becky was dissing either of the programs nor their purpose.

    You state Congresswoman Maloney took a risk and made a point. Could you elaborate please as I’m not sure what risk you believe her to have taken nor am I clear on the point she made from being on the show.

    Not trying to be argumentative, in fact, we probably agree on more than we disagree. One comes to mind immidiately, your DX of O’reilly. I read in your former life you were a member of my brethren and it looks like whomever taught you Psychopathology did a decent job and you remembered how to apply the criteria.

  11. Becky Says:

    Take another look, Barry. That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. The book? Not funny. Maloney? Not a comedian. Comedy Central? Inappropriate venue.

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