As media pressure mounts on new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for being pregnant and a recent article in The Atlantic claims that women still aren’t able to properly balance work and family, the topic of women having it all has been taking over the feminist stage. So The Gabbler decided to consult two experts on the topic: Queen Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette.
Why England’s Most Powerful Queen in History Still Can’t Pee Standing Up
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
I felt compelled to write today, especially after I heard that French fruitcake was going to put her two pence in. As a woman who basically had to de-sex herself in order to get any respect whatsoever, I just want to say, I feel you, ladies.
I mean, I remember the 2008 election (you invariably have a lot of free time to watch debates when you’re dead. Plus, Tina Fey’s SNL performances back then were a thing of beauty). You’ve got Hillary Clinton, the cold-hearted bitch who probably peed standing up, versus Sarah Palin, the dumb yet totally fuckable veep candidate who happened to possess the bizarre ability to see Russia from her bedroom window. I don’t think many of us can identify with either position, which is why so many intelligent and successful woman find themselves taking pause to ask: Why can’t I aim for extreme success while also retaining my femininity? Why can’t I be a kick ass exec on Friday and bake cookies with my kids on Saturday? Why should taking better care of my appearance be directly proportionate to how dumb people think I am?
Take this week’s news cycle: there has been a boatload of coverage over Yahoo’s newly appointed CEO, Marissa Mayer. Nevermind that at 37 years old, she is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. Nevermind that before this, she was the Number 20 exec at Google and is worth an estimated $300 million. Nevermind that she’s got honor’s degrees from Stanford in symbiotic systems and computer science. In case you haven’t been reading the Wall Street Journal, Mayer is also (gasp!) six months pregnant, which inevitably means that she will only be able to focus on two things for the next three months: binge eating and planning the perfect Finding Nemo-themed baby shower.
When Anne Marie Slaughter wrote that women still can’t have it all, maybe this is the kind of thing she was talking about. Having it all seems like an impossibility, and maybe it is. But that’s no reason to stop trying. “Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.” (Is it tacky to quote yourself? If so, I apologize, but I was pretty proud of this one.)
There was a time when I was the most powerful woman in the world, but I made a lot of sacrifices for power and success. I never married, even when I was in love. Instead, I was stuck flirting with every Sir Tom, Dick and Harry just to wield the only real power I had – that if they thought they might have a chance with me, they’d have a chance at the throne, and for once and for all, would stop trying to poison my dinner. I became extremely paranoid and isolated myself. I even had my sister killed off. Sure, she threw me in the Tower of London first, but if I’m not a cold-hearted bitch, I don’t know who is.
Times sure have changed, (God, I wish I was around for the invention of the iPhone – or even hot showers), but it’s a shame to see that many of the same, sad stereotypes about women in power remain. Maybe if we just learned how to pee standing up – Hillary, could you help us out with this?
Let Them Stop Whining
I was a woman who had it all. Born a beautiful and powerful archduchess, married to the future king of France, free to waste the crown’s money on clothes and gambling and the gardens at Versailles, until the people were starving in the streets of Paris, right? If any woman can tell you the secret to having it all, it surely must be me.
I have one simple, easy tip for you all, so listen carefully: stop your whining. Oh, I’m sorry, you’re struggling to figure out when to factor marriage and children in between graduate school and your career, or you’re a little sad because you can’t be at home to be yelled at by your evil, hormonal teenager. Or, oh it can’t be! Your evil boss scheduled that meeting for the exact time you needed to pick your child up from school.
Would you like to know how I came to have it all? How I, the youngest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, ended up a queen. The youngest certainly never gets to marry well. Maybe a duke or a count, but a future king? We youngest children are never that lucky. Well, God must have favored me, because he systematically killed off all of my beloved older sisters with smallpox. That’s how I got promoted straight to dauphine, the future Queen of France. But, please, tell me about that one time you cut your honeymoon short because your boss implied that if you did, you would finally snag that big promotion.
So I married well. The future King of France, quite a catch. I was truly on my way to having it all. Now if I could only get him to have sex with me. That’s right, despite the fact that I had a series of painful oral surgeries (without anesthesia, by the way), my darling new hubby had no interest in consummating our marriage. Luckily I had my loving mother to comfort me in my loneliness by constantly berating me for being too unattractive to “inspire passion” in a man. Thanks, Mom. Then, seven years into our marriage, my brother finally came to visit us with the specific goal of finally convincing us to start the baby-making, since it was a pretty important part of my job description as Queen. Don’t worry, that wasn’t incredibly awkward and embarrassing at all and definitely just as bad as when your libido was slightly reduced by all of that overtime you were working.
But I was Queen, right? I had a certain amount of political power and sway. I, as a woman in the late 18th century, had what amounted to a job, really, as a politician, running parts of the state, advising my husband, appointing his counsel, like the queens of the past had done. Oh, wait. My husband had been raised to believe that my country (Austria) was evil, that it needed to be conquered, that it was, if anything, his mortal enemy. Basically, imagine how much say Malia Obama would have if she were married off to the star pupil at Osama bin Laden’s Anti-American School for Terrorists in an attempt to end the war on terror peacefully through marriage. That was about how much power and control I was given in my husband’s regime. Of course, though, it’s basically the same exact thing as that time your boss seemed to have stopped listening to your ideas once he found out you were pregnant.
So, I had no real political pull, no big deal, right? I mean, it was a pretty crazy time in France, so maybe it was for the best that I wasn’t really involved, because that way who could possibly blame me once the peasants started starving? Well, just about everyone, apparently. Conveniently, though, once things started to get really scary, right before the Revolution, my eldest son was busy dying from tuberculosis. God’s favor shining on me once again, I suppose. Still, though, the people were starving and angry and who was to blame? That’s right, I was. So while I was taking time off from my role as queen (a role in which I was incapable of accomplishing much due to my husband’s distrust of my origins) to tend to my ailing eldest son, as well as my sickly new baby girl, I was being constantly criticized for not effectively helping France. Luckily, my girl died at a sweet 11 months and God took my boy from me once he had reached a robust seven years. So I was free to help France once more! But, please, I’d love to hear more about that time you quit your job to spend more time with your happy, healthy toddler and everyone just thought it was a euphemism for you being fired. I would say that it’s basically the same situation as watching your children and country wither away simultaneously. Just as hard, I’m sure.
Of course not every woman can have it all forever, right? Now we’re coming to the part of my story of having it all in which I am beheaded for, wait for it, the made up crime of raping my eight-year-old son. It wasn’t enough to just charge me with treason, throwing giant orgies in Versailles, stealing money and sending it to Austria, or plotting to kill various noblemen. They also had to accuse me of incest with my sweet baby boy, the only hope left for French royalty. The icing on the cake, though, was that they forced him to testify against me. Lovely. Nothing like the sweet relief of the guillotine in a world that has created so much sorrow. So it was basically just like that time you finally gave up and became a stay at home mom because it was just too hard to be away from your boys anymore.
I know what you’re thinking, that was then, this is now. Things have totally improved for women since the 18th century, Marie! We have birth control and epidurals and we get to wear pants instead of corsets, now! It’s great! But if you’re crazy enough to believe that any amount of equality or feminism can allow you to have anything as expansive as “it all” without a little pain and sacrifice, you’re crazy. And those old-school feminists who have been urging you on, telling you to go for it, it won’t hurt one bit, have been selling you a lie. Because there’s a price for everything. Apparently, even for cake.
POINT written by Lisa DeBenedictis & COUNTERPOINT written by Jessica Pierce