Apparently having male, somewhat dangly and not quite impressive, parts entitles me to partake in professional business trips and respectable networking events without fear of reprisal by major publications.
Even as I pack for a women’s blog conference where I will be speaking this week, I needn’t worry because I am a businessman, and therefore not a deadbeat parent or stir crazy spouse.
Or so it would seem according to a much maligned Wall Street Journal article belittling women’s blogging conferences. The author, Katherine Rosman, reframed these events into magical slumber parties, escapes from the day-to-day “grind” that women face in their duties as parents and titled it, “The Mommy Business Trip.” It could not have been more absurd.
In a single headline, and bolstered by each subsequent paragraph, the author turned the activities of entrepreneurs and pioneers in the digital field, into hobbyist jaunts and injected a latent, misguided sexism into the story. As a man who has attended these functions to learn and benefit from the wisdom of those who’ve come before me in this digital industry, I find Katherine Rosman’s remarks hollow and generalized beyond saving.
Watching over children is a noble, important effort. It shapes our future. The term “Mom” itself is not inherently sexist but it’s curious how limiting it can be when used in certain contexts. For years, we have created and participated in systemic and categorical sexism. We shackled women to homes, effectively trapping them in metaphorical and literal boxes with doors and windows. But as soon as Suzie Homemaker decided to become Suzie Homemaker-Entrepreneur or Homemaker-Blogger or sought a career in any wise, we became accustory about her motives. A home is not a prison if the choice is made willingly. I decided to be an at-home dad on my own volition. I had a choice.
Pivoting away from family care in the strictest sense to become a mom-hyphenate, society got scared, or perhaps confused. Or both. We questioned whether it was her place. If she could handle the rigors of doing both jobs, let alone one that wasn’t picked for her. And we generalized, as the Wall Street Journal has in this case, what it meant to leave the home — even for just a couple of days seeking community amongst women in similar interests, talents, and goals. Listen, I’m not saying business trips aren’t a place where people blow off steam, but that’s a unisex pursuit.
The question becomes, as ever, which is worse: the devil you know or the devil you don’t? The article whiffed of a not-so-subtle misogyny from a woman obviously trying to prove her own case rather than observe the facts. Why did she choose to snipe at women in this way? Does she have kids? Can she even relate to what it means to make sacrifices as a parent? And then pick up and travel?
Women want to make a life for themselves as unique as the children they might bring into this world. So, it’s flummoxing that the WSJ would miscategorize statements by prolific storytellers and influencers, not to mention businesswomen, in this digital age, resulting in taglines like:
“Conferences Appeal to Women With A Guilt-Free, Child-Free Reason to Leave Home.”
The infographic included in the article looks like some sort of throwback to a Young Adult novel from the 1980s.
It’s also interesting that men participate in extracurricular activities on their business trips but don’t get the same sort of commentary about gorging on minibars and getting “time off” from their suffocating families. Maybe we have held these pathetic tropes, these fixed generalizations about men and women, as measures to keep the peace or some other ridiculous justification. But why do we keep them going?
In reality, we’re much more than the sum of our male and female parts.
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