The G-20 is Complete BS for Women


What is up with the constant photo ops of the wives of the men running the financial universe? What about the two women in the G-20? Do we put their husbands in the midst of this group of women? No. It would look insane. And that is exactly the reason that all the other women in the group should feel insane. Because this is just a tea party. But it’s actually worse than a tea party. It’s a tea party from hell.

Competent, powerful women know that the best way to look like you have no power is to run around in circles that are by their nature limited to women. The G-20 Wives' Club photos are particularly insulting because these women are being associated not by their special interests, or particular education, or common background, but merely by who they are sleeping with. Seriously. When, other than when rounding up prostitutes for jail, has this approach to grouping women been acceptable to society?

In an interview in People magazine, Michelle fielded the question, “How do you like the job as First Lady?” She said that she likes it but “the pay is not great.”

Total understatement, right? I mean, she does not get paid to do any First Lady duties. But she has a law degree from Harvard. And she supported her whole family financially for a good part of their marriage. She has huge earning power. And she is putting that aside to run the circus social life of the wife of the US President. This is not a small job. This is a full-time job. So full-time that our only bachelor President had his niece do the job. And when Hilary was pissed off at Bill, Chelsea started taking First Lady duties because really, it’s a job that someone has to do.

I adore Michelle Obama, and I adore Carla Bruni — First Lady and First Model, and First Homewrecker, of France. But I don’t want to see them grouped together for something other than who they are. They are special and fun and innovative and strong. They do not deserve to be grouped almost randomly with other women based on who they married. I want to see Michelle and Carla hanging out together so I can have a vicarious girls-night-out in London.

While I write this post, Adam Toren has the unfortunate timing of sending me an email to tell me I have been named one of the top 100 women bloggers. I email him back immediately to ask him if he has a similar award for the top 100 men.

And here’s my point: women do not need to be called out just because they are women. It’s bullshit. Women are doing fine competing with men. Women are earning more than men in corporate America, women are keeping their jobs at a higher rate than men in the recession, and, Adam, when it comes to making money from blogging, the mommy bloggers knock the ball out of the park. So what’s up with segregating women? What is the point?

How should women respond? Say no when you can afford to. I will not be putting Adam’s badge on my blog. I don’t pitch to women-only investor groups. And I don’t read women-only business magazines.

But women need to know when to play along, too. Michelle is not going to boycott the G-20 girl’s club, and when an investor group tells me they are looking for women CEO's (yes, this happens often), not only do I deal with them, but I wear a skirt and heels to the presentation.

You should know when you can help yourself more by participating and when you will hurt yourself. But also, Adam’s going to get a lot of traffic from this post, so I want to add one more thing: Be nice and be gracious, because almost everyone who segregates women foolishly thinks they’re doing us a favor.

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  1. Amy
    Amy says:

    I completely agree. (I also adore Carla Bruni; have you heard her music? Incredible.) The G-20 Wives' Club reminds me of something I encountered when I worked on Camp Lejeune as an editor at a weekly newspaper: the OWC, or Officer’s Wives Club. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with coming together over a common interest – your husband is at war – but a lot of these women had successful careers and other accomplishments on their belt. It’s just disheartening because I think there is so much for women to connect over besides their husband’s jobs.

  2. crystal lindell
    crystal lindell says:

    It is weird that they had a top 100 women bloggers, considering women are so much more up to speed on the world of blogging. If anyone needs any favors in the blogging world, it’s male bloggers.
    I think the root of most sexism is managers and investors determining hiring and investment decisions based on what they consider their fool-proof gut instinct. The problem is, their gut instinct is unconsciously based on who they have the most in common with — other men.

  3. rrpf
    rrpf says:

    What if there were a woman in the G-20?? What if you researched your blog posts before hitting submit?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. Okay. So it is a large oversight that I didn’t remember there were two women in the G-20.

      But, this is a great moment, I think, to point out that if you are wrong about something very big in a blog post, like this, you can live through it.

      Maybe this big moment of oversight will encourage other people to launch strong opinions on their blog and just see what happens.

      And, sidenote: I love the Internet, because I’m going to edit the post right now so that the misinformation just goes away: poof!


      • Alan Wilensky
        Alan Wilensky says:

        I have such a crush on you, PT, you’ll never know. Yeah, I’ll be your research man/

        I work out resolution in the dream world
        I buy and sell adventure in my sleep
        When I awaken, precautions are taken
        To make good on the promises I have to keep.

  4. Mark
    Mark says:

    Cliff notes:
    – Women earn more than men.
    – Women aren’t getting fired as much as men.
    – Media is evil and other ranting about trivial crap.

    You go girl.

  5. Rob
    Rob says:

    Have you seen Therese Rein (Kevin Rudd’s wife)

    “an Australian businesswoman and the wife of the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd. She is the founder of the Australian employment agency Ingeus, and the first Australian Prime Minister’s wife to remain in the paid workforce while her husband is in office. She has an estimated net worth of AUD 60m.”

  6. Rose
    Rose says:

    Penelope, the point you’re missing is that all those men are missing TEH JOYS OF MOTHERHUD!! We are sooooo lucky to have uteruses (uterii? my spellcheck suggested the plural of uterus is actually “overuse”)

  7. Franco
    Franco says:

    Maybe we have these female photo ops because

    A: Some of these women have dedicated a lot of time to supporting these powerful men and their families, and these photo ops are a rare shot at public acknowledgment of that.

    B: They like the attention.

    I personally don’t see anything wrong with the wives of powerful men being photographed together. Even if Michelle Obama is smart and successful, she and these other women were chosen as partners by the most powerful people in the world. It’s a curiosity and an interpersonal achievement.

    As long as people aren’t prevented from doing other things they want to do, let them enjoy what they enjoy. If that means photo-ops, playing tea-party, or OMG! make-overs, go for it.

    More troubling is when women who work hard at achieving success outside the traditionally feminine sphere (great!) de-value and call insane other women for being themselves.(not so great)

    Powerful, talented, intelligent, and successful women confident enough to be feminine are hot.

  8. NYC
    NYC says:

    Men overwhelmingly occupy senior positions within any corporation. How many top 100 CEOs are women – I bet you can count that with your hand.

    There is a trend that the gap of sexism is narrowing – more women receiving education, less women getting laid off – but sexism is alive and functioning – women are not making the majority of the big bucks, not making the majority of important decisions on our society. I do not think women are doing fine competing with men, because the playing field is NOT leveled.

    Therefore, there is nothing wrong with recognizing bloggers just because they are women. It’s like saying: why are there scholarships for African Americans and not for white people, why do we not have a White Student Association at a particular university. Just because you are a woman and you don’t feel like you are oppressed doesn’t mean others shouldn’t recognize women for making significant achievements in a male-dominated world.

  9. Rachael
    Rachael says:

    I agree that segregating women for the sheer sake of it is counterproductive, demeaning and sexist. I don’t think that avoiding business publications and networking groups that are niched towards women is a stand against this sexism because most business publications are written for a predominately male demographic (it just isn’t outlined in the title).

    I can see your point that women meeting only because of their partner’s common interests doesn’t value all these women have to offer. But women meeting in a professional capacity doesn’t honour their roles as mothers or partners either.

    If we really want to move past the inherent sexism we need to value a woman's role in any and all arenas she chooses to participate in. If these women were meeting to support their children in a school play would this be as unacceptable or is it just that they are supporting their husbands that is distasteful?

    Feminism means that supporting ones family is no more or less important than a powerful career or cheering children on in a school play.

  10. Vagina Drum
    Vagina Drum says:

    I could not agree more. I am especially annoyed with all of these blogging/self-proclaimed social media groups that are geared specifically toward/for women. Even worse, they all pander to this caricature of what women are–shopping, celebrity gossip, and relationships. Count me out.

  11. Jun
    Jun says:

    Well said, P. I agree wholly, for the same reason i don’t join an all-women’s gym, don’t take part in women’s 10K races or sign up for women-only groups. Women say they want equality, but what they ask for is special treatment – €“ and yes, people think they are doing us a favour. Why? Leave gender out of it!

    Michelle Obama, on the other hand, I believe is respected because we know exactly how capable she is, and we don’t for a second think that this – €“ being First Lady – €“ is as high as she ever aspires to be.

  12. Alookerbeme
    Alookerbeme says:

    I don’t believe you when you say women are making more money then men in corporate America.

  13. Alisa Bowman
    Alisa Bowman says:

    P: I’m one of your readers who almost always agrees with your every snarky word, but this is one time when I have to point out a few inaccuracies. While SOME women might be earning more than men, most aren’t. There is still a wage gap in corporate America as well as an old boys club. Most of the higher level managers are still men. There is still sexual harassment and sexism. I was once passed over for a promotion because I did not drink with the guys after work. That’s why I left. It’s getting better, but we are far from equality.

    I think you are correct that women small business owners (and bloggers would fall into this group) do quite well. There are fewer people to discriminate against us. We are not at the whim of a series of male bosses.

    I can’t speak to the women wives who are pictured. I really don’t follow famous people in general, male or female. And I don’t care about what Michelle Obama happens to be wearing, or any other female celebrity for that matter. But a lot of women seem to care. I’ve never understood why.

    I participate in a women’s business group, though. We don’t necessarily wear pretty dresses, but the fact that we are seen together does not make us weaker. It makes us stronger. It allows us to secure opportunities and support that we could not get on our own.

    You need only watch a bunch of moms together at GNO to see the power of women in groups. It scares the crap out of men to see a group of women who support each other. It’s true vagina power, and I wish more women realized they had it.

  14. Ciara
    Ciara says:

    I also found the tea party photos very irritating, not the mention the fact that the British press wrote about nothing except what the first wives were wearing. Funny enough though Carla (who I normally can’t stand – doesn’t she look like a wax work advertising Dior?) only bothered to turn up for the Obamas’ visit and not the later one of the British Prime minister and his wife. That day she was seen smoking outside her mansion. So at least she gets to pick and choose the best wifely photo ops.

    In general I agree with not segregating the sexes when it comes to business networks. However, I also write for a business magazine for women which I think is useful because this is a subject which is not covered very much elsewhere. Business magazines rarely mention women at all (and that’s not because female entrepeneurs or executives don’t exist) and women’s magazines don’t cover business. It’s nice to have somewhere where you can read about women with similar aspirations to your own.

  15. stacy oborn
    stacy oborn says:

    sing it, sister! i couldn’t agree more, and have been writing the same thing about women artists, another “industry” in which this happens over and over again as well.

    You’re a woman! You’re special! Here’s a cookie!
    No thanks!

  16. Beth Taylor
    Beth Taylor says:

    I love this post. I have been reading your blog for about a year. I am a former pastor who is sick and tired of the attitude towards women in the church, particularly in the South where I live. I have not abandoned the church (just taking a burnout break) because I believe I have been put there to effect change but the whole two-for-one “pastor’s wife” role is closely akin to being the First Lady, only no designers are beating down my door to dress me and my husband gets lousy pay. But I need to hear some of what you have to say, and though we are hardly clones of one another, I appreciate who you are and what you have accomplished to EARN the place you occupy. I needed this today-thanks!

  17. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    Given all the apparently mandatory responsibilities a first spouse has, how is it we do not pay the position a salary? It seems to me a bigger story is how did we con all the first spouses into a full time volunteer job.

  18. Mark F.
    Mark F. says:

    I am an HR guy, I don’t look at gender or size or any of a hundred sub groups (except after hours when I am normal like the rest of you)…so my point is people need to stop comparing by sub group ( unless your in market research/advertising)…its polarizing and perpetuates (did I spell that right?) the problem…So I like that you took a position about the list…How about credit for doing really interesting and edgy media and journalism. I for one don’t care if you wear a skirt or pants ( unless we are on a date an I have other motives)…and thats not the case…

  19. Nisha
    Nisha says:

    Women are earning more than men in corporate America? Since when? I’m almost certain I’ve read posts of yours before where you linked to studies showing there’s a huge wage gap between men and women, and women make LESS than men do for the same work.

    Regardless, I liked where this post was going at first because I do think the G-20 is BS for women, but the point of that to me is that we need more women leaders. Merkel is fantastic. Kirchner is as well, but she’s also president of Argentina partly because of her husband’s political status, so I think that gives her less credibility.

    However, I don’t think women-only groups are stupid. I think it is really important for other women to support each other. Sexism is not dead. There are plenty of women in male-dominated industries who still have to deal with gender discrimination everyday, and for them, it is important to have other women to support them who have been where they are and know what they are going through. Men and women don’t share all the same experiences, so it is really important for women to support each other.It’s not about “segregating women foolishly.”

  20. DivaMom
    DivaMom says:

    How do you know that these woman are not enjoying their tea party as an element of “soft diplomacy”? They are the partners of very powerful people and if they are indeed as intelligent as we presume they are, I am sure they are aware tea party photo ops and fashion critiques come with the territory. Yes at some point in their roles as wives (and husbands) they must assume the role of cheerleader and support their spouses by attending tea parties with individuals with whom by virtue of the roles of their spouses of the leaders of the wealthiest neations in the world they have much in common.

  21. whatever
    whatever says:

    Interesting. On the one hand, I so agree with your first two paragraphs and this sentiment:

    “The G-20 Wives' Club photos are particularly insulting because these women are being associated not by their special interests, or particular education, or common background, but merely by who they are sleeping with. Seriously. When, other than when rounding up prostitutes for jail, has this approach to grouping women been acceptable to society?”

    On the other hand, being the spouse of someone is probably a bit more than just “sleeping” with him or her (1) . . . . and (2), [and more importantly] at some level there is a valid difference between male and female that is not arbitrary nor merely financial. I’d hate to see that overlooked, devalued or even given up, in the name of so-called “equality”.

    And by “equality”, I do not mean equal pay.

    They don’t call the two genders the “opposite sex” for nothing. Viva la difference!”

    • DivaMom
      DivaMom says:

      I agree with you whatever on the “sleeping with” comment. The fact that these women are the wives of these powerful men automatically includes them as a part of a “special group”. What other wives can relate to these women and their unique roles as spouses of the world’s wealthiest leaders on the same level( wasn’t clear in previous post)?

  22. malcontent7
    malcontent7 says:

    From one man’s perspecitve this whole issue of when to treat women as a seperate group and when not to is a bit confusing. It seems to me that some women want to be treated as equals except when its to their advantage not be treated that way. Before you think I’m a total pig let me give you an example – Danica Patrick wants to be taken seriuosly as a driver but she has primarily made a name for herself by posing half naked in SI or on Any male drivers getting this kind of exposure? I don’t think so. My point is that when its to her advantage to play the sex card she does but then insists she is no different than her male counterparts.
    I do think it is valid to show the G-20 wives group but since none of them were elected you can’t really show them in any official capacity other than as an ambassador of sorts for their country. However, anyone who has ever been married knows these ladies have tremendous influence on their husbands decisions so it is good to learn about them.
    How would you like them to be portrayed? Or is this strictly an issue that they should be paid as political wives (in which case your comparison with prostitues rings more true).
    By the way the G-20 husbands did not attend the meeting so maybe that is why we don’t see them in photos.

  23. Amber Warren
    Amber Warren says:

    The worst part about his blog post is the TITLE: “100 Must Read Blogs – By Women!” with a freaking condescending exclamation point. This just screams, “Omigosh did you know that there are good blogs out there by women? I’m so surprised. I didn’t even know they could write!” Makes me freaking want to puke. His opening paragraph is bursting with condescension (calling them “insightful ladies”). Ladies? Are you kidding me? Are we back in the 1950’s? Ew. Ew.

  24. avant garde designer
    avant garde designer says:

    Malcontent7 makes an excellent point (and, note my name below: I’m female).

    Whining about the “calling out” of women is really trivial. We women want it all and we’re so contradictory. We’re really a negative reflection upon our own gender. Knock it off ladies.

    Here’s some examples:
    We women insist we can only be successful if we are the most fashionably dressed and stay looking like a 20-yr. old (Penelope promotes this more than anyone else). Yet, we get mad when society only recognizes us for our looks. Duh, we’re the ones letting ourselves get suckered into this trap.

    We women complain we’re never recognized for our skills. Yet, many of us have no problem using sex to accomplish our goals. Isn’t sex Penelope’s number one selling tool for her writing?

    We women want to work any job a man does, but often don’t want to be subjected to the crap the comes with it, even when it’s regularly part of the job whether you’re a man or a woman. A lawsuit was recently settled in our town because a female firefighter felt she didn’t need to do heavy lifting even though it’s requirement for the job. “Sorry, you poor person stuck in a burning building…I’m a female firefighter and I don’t do heavy lifting.”

    Gloria Steinhem-style feminism rejected men opening doors for us and helping us with heavy boxes – you know, general courtesies that all humans should extend to everyone, male or female. And now we complain when it’s not done for us, not to mention that we also expect men to pay for our dinners when we go out.

    Ladies, choose your battles. Whine only about the big things so when we have legitimate complaints (which we certainly do), people will actually listen to us.

  25. dls
    dls says:

    Not only were there 2 women in the G-20, but their husbands participated in what you refer to as the “tea party” . This “tea party” was referred to in the press as “Spouse’s events’, and NOT referred to as “First Wives’ events”. It seems like you had an opinion about this matter before you did the research…and not the other way around.

  26. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)
    Kristin T. (@kt_writes) says:

    This is a great post. It’s true, we need more women leaders and fewer women-only groups, awards, etc. For a while, like maybe 30, 40 or 50 years ago, they were helping advance our cause, but now they’re only perpetuating where we were, rather than spotlighting where we are.

    I also think men have an important role to play in this. They not only need to promote and honor women in leadership positions, but they need to break more deeply into the areas of home, family and community that have typically been thought of as “female.” We all have work to do if we’re going to shake up these deeply-rooted stereotypes (and I know many men who are doing that good work).

  27. Sumi
    Sumi says:

    I think you’re being a little bit hard on the wives’ group. While I agree that you wouldn’t have a table of doddering husbands if the tables were flipped (or would we have them playing golf and smoking cigars for photo-ops instead of tea?), these unpaid socialite positions for the wives of powerful men can be a great way for the savvy woman of the world to make connections with other equally positioned women, most of whom are highly educated and powerful in their own rights, and gain positive publicity. And gender aside, in a functioning marriage a spouse should be willing to act as a positive support to the other’s career (within reason!) for the benefit of both. I can only imagine that after President Obama’s term is finished, (and likely before that too), Michelle will also reap the benefits of the power and connections she mad by ‘helping’ her husband for the last number of years.

    On the women’s-only achievement groups…
    These are somewhat frustrating from a modern feminist point of view. They just remind that the basic want of the feminist movement hasn’t been completely achieved, which is to just let us ‘play’ with the boys and not be treated differently when it comes to our careers. Unfortunately, I believe that the unequal pay persists in part with the willingness of women to take on careers that do not pay as well as ‘men’s jobs’, and that these positions remain underpaid because women in those positions have not become outraged into shaking up the pay scales therein. Examples: Veterinarians and Teachers. The vet med field is 90 percent women now (I know this because I am just leaving the field after a number of years) and it remains to be the lowest paid medical profession. Most of the men still practicing tend to be specialists, as that’s where the money is. Teachers – vastly underpaid, but from my experience, many female teachers put up with their sub-standard wages because they can afford to be complacent when they have a husband who out-earns them.
    Women need to stop being OK with being underpaid and seeking jobs that are traditionally underpaid. But until this happens as the norm rather than the exception, women will still not get the equity in the workplace that we all want to see. Yes, this issue is more complex than this, but I believe that this is a significant part of the larger issue.

  28. Danny
    Danny says:

    Penelope, Penelope – .

    How can you bitch about being grouped together and then recommend using it to your advantage in the same post? I kind of get what you are saying on the side of being grouped together because I am a minority. I think they over-do it when they make a fuss about the first Black this or the first Hispanic that. Being a Hispanic businessman, if I am awarded such an honor (First Hispanic – .), I feel like I have just one a volleyball tournament in the rec-division league at the park. It’s cool to win such a tournament but probably doesn’t require news coverage, especially if I think that my volleyball skills rival the non-rec league big boys, you know what I mean? So, I get it, but our difference here is, I don’t complain about those honors when they come.

    So I somewhat agreed with your point and then you close by saying, use it to your advantage. i.e. wearing a skirt and heels when they are looking to fill a female exec spot. My point is this. If you are going to use a category to your advantage (female, Hispanic, handicap), you shouldn’t complain when being grouped as such or awarded something within that category. Therefore, you really should post you recognition you received for being one of the top 100 women bloggers. And guess what, one could look at that as being a greater honor if they felt female blogging is superior to men’s (just as I tend to believe).

  29. Alan
    Alan says:

    Topic #1: G20
    There is a G20-Wives photo-op because each (well most) of the G20 representatives are politicians when they go back home after the conference.

    Most politicians are stuck with a constituency that demands they be a “family role model”. If a G20 wife didn’t show for the photo-op, it risks creating a news story back at home. It’s the voters’ fault.

    Topic #2: Top 100 Women Bloggers
    It’s true that a Women’s Blogger list is a somewhat disappoint societal indicator, but it’s not all bad:
    1) It proves people are interested in what women bloggers are saying. The list only exists, because people want the list.
    2) It can only serve to increase the audience for women’s blogs. If I stumbled upon a “Top 100 Women Blogger” list, I’d invariably follow it and add some blogs to my daily reading.


    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Good point on voters and politicians – the wife who can’t show up because she’s busy running her own career, and doesn’t look polished and adoring in her pastel suit and teased hair, will get slaughtered, and hubby won’t get reelected. The guy who DOES get reelected will have a polished, adoring wife herding the pack of well dressed children and making time to show up and be photographed whenever people need her. Humans are shallow.

  30. ioana
    ioana says:

    Okay. There are two issues here.

    One is, groups of women who are being reverred for who they’re married to. That’s bull. That’s ridiculous. I totally agree with that, excellent post.

    A completely different dish is group of women who get together on their own accord to support each other. Such as mommy blogs. And I for one am glad that they exist.

    In traditional societies in which women were in traditional roles there was support for mothers from other women. In recent modern times, if you choose to be a mother, you were quite isolated. Enter mommy blogs. I have no words to express how helpful it is to hear from other women their experiences through pregnancy, miscarriage, etc. It is empowering.

    Motherhood is a valid option and if it not embraced by feminism, then there is something really wrong with feminism.

  31. kalilhasa
    kalilhasa says:

    Couldn’t agree more (except for oversights there…) I think it feels as if there are no women involved. I was totally pissed about the press reporting what Michelle WAS FREAKIN WEARING!!!! Who cares? And of course no reported on what sort of SUIT Obama was wearing…..

  32. jermiah
    jermiah says:

    “Women are earning more than men in corporate America, women are keeping their jobs at a higher rate than men in the recession, and, Adam, when it comes to making money from blogging, the mommy bloggers knock the ball out of the park.”

    You make a fine point that gender discrimination is no longer an important issue. Women who sell this argument are embarrassing themselves. Especially tough to imagine that gender makes much of a difference for what my friend affectionately calls “sellout careers” (marketing, advertising, etc).

    re: keeping their jobs

    If this is true, It’s possible that lawsuit fears are an important element in the ax decision.

  33. jerm
    jerm says:

    MO’s laudable efforts

    I leave as an exercise for the reader the discovery and review of MO’s paper from Princeton. Just for fun take a random passage and read it to a savvy friend. Ask them who wrote it.

  34. paul
    paul says:

    GREAT post!

    Sometime ago I read Frances Hesselbein’s “Hesselbein on Leadership.” She said, “I never walked into the board room thinking – €˜I am a Woman.' I participated because I had something to contribute beyond gender. I never thought of myself as the woman on the board (though indeed I was); rather, I knew I brought a special perspective to the deliberations and the decisions."

    I totally agree with her and you!

    If you’re a woman… who cares. You bring more to the table than your sexuality. You bring ideas, skills, and passion. Don’t apologize for being a woman and don’t make us pity, resent, or feel obliged to you because you’re a woman. Just be who you are and lead what you love.

    BTW, I blogged about Hesselbein’s thoughts here –

    AND for what it’s worth – I’m a conservative dude.

    Peace out…

  35. David Douglass
    David Douglass says:

    I'm glad you've spoken up. You've pointed out what is really a special case of the diversity mindset. This is the belief that people of X characteristic need special treatment. It labels them weak. Meanwhile, if people of Y characteristic were treated the same way there would be outrage, reinforcing the idea that they're superior to the X people.

  36. jenniferlynn
    jenniferlynn says:

    Penelope! Yes! These are my thoughts exactly. You nearly set my screen on fire with the heat of your righteous indignation!

    I think you touch on an issue more pervasive than the G20 or even politics more broadly.

    Regardless of her accomplishments, women married to men of any note whatsoever are always reduced to “the lovely wife.” What IS that? Some might argue that the G20 wives– or whatever we’re calling them– were reduced to “wife of” because they appeared at the event in that particular context. Maybe. But it seems that regardless of the context, women are described in relation to their husbands. Even in circumstances where a woman’s own accomplishments are noted, it is an afterthought, and if she dares to try resist being seen as her husband’s appendage, people are really hateful. People hated Michelle Obama when she was her own, outspoken, highly accomplished self. They LOVE her as “mom-in-chief.” Now her accomplishments serve only to accessorize her mommy/wifeyness. All Hilary Clinton ever did was attempt to contribute to her country on her own terms. People still hate her for it.

    I’m starting to ramble– but the point is this. Women are only allowed to be powerful if she is also something society sees as “womanly,” and only if she allows herself to be described first in that context (wife/mother/caretaker). And that, dear friends, is bullshit.

  37. astrorainfall
    astrorainfall says:

    It does seem like a fine line between what would hurt women and what would promote women. I don’t really have an issue with Michelle and Carla being photographed together, but you made an excellent point here: “almost everyone who segregates women foolishly thinks they’re doing us a favor.”

    Case in point: I was a journalist in charge of the tech column in a women’s mag and a prominent brand came up with a women-geared PDA (it didn’t even have a phone function) with daisy icons and a grocery shopping list programme. It was bulky, white, and plasticky. I don’t think any woman would want to purchase something as ugly as that. The PR exec, a man, flogged all the features as enthusiastically as he could, and punctuated his points with, “See, it’s so easy to use, even women won’t find it hard.”

    I never featured this product or any from this brand for the rest my stint there.

    • ioana
      ioana says:

      ” I don’t think any woman would want to purchase something as ugly as that.”

      Why, because women only like pretty things??


  38. mamaworker
    mamaworker says:

    I agree; could we hear a little less about the Obama-Bruni fashion comparisons? This is not news…

  39. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I can understand many of the points you make about the G-20 and the G-20 Wives' Club but what are the wives and two husbands supposed to do on this trip other than high tea and the like? Should they be left at home? Maybe there should be two different events (G-20 and G-20 Wives’ Club) held concurrently at the same location. Maybe this is a distorted view of the G-20 by the media. After all we’re not there and not privy to everything going on there.

  40. Cathy Goodwin
    Cathy Goodwin says:

    Good point that Michelle O. has to give up a powerful career and a good income. One reason we don’t have more women leaders is that husbands with successful careers won’t give up their careers and income.

    Additionally, the scrutiny required for holding office will become even more problematic with two-career couples. I remember reading somewhere that, when Gerry Ferraro ran for VP, her husband was not comfortable disclosing his business records because he would tip his hand to the competition. A spouse would have to be retired, stay-at-home or working for the government in a salaried position.

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