Sunday, February 17, 2008

Times Business Section Channels The Wisdom Of Prof. Henry Higgins

Speaking of sexism--which we are doing a lot around the Weber household these days, as the Hillary-Obama competition lurches on, with the mainstream media trying its best to inflame hatred on both sides with its witless junior-high-school-level commentary--wasn't there anyone working the editor's desk at the New York Times Business section with enough intelligence to veto this ridiculous book review?

It's not necessarily fatal to assign two books of advice for aspiring female business executives to a male reviewer (Harry Hurt III). Hey, you might get some unexpected insights from this kind of counterintuitive choice--kind of like having Leona Helmsley review Nickel and Dimed, or Hulk Hogan review a collection of books on fashion, hairstyle, and makeup.

But you might realize it's a sign of trouble when the review begins with this quotation, evidently offered without irony:
In the 1964 film "My Fair Lady," Prof. Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, famously asked, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"
And you would think that the utter failure of the entire experiment is made blindingly obvious by this conclusion:
Frankly, I found the ways in which Mr. Flett and Ms. DiSesa [the authors of the two books under review] invoked persistent sexual stereotypes to be rather depressing. To my mind, the most illuminating comments in either book come from James Patterson, a former advertising mogul who now writes best-selling mystery fiction. Ms. DiSesa reports that Mr. Patterson urged her to think of life as a game in which we juggle five balls labeled Work, Family, Health, Friends and Integrity.

"One day you understand Work is a rubber ball. You drop it and it bounces back," Mr. Patterson is quoted as saying. "The other four balls are made of glass. Drop one of those, and it will be irrevocably marked, scuffed, nicked and maybe even shattered."

Both men and women might do well to remember those universal challenges, whether they are trying to seduce their way into so-called boys clubs or use tactics borrowed from the alpha-male playbook to gain advantage in the workplace.
How nice of Mr. Hurt to share with his female readers the wisdom of yet another man on how to juggle life and work! And to assure us that the problems they face are "universal challenges" that confront "both men and women," evidently in exactly the same ways! And that all we have to do is recognize the perishable fragility of Family, Health, Friends, and Integrity, and all our career problems will be solved--since Work, we are assured, is a "rubber ball," which will apparently take care of itself!

Why can't women (and men) just get over the problem of sexism, preferably by ignoring it? Then Harry Hurt III won't have to review any more books about this "depressing" topic, and the world will be such a better place . . .

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