For the Love of Money just arrived at my door, thanks to a chain of people that stretches from the UPS delivery man, to the Amazon warehouses, the Simon & Schuster editorial offices (are they crowded with bookshelves I wonder?), all the way back to a middle-school aged Sam Polk (the author) who would grow up to be a million+ a year earning hedge fund trader bro, and then further grow up to be….well, a pretty all around swell guy, if you want my opinion.
Which he didn’t, but which I gave anyway, and for which I must now apologize.
I’m sorry Sam Polk!
I’ve been wanting to say that for a few weeks now; it had to wait, I had some life stuff to take care of including running a 7,000 square foot commercial bakery. So I back-burnered the apology and to mix my metaphors, it’s been gnawing at me ever since.
Because Sam didn’t point out that I should apologize. He was too polite for that. I stung him with a quick left to the jaw and he didn’t hit back, he just ..took it. With good grace, I might add. See for yourself, below:
I tweeted that snark after reading a paragraph in one of Polk’s recently published essays about his days as a hedge fund bro – specifically, a paragraph describing his change of heart about the casual sexism he has witnessed and even participated in, once his baby daughter was born.
Suddenly behavior he couldn’t be bothered to stop or even comment on when it was happening looks very different now that such may be aimed at the fruit of his loins, which of course – he now realizes – obviously deserves better.
Oh brother, I thought. The old my-own-daughter-deserves-better-but-if-I-hadn’t-procreated-and-had-this-eiphany-the-rest-of-you-would-still-just-be-bitches-#brotoemo-#dudetodad journey. Hooray for Sam.
So went my thinking,which took no more than a nano-second to compose before I pushed send. I read one article – ONE – and felt totally justified snarking at this guy’s heartfelt epiphany. I’d like to say I immediately felt guilty for being such a bitch, but in fact I was mildly self-satisfied and moved on, forgetting all about it, rather like closing the door on a fart. Later, when I saw that Sam himself had replied, agreeing with me, I was not displeased.
I grew up Catholic and went to church six days a week for the first eight years of my life. Though I myself was an (unadmitted) atheist by fourth grade, I didn’t mind going to church – I liked the singing and the stained glass windows. I liked the stories with their crazy plot devices (burning bushes! multiplying fishes! walking dead men!) and the temporary ceasefire from the gang of girl bullies that made my middle school life a misery.
My favorite story was that of the Prodigal Son story in the bible, where a father has two sons and a big ol’ estate. One son can’t wait for dad to die off and leave him an inheritance..he asks for an advance, and for a wonder, dad gives it to him. The good son stays home and works hard and helps out and years pass while he labors for the family, while the bad boy brother is off gallivanting around the world enjoying wine, women, and song, returning home only when he has gone broke, is in rags and starving.
Mom and dad are thrilled at his return and kill the fatted calf – because nothing says I love you better than your hard working brother than serving protein! – while the good, father-obeying son fumes to dad through gritted teeth that that the prodigal brother doesn’t deserve to be celebrated.
I say this was a favorite story but really it’s more like it stuck with me more than others the way a cocklebur will burrow through your sock and not just scratch your skin but actually dig under it. Because though the story seemed to be about the Prodigal son, it was really about the bitterly fuming ‘good’ son, who my middle school self strongly identified with (yeah! not fair! look at everything I do around here, no one appreciates me!).
When I read Sam’s comment “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.” I did not rejoice like the prodigal son’s father. I was pissed, like the prodigal son’s brother. I was like, great, now that you’ve benefitted hugely from sexism, now you see how wrong it is and would like it not to exist, the better for your privileged daughter to not have to unfairly suffer.
My entire life I have stood by meekly while good men passively let a sexist culture take away the opportunity for jobs, a higher salary, reproductive rights, the right to be freely sexual without judgement, the certainty that crimes committed against my body are prosecuted. And while it’s great to hear a man say that in order to truly end sexism we have to look to the perpetrators as well as the victims, it doesn’t feel like enough – words just aren’t enough.
The thing is, while my anger – and the anger of all women who’ve labored under sexist oppressions big and small – is understandable, in the end it is self-defeating, equality-defeating and therefore woman-defeating. I was wrong for snarking; Sam should be celebrated for arriving at his conclusion that he wants more for his daughter than the casual, deeply embedded misogyny that is the daily lot of women everywhere.
It’s a guy’s responsibility to be respectful to women, and to stand up for them when other guys aren’t. ~Sam Polk
To his credit Sam is not saying words *are* enough, and even if he was saying that, it wouldn’t matter…words aren’t enough but they are necessary, the beginning of the end of sexism. Words accompanied by actions are better than words alone, but words themselves are pretty good, especially when I think of some of the words that have been leveled at me in my lifetime, words that I felt the sting of but passively accepted as my “woman’s lot in life” without ever actually thinking that phrase, so ingrained was the notion of my obvious inferiority.
Words like my mom when I was eight, “You can’t be a professional baseball player because you’re a girl they don’t let girls on the teams.” (I wanted to be a St. Louis Cardinal).
Words like the nurse at the student health center, “I thought you said you were raped, but now your’e saying you knew him? Hmmm.”
Words like my father-in-law, a man who purportedly loved me like a daughter, who told me “I wouldn’t want to work for a woman manager because she might try to get even for all the stuff men did, and two wrongs don’t make a right” with a shamefaced grin that reminded me of MLK’s quote, the one that goes People won’t give up their privilege without a fight.
Words like my boss at Anheuser-Busch saying “I’m sorry I couldn’t get you a promotion but another woman already was promoted. At least your husband makes a great living, you guys are doing fine.”
Words like my dad’s, “What was she doing out at a bar at that time of night?” when the case of a gang rape in Boston, a case that made newspaper headlines across the country and ended, thanks to the ubiquity of dad’s question, not with justice but with the rape victim’s suicide.
Words like my Ph.D. advisor “Women’s studies is a ridiculous field and I’m disappointed in you for even mentioning it, you’re smarter than that.”
Words like the tweet above, overheard by a journalist at a Trump rally, who represents way way way too many men happy to reduce two lifetimes of accomplishments to nothing more than a fart in the patriarchal wind. Just a couple of bitches, man. That’s how he’s talking around the dinner table, at school functions, at church….with little boys around listening and laughing along.
Words like Barack Obama saying “We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women” In 2016. Because it still needs to be fucking said. It’s dispiriting and enraging that I have reached the age of 52 and still, 95% of CEOs are male, and the top two highest paid male CEOs – not two dozen, not two hundred, just 2 – make more than the 5% of CEOS who are women, combined.
The routine harassment of women and the lack of women in highly paid leadership jobs are not disconnected facts, people.
I was reading an article the other day about the ignominious downfall of some London-based hedge fund bro who lost more than a billion in risky trades, all by hisself. I was amazed to learn that between 1995 and 2011, in just 16 years, 7 men, 7 bros just like this guy, lost a total of $15.6 billion. Nearly 1 billion a year! Seven bros! Men get to pull this shit while women can’t even get into the ranks of CEO! I just shake my head. Unbelievable.
There’s plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women. ~Madeline Allbright
As writer Sarit Luban (“When Street Harassment Comes From Boys Not Men”) points out, in an ideal world, there would be no need to nurture men out of their sexist ways to begin with, yet here we are in the real world, where harassment is commonplace and womanhood is a target.
In an ideal world Fox News contributor Keith Ablow wouldn’t feel free to comment on First Lady Michelle Obama’s, weight, jeering “that ain’t all kale and carrots, she needs to drop a few.”
In an ideal world, a woman’s arrival as Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street would not be greeted by a newspaper article declaring “Heel, Boys” picturing a pair of kitten heels trampling on the heads of six of May’s most senior colleagues….this just weeks after Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered.
And of course, in an ideal world journalists would see the connection of these stories, the umbilicus of woman-hatred and woman-derision, and wouldn’t write headlines like that, ever. Ideally.
In an ideal world, prominent feminist writer Jessica Valenti would not feel forced to drop off social media after getting a rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter
In an ideal world, it wouldn’t take three dozen women accusing the exact same man of raping them in the exact same way before someone believed them.
We want to do whatever we can to create a world where our daughter can grow up and .. feel safe when she’s in the company of men—which, if she were an adult today, would not be the case. * ~President Barack Obama
*I wish someone could explain to me how do you even be a man in this world and hear these words, admit the truth of them, and not need to change it, personally, yourself, with urgency, every day and every way you can? knowing every woman in your life whether mother sister wife daughter or friend will benefit?
So yeah, words matter. They plant the seeds for action. And had I read all of Sam’s words – had I read the book instead of stopping at a paragraph in an article – I would have never felt the need to snark. In part, because we simply have so much in common — a childhood dominated by a rageaholic father, bouts of disordered eating (bulimia for him, anorexia for me), our mutual quest to find father figures in our bosses, our athletic careers (wrestling for him, fastpitch softball for me).
But mostly because his realizations have the ring of truths – long in the recognizing and hard in the winning – and commitment. If Sam wasn’t always a good guy, he is well on the way to making up for it.
Let’s create a fund, where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing. Together, maybe we can make a real contribution to the world. ~former Hedge Fund Manager
Sam’s got more than words, as it turns out – he’s got actions, and some great social entrepreneurship ventures. This is admirable, and I hope he breaks the mold among hedge fund managers turned entrepreneurs/angel investors…I hope he decides to support women entrepreneurs, a group Silicon Valley leaders don’t appear to value any more than the rest of the world. Technology and the people who gain most monetarily from it is heavily, disprorportionately not female. It’s depressing if unsurprising.
The tide is changing, if slowly. Right now we’re still mostly in the words stage.
If men could see this as a human issue and a culture issue and an economic issue—which it is—instead of just a women’s issue, then we could speed up that change.
~President Barack Obama
As I write this, Hillary Clinton is on the stage and people are cheering and people are clapping and it’s standing room only in a room choked with waving flags and banners and women, women everywhere, and they are cheering for Hillary who has been the standard bearer for so much anti-woman anti-feminist bullshit and even though I don’t agree 100% with the first Madame President, I am so so so grateful to her for persevering through all of sexist crap and bullshit and showing Sam’s little girl, all the little girls, they can be anything they damn well want to be, and while sexism has slowed us it will not stop us, most especially if the men in our lives help us make sure of that. We are on the right side of history.
Thank you, Sam Polk!