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Women Can't Fail!
They can only be failed by men
You guys are the best readers on Substack. I mean it. When I look around at the other Substacks that are approximately the same size, I consistently get far more engagement than they do, so from the bottom of my heart, I ask… what kind of sick m’fers are you?
But whatever, keep it up.
As a reminder, how highly I regard you as readers, people, and parents depends on the type of engagement you give me. The scoring system is roughly like the below…
Looking forward to the comments…
One of my favorite stories from my childhood was a poem from Shel Silverstein’s classic book of children’s poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends, called Hungry Mungry. In the story, Hungry Mungry ends up eating, literally, everything. His dinner, his parents, the Army, the United States, the entire universe, until-
He started to nibble his feet,
Then his legs, then his hips
Then his neck, then his lips
Till he sat there just gnashin’ his teeth
'Cause nothin’ was nothin’ was
Nothin’ was nothin’ was
Nothin’ was left to eat.
When I reminisce about that poem, I realize we live in a society full of Hungry Mungries. People think they can metaphorically devour everything to their own benefit and never reap the consequences, much like our eponymous protagonist. The quintessential example of this is nearly all the identitarian movements of the modern day, except that the people in these movements are Hungry Mungy’s out of necessity.
They make their livelihoods on these movements, so they can never admit they’ve filled their bellies. If they did, they’d have to find real jobs. No, they have to find ways to keep the money rolling in, which involves finding an ever-expanding buffet of what equality looks like. Feminism is a case in point of the phenomenon.
Women have achieved equity (or surpassed it) on nearly every conceivable measure in our society, but what else is a NOW fundraiser trained to do other than raise money on the back of the patriarchal boogieman? They have, therefore, been forced to move beyond accepting equality as the end of their meal and have progressed to finding ways to increase their spread so that every failure of any woman anywhere is because of the cock-havers.
The fourth-wave feminist decision tree looks something like this:
At least all of this is what I’ve been reliably informed by the theory of the Glass Cliff! (cue scary music below).
Deriving from the Jimmy Choo shattered Glass Ceiling, the Glass Cliff is the latest rationale useless academics have conjured up to explain away every time a woman fails.
The term, coined in a 2005 British Journal of Management study, is the concept that women are more likely to be promoted into executive jobs at organizations in crisis “such that their positions are risky or precarious.”
As far as I can tell, if someone were to map the Glass Cliff on a line graph, it would look something like this-
As ludicrous as this sounds, apparently, this is a thing:
I first heard of this concept in a Wired article explaining why the new X CEO, Linda Yaccarino, was destined to fail in her job because Elon Musk, who has never run a successful company in his life, has ruined the once liberal bastion.
In the article “reporter,” Vittoria Elliott informs us that,
[…] although Yaccarino is widely regarded in the ad industry as highly competent, people who study workplace gender dynamics see her as the latest victim of a pernicious pattern known as the glass cliff […]
First, can you imagine admitting, in public, that you study “workplace gender dynamics?” I guess we know what happened to all the Caribbean Dance majors from college.
Anyway, back on topic - why do these “workplace gender dynamics” aficionados believe that Yaccarino has been placed onto a Glass Cliff?
Musk’s acquisition of Twitter created textbook glass cliff conditions, sending the platform into a downward spiral. The company made 90 percent of its revenue through advertising in 2021 but has seen advertisers flee and revenue dip
In December, just two months after Musk’s acquisition, Twitter's earnings had fallen by 40 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Musk’s plan to build a subscription business stream by charging for a service called Twitter Blue has netted little revenue.
Of course, I could point out the obvious disdain this “reporter” has for Musk by describing Twitter as a “crumbling business,” claiming that he has sent the “platform into a downward spiral,” and contending that Yaccarino’s appointment is the “cynical last gasp of a failing company…” but I won’t do that.
Or that the media has repeatedly said the eulogy for X because of their Elon Lunacy Disorder (ELD).
Rather, I’ll point out a couple of obvious issues with the overall concept of the Glass Cliff, followed by the weakness of Elliot’s argument.
Executives leave their roles for just one of three reasons
The company is sold
They decide to step down of their own volition
They are fired by the board
There is no fourth option. The first option is irrelevant to this discussion since there is no replacement in that circumstance, so we are left with two options in the Glass Ceiling discussion:
Leave by choice
Leave by force
For the sake of this exercise, let's assume that a company is always doing well in option one and poorly in option two (this isn’t universally true, but certainly is the vast majority of circumstances). In that case, using the Glass Ceiling theory, women should only be promoted to executive roles when option one occurs because option two simply sets them up for failure.
Additionally, define “an organization in crisis.” What is a crisis versus just the usual fucked up shit every company has? Should we air on the side of not putting women in jobs that have a sniff of difficulty, so we don’t hurt their lady brains by putting them in jobs where “their positions are risky or precarious?” Or do we take the risk that we will be putting them on the Glass Cliff?
If we decided that is the correct decision-making paradigm for when to promote and not promote women, then wouldn’t that severely limit the opportunities for women to climb the corporate ladder and force us back into the Glass Ceiling debate?
Of course, it would…that’s the entire point! Even the feminists who study workplace gender dynamics are smart enough to know they don’t want to theorize themselves out of a job, so they will set up a Catch-22. Don’t promote enough women? You’re a chauvinist pig reinforcing the glass ceiling. Promote too many women into non-ideal circumstances? You’re a chauvinist pig pushing ladies off of the glass cliff.
Finally, let me provide you all with some of the best career advice I ever received-.
I’d always rather take over a job where everything is broken because if you make simple changes you look like a hero. If you take a job where everything is working perfectly, all you can do is fuck it up.
Bearing that in mind, if we assiduously avoid any potential Glass Cliff scenarios, wouldn’t we be leaving women only to fulfill positions where they can fuck things up? Not that they would, of course; I’m just posing a theoretical question. That would never happen, so I'm not sure why I did that in the first place. Forget I said anything.
Now that we’ve dealt with the near impossibility of effectively navigating the Glass Cliff, let’s deal with a key element of Elliot’s argument—specifically, the historical examples she cites as Glass Cliff tumblers.
I always find it instructive to look at the historical examples reporters cite because they tend to indicate the strength (or weakness) of their case.
In this instance, Elliott cites Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and Ellen Pao of Reddit as women who had been placed on, and plummeted from, the Glass Cliff in the past.
But did either of these women fall off the Glass Cliff? Let’s review.
Meyer had skyrocketed through the ranks at Google despite having “a hard time relating to others” and that “frustration was growing […] that [she] insisted she was always right, and was pedantic in her leadership style.”
In 2012, it was Mayer’s time to walk the plank (or Glass Cliff, as it was) when she was hired as the CEO of Yahoo, once again overlooking concerns about her experience. It was a good thing for her that they ignored those experience gaps and the workplace gender dynamics theorists and instead hired her for a tidy $900,000 per week paycheck.
Elliott describes Mayer’s failure at Yahoo as inevitable because they were “rapidly losing ground to Google and Facebook.”
Maybe that’s true, but did that force her to miss her growth targets, make the historically poor Tumblr acquisition for $1.1B, or suffer a security breach that affected over one billion Yahoo users, which she helpfully refused to reveal until two years later?
Obvs not! Why would it be? She was only running the company. It was that damn Glass Cliff, you see. Or the janitor…he has a penis and put lilacs in the vase that adorned her baby’s personal nursery (adjacent to her office) when they were clearly not in season. Calla lilies were the suitable flower for that time of year. How did they expect her to work in those conditions?!?!?!?!
The epilogue of our story has a happy ending at least; Marissa had a $55 million severance package to cushion her fall off the cliff.
Elliot describes Pao’s departure from Reddit resulted from a “backlash from users.” Wow, that’s pretty nebulous. Could it be that Elliot left it at that so readers would assume she resigned because of the filthy misogynistic Reddit users?
I can’t imagine she would be that dishonest because that is not what happened. What happened was she fired a very popular Reddit employee…a vagina-haver nonetheless.
Pao’s resignation comes after a tumultuous week in the Reddit community, with users loudly protesting the company’s abrupt firing of Victoria Taylor, the site’s director of talent, over the Fourth of July weekend. Volunteer moderators protested the firing by taking several of the site's most popular subreddits private, effectively rendering much of Reddit dark.
How big was Pao’s fuck-up? Pretty big, it seems, according to her own site’s reporting at the time-
Moderators have all but shut down more than 265 subreddits to protest the termination of Victoria Taylor, the site's director of talent. She managed the site’s wildly popular “Ask Me Anything”’ interviews that have included celebrities ranging from President Obama to a guy with two penises.
The sudden revolt has thrown one of the world's most popular sites into chaos. It wasn’t immediately clear why Taylor, who joined the company in 2013, was fired. But the response by moderators was as swift as it was ruthless. Within hours, the moderators of /r/IAmA took the subreddit private, effectively shutting it down. That started a cascade of moderators shuttering dozens of subreddits—/r/askreddit, /r/todayilearned, and /r/pics among them—that is still growing, crippling a site with some 160 million users. Many more subreddits, including /r/science, have expressed solidarity with Taylor but remained open.
Once again, how exactly was Pao’s failure a result of the Glass Cliff? Seems like she fucked up and wanted to pass the buck off to someone else…not that she had a track record of doing exactly that.
Both of Elliot’s examples are of women who fucked-up and got fired; hey, it happens, but if these are the best examples she’s got, color me skeptical of the prevalence of this trend.
Moving up the corporate ranks is what feminists have been fighting for for decades. Excellent, well, now the ladies are there. It’s not all power dinners, girl-bossing, and schmoozing at the golf course. It’s hard, and sometimes you’re going to fail, and how someone fails tells people what you’re made of.
All these “workplace gender dynamics” wannabe egg-heads may think they are helping women in their quest for equality, but rather, they are making them look like mediocre posers pulling whatever excuses they can find at local country fair’s excuses claw machine.
Or even better, like Hungy Mungry at the end of his story, they are gnashing at their teeth because they’ve eaten all the other possible excuses and don’t want to accept that getting women to the top was only part of the battle, but the only way they can stay there is by being as good as anyone else.