I have accorded former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers the apparently unusual honor of actually reading her book, Why Women Should Rule the World, and I will now discuss it, whether you want me to or not.
By “you,” I mean the surly female ur-reader who long ago elected to ignore the encroaching continent of women’s- studies tomes. Forget the male ur-reader. At this point, I doubt a man exists who would dive eagerly into a book about women’s superior leadership qualities. As to which men should, well, if there remains even one male executive in Canton, Ohio, unaware that hiring a qualified, well-liked, profit-driven female is a good thing, I say let him slump gloomily in business class with his Chivas and Clive Cussler, because his skyrocketing cholesterol (“Cholesterol? What’s cholesterol?”) will soon fell him anyway.
To be gender-neutral where one can, it is fair to note that the genre of Important Unread Books—by authors with weighty résumés who seem to be on every TV talk show, and in every Barnes & Noble window display, gazing boldly, hands on hips—is apparently not limited to women. In response to my puzzled query as to why I’d seen Myers’s book mentioned everywhere but read almost nowhere, a (male) friend of mine in publishing wrote:
I’d say the Myers book sounds like the female equivalent of what we in the bookstore business (my former occupation) used to call Father’s Day Books, e.g. anything by David Halberstam and/or about a Founding Father. Do people buy these books? Sure—they make great, heavy Father’s Day gifts. Do people read them? Er—I don’t have any exact figures, but I imagine more than a few of them are holding up wobbly Black & Decker work benches right now.
Still, when the first female White House press secretary (not to mention a Vanity Fair contributor) presents us women with a prescription for taking command of this sorry universe, shouldn’t we hop to? I asked another friend of mine, the co-director of a Bay Area women’s center and a fiery feminist if I’ve ever met one, if she’d picked up or even peeked into Myers’s book. “Well,” she sighed, “all those Washington political pundit women—they’re always in business suits on CNN blabbing on and on about something. I just can’t get excited.” But Myers’s thesis is provocative. And what sisters belittled and ignored by men (and we are!) wouldn’t savor a juicy salvo that vaults women to their rightful place (on top!)? The problem is, to gift Myers’s book onto a busy multitasking girlfriend feels like gifting her with an extra weekend chore. For one thing, juicy salvos lob nail bombs at men, and Myers carefully—and probably admirably?—refrains from directly putting men down. No, the tone throughout is as friendly and measured—with just a little flash of heel—as a quarterly report. Myers begins by stroking the feminine ego, if in a somewhat bland, business-book way: women should rule the world, the flap copy of her book asserts, simply because “women tend to be better communicators, better listeners, better at forming consensus.” Too, women are more practical than men. (Unlike certain presidents, a typical woman would know very well what a grocery scanner does.) Smart and tough, females have proved their excellence in the traditionally male fields—politics, business, science, and academia—that Myers suggests define public life, and she illustrates her points with a triumphal roll call of successful female CEOs, hard-driving female senators and governors, Jane Goodall, and a Third World Nobel Peace Prize winner with whose work I was not familiar but with whom clearly any sensible person would be hard-pressed to find fault. In short, as the jacket avers somewhat anodynely,
In a highly competitive and increasingly fractious world, women possess the kind of critical problem-solving skills that are urgently needed to break down barriers, build understanding, and create the best conditions for peace.
With more women in power, the world would be better off. Specifically? “Politics would be more collegial. Businesses would be more productive. And communities would be healthier.”