Maddy Dychtwald

The REAL Sandra Bullock Trade

In Influence on April 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm

This week, David Brooks wrote in a New York Times column he titled “The Sandra Bullock Trade

“Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?”

Huh?  Leaving aside the hoary assumption that women have to choose one of the other (which smacks of backlash, and raises the question–and why didn’t Brooks write about the “Tiger Woods Trade”?), here’s my philosophical question for Brooks:  “Would you stay with an adulterous jerk if you had the money and power to leave and support yourself?”

It wasn’t that long ago that women didn’t have that choice. Period.  As recently as 150 years ago, when a woman married in the US, all her property became her husband’s, by law. Even personal items like clothes and trinkets and pictures, belonged to the husband. A woman couldn’t sell her property without her husband’s consent, and if they divorced, all pretty much reverted back to the man, who also kept the kids.  It was nearly impossible for women to support themselves if they left their husbands. They were basically financial dependents for life.

Fast forward to today.  Women, like Bullock, have used their economic power to leave unhappy relationships, to create family situations where they have more power, and to reinvent family patterns in a way that gives women far more say than ever before.   As women have moved from economic survival to independence, they’ve had a massive impact on the family, boosting family income (ONLY families with a working wife saw real income growth between the 1970s and today) and inventing a broad spectrum of new family structures that accommodate all kinds of people.

Sandra Bullock shouldn’t be the specter of what happens when a woman chooses a powerful career:  She should be the poster child for what economic and social influence allow women to do.  To support themselves and their families, to make the real Sandra Bullock trade—trading in a man who abuses your trust.

So my question for you is:  How will you use your economic influence?  Will you use it to build a stronger family?  To advance your career?  To change the way your company is managed?  I want to know how you plan to use your influence.   Please tell me.

  1. Well, not all women have power and influence in this economy. Some — especially single women — are just trying to make ends meet. And even women who own businesses still face extreme discrimination. I remember when I first started my business. I couldn’t sell ANYTHING because the men I was pitching kept insisting they wouldn’t sign a contract until they met the owner of the company, and demanded a meeting with “him.” The moment I explained that I was the owner, they wouldn’t buy. I finally hired a middle-aged gray-hair good-ol’-boy-type man to do my sales, and my profits soared. He never said he was the owner, but it was implied. (It was always hilarious when, after delivering the program, I would meet with the client who would rave about “Jeff.” I would just say, “Thank you so much. I’ll be sure to let him know, as he is my best employee.” You could hear the thud as their jaws hit the table.

    A friend of mine, who opened her own PR business a couple of years ago, faced a similar situation: Every time she got close to closing a sale, the men she was selling to would ask her, “When will we get to meet your husband?” At first, she thought they were being very nice and sociable. But when she explained that she was single, she soon discovered the reality: they were looking to meet the person whom they perceived to be the owner of the business–and assumed that person “must” be a man. She finally had to create a fictitious male co-owner, who just so happened to never be available for meetings. She even changed the name of her company to add his (fictitious) name to the company name. As soon as she did this, her sales increased.

    So, we may have come a long way. But we by no means have the power and influence so many would dupe us into believing. (Sigh.) Maybe some day….

    I do agree with your point about Sandra Bullock, though. Unfortunately (as evidenced by David Brooks’ comments), too many people (men and women) want to tell women they can’t have it all. The implication is that if a women is married and has a career and her marriage falls apart, then it’s her fault. (This idiotic logic implies that a man wouldn’t cheat if “his little woman” would have dutifully stayed home.) What a bunch of hogwash! It is both sad and unfortunate that many women also have this view. (Maybe not in high society circles, but once you get out of the left and right coasts and get into other parts of America the storyline is vastly different.)

    Unfortunately, because such gender bias is still very much alive and well in our society, women have to get creative to find ways around the gender barriers. That’s what my friend did. That’s what I did. Were we “wielding our power?” Hardly. We were in survival mode. But what we didn’t do was accept the status quo. We just found a way to beat the Neanderthals that do still exist at their own game.

    • Amanda,

      Your point is well put, we can only change our behavior, not other peoples minds! This will only happen in time. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and well articulated reply! This is all the more reason we need to get the facts out that are included in “Influence.”

      I’m posting a link to your reply on Twitter! Please reply with your Twitter handle so we can follow you!



  2. I really enjoyed this post. While the stakes were obviously much lower in the fictional The Devil Wears Prada, I had a similar reaction when I saw that film. Why did Andi (Ann Hathaway) have to choose between her career and relationships. Men slay the dragon and get the girl all the time, but women get the guy or slay the dragon?

    • Whitney,

      “Ugly Betty’s” series finally did an interesting twist on this usual formula. Betty goes to London to follow her career ambitions, but the show still leaves open the possibility of a relationship in the end. It’s not an either or scenario, but one of balance. I think this is what’s important in society now.

      Thanks for your input!


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