I have deeply mixed feelings about the Martha Stewart verdict (says the woman who just blogged about ironing for goodness’ sake). On the one hand, it seemed pretty clear from the beginning that she was guilty of insider trading, but on the other hand, insider trading happens every day among folk of her ilk. Why the vigorous prosecution? Why not just a fine and have it done with? I mean, Ken Lay destroyed the retirement savings of thousands of his own employees, (to say nothing of the Neil Bush’s role in the S&L crisis of the late ’80’s — anyone remember that one?), and neither of them have been prosecuted. But Martha, the doyenne of domestic perfection, she of the “good thing” and the reputed temper tantrums? Our Martha, she must go to jail …
I smell sexism. I smell sexism in the sense that Martha, who has a long reputation as a tough broad who isn’t afraid to yell, who has been known to use obscenities and shout at the help, and who has gone out into the tough world of the Ken Lays and Jack Welches and whatever other male icons of corporate America you’d like to toss up in order to make herself into a somewhat paradoxical icon of domestic perfection, is being pillioried for exactly that — for appearing to be miss-blonde-homemaker while actually being a corporate shark like the rest of them. America still has issues with powerful women, and a powerful woman who gains power by commodifying domestic perfection of a particularly upper-class stripe, while simultaneously growing a corporate empire — well, she’s as ripe as any Salem herbalist for the pillory.
Or it could just be karma. Treating people like shit (and there were stories about Martha 20 years ago when I worked in cookbooks in NYC) does come back to bite you in the ass.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings about this verdict. Which is why we shouldn’t be too quick to write off feminism, even the sometimes one-note feminism of the second wave. We’re not on equal footing and we don’t have the power … if there’s anything the Martha Stewart verdict should remind us of, it’s that all-too-salient fact.