June 4th was a very bad day for Martha Stewart. In a period of less than 12 hours, she was indicted on nine counts of securities fraud by a federal grand jury and, as a result, stepped down as CEO of the company she helped found and even bears her name. It honestly wouldn’t shock me if the words “Black Wednesday” have already entered her vocabulary to describe that dark day.
However, outside of her fans, the rest of the world was all smiles at the news. The jokes about Martha being forced to decorate a jail cell became popular again and almost everyone was getting a good laugh at her expense. Even feminists, the first group you’d expect to jump on the grenade for a successful businesswoman, have largely thumbed their noses and walked away.
Long story short, no one that doesn't need her cooking tips gives two cents about what Martha was thinking.
But why is the world so angry at Martha? Why is it that at every corner we’ve spoofed, made jokes about and even outright berated her. As a country, we’ve shown no love for her even though she’s one of the few women millionaires to be found and could conceivably be a role model for every young girl in the nation. She’s smart, she’s successful and she’s independent. Basically, she’s everything we’d like our daughters to become.
Yet, the ridicule and the hatred continue. We make excuses about her being irritating and all-too-easy of a target. But while these things are true, they don’t cover the real reason she’s drawn so much heat, the reason no one at Martha Stewart Inc. wants to admit.
To sum it up in a word, Martha’s a hypocrite.
Because, while all of the things I said above are true, she didn’t become rich and famous by being smart, successful and independent, but rather, by hawking the 1950’s stereotype of the housewife, a quiet, obedient woman that spends her life cleaning house, cooking meals and raising the children.
Need proof of this? Watch her television show. It’s a thirty-minute whirlwind of cooking, decorating and gardening set in a quiet New England atmosphere. Need more proof? Check out her product line at Kmart, you’ll find bed sheets, garden houses and cooking supplies.
To my knowledge, not once has Martha told a woman how to keep track of her meetings, operate a personal computer or diversify her portfolio (not that she’s one to be giving out stock advice anyway) even though, almost certainly, these are the concerns of her, successful, day-to-day life. Though she’s probably demonstrated a dozen different techniques to prepare a turkey, she’s never done anything to help a woman make money (if she doesn’t already work at a craft fair) or move up in society.
In fact, to many, she’s hampered the image of the woman as being strong, independent and successful by constantly portraying women as docile housewives. Meanwhile though, Martha’s jet-setting around the world, drinking champagne and enjoying her successful life that's anything but what she portrays.
Yes, you heard right, to make her millions Martha sold out the feminist movement and no amount of freshly-baked cookies is going to soothe the rift that has formed between herself, the feminists and the rest of America. Most of us have been able to see through this act for a long, long time and now that she’s been indicted most of us are waiting for reparations.
Sure, Martha has and always will have her fans. Some people, have enjoyed her work and will support her until the day she dies, no matter what. They're spending their time talking about how this is a “double standard” for women in business, failing to point out that three men were indicted at the same time for the same crime. Also, the other famous businesswomen such as Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell remain un-indicted for any crimes. In addition to that, all of the wonderful examples of male corporate greed that Martha supporters like to (rightfully) vilify (such as the Enron executives) are all also facing charges of their own.
But even with this loss of perspective among some Martha supporters, poll after poll shows 70% or more people don’t feel the feds are being too hard on Martha and that she’s getting the treatment she deserves (Bear in mind that approximately 51% of the population is female). Even if she’s completely innocent or her high-priced lawyers can get her off, America is getting a kick out watching her writhe and suffer.
But then again, what else do you expect when a woman builds an empire on hypocrisy and knick-knacks? I don’t know too many people who’ll take a bullet for candied yams and I don’t see why anyone would do it when they’re being served from a hypocritical woman that sold out the very movement that helped her become wealthy.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say most of us would rather be firing the bullets.