Balancing Act: The Democrats’ Ideology Versus Reality

Last night there was a good deal of hilarity on Twitter about a puff piece in Washingtonian magazine about press secretary Jay Carney and his wife, journalist and author Claire Shipman. As you would expect with a D.C. publication writing about prominent Democrats, the article, which focuses mostly on Shipman, is adoring.

The Washingtonian piece, titled “Balancing Act,” has been ridiculed mostly for its photography. This picture of the Carneys in their kitchen is on the first page. Note the Communist propaganda posters, likely a memento from when Carney and Shipman were both stationed in Moscow. Click to enlarge:

Washingtonian MOM

Being a Democrat means it’s OK to look like you are living in a 1960s sitcom. Except for the Communist posters, of course.

The next picture is the one that has been lampooned mercilessly. The Carneys are Democrats, so it goes without saying that they are well-read. (“I always have a pile. I hate to be without books,” Shipman says.) So they are photographed in front of a wall of books. Click to enlarge:


Only, funny thing: those are actually the same books, photoshopped to create duplicates and make it look as though there are more books than are really present. If you look carefully you will see multiple copies of a number of books. It is really a terrible photoshop job; the funniest thing is that they duplicated the boy’s finger, too. You can see the finger floating in front of a book on the right side of the photo, in the second shelf from the top.

“Balancing Act” is written with the usual cloying feminist slant. The news hook, to the extent there is one, is a book that Claire Shipman has co-authored called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know:

Their book posits that while confidence—rather than competence—plays a key role in female success, particularly in the workplace, many women lack this critical ingredient. …

Many women possess a deep-seated fear of being wrong or embarrassed, which prevents them from taking risks. Risk-taking is important, in part because it can lead to failure—and surviving failure, they say, is essential to building resilience and confidence.

“How often in life do we avoid doing something because we think we’ll fail?” the pair ask. “And how often might we actually have triumphed if we had just decided to give it a try?” They advocate “failing fast,” a tech buzzword that is the ideal paradigm for building female confidence. Take a small risk, fail, learn from it, and move on. Men are more comfortable taking risks, and tend to more easily shrug off failure. Women, on the other hand, stew, worry, ruminate, and second-guess themselves.

Men, of course, don’t mind being embarrassed at all. They don’t worry, they just plunge ahead, full of self-confidence. And failure? It doesn’t bother us a bit! We shrug it off! As a man, you don’t know how easy you have it until you read feminist tracts.

Here is the point I really want to make, though. President Obama and the Democrats celebrated “Equal Pay Day” last week. Failing to note that discrimination in employment based on sex has been illegal for decades, they trumpeted the thoroughly-debunked claim that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. In his capacity as press secretary, Carney tried manfully–no, wait, I can’t say that–to defend the administration’s position.

And yet Carney’s own experience illustrates how silly the Democrats’ claims are. Shipman has worked part-time for the last five years to spend more time with her young children. Carney, meanwhile, leaves for the White House at 7:25 a.m. and tries to get home by 8:00 in the evening. As in most families, it is his wife who takes time out from her career to focus on children, and who devotes more time to her family: “Flexibility, she says, is what most working mothers really want.”

Exactly. That is the same choice that most families make–not all, but most. It largely explains why, on the average, men earn more than women. Carney no doubt understands this perfectly well, but this is one of many instances where he has to pretend that the Democrats’ politically-inspired claims make sense, even though they are contrary to his own (and everyone else’s) experience. That is one of the down sides of being a liberal, but there are advantages, too. Among them is the fact that if a magazine publishes a profile on you, it is sure to be fawning.


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