Matt Lauer ran afoul of the unofficial speech code yesterday (see video clip below):
During the interview, which aired Thursday on NBC’s Today, Lauer brought up a recent statement made by [GM CEO Mary] Barra about missing her son’s junior prom: “My kids told me the one job they are going to hold me accountable for is ‘Mom.’ ”
Lauer followed up: “Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?”
Twitterers and pundits want to know if he would have asked that question of a male CEO, because if not, he’s sexist. Lauer points out that Today has actually done a series on the challenges of working fathers, and that he was merely following up on Barra’s remarks on the topic in a Forbes article, which he would have done for anyone.
But, Matt, what you don’t seem to understand is that you violated the speech code because you suggested that motherhood is a full-time job, and this is not tolerable in a post-gender society.
Of course, as any Mom (or Dad) knows, it is more difficult for a mother to maintain a full-time career. There’s a sense of fulfillment and wholeness that comes from engagement with her children, because of a primal bond that men can never fully comprehend. When that is interrupted, it creates tension, and pain, and worry and a sense of loss.
None of this means that women should be restricted to quarters after childbirth. But let’s be honest, the challenge for her is greater than for her husband.
And this is not denigrating to women — in fact, it’s elevating.
Motherhood is heroic, and crucial, and desperately essential. It is the most important work on earth. Being the CEO of GM is secondary. And there’s nothing wrong with saying so. In fact, failing to recognize that, and trying to elevate extra-domestic careerism above Motherhood, is dehumanizing to women everywhere.
See the video on the next page.