Sunday, June 8, 2003

Martha Stewart


Gender card is a joker

'You got beaned," Buddy Mack said with delight.

I was considerably less delighted. We were leaving a board meeting several years ago. Buddy - the late Edgar J. Mack Jr. - was chairman and had lobbied to get me a seat on that board, where I was the only woman. I had come up with a dumb idea, and the rest of the members refused to go along. They were direct and fairly brutal. They were not chivalrous.

"They treated you like one of the guys," Buddy told me.

That was a good thing, as Martha Stewart might say.

Although she might not say it about her own public beaning last week. The media mogul was accused by federal prosecutors of conspiracy, lying and obstructing justice. The Securities and Exchange Commission piled on with a civil complaint, accusing her of insider trading. She pleaded not guilty to charges that stemmed from her sale of ImClone stock, dumping it one day before federal regulators revealed that they would be rejecting the company's cancer drug.

Unequal rights

Thursday, Stewart took out a full-page ad in USA Today. In an open letter to her fans, encouraging them to e-mail their response, she wrote: "The government's attempt to criminalize these actions makes no sense to me."

Her attorney, Robert Morvillo, wondered in a statement released to the press whether she has been targeted because "she is a woman who has successfully competed in a man's business world."

Oh, come on.

The business world no longer belongs to men. To suggest otherwise is patronizing, sexist and, really, not very observant. Surely he has heard of Oprah. Maybe they even have lawyers at his firm who are openly female. Right now, more girls are headed for college than boys, and we are catching up on the health front, being diagnosed in greater numbers with heart disease and high blood pressure. Just like our stressed-out male counterparts. Katie Couric famously earns more money than Matt Lauer.

So there.

Charlene Ventura, executive director of the YWCA whose feminist credentials are impeccable, says, "I think her indictment is the result of increased scrutiny of business in order to restore faith in the economy - not increased scrutiny of women."

Kathy Helmbock, a longtime women's rights activist, says succinctly, "Equal opportunity means equal responsibility."

We women get the whole package.

Or as Charlene says, "It cuts both ways whether we're climbing the ladder of success or falling from grace."

None of this, of course, suggests that Martha Stewart is guilty of anything more than an uncanny ability to build an empire out of pine cones and a glue gun. Indicted means accused. Women and men are innocent until proven guilty even if they're famous and disagreeable and rich.

We have earned the opportunity to run large corporations, head Ivy League universities, put out fires, write news stories and arrest crooks.

With that comes the opportunity to get beaned.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.




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