Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2001/ 21 Kislev, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Power to influence -- HAVING threatened to work to disenfranchise women twice (when Madeleine Albright told a foreign dignitary she fancied herself as "Xena," Princess Warrior, and when the hostesses of "The View" vowed to vote for Mr. Gore based on the drape of his pants on his "Rolling Stone" cover photo), I am devoid of sufficient bellicosity for the latest evidence of female feeblemindedness, to wit, the Ladies Home Journal Power Index. LHJ, whose Web site advises, "Get a new blue sweater, and a new car to match," places Oprah at the top of its list of the 30 most powerful women in America.

Oprah's win is merely the tip of female kultursmog. Laura Bush (#26) is 17 paces behind Britney Spears. If the first lady pierced her navel she could be one powerful tart. Condoleezza Rice is 5 paces behind Britney. Even Madonna finished 4 steps below Britney. The late, now canonized one-hit Aaliyah was Britney's only real threat. J Lo is #30 and J Ro is #11. Faith Hill (#20) edged out Wall Street investment strategist, Abby Joseph Cohen (#21), but crop tops on either could change that.

The Power Index criteria suggest its designers were inhaling. They averaged scores in cultural clout; financial impact; visibility; achievement; power to influence; intellectual impact; political know-how; and staying power for the final ranking score.

Oprah got a 90. Sandra Day O'Connor got an 84, but her intellectual impact beat Oprah's: 90 to 85. Toni Morrison's intellectual impact was 100. Laura Bush, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Andrea Jung (CEO of Avon) and Carly Fiorina (CEO of Hewlett-Packard) had scores of 20 on intellectual impact. They beat Britney by 10. Abby Joseph Cohen had a 50 rating on financial impact, compared to Oprah's 90, O'Connor's 100, and Martha Stewart's 70. Martha tied Oprah on "Power to influence" with a chart-topping score of 90 in that category.

The descriptions are worse than the numbers. Oprah: " . . . she is still everybody's best girlfriend. That's the kind of power no one can challenge." Ah, the Casey Kasem countdown for shallow females.

Martha Stewart "orchestrated retail deals that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, and still finds times to star in Kmart ads." Even folks in rural poverty have higher ambitions and dreams than starring in Kmart ads. And what were Kmart executives thinking when they signed a New England snob to appeal to their clientele, to wit, "No shoes, no shirt, hey, you're at home here."

LHJ is an insidious woman's magazine. Women, who would never think of reading Ms., Cosmopolitan or Redbook, pick up this seemingly benign publication. But this list and its descriptors offer subliminal feminism and a liberal agenda.

Justice O'Connor's description reads, "[h] er extraordinary power comes largely from her role on a divided court - with O'Connor often casting the deciding vote. Among the upcoming issues on which her vote is considered critical: school vouchers and voter redistricting. O'Connor's decision on these issues will affect how billions of dollars will be spent."

Justice O'Connor actually wrote the most dissenting opinions last term. She is not the swing vote, but the vocal minority. She agreed most often with Chief Justice William Rehnquist and least often with Justice Stevens. Justice Kennedy and Justice O'Connor are together on most votes, but he's male, so O'Connor is the real power. This court stymies law review analyses, but LHJ created Sandra Day O'Connor - Xena of the U.S. Supreme Court.

#29 Toni Morrison, despite a cultural clout score of 15, is nothing less than society's redeemer: "Morrison has drawn untold readers into the communities she has created and into the African-American experience, always raising issues that are easier pushed aside." Ms. Morrison's "African-American experience" asks us understand her daft labeling of Mr. Clinton as "our first black president." Graphic incest ala her The Bluest Eye is just what society and literature need.

LHJ has created a list of mere fleeting power mongers. Hewlett-Packard will go on without Ms. Fiorina (and she will go soon). When Britney falls off the chart, another scantily clad lass will take her place. Toni Morrison's books won't even reach Ken Kesey cult status.

The LHJ list is missing women with lasting power, to wit: "She left behind the power lunches, power dressing and PowerAde at the gyms for the long-term and trying task of motherhood. She can turn a struggling child into a reader, household items into a costume, and an injury and tears into a smile with one kiss. Her financial impact is hampered by the fact that she earns no wage. She shops at Kmart to save so as to stay home with demanding tykes." Those who rock the cradle rule the world. Perhaps their omission was an oversight on the part of LHJ. Perhaps this feminist publication disguised as fluff simply dismissed its readers' dominant role in society.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings