Why Do We Only Judge Successful Men By $$$?
Updated: Mar 12
Why do we not hold them equally accountable for the human beings they co-created?
I pissed off some LinkedIn Elon Musk fanboys a few weeks ago. It started with a news story about Musk's new Twitter diktat that everyone who hadn't yet been fired be prepared to work "long hours at high intensity" and in the office, since Musk doesn't believe in remote work.
His unreasonable demands in a world where work/life balance is something office drones are embracing and Musk devalues sparked a mass exodus of highly qualified Twitter executives and managers similar to an earlier Tesla So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night. Tesla's Burnout Brigade left a leader who couldn't stay focused on its mission - to make electric cars - and demanded work and innovation outside Tesla's scope, like over-automating the factory and the car itself. Who insisted the new EV must have 'Falcon Wing' flat car handles that magically expanded when its owner approached, introducing additional layers of complexity which exponentially increased the number of elements that can fail. And they did, repeatedly.
Demanding Twitter employees drop everything to devote their lives to fixing Musk's problems after firing people on a whim without having the foggiest clue what any of them do demonstrated his continuing monolithic cluelessness.
LinkedIn comments to the original story - almost all from men - supported the tired old complaint that 'No one wants to work anymore,' as though only corporate leaders do any work, and that they deserve unfettered access to everyone else's time.
I pushed back in a comment.
The next day I checked LinkedIn to find an editor had featured my comment in a news story.
It generated some interesting resistance from, once again, men.
One commenter complained my feminism threatened masculinity and another accused me of 'womansplaining' manhood to men. Which I might half-agree with, since I'm commenting on an experience I've never had, but also, people accuse others of 'splaining when they feel threatened by criticism.
One nurse validated my statement about deathbed confessions.
Why do we only judge successful people like Musk by how much money they and their shareholders make, and allow them to get away with neglecting work/life balance, especially spending more time with one's family?
Why do we slag off the importance of raising human beings? They're so damn important the U.S. Supreme Court recently declared states have the right to eliminate abortion choice if they want, but we can't hold family failures like Elon Musk and many other manly successes responsible for the human beings they seed but can't be bothered with, except to pay occasional lip service to them?
Where does Musk fail?
Elon Musk is the father of ten surviving children. His first died from SIDS at two and a half months. He has, at this time, three baby mamas and believes humanity's problem isn't overpopulation, but underpopulation. A Wired magazine article detailed the ideological history of population concerns - whether over or under - and speculated Musk likely wants a ready labor pool supply to do the grunt work for long hours and low pay.
Interestingly, the new Republican is pro-immigration in a way Republican non-entrepreneurial politicians are not.
It's easy for Musk to call on people (read: Women, who've been less inclined to breed since they found freedom and feminism and seats on the Board) because he's not the one who carries them for nine months, and expects to do daddy duties only when it's convenient. By necessity, as CEO of three large companies - Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter - who sometimes, but not always, puts in the long hours he regularly demands of others, Musk must necessarily neglect his families.
The Head Twit can't even serve all his companies properly. Tesla's stock is down by 49% as of a month ago.
At least one of his children has disavowed her father. Vivian Jenna Wilson, the daughter formerly known as Xavier, has changed her gender as well as her last name, explicitly to sever all ties to her bio-dad: "Gender identity and the fact that I no longer live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form."
Musk has claimed he supports his new daughter's decision, and any 'transphobia' accusations lobbed against him merely stem from his complaint that transgender pronouns are a pain in the ass. No one knows what the story is behind Vivian's desire to remove her father from her life, but it's probably not pronouns.
In the meantime, his numerous children have and are being raised by their mothers, au pairs, and the occasional visit from their otherwise preoccupied father.
At the core of Musk's sneer is the unconscious assumption that raising children is still 'wimmin's work', and if women want to work outside the home, they'll have to figure it out on their own. Dreaming cool shit and making it real is the purview of overly-fecund visionaries who don't have time for their progeny.
A two-year on-and-off pandemic lockdown, though, has changed many male minds.
Once the wrinkles were smoothed out, the initial inconvenience of working from home became less stressful, especially without the hassles of traffic, parking rate robbery, public transportation, or being stuck in a cubicle or 'open concept' office fishbowl.
Who knew families were cool? You could spend more time with your children, at lunch and on breaks and after work, without a long, messy commute home. While the pandemic spiked the divorce rate for some, it introduced a new family dynamic many have been unwilling to give up, especially for a dictator who's clearly outside his wheelhouse, and wants everyone else to put in triple time to clean up his messes after unintentionally introducing fraud, imposterization, rising hate speech and driving out his advertisers.
It's impossible to slag off Musk's true genius and vision, and easy to understand why he has so many admirers and fans. But what about the ten human beings he's co-created? Why do we allow men off the hook with their families, when female leaders and office workers are still made to feel guilty if their family life suffers?
Women don't get pregnant by themselves.
Elon Musk is a hugely successful entrepreneur, but a failure as a husband and father. There's no other way to describe him.
Is Elon Musk worth his compensation?
The resistance I found on LinkedIn struck some nerves.
Some of my critics may be aware of their own failures as husbands and fathers. Especially if they're divorced.
Or they still define themselves primarily by their jobs, linking their masculinity to their breadwinning capabilities.
One wonders: Do CEOs like Musk need to earn as much money as they do? Are they even worth it? Do they add the outsize value to their outsized paychecks and compensation?
From 1978 to 2018, average work wages grew by slightly under 12%. CEO compensation grew by 1,007.5%.
Last year, S&P 500 CEOs made 324 times more than their median workers. In the first year of a pandemic that ground the U.S. economy to a halt, with 25 million Americans laid off in the first two months alone and thousands of businesses folding, 2020 was beddy beddy good to American CEOs, whose compensation increased 16%.
Canada's CEOs didn't exactly go hungry either, as their 100 top-paid CEOs' compensation reached $10.9 million, about $95,000 more than their 2019 average pay.
While CEOs were popping French champagne, the pandemic may have boosted men's long-lagging participation with their families, and it was gratifying to see many LinkedIn men supporting work/life balance. One can be a successful businessperson, entrepreneur and parent, although I don't believe any Fortune 500 CEO can be as successful as Musk without sacrificing the parental role.
Do companies need to be that big, requiring too much time (Tesla's employees complained how demanding their jobs were when Musk was still showing up at the office) when CEO kids are going daddy-less?
Maybe North America's top-paid CEOs need granular, deep-dive performance reviews. If Elon Musk's pay and compensation is 324 times greater than his median employees' wages, shouldn't he be expected to demonstrate he's earning his keep by delivering equivalent value? Which should be determined not only by how much money the shareholders are making, or the stock price, but also whether he's adequately compensating the people that keep his factories or platform running, and giving them enough time to spend with their families.
If he's not delivering equivalent value himself, it's time to reduce his workload along with his compensation.
Tesla, SpaceX or even Twitter might be greater with a focused leader at the helm, rather than one-third of a celebrity CEO preaching the benefits of hard work he can't even master himself.
Like father, like son
Musk's fatherhood shortcomings may be rooted in his own father's.
Like daughter Vivian, Musk is estranged from his own father, Errol Musk, for unclear reasons. Musk has vaguely slagged off his father as being 'evil', saying, "My dad will have a carefully thought-out evil plan. He will plan evil. Almost every crime you can imagine, he's committed. Almost every bad thing you can imagine, he's done. It's so terrible you can't believe it."
Sounds like the kind of vague exaggeration Donald Trump would say.
And Musk is right, it's hard to believe since Errol Musk isn't in jail for burying bodies on his property, raping children, committing genocide or defrauding old people as a Nigerian prince. One might suspect just a touch of exaggeration on the part of a son who once accused a hero of being a pedophile.
Errol Musk once supposedly (unverified) shot and killed some burglars who entered his home, successfully arguing he did it in self-defense. There's definitely one verifiable super-cringeworthy act: He had two babies with his 42-years-younger stepdaughter from a previous marriage. If you're keeping track, that's seven children total for Daddy Musk by multiple baby mamas, one of whom he met when she was four.
Yes, ewww, but not illegal, not even in violation of the incest taboo, and not jailworthy.
Elon's daddy denies being the terrible human being his son describes and claims he was a good father, but also exhibits perhaps a touch of defensive jealousy about Baby Boy's accomplishments when he claims the entire Musk family, not just Elon, has done "a lot of things for a long time. It's not as though we suddenly started doing something."
Errol was a strict father who raised his children with 'discipline and austerity', although he still had plenty of time for mistresses. A Musk biography describes Elon's childhood as 'excruciating' with schoolyard bullying and whose father was 'emotionally abusive and tough' and subjected his children to sitting still and quiet for four hours at a time while he lectured them.
So, an exemplary paternal role model he wasn't.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. It's questionable whether Errol Musk is as bad as his son makes him out to be, without exactly qualifying for Father of the Year.
Daddies who care
Musk and his fanboys have to stop work-shaming the most overworked workforce in the world. American workers' productivity has increased by 430% since 1950 and only Chile, Mexico, Israel, Korea, and Costa Rica work more hours. Forget the 40-hour workweek; the average full-time employed female works 8.33 hours a week and the FT employed male 9.09. The U.S. is the only country in all the Americas without national paid parental leave. A hundred and thirty-four countries have set a maximum work week length, but not the U.S. There's no federal law requiring paid sick days, and we rank at the bottom for average paid vacation days.
Today, 70% of American children live in a home with two working parents, while Elon Musk and others dare to call Americans lazy.
Being a father means more than hopping on and off and moving on to the next womb. It's not just about bringing home the bacon, especially when a sizeable number of employees at Musk's companies are women. Overcompensated CEOs aren't the only barriers to work/life balance; men face a variety of invisible barriers to taking paternity leave - the rolling eyes of their colleagues who wonder why they'd bother, or fears of job and promotion discrimination for not being 'dedicated enough'.
American workers are 'dedicated enough', but some have shifted their priorities to their families, which may be more gratifying than working for a suspiciously overvalued and ungrateful taskmaster. So as not to be the failure Elon Musk's father has been. And Elon.
I wonder what Musk's kids will say when he's on his deathbed.
Or even if they'll be there at all.
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