Matt Lauer Gets Defensive: 'Having It All Is Not A Gender Issue'

Illustration for article titled Matt Lauer Gets Defensive: 'Having It All Is Not A Gender Issue'

A week ago, Matt Lauer caught hell for asking GM exec Mary Barra if she could be a CEO and a good mom. Yesterday, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said that her daughters would probably label her a bad mother; Nooyi feels she, personally cannot be a CEO and a good mom. So today, Matt Lauer is all: TOLD YA.


In a segment on Today this morning, Lauer got defensive over the criticism hurled at him for questioning Barra; he said, "I've always felt this isn't a gender issue. This is a human issue. Of work and life balance. It's a parenting issue, for men and women, moms and fathers — a question I ask myself every single day. But clearly, it still touches a nerve."

Next, Kathie Lee and Martha Stewart were dragged onto the set, as examples of working moms. Martha Stewart was of the opinion that no, you can't have it all, but you can try — and you need a lot of help, a "backup team." Kathie Lee said that women can have it all — but not at the same time. After hearing from two wealthy, white, über-privileged ladies, Matt turned the conversation back into listen-I-am-not-sexist mode:

If a male CEO were to come out and say, I am very upset I missed my son's prom, and I think my kids are going to hold me accountable for one job, and that is of father — yes, we'd ask that male CEO that question.

But do you, Matt? Do you?

Matt also pointed out that when he asked Barra about motherhood, it was a follow-up question, picking up on something she'd said in an earlier interview. Fair enough. Still: Today was the program that ran the words "diplomats and diapers" under the face of UN Ambassador Samantha Power. If she were a man, would the chyron mention "diapers" instead of the fact that she penned a Pulitzer-prize winning book about genocide?

In the end, what we're learning is that "having it all" means different things to different people, and Matt Lauer hates to be called out on his sexist shit. So, you know, nothing new. Lean in!



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Ginger, get the popcorn!

What bothers me about this is that he could be making a valid point if he weren't being so....Matt Lauer-y. It's true that neither men nor women can 'have it all.' And I think the fact that men, too, struggle with sacrificing family for their careers is brushed aside. Society is waaaaaaay harsher on women who sacrifice family things for career success (or are perceived to do so), which is sexist and terrible. But the flip side is that we expect men to not care that they also have to make those choices. The default position isn't that men never have to give anything up, but that men should be fine working 100 hours a week because they don't care about their families as much. And that's super damaging.

Matt Lauer is a prick because rather than make this point, and perhaps HAVE a thoughtful discussion with male CEOs about how they feel about the family/work balance, he decided to cry about how unfair people were being for labeling his questionning sexist. He's wrong—he'd never ask a male CEO that. But I would actually love to see someone do so. Not for the "ha! feminist vindication!" (though that would be nice) so much, but becaues I think it would actually be interesting to hear what a male CEO has to say on this matter.