Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

This New Memoir Will Make You Rethink the Meaning of Success

This New Memoir Will Make You Rethink the Meaning of Success “The Myth of Making It” by Samhita Mukhopadhyay just released last month.

When I think of some of the early forces that shaped my concept of work, and more specifically women in the workplace, it was actually MTV’s hit reality show “The Hills.” The “unscripted” series, which aired in 2006, focused on Lauren Conrad and her newfound Los Angeles life as an intern at Teen Vogue, a job that appeared to me as an impressionable young viewer to be the epitome of working-girl success and the ultimate culmination of career ambition. Week after week, I tuned in to watch Conrad continually struggle to find the balance between her personal life and the growing demands of her professional one. It didn’t take long for me to form the lasting belief that gaining and keeping a successful career as a woman (at Teen Vogue no less) meant missing out on birthdays, time with loved ones, and weekends spent working. Thus, the “girlboss” became embedded in our collective consciousness, well before the term had ever been coined.

Despite “The Hills” being an entertainment show of questionable validity, much of what it seemed to reveal about what it takes to be “on top” is surprisingly accurate and something that author and former executive editor of Teen Vogue, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, is very familiar with. In her newly released book, “The Myth of Making It,” Mukhopadhyay details her glitzy beginnings at the fashion magazine and how it felt to finally be in the folds of New York’s editorial elite. It was all enough to sustain the fallacies we use to help us overlook the causes and consequences of late-stage capitalism and an American culture that thrives on “the hustle” — until the day that it wasn’t.

A factually supported conversation about toxic productivity, labor exploitation, and neoliberal trickle-down feminism, Mukhopadhyay’s memoir-of-sorts calls for a “workplace reckoning” if any of us are to survive in a time when, statistically, we’re working more than ever before and wealth gaps are widening. Mukhopadhyay is now the editorial director at The Meteor, a collectively founded and feminist media company focused on platforming the “work of BIPOC creators, LGBTQ+ folks, and all groups traditionally underrepresented in media.”

By the time I got to Teen Vogue, I was a bit older and was already pretty set in who I was so I hadn’t internalized that specific culture quite yet. But, what I had internalized prior to that was that I had gotten there based on hard work, discipline, and by working my networks and making all the right connections. So, I felt that if I was going to prove that I belonged there, then I just was going to work my ass off, even if I was coming in as an already senior person. I think that was the one thing that eventually really started to disentangle for me, was this idea that I was lucky to be there versus the other way around.

I think people have started talking to each other about workplace conditions. One of the drawbacks of what I call in the book neoliberal feminism or lean-in feminism is the idea that you personally can overcome every obstacle that comes your way. You can overcome the pay gap, you can overcome how working mothers are treated or are overlooked for promotion when someone decides to have a child. When we internalize these beliefs, it keeps us alienated and isolated from each other. It kind of inherently sets up this competitiveness. Whereas now, I think that women are having conversations with each other in earnest, both about how hustle culture has not been successful in their own lives and how these kinds of myths that we’ve internalized about what it means to be successful haven’t actually brought us success or happiness.

What I really tried to spend the beginning of the book laying out is what came before. Neo liberalization of workplace feminism has deep roots in the labor movement, and somehow it turned into this debate about our personal choices. Through the ’70s and ’80s, the whole “working girl” narrative perpetuated this idea that women have all these choices, which is great and, like, we want that, but it also made women be culpable for those decisions without recognizing that we live in a society that does not support working mothers, and just in general, we have an entire infrastructure that exists just to make women feel bad about their decisions.

What I really talk about in the book, and specifically in the chapter about the death of the girlboss, is that it’s less about criticizing some of that entrepreneurial and girlboss-y advice, and really about articulating what happens when you pair that type of neoliberal trickle-down feminism with the late-stage capitalist model of startup culture where it’s all about the bottom line, about productivity and about growth at all costs.

It’s something new. I’ve been describing it as a reported memoir where I do share my own experiences, but I pair it with other people that I talk to that are having these experiences — research and experts that really helped me shape the book. I can speak to what I hope people get out of the book and what they do with it. I do think one of the main things that a lot of people are feeling right now is alienation so, first and foremost, I just hope that people feel a little less alone when they read this and when they see someone who, on paper, has it made, but then all of that kind of cracks in that facade.

And then the second is, I talk about this concept in the book called the “margin of maneuverability,” which is the distance between what you can do in your own life versus what’s possible in a broader sense and for us to really take a moment to say that none of this can be overcome as individuals. We can’t single-handedly overturn the pay gap, we can’t hustle our way out of the fact that less than 10% of CEOs are women. There’s no amount of day planners or SoulCycle classes that can overcome that type of inequality so where are the places that we can connect with people?

I think it’s really easy right now to just say “work sucks,” which is fine for the time being but ultimately, like, that’s not going to sustain you, that’s not going to sustain you emotionally, spiritually, and that’s not better for our society. In order to actually create the spaces that we feel good about, we’re going to have to start having these conversations in earnest. That’s really what I hope people start to think about after reading the book.

Source: HuffPost