Have you heard about the controversy swirling around Meghann Foye’s new novel, Meternity?
Foye’s book about a woman who fakes a pregnancy so she can enjoy all the wonderfulness that comes with a maternity leave (cough cough) has gotten lots of attention.
Here’s why, pulled straight from the book description on Amazon:
Like everyone in New York media, editor Liz Buckley runs on cupcakes, caffeine and cocktails. But at thirty-one, she’s plateaued at Paddy Cakes, a glossy baby magazine that flogs thousand-dollar strollers to entitled, hypercompetitive spawn-havers.
Liz has spent years working a gazillion hours a week picking up the slack for coworkers with kids, and she’s tired of it. So one day when her stress-related nausea is mistaken for morning sickness by her bosses—boom! Liz is promoted to the mommy track. She decides to run with it and plans to use her paid time off to figure out her life: work, love and otherwise. It’ll be her “meternity” leave.
What sent countless working mothers to Amazon to read this suggestion that working parents have some kind of advantage in the workplace? Her “as-told-to” piece in the New York Post, ” I want all the perks of maternity leave — without having any kids.”
In it, she said, “And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries. From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.”
Women who make these changes after maternity leave — which, by the way, isn’t the sabbatical Foye seems to think it is — do so because their current position makes it impossible for them to be working parents, not because the weeks spent at home crying alongside a colicky baby who never stops wailing or trying to figure out if that actually is diarrhea in the diaper or wondering why every baby but yours loves those swingy-things have given them any kind of clarity about their life’s calling.
Changing jobs is an act of desperation, not a freakin’ career decision.
But I digress.
That Post piece was a strategic error. Had we seen the book as nothing more than fiction, it might be amusing. But knowing that the premise is based on her real-life beliefs introduces a whole new, “Are you kidding me?” perspective.
The backlash against Foye from working mothers has been spectacular. Here are a few sample tweets. (Clicking on each tweet will give you a clear image.)
And . . . she pulled out of this morning’s “Good Morning America” interview.
Is this good publicity or bad publicity?
There’s an old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so I went to the book’s Amazon page to check sales and reviews. Sales are decent but not as high as I would have thought considering Foye and her book have been all over social media and the major media outlets.
There are 39 reviews as I write this averaging 1.6 out of five stars.
It’s hard to tell if the reviewers actually read the book because the “reviews” are more like comments on Foye’s theories about maternity leave than they are true reader reviews. Here’s a sampling:
Let me ask you, Meghann Foye: do you also resent that your co-workers with cancer get super-fun free time to go to their chemo appointments?
It wasn’t entertaining, but rather infuriating to read about how ‘witty’ even an entitled fictional character could be about pregnancy/career status. There’s no purpose in reading this.
Is it worth it?
Some might say that the book’s premise is brilliant because it has a built-in news peg. Even I teach novelists to write news hooks into their manuscripts so they’ve got something to talk about with the press when the book is published.
This, however, has generated so much negative publicity that it makes me wonder if the book (and Foye) will tank as a result.
And even if sales go through the roof, is it worth it, Meghann Foye?
This author is sure to be stoned wherever she goes — no Starbucks for her today.
I’m all for clever publicity angles that get attention from the press, bloggers, and tweeters. But even I draw the line at anything that could put anyone’s mental health at risk.
I think the book is ridiculous, but I feel sorry for Foye. I question whether she and her publisher really thought this through. If they did, and if they anticipated everything that has happened and are clapping their hands with glee, okay.
But I wonder if they underestimated the negative impact of the backlash. I thought that when I sat down to write this, and when I saw that Foye cancelled her GMA appearance, my opinion was validated.
What’s your take?
Nobody is going to want to be seen reading this book.
I’ve won a couple of national awards for publicity excellence, but I’m saying in this case that there IS such a thing as bad publicity. You might see this differently, though, and I’d like your impression. Maybe my “I’m a mom” bias is interfering with logical thought.
Will all of this negativity work in Foye’s favor when it’s all said and done and will it be worth it? Or is she paying too high a price for this exposure? Please comment.
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