“Good lord. Why doesn’t someone give these people the mic?” said Emma McLaughlin, co-author of Citizen Girl, her latest novel published with college friend Nicola Kraus. The two writers lent a voice to child caretakers in their bestselling novel, The Nanny Diaries, encouraged women’s empowerment in Citizen Girl, and spoke about both in a speech last night in Call Auditorium of Kennedy Hall.
Citizen Girl was released this past November. The novel tells the tale of a young woman out of college who learns how to be young and female in a new, emerging economy.
“From our own experiences, we realized that our girliness can be seen as a huge detriment and liability in the workforce. Being young and female in the media is a positive thing. We wanted to explore why femininity is so different in the workplace,” McLaughlin said. “[Outside,] these two traits are as good as it gets — the younger the better, the more female the better; then you walk past the newsstand and into the office, and it’s the complete opposite,” Kraus added.
Kraus and McLaughlin spoke about the importance of enduring even the most difficult of jobs and wanted to create a different kind of book, in which the heroine does quit, does find difficulty in her job and is expected to fail.
“As a woman, ask what have you been able to walk away from and feel powerful. Stick it out. That’s where you find your self-esteem.” McLaughlin said.
In addition to perseverance, the authors emphasized the importance of integrity and ethics. Kraus and McLaughlin referenced the Enron and Tyco scandals as examples of the challenges to the modern workforce, and the difficulties in making an honest dollar.
However, they told the Sun that when they worked as nannys in Manhattan during college — the experiences which served as the basis of their first novel — not all their income was “on the books.”
“My employees are [on the books] now,” Kraus added.
The Nanny Diaries describes the life of professional help in the home of an Upper East Side Manhattan family. A “nanny,” as defined by Kraus and McLaughlin for the Sun, is someone who the child sees first when he wakes up, and last before he goes to bed, who does the child’s scheduling, who notices when shoes are outgrown and buys the new shoes and who serves as the liaison between other parents.
“Imagine having your first job in someone’s bathroom. The ground rules are thrown out completely. Try working with your boss in her towel,” Kraus said.
Though arduous, the work was an educational experience for the two women. Each described a sense of confidence sitting in a boardroom that they obtained from their days uptown, taking orders about where on the floor they should sit to play with a four-year-old.
This is not to say that either one is against parents hiring nannys: “We are great believers in the system … when parents are helpful and really close with their children,” Kraus explained to The Sun.
In both books, the process started with something not being talked about, “pink elephants,” as the writers described them.
“Last year for high school graduation presents, breast implants were the number one most commonly requested gift. I think that’s weird,” said McLaughlin. This brand of feminine insecurity was what Kraus and McLaughlin sought to thwart through their writing.
“Citizen Girl goes deeply into feminist issues, following a girl out of college and describing how women are treated in the workforce … [college girls] are their prime audience,” summarized Erica Kerman ’07, vice president of programming for the Panhellenic Association, when discussing what went into the decision to bring the two authors. Kerman organized the event.
The authors also spoke to two members of the Creating Chapters of Excellence program, the Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Delta sororities, earlier in the day.
“Both women made great points and were so entertaining,” said Rachel Easton ’06, vice president of communications for the Panhellenic Association.
In summarizing the finished book, McLaughlin said, “every writer goes through their book and expects to find 800 things they wish they had done or wished they hadn’t. We didn’t find that in Citizen Girl, so to us, it was a success.”
The program was sponsored by the Panhellenic Association, Panhellenic Health Advisory Team and Creating Chapters of Excellence.
Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun News Editor
and Allison Markowitz
Sun Staff Writer