Today Martha Stewart will be back out on the streets. Actually, she’ll be leaving “Camp Cupcake” for five months of house arrest.
The media is all a flutter and the stories tend to be one of two flavors:
- Martha is redeemed! Now she's an angel! Our domestic goddess is back! Let’s all bow down to her!
- Martha is a soulless, conniving, thieving felon who didn’t get even half the punishment she so richly deserved.
I think they’re being too simplistic. Martha is neither an angel, nor a devil. Frankly, she’s far more complicated (and compelling) than that.
I’ve always kind of identified with Martha. She’s grew up a scrappy, central New Jersey kid of Polish ancestry. She liked crafts. From an early age, she was enterprising, selling pies and cakes to the neighbors. (Oh, how I tortured my parents with my Crystal Light stand!) So, perhaps that gives me a little bit of a soft spot where the domestic goddess is concerned.
Also, it’s difficult to look at the whole Martha/jail experience and not factor in how gender plays a role. Why is it that Martha does one, utchsky stock deal and she’s considered Satan’s baby, while male executives from large corporations would screw good, hardworking people out of their retirement funds and not get raked across the coals? However, this is not a feminist manifesto, so I’ll save that discourse for far more qualified and well-researched Women's Studies PhDs.
Let’s carry on…
I think people should appreciate Martha for the little bit of creativity and luxury that she brought to the everyman. Yes, she had predecessors – the General Mills-contrived Betty Crocker, comes to mind. However, no one was able to tie in beauty and style and taste and get it out to a mass audience the way Martha could. (Kmart, anyone?)
Martha typifies the American Dream. You start with nothing (or, in her case, very little). You capitalize on a talent and/or skill. You’re tenacious. You’re clever. You work like a dog until you make oodles of money.
Take away the decorating with doilies, homemade almond brittle and tables set with garage sale-scavenged Depression Glass and you get to the heart of the matter. In the end, Martha is a very, very, very savvy business woman who built her own empire from (almost) nothing.
Yes, she stepped on her share of toes along the way but, really, do you think any of today’s leading executives and entrepreneurs went their whole lives without pissing someone off? It may not be right, but it’s reality.
So, welcome home Martha. I can’t wait to see what comes next…