After a string of young-adult books, Chandler Baker’s debut proper-adult novel, Whisper Network, is already a New York Times best-seller and a featured selection in Reese Witherspoon’s influential Book Club. In making it her July 2019 pick, Witherspoon described the book as “workplace murder mystery that happens in today’s #MeToo era.” Set inside the legal department of a Dallas-based sportswear company, Baker’s story follows a group of women who stand up to a known sexual harasser who’s vying to become the company’s CEO. On the podcast, Baker—who grew up in Dallas and lives in Austin—outlines what she sees as the incompatibility of motherhood and the workplace, her transition to adult fiction, and the day-to-day impact of workplace harassment.
Three takeaways from her appearance on the National Podcast of Texas:
1. Baker believes women must constantly use an internal “meter” to gauge to what degree a male colleague’s commentary or actions are truly offensive and threatening.
“I think the biggest sort of misconception right now—in what I believe is a little bit of #MeToo backlash—is the idea that women are looking to be offended. In reality, I truly believe that most women experience a lot of commentary that can trigger on a daily basis, but we’re always looking in my experience for excuses not to be bothered by it and to go on with our day and to not have to react or feel called to react. I think our radar is pretty well honed by the time that we’re well into our professional life.”
2. In Whisper Network, Baker writes “protecting women is a position that comes with few protections itself,” and in our interview she describes the “constant calculus” of deciding whether it’s worth it to speak out.
“The Hollywood version of #MeToo has led us to believe that you speak out, and then there are dire consequences for the man, and that’s how it works. But unless you have a large public platform, I find that in reality it’s a lot more fraught than that. It’s a lot riskier proposition. And that’s speaking from a fairly privileged position, and it’s obviously even harder if you have other marginalized identities that could complicate things further. I’ve talked to friends who work where their compliance hotline runs right back to the person that they’re complaining about. I have had friends that have complained, and three months later, happened to be let go in a very small round of layoffs.”
3. Recognizing that it’s not a popular concept, Baker says that motherhood and the workplace might not be compatible.
“They are diametrically opposed forces, pulling you in different directions. As women, we choose both. You choose the job you want to do and you choose, perhaps, to have children. And hopefully you love them both. But it’s hard to be a Pinterest mom and be ‘leaning in’ at the same time. We’re supposed to parent as if we don’t have a job and have a job like we don’t have kids. So it’s a hard thing to try to work through as a mother.”