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Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

Blogurbation

Apropos of nothing, my current list of subjects and comment threads I’m sick of reading on feminist political blogs:

  • how the caucus system is unfair to Clinton because her female supporters are subjected to intimidation by Obama backers. Not only does it strike me as offensive to suggest that Clinton supporters can’t stand up for themselves in a caucus, but these charges are based on nothing more than anecdotal reports of bad behavior. I have heard my own share of anecdotes regarding bad behavior by Clinton supporters. Shameful? Yes. Evidence of sexism? I don’t think so.
  • The, by now, famous utterance of Obama involving the word “periodically,” and the phrase “feeling down” as a response to a question about Clinton’s attacks. Did he mean it as a sexist put-down? How could he not, he’s so gosh-darned smart and all, so let’s switch our vote to Clinton. The remark does reverberate as a sexist statement. Agreed and duly noted. Can we please move on? There is tremendous value in documenting sexism in all its insidious and not so insidious forms, but where is the value in slapping the wound over and over again? I have read numerous comments from people who say that this remark by Obama is so egregious they cannot bring themselves to vote for him or Clinton, both candidates being seriously flawed. To which I say, “get over yourself,” and stop whoring for attention like all those “undecideds” in 2004 who just “couldn’t decide” between Bush and Kerry. Please. We have two great candidates to chose from. If you’re waiting for the perfect candidate, you’ll be waiting until Wisconsin freezes over.
  • Tim Gunn is sexist because he commented that Hillary Clinton is “confused about what gender she is.” Tim Gunn was discussing fashion on Conan O’Brien’s show. FASHION. You know, the one cultural hold-out of feminism in its purest form? Yeah, that’s right. Fashion and pants suits. You will never see those two words (er, three words) together again.

Rant over. For now.

You can bite me in comments.

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Hiring a Woman?

or buying a horse?

Try substituting “horse” every time you read the word “woman” or “girl” in this helpful 1943 employer guide.

h/t to “always interested,” my favorite Canadian cub reporter.

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Go Swiffer Your Brain

This is hilarious.  Rena Corey, the article’s author, would be an ideal candidate for an intervention if she weren’t already Stepford-ized into an empty husk of female servitude.  Consider these sad words:

As a girl growing up in the ’70s, I learned to view with condescension women who cared whether their floor wax had yellowed or whether their hubbies’ shirts bore the dreaded ring around the collar. Obviously, the conventional feminist wisdom went, these women did not have a satisfying life; instead of winning boardroom battles, they settled for such fleeting victories as a shiny floor or a ringless tub. Why didn’t they get themselves real jobs?

A lot of girls in my generation took to heart this message of liberation from the perceived drudgery of housework and grew up to have careers that our mothers never even dreamed of. But apparently, even with the monetary and psychic rewards of paying jobs, we still yearn for that cozy, clean nest.

Wait, wait, wait . . . the “perceived drudgery of housework?”  Rena, honey, housework is the very definition of drudgery.  Not that career women (and men) manage to avoid drudgery in the workplace.  We do not.  However, we get paid for performing menial, thoughtless tasks.

Don’t get me wrong.  I place a high value on housework, child care, cleaning and laundry.  Just don’t try to convince me that Betty Friedan was wrong, or that I’m being condescending towards stay-at-home moms if I question why sparkling floors would make them, or anyone feel delirious with joy.  A sense of satisfaction over a job well done – no matter what the job – is a universal emotion.  I get the same feeling from entering data into a database, but if, with two college degrees and decades of experience, I had to sum up my career in terms of this level of satisfaction and elevate the experience to a “vocation,”  I’d be fairly depressed.  Which brings me to your repeated references to Betty Friedan.

References like this one:

      Betty Friedan must turn over in her grave, I think, to see me derive gratification from such menial (and unpaid) labor.

I disagree.  Betty Friedan would applaud you for turning your menial labor into a controversial essay for which you were no doubt handsomely paid by The Washington Post. 

And, Rena, you can thank a feminist for that.

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I know. I know. This is the day General Petraeus presents his report to Congress on the progress of “the surge” and the Iraq War. I could feign surprise. I could mock spineless Dems. I could write post after post about the sad predictability of everything we are going to hear from Washington today. But, why should I when other bloggers are doing a better job of it?

This is what caught my eye this morning – General Motors dressing its male engineers in garbage bag skirts, high heels and fake fingernails in order to give them a sense of what will make women drivers more comfortable in the cars they are designing.

I mean, OK, I get the “fun and games” aspect of play-acting an opposite sex role for what? half a day? And, making men load a vehicle with grocery bags, buckle and unbuckle a child from a car seat, fold up and stow a stroller and find a safe and accessible place to put one’s handbag while driving is all well and good, but aren’t all of these activities common to both sexes? Men don’t generally carry around handbags, but they do carry briefcases and wallets and cell phones and, in the case of Greatest Husband, multiple water bottles, all items in need of stowage and quick access to the driver.

Instead of focusing on the stereotype of women performing domestic chores in heels and short skirts, why not focus on the fact that women are generally shorter than men, have less upper body strength and more restricted reach for grabbing and securing tailgates, and that women’s sight-lines in a vehicle will be very different from a man’s.

Or, how about this? Ask us. Don’t pretend to be us. Just, you know, ask us.

But if you want to play games, here’s one I would be happy to arrange. It takes place in a dark parking lot and you’re being stalked by someone twice your size and weight. If you manage to make it safely to your vehicle and lock its doors, your likelihood of winning is greatly improved, but not necessarily guaranteed.

Skirt and heels optional. Bonus round calls for carrying child on hip.

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Outta My Way, Patriarchy

Which Western feminist icon are you?

You are Angela Davis! You were the THIRD WOMYN IN HISTORY to appear on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. You are a communinist, black power-lovin’ lady who shook up the United States when you refused to lie down quietly to oppression. You WENT TO JAIL! Wow. You kick so much more ass than Foxxy Brown.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

Hey, BlueGal, er, Emma, what say we start a revolution? 

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In fact, some choices are barely choices at all.

After writing about Linda Hirschman’s latest essay last week, my dialogue with commenter Kirsten continued through private email.  In the course of our extended discussion about the choices women make when it comes to work and family, it occurred to me that all this “choice” language is, well, a crock.

“Choice,” after all, connotes some degree of equality between available options.  If I want a piece of fruit, I can choose an apple or a banana.  If I’m weighing two job offers, I can compare wages, benefits, transporation expenses and make an informed choice between the two.  These are choices – not perfectly equal, but close enough.

What irks me about the child-rearing v. work issue is when women buy into the deluded argument that they are exercising a “choice” to opt out of the workforce and stay home with their children.  Really?  I would argue that when one considers the lack of family-friendly employment policies that exist in most professions, the high cost of daycare, an income tax structure that punishes dual-income households and survey after survey that indicate fathers are still not coming close to carrying their weight when it comes to family and household duties, the word “choice” is something of a joke.  Only the wealthiest women, those who can afford to hire sufficient, professional staff, and work flexible hours are the ones in a position to make a real choice about how they balance work and family.

And, what about those mothers for whom the choice – imaginary as it is – doesn’t exist in any form?  Single mothers, widows, divorcees, or those whose families simply cannot get by without the second income or health benefits their jobs provide?  The very same issues (expensive day care, inflexible work days, 2nd or 3rd shift hours, lack of support at home) affect their career choices, their lifetime earnings, their ability to prepare for retirement, to own a home, to provide their children with opportunities of the most basic kind.

The fact is, women carry an unequal burden when it comes to raising children.  Whether we stay at home during our child rearing years, or head back to the workplace, the financial toll over the course of a lifetime is significant.  We can tell ourselves we’re making “choices,” but there’s little equality between the available options.  Yes, of course our children are worth the sacrifices we make for them, but shouldn’t the sacrifices be shared equally by both parents?

The media likes to frame this issue as “the mommy wars.”  I find that categorization disparaging and infuriating.  This is an issue that affects families, and until men and fathers are fully engaged in the discussion, absolutely nothing will change.

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The always thought-provoking Linda Hirschman wrote an op-ed that appeared yesterday in the NYTimes, Off to Work She Should Go.

Here’s one excerpt that stopped me in my tracks:

What has changed in the last decade is that the job of motherhood has ramped up. Mothers today spend more time on child care than women did in 1965, a time when mothers were much less likely to have paying jobs, family scholars report.

I’m not sure how one validates the statement, “Mothers today spend more time on child care than women did in 1965,” but based on my own observations and childhood recollections, the statement rings true. I am constantly taken aback by the amount of time, the level of commitment and involvement put into the lives of their children that I observe among so many mothers I know today. Sometimes, it seems to me, there is no minutiae of their child’s psyche, playtime, school day or even the families of their playmates that is unknown, un-analyzed or left un-deconstructed.

Compared to my own mother’s “go outside and play” attitude, followed by locking the screen door behind us while she spent an uninterrupted hour on the phone with her best friend, today’s mother seems more like her child’s super-hero partner, a constant, hovering presence ready to swoop-in and perform a rescue operation whenever a peep is heard.

Is that a bad thing? The mothers I know are raising wonderful children who will most likely realize their full capabilities as they grow-up and become adults. Isn’t that what we as a society want for all our children?

Of course, the answer to the last question is “yes,” but increasingly, whether or not an individual child reaches his or her full potential is dependent on the larger issue of class. Children born into one class get a full-time mother-advocate to clear their path in the world. Children born into the other class get mothers who have been mandated by law to work long hours at minimum-wage jobs. One class gets well-endowed private schools. The other, under-funded public schools. One class of children gets music lessons, art classes, science labs, travel opportunities. The other class couldn’t tell you the difference between an arpeggio, a gesso or a gerund.

I know these differences have always existed, but never, it seems to me, has the gap been so wide between the “haves” and the “have nots” as they are today. For the “haves,” being able to opt out of the workforce in exchange for what Hirschman refers to as the ramped up job of motherhood, the choice is becoming a birthright of class. (Whether or not this is a true choice is a matter of debate. If it were a true choice, wouldn’t just as many men be opting out of the workforce to become the stay-at-home parent?)

With each well-educated, accomplished career woman who drops out of the workforce, the mothers who remain lose an important, influential voice for family-friendly work policies, for better health benefits for those who utilize our health care system the most (women and children.) We lose role-models, mentors and advocates for higher wages. For the “have nots,” it’s like pressing a face against that screen door. Visible, but left to fend for themselves.

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