I've always thought highly of Elena Kagan, and I agree especially with her final sentence in the quote you supplied, i.e., "power unfortunately has become disconnected from the goal of improving our society."

Don't you sense power is assailed in popular culture as undesirable and unattractive, not just as it pertains to women, but across the board (I would like to see the numbers for men. I'll bet they are down also.) Survey any Hollywood flick, for instance, and the powerful are evil, ugly, greedy, and shallow. The weak are portrayed as good, usually physically attractive, morally superior, and sensible. It's not enough anymore to merely root for the underdog. Culture tells us to vilify the powerful.

Lindsay Beyerstein

Well said, HF.


It is a very interesting question why greater strides havent been made. It seems a mixture of more time needed as well as desire to do it. Why is the question.

I look forward to other's responses.


I think this finding is due to a nexus of factors. For instance, I think this finding is, in part, related to another finding in that study -mentioned on the FLP site - that 33% of male law students thought they were in the top 20% of the class, but only 15% of female law students. To me, that statistic shows the classic underestimation women do of their own worth and smarts - which then leads to women limiting by choice or fear of failure, what goals they strive for. I heard this sentiment time and again expressed by my fellow female students (and, more rarely, by men; women aren't the only ones who don't try b/c that way there's an easy excuse for not suceeding). I also think that in addition to the conflation of power & "evil" in current culture, another factor could be the assumption that to obtain that kind of powerful position, you have to make a lot of sacrifices (long hours, travel away from family, etc) and women who also want to have families figure they can't have both, or that they'll put off the pursuit of power until later in life when there is less conflict with other personal goals. I agree that power is worth having, both for one's self worth, and for the positive things one can accomplish. But its also a question of balancing the many different goals, personal, professional, and otherwise.


To me this is just a continuation of the discussion that Will and I were having in the other post. Will, I'm not sure why you are asking "why" since in the last post you were quite clear that women were just "smarter" to "choose" family over careers.*

Let's have a non-scientific survey. Every women that I knew in college and grad school thought about how they would deal with the conflicts between work and family. No man I knew I did. I'm a good bit older than the rest of you (55) but I'm guessing that this hasn't changed. So how does my experience jive with the experiences of the rest of you?

* These aren't scare quotes. I'm just using quotes in lieu of being able to use markup. HF, you can take this a subtle (imagine the word subtle in italics) hint.



Perhaps I am just not seeing the dramatic difference between what you and I think. Or perhaps I am not being clear about what I am saying.

The societal pressures and expectations for the mother to stay home are still far greater than they are for the man. You see the same thing in custody cases. The assumption is still that the woman will be staying home/getting custody.

These pressures are significantly less now than they once were.

However, it is no longer shocking for the man to be the person in the couple to stay at home or to get custody. As it becomes more common, it becomes more acceptable.

I believe that women have done a better job realizing that the sacrifices that you have to make in a big law firm are not worth it.

You asked about whether men thought about conflicts between work and family. I can say that virtually every single person in my 12 lawyer firm thinks about those conflicts. That is why we do not work in a big law firm. We want to have lunch with our children. We want to take them to soccer games/swim meets, baseball practice.

When you go to a big law firm, you know that your life is not your own.


will, you missed my emphasis. I wasn't talking about after the fact consideration -- what I was saying what that women think and plan and worry about this **before** we have careers, husbands, children and that men do not. Having that as part of your thought process has a significant effect on the decisions that get made. And if people know even before they start a career that there are going to be inherent conflicts in whatever decision they make, they are going to start out not planning on being in a "powerful position" because all that will do is to exacerbate what they know will be an already difficult choice. So women are much more likely to start out their careers already planning on a lower level of achievement than most men.


I did miss your emphasis. I agree with you.

I suspect and hope that as more girls see their mothers/aunts, etc as lawyers/judges/doctors/CEO's that they view their options the same way boys do.

On a similar vein, my father remarried and had a child with his second wife at the same time I had my frst child. I assumed that I would change diapers/get up in the night/ feed my daughter, etc. My father never even considered that he was supposed to do those things. The thought had not even occurred to him. It never crossed his radar that men might change diapers. It shocked me that he had never even thought about it because he was an ob/gyn very involved improving a number of issues for females. It was just that particular one (changing diapers) had never occurred to him.


I value power a lot. It is important to me to have personal influence over people, and to know that whoever I call will call me back.

I do NOT care about having a "professionally powerful" position. In fact, I left mine to do something I liked more, and I'm really happy to have done so. I took a major financial hit but my time is my own, and I have room in my life for people I love. Room to say "yes" to things that come up. Room to set my own priorities. This feels like a great resurgence of personal autonomy -- and a chance to have more of an impact on others.

I was afraid that when I left my professionally powerful position I would lose the personal power I have -- in other words the standing I have in my community, the contacts I have, the way I am listened to, my leadership capital. This does not seem to have happened. I began to realize that my personal power is my own, not the product of the title on the door of my office.

I think it's dangerous for men AND women to equate power -- that is, the ability to lead, to speak truth, to be influential, to affect the world -- with particular professional positions. That is a belief that limits people like me. In your eyes, am I no longer powerful now that I am not a lawyer? What kind of power is that?


I never wanted to be in a powerful position. Never. I have seen many women managers sacrifice their families to do their job. I always wanted my family to come first. Since women are better nurturers than men, it is more common for the woman to not only trade in "power" for family but do it because she wants to. I have met only a handful of women who actually like their jobs and would rather be there than at home with her children.

My husband works with a very educated Indian woman in a high paying job. Whenever she see's my husband she asks about me and my son. She always tells him how lucky I am that I am able to stay home with my baby and how she wishes she could. Every day she takes her 2 yr old to daycare. Everyday he cries as she drives him there. I have a feeling that she is not to proud of her powerful position as she see's her toddlers tears and unwraps his clinging arms from her neck.

Most women want to be home with their children no matter what feminists say. The NYT just did an article about how women want home and children above career and high degrees.

I am reading one of Dr. Laura's books and realize how feminists go against biology time and again. I would recommend her books to feminists who want to understand why traditionalists believe what they believe. It is more than just society "pressuring" us. It is programmed into our biology.

Just a side note. The women who are usually the ones with power are (excuse my language) bitches. my boss was a very powerful woman in our hospital. When I called in to stay home with my sick infant she informed me that I needed to honor my position and come in anyway. That was the beginnning of the end of my nursing career at that hospital. She probably didn't think that leaving a sick child was that big of a deal. She had left her only son with various daycare providers for 9 yrs and she was on her second husband. She also is pursuing a masters degree in management and working full time managing 3 departments. Her son is drugged with ritalin because his teachers say he is too hyperactive. He probably just needs his mother.

Her daycare provider, who I know, actually told me that I was doing the best thing by staying home with my son. Ironic.

I don't see being powerful in society as very important if it means sacrificing my children and family. I am only going to get one shot at raising my kids. If I screw it up what have I really accomplished?

You feminists really admire Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know that with all her political success and power that she sucked at being a mom. Her children grew up resenting her because they feel that she deserted them for perfect strangers. Her son was really messed up. I just learned about that on a PBS documentary about her. At the end of her life she really regretted that she had failed as a mother.

Anyway, I highly recommend Dr. Laura Schlessinger's books. For those of you who hate Christians you don't have to worry. She is a concervative Jew.

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