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Y'all may have missed the two humongous feminist "controversies" this past week--[Read More]

Comments

L.

Hey, thanks for linking my old post! In it, I said, "Much of the future for what I think of as feminism lies with the men, and in particular the dads. So far, what I`ve seen, both personally and statistically, is heartening. I know more dads who take extended family leaves, and accept equal household roles. The US Census Bureau said the number of children cared for by a stay-at-home dad rose 18% in the last eight years."

In other words, maybe the best way to get more women into the "sphere of influence" is to help some of the men step out of it for a while. I know many dads who would have loved to take extended family leaves, but didn`t feel as if they were at the right points in their career to be able to do it without paying too big a price.

I can agree with Hirshman`s ends, but not her means -- certainly, demonizing the women who "opt out" is not the way to go.

TangoMan

I am indeed very interested in addressing the current stagnation in terms of the numbers of women on the track towards becoming part of the power elite

What you see as stagnation, may in fact be nothing more than a natural limit. An analogous situation may be the stagnation of all men not reaching the heights of power and personal fulfillment. The reasons that all men don't get to the top are varied but if we exclude talent, training, and work ethic, what we see are that personal choices and personal responsibilities have intruded on their career arc, and thus there is a stagnation in effect, therefore only a minor percentage of men can reach the top.

The question that begs to be asked is what is the "natural rate" for men and for women. It's quite likely that these proportions are different so any type of cross-gender analysis is meaningless. What you see as stagnation may in fact be nothing more than an equilibrium centered on the natural rate for women, much like the stagnation for male rise to power has also reached an equilibrium. Not all men can get to the top.

Why do we care about infilitrating a power structure that was created by men for men on male terms?

Prove this assertion. This Marxist claptrap needs to be substantiated rather than regurgitated. If men really did create the power structure to serve their own ends, then there would not have been any advancement for women, for their advancement would have come at the expense of other men. Further, the advancement that women have made wasn't wrestled away from men - there was no revolution which resulted in a cease-fire that brings us to the world of today.

The power structure we see about us has evolved to its present state along an equality-efficiency axis. There is nothing male centered about efficiency and there is nothing female centered about equality but focusing on one value takes directly away from the other value. You can't have efficiency if you strive to create equality, and vice versa. Look at Sweden, where they operate much further to the equality end of the spectrum, and they have instituted a number of coercive measures which would make American feminists swoon. They've paid for these equality measures by lowering their national living standards, having lower levels of economic growth, having higher levels of unemployment, etc.

If feminists want to argue that we should, as a society, move towards more egalitarianism, then there is nothing female centric about such advocacy, just like there is nothing male centric about advancing the argument for greater efficiency. Similarly, there is nothing male centric about wanting a higher standard of living, and there is nothing female centric about wanting to make everyone poorer.

Nicole Black

Hirshman's full of it. And, she does the "movement" no good by ostracizing and pissing off the women whose interests she purports to represent.

It's women like her that make me intensely dislike the so-called "femininst" movement.

People are people and the choices that they make are personal, not political.

As I stated recently in this post from my blog: (http://nylawblog.typepad.com/suigeneris/2006/06/abcs_vargas_dep.html)

In my mind, the vast majority of feminist organizations in recent years have performed a large disservice to feminism and women by failing to recognize that educated women (and men) who change their career track after having children are making personal, not political, decisions. The actions and statements by representatives of these groups in Vargas' case is simply further evidence of that failure and serves only to further alienate the very group of women for whom they presume to speak.

As I see it, it's not a feminist issue. It's a societal issue. Professional couples are taking a hard look at their lives and, by virtue of their advanced educational levels, are in a position to make choices that will allow them to improve the quality of their family's life. In other words, women and men with advanced degrees have more choices available to them as a result of their education and work experience.

Many families hit a wall after having their second child and find that changes have to be made in order to accommodate the needs of their growing family. In my experience, the changes come in many forms and for many reasons.

Some families move closer to relatives in order to take advantage of free child care. Others take a long hard look at their finances and earning potentials, with the end result being that one partner changes his/her career path. Some families move out of big cities into less populated areas in order to take advantage of the lower cost of living and the slower pace of life. Still others find that one parent desires to stay at home with the children, for any number of reasons.

Of course one factor in the decision is the degree to which each parent's employer accomodates child-related issues. But it's certainly not the only factor, nor is it necessarily the deciding factor, that families consider when making changes in their lives in order to meet the needs of their growing family.

*****

It's personal. And, it's none of Hirshman's business. She's an ass.

The Happy Feminist

Tango Man,

In light of the strong cultural expectations that women are to make the bulk of the career sacrifices for the sake of their families, I have no particular reason to believe that we have simply reached the "natural" rate of female success. But even if that were true, doesn't make it a good thing.

You asked me about this assertion, which you characterize as "Marxist": Why do we care about infilitrating a power structure that was created by men for men on male terms?

First of all, I am not necessarily making this assertion. I am framing one criticism I have seen of Hirshman's article and then responding to it. But, that having been said, however you want to term it, I think it is impossible to deny that members of the male half of the human race built must of the structures of power that exist, and they didn't particularly do so with a view towards sharing power with women.

The Happy Feminist

Nicole,

I think to the extent that Hirshman is pissing on people's decisions, that's not right. I read in her article though a pretty clear acknowledgment that women are under immense pressure to make certain decisions (i.e. sacrificing career) that men are not under the same pressure to make. That doesn't sound to me exactly like blaming the women involved-- and the issue of blame is not the point, or at least it shouldn't be.

I agree that people freely and intelligently make personal decisions -- but they do so based on the options available to them. So, in making a decision to improve the quality of life of one's family, why is it usually the wife and not the husband who takes a massive career hit? Well, because it's awfully hard to withstand the combination of (a) a workplace that isn't very accommodating plus (b) the expectation of most men and most people that mom is the primary caregiver. I know you have argued in the past that there is a biological component to this (such as the rigors of pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as maternal attachment) but I don't think that tells the whole story.

For example, I have made a free and voluntary choice to remain childless and focus on career. But I made that free and voluntary choice based in large part on the same societal factors outlined above. Instead of choosing to become a second-class citizen in the conventional power track, I have chosen to become a second-class citizen in terms of my family life. Is this a "free and voluntary" choice? Sort of -- but I have had to make that choice within the limits available to me.

Whether this is any of Hirshman's business or not depends on whether we care about equality of representation in certain spheres like law partnerships etc. If we do, she is dead on correct that we need to think about what practical steps we can take to make it easier and more likely that women who are inclined to do so will be able to run all the way to the top. If we don't care, then let's forget Hirshman and say everything's a-ok.

Nicole Black

"So, in making a decision to improve the quality of life of one's family, why is it usually the wife and not the husband who takes a massive career hit?"

HF--respectfully, you underestimate the power of biology and, most importantly, hormones. And, most feminists would seemingly presume to ignore those factors when arguing about whether other women made the "right" choice about their careers.

I can't emphasize to you enough how strong the biological urge is to care for your kids--and women, like it or not, have a stronger drive in that arena than men--especially with young infants.

The thought of someone else raising my kids for me makes me sick to my stomach. I didn;'t mind it when my husband was the primary care-giver for my first daughter during her first year, but I missed out on a lot and I now regret that.

*I* want to care for them during the oh-so-fleeting days of their youth. They grow too damn fast. And, it didn't hurt that when I had my first child, I was ready for a career change of some sort. And so, change, I did.

And, I can only tell you that simple hugs and the moments of happiness with them that occur all the time, every day, mean far more to me, and make me far happier, than winning a motion for sumary judgment ever did.

And, my hiatus from the law was temporary and short. It was a blip in the overall scheme of things.

Now, moving along-- feminists presume to ignore the demands of children and families. Although, Hirshman implicitly acknowledges this when she recommends having only one kid. Why do you think she makes that recommendation? Because, contrary to the crap that I grew up believing, as a result of having being spoon fed by the Feminist movement, you can't have it all, if your definition of "all" includes a family--especially if you have more than one kid, unless you're willing to farm out the care of your children--from sun up to sun down--to someone else.

And, I'm not willing (nor, apparently, are hordes of other educated women) to forgo a family for my career--a career that spans, at most, 35 or so years of my life. My family and kids will, hopefully, be around for all of my life. My career won't. I see this all too often in the lives of older men that I know who were once "important" doctors and lawyers, who are now retired. They're old, ailing, and wandering somewhat aimlessly now that they've lost a huge part of their former identity. It's really quite sad.

Along those lines, if you choose a career over family, good luck finding anyone to care about or for you when you're old and ailing. Your parents will be dead, your siblings will be having their own problems (and possibly problems with their own families) to deal with, and your significant other, if you still have one, will likely be ailing as well. Who will be around to care for you--drive you around, sort through your mail, shop for you and feed you, change your diaper-- in your later years? Ms. Hirshman or the Feminists? I highly doubt it.


The Happy Feminist

OK, let's assume there is a strong biological basis for women with children to stay home. Does that mean we should be sanguine about the small number of women in Congress or in big business, etc? Is your position that feminism has achieved about all it can achieve at this point? If not, how can we change it? Or do we accept that there will only be a small number of powerful women in the world?

I agree with you wholeheartedly that careerism isn't the be-all and end-all of a happy life. I don't see what that has to do with anything.

As for my old age, I am perfectly aware that I will likely die alone with no family whatsoever. I have no siblings, no cousins, no children, and a husband who will very likely predecease me. I made my peace with that fact that I would be alone in old age when I was 20 and I still feel at peace with it fifteen years later. I know myself well enough to know that this is not a choice I will regret. It isn't my ideal choice, however, but it is a choice I made freely and voluntarily within the constraints that I face. That doesn't make me better than you, nor am I telling you or anyone else that you should have made my choice. As Hirshman herself acknowledges, most women (and most people in fact) are not willing to give up marriage and parenthood.

TangoMan

(a) a workplace that isn't very accommodating

It's not in the mission statement of the workplace to change policies so that a feminist agenda can be advanced. If a policy change that favors the feminist agenda also happens to provide a benefit to the enterprise, then it makes sense to make the "accomodation" but if the accomodation is a drag on performance or specific metrics then there is no need for the "accomodation."

(b) the expectation of most men and most people that mom is the primary caregiver.

It doesn't matter what the expectation of most men is, what matters is the expectation of the women's husband. If his expectations are like most men then she shouldn't marry him, or she should change his expectation, and leave it to the wives of most men to change their expectations, or to live with those expectations.

whether we care about equality of representation in certain spheres like law partnerships etc

I think the answer of most women is that they clearly don't care about insuring equal outcomes, for they've voted with their own choices. What matters most, I would venture, is that these women want the opportunity to make the choice, which is indeed something that they've had. This bifurcation of priorities also likely underlies why many women reject the label of feminist, for they don't find the notion of engineering society to a state of equal outcomes to be realistic.

we need to think about what practical steps we can take to make it easier and more likely that women who are inclined to do so will be able to run all the way to the top.

What precisely are these "practical steps"? More quotas? More intrusive regulations forcing companies to do things against their own economic and philosophical interests? Basically, we're looking at coercion of innocent parties in order to foster an agenda of feminist change. Or do you have some suggestions about these "practical steps" that I'm completely overlooking and thus resulting in a mischaracterization of what is meant by "practical steps"?

But even if that were true, doesn't make it a good thing.

Why not? If happiness is defined as doing what is best for you, or those you care about, then making personal choices which deliver a net positive in terms of happiness is a good thing. The key here is the term net positive, which implies that there is a negative component thrown into the mix. Do feminists define "a good thing" as a situation in which there is no negative at all?

deny that members of the male half of the human race built must of the structures of power that exist, and they didn't particularly do so with a view towards sharing power with women.

That's most certainly true, just as is the statement that men didn't care about sharing power with Martians. Both are irrelevant. A power structure is sustained if it provides rewards. Hoarding of power for one gender at the expense of efficiency is not an optimum way of achieving rewards. What you're seeing is a correlation, but not a causitive model. Economic rewards find their greatest influence within a system that rewards efficiency, rather than equality. There are sacrifices associated with achieving these economic rewards. Men's home lives position them better to endure the sacrifices.

The Happy Feminist

It's not in the mission statement of the workplace to change policies so that a feminist agenda can be advanced.

Agreed and irrelevant.

Look, I know you're obsessed with quotas (which by the way don't exist but that's an argument for another day) and anti-discrimination legislation. THAT HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THIS ARTICLE.

If you had read the prior post and the article, you would know what practical steps Hirsman is advocating. In fact, I outlined them in part 3 of my prior post.

The Happy Feminist

But even if that were true, doesn't make it a good thing.

In other words, even if biological imperatives keep women from pursuing power doesn't make it a GOOD thing that there is a dearth of women in power.

And, god, Tango Man, I'm about to slit my wrists here but no one is talking about so-called social engineering or forcing anything on anyone. What is being discused in the Hirshman article is how to equip young women in a more practical way to make choices that will bring them more traditional power. "IF you want to be a Fortune 500 CEO, this is what you need to do." not "You can be whatever you want to be."

What matters most, I would venture, is that these women want the opportunity to make the choice, which is indeed something that they've had.

Except that the choice is much more limited for women than for men because there is an overwhelming expectation on the part of BOTH women and men that women care for the kids.

It doesn't matter what the expectation of most men is, what matters is the expectation of the women's husband. If his expectations are like most men then she shouldn't marry him, or she should change his expectation, and leave it to the wives of most men to change their expectations, or to live with those expectations.

Oh, easy-peasy! I'm thrilled to hear it's so simple. (In reality if MOST men have a particular expectation, that is going to limit dating pool and also make it harder to convince any given man to live in a way that is different than the status quo. Basically, it is difficult if not close to impossible to find a husband who will take the career hits so that you can be a hard charger. I agree that marrying "down" is one possible option -- but we need to start advising girls of the advantages of doing so.)

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