Women CAN’T have it all. Neither Can Men.

June 28, 2012 § 12 Comments

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first female director of policy at the State Department, wrote a very powerful piece in The Atlantic about the pain and conflict experienced by women who were raised being promised the falsehood that “You can have it all!  Career!  Family!  Balance!  Health!  And if you don’t, we’ll be sooooo disappointed in you!”  In “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,”  she gratefully acknowledges the incredible sacrifices of her forebears, which made her amazing career a possibility.  She’s also relieved, however, to hear women of my generation and younger asking thoughtful questions about that platitude.

She writes of the reactions ranging from disappointed to condescending when she decided to go back to her work at Princeton instead of staying on with Secretary Clinton.  She points out how “leaving to spend time with my family” was, in Washington, D.C. a euphemism for “I’ve been fired,” and how  incredibly hypocritical that is in a country claiming to support “family values.”  Yet, she still believes “that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can too). I believe that we can ‘have it all at the same time.’ But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”  We just need equal representation in government.  No kidding.

I’ve dealt with condescension and misplaced disappointment of my peers and elders.  People told me that if I became a teacher, I’d be wasting my education. That was patently absurd, and I became a teacher.  There was pressure to continue my career once I had children.  I saw that for the unhappiness it would cause me, and stayed home with my children.  I was lucky I had a choice, and continue to be grateful for that on a daily basis.

If I wanted a job/career, I think could make the necessary adjustments to the family life to make it work.  If I needed a job, I could (and would have to) make it work.  In no way do I intend to denigrate or chastise those who are voluntarily balancing families and careers.  Nor do I mean to disregard the fact that many people are in desperate economic situations, struggling in a way I never have had to in order to keep their families fed, clothed, sheltered, and safe.

I speak only for myself, and to the fact that for me, the hours per day it took to be the history teacher I wanted to be plus the hours per day it took to be the parent I wanted to be simply added up to more than 24.  And the last time I checked, there were still only twenty-four hours in a day.  Until some smart guy comes up with a way to increase the number of hours in a day, or decrease the amount of sleep our bodies really need, there is STILL only so much that can be done in a day.

So here is where I fully expect to infuriate feminists and liberals all around the world.  (Or at least the couple of dozens who read my stuff.)  Maybe the question, “Who will raise the kids?” was a good one.  Maybe, “Who will do what needs doing around the house?” was valid.  It’s all about how they were asked.  Asking questions like these as a means to shut down a woman’s dreams – as in, “There is no way in hell I’m going to allow my wife to work!” – is unacceptable.  Asking them as a means to help a woman fulfill her dreams – as in, “How can I support you and help this happen?” – is quite another story.

Professor Slaughter quoted Mary Matalin, who wrote: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”  Take it a step further, and add men to that sentence.  Ideally, in order for one spouse to have true flexibility in and control over his or her scheduling, the other spouse would have it, too.  Because for every mother I know who needs flexibility to support her career, I know a father who needs flexibility to support his family life.  For every mother who needs control over her schedule so she can present a case in court or put on a hard hat and climb into the sewers, there is a father who needs flexibility to leave work early to coach his daughter’s softball team or make dinner while the mother is making closing arguments.

Frankly, I never believed ANY woman or man could (or should!) have it all.  The road to gender equality and personal fulfillment, though, might be much less bumpy if we drew softer lines around what is expected of both men AND women when it comes to their careers and families.


A Silly Aversion, A Serious Question

June 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

Okay, okay, enough already with the vagina.  Even I, with my newfound comfort level around the correct for term lady-parts, am getting a little tired of the jokes.  (Though, I must say, my favorite from this list of “Vagina” alternatives has GOT to be “God’s Stab Wound.”)

Something I hinted at in my previous post, “Vaginas to the Left, Vaginas to the Right,” was that I am borderline compulsive about seeking out opposing viewpoints from which I can learn, and from which a real discussion can be cultivated.  In my satirical exploration of why Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown’s comment sent her colleagues into orbit, I also joked that perhaps Republicans were hurt by the implication that they were being compared to date rapists.

Well, heidi-ho, it appears I’ve hit on something.  I searched the interwebs for a Republican response to Rep. Brown’s comments, and had a very hard time finding anything in my favorite news outlets, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and CNN.  The only thing I could find were discussions of whether or not the word “Vagina” was uttered improperly in the State House’s debate.  Truly, that irritated me, but that’s a rant for another time.

In desperation, I turned to Fox News.  Not surprisingly, they focused a little more seriously on Republican response.  I still found a heavy emphasis on the decorum aspect of Rep. Brown’s parting shot.   “‘I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far,’ Republican Floor Leader Jim Stamas told The Detroit News. He scratched Brown and Byrum from the list of speakers.”  I also, though, found this: “Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said Brown’s comments were “disgraceful” and her “no means no” remark seemed to inappropriately compare the anti-abortion bill to rape. The House approved the bill on a 70-39 vote.” (Both of these quotes came from an article I link to here.)

What do you know about that?  Here, my friends, is where this embarrassing episode can cease being fodder for late-night comics and turn into a real discussion about a very simple question I have.  This was, obviously, a bill about limiting access to abortion, among other things.  From this point forward, I will frame the debate, not in Democratic/Republican terms, but in Pro-Choice/Pro-Life terms.  I know Pro-Life Democrats and Pro-Choice Republicans, so leaving political party affiliation out of this seems fair to me.

If we take the highest road, giving the leadership who censured Rep. Brown the greatest amount of credit, I can almost buy that the implying support for the bill was comparable to date rape was, indeed, disrespectful and an affront to decorous behavior.  Here is my question, though.

Would that same leadership have penalized a Pro-Life member of the House for implying opposition to the bill was comparable to murdering babies?

If the answer to that is “No,” I’d like to ask a follow-up question.

When did being compared to murderers become more decorous than being compared to date rapists?

Vaginas to the Left, Vaginas to the Right.

June 15, 2012 § 13 Comments

My friend, Mitch, knows how to make a boy cry. So, apparently, does Lisa Brown.

Here’s one of the things I’m good at.  Seeing the other side.  I do it in many of my pieces about women’s rights…especially when it comes to advocating legal and safe abortions.  I’m going to try it again, here.  This is me, playing devil’s advocate, tongue-in-cheek style.

Let’s just asssseeewwwwwwwme that the censure of Michigan State Lawmaker, Lisa Brown, was NOT a result of her having used the dreaded (correct) term, “Vagina”  “Hoo-hah.”  Let’s asssseeewwwwwwwme that the male Republican leadership was not simply offended by the use of the word, “Vagina,”  Hoo-hah when they said she was barred from speaking because she violated “decorum” rules of the Michigan State House.  Let’s asssseeewwwwwwwme that the reason Rep. Brown’s challenge, “…Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina hoo-hah, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'” “…was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company…” wasn’t the fact that she used the (correct) term, “Vagina” Hoo-hah.

No, nooooooo.  Let’s give the Republican leadership of the Michigan State House a little more credit, shall we???  I mean, what if what Rep. Mike Callton (R – Nashville) found so offensive was the implication that the men in the House were interested in Rep. Brown’s “Vagina”  Hoo-hah?  That’s a real possibility, here, right?  I mean, how on God’s Green Earth could any self-respecting, male, conservative, Republican be actually interested in her “Vagina” Hoo-hah?  She’s JEWISH, after all!  Scandalous!!!

Oh, pardon?  You don’t think they banned her from speaking because she publicly rebuffed (HA!  Get it?  Re-BUFFED?) her male collegues’ lascivious advances?Hmmmm.  Why else would they be offended?

Oooo!  Oooo!  I know!!!  They were offended because when she said, “…’no’ means ‘no,'” she was implying that they kept asking her for sex, and she kept saying “No,” and that they couldn’t take “No” for an answer.  That almost implies they might force themselves upon poor helpless Rep. Brown.  And they would NEVER do that!!!  THAT’s what Rep. Callton doesn’t “…even want to say…in front of women!”  They are so ashamed of their gender’s history in this area, they could never mention it in mixed company without being reduced to a withering puddle of remorse!  Right?  No?  No…that’s probably not it…

Wait!  I’ve got it!  The offensive thing is that she doesn’t realize that those trying to legislate abortion based on religion are really just trying to save precious LIVES! What about the babies/fetuses???  How can Rep. Brown lose sight of that?  How offensive to decorum that she’s taken the eye off the prize of birthing babies in favor of her own health considerations and religious beliefs!  How dare she imply that by outlawing ANY abortions after 20 weeks, the State House would be violating her religous beliefs, and her right to consider and made decisions with her own doctor?  And putting the health of  women at risk?  And used the word VAGINA Hoo-hah in the process???

Well.  Maybe I should re-think this whole “devil’s advocate” role I thought I had mastered.  Doesn’t seem to be working for those of you with synapses that actually fire and connect.

Full disclosure, folks.  I, too, cringe a little when I hear the word, “Vagina.” Especially if it is spoken by one of my parents.  I don’t know why, except perhaps that it is something I consider so PRIVATE that it almost feels like a violation when anyone other than my doctors (in medical context) say it.  “Vagina” (and also, “Panties” – WTF?) are words that make me want to put my fingers in my ears and say “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-” until I predict it’s over.   Yes, I own my own silliness and immaturity in this area – I’m human, and everyone has their own personal triggers that make them cringe.  My sister has the same trigger, which maybe implies my parents used the word a little too liberally when potty training us.  Who knows? Who cares?

In my constant quest for self-improvement, though, I will launch an effort to combat this little demon of mine, and to inure those poor men, who’s sensibilities were so callously stomped upon by Rep. Brown by mentioning a part of her anatomy correctly.  Join me!  One and all!  For my part, I will now go around singing proudly, and at the top of my lungs, “VA-GIIIIIIIIIIIII-NAAAAAAAAA” to the tune of “Volare” whenever the mood strikes me (as brilliantly suggested by a fb friend.)   Who’s in?

In conclusion, I would like to THANK the Michigan GOP.  Yes, you heard me right. THANK them.  Whereas I had accepted my little quirky trigger with relative equanimity, I now realize that discomfort with the word, “Vagina” can lead to something much more dangerous – namely, the silencing of women in our government.

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