Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clickety Click! Elana Kagan Is Just A Chick.

That refers to the famous click moment a woman is supposed to have had to become a feminist. You know, the moment when the walls shift, the corners of the room open and you suddenly realize that you are not safe or fairly treated and that this has little to do with yourself but loads to do with those two things that stick out of your chest and so on.

Well, I didn't have one of those clicks today, what with having been born with my brain already clicking. But I could have had it, I swear. Wanna see why?

First I was reading about the new study on the effects of daycare on children. The study has many, many findings and I shall write more about later. But I happened to read this take on it first:

Since its inception in 1991, the largest and longest-running study of American child-care has generated plenty of controversial — and to many working parents, infuriating — conclusions about the effects on kids of early care outside the family.

The latest findings of the federally funded Early Child Care Research Network are certain to be no exception. At age 15, according to a study being published Friday in the journal Child Development, those who spent long hours in day care as preschoolers are more impulsive and more prone to take risks than are teens whose toddler years were spent largely at home.

And it goes on like that. Notice how "working parents" are supposed to find this infuriating? That is just plain silly. It's mothers in paid employment who are supposed to feel guilty. Hence the quick way this writeup passes by the findings that children in high quality day care appear to enjoy a fairly strong academic edge over the other children in the study.

So what did I read next? The piece about Elana Kagan and her single status. Here we go:

For the second time in a year, a childless, unmarried woman in her 50s has been nominated to be a justice on the Supreme Court and the critics have come out swinging. This time Elena Kagan, the former dean of Harvard's law school, who is now solicitor general, has been described as having sacrificed a home and personal life in her quest for a brilliant legal career.


It all sounds eerily like when Sonia Sotomayor, who is 55 and single after a brief marriage when she was younger, was appointed to the Supreme Court last August and had to deflect suggestions that she treated colleagues and close friends like an extended family because she had no children of her own. Deborah Rhode, director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School, said such stereotypes are unfair but common given society's double standard when it comes to single women and work.

She said she got a phone call last week from a reporter questioning whether Ms. Kagan was equipped to rule on workplace issues considering that she had never had children. "I didn't think you needed to actually be a mother to appreciate the challenges facing working mothers," Ms. Rhode said she told the reporter. "I do think it is a step back if we start to penalize women for not making the conventional choice."

Notice anything weird here? Is your head all dizzy? Do you need to go lie down or kick the garage door? If not, you haven't had the click yet. Let's see if I can make it appear.

First, the New York Times piece is under FASHION. Talk about trivializing women's lives. The questions posed about a candidate for the SCOTUS are written up under F***ING FASHION. Just because she is a woman.

Second, think about the reporter who asked whether Kagan was equipped to rule on workplace issues because she had not had children! What an idiot that person is. If you need to be a mother to rule on those issues, the only Justice with the proper qualifications is Justice Ruth Ginsburg. So clear out the rest of the dreck right now.

Third, note how both of these stories are really about the proper roles for women. Men don't enter the picture at all. They don't have to know anything about children and nobody cares if they are childless or not. Neither does being childless or allocating child care to their wives make them unequipped to rule on workplace issues. What utter rubbish this all is.

Fourth, pay attention to the Womanly Catch-22:

Notice how day care is given as a bad thing in the first article I quoted. What might a woman (any woman, not necessarily Elana Kagan) who believes that but also wants to have a career decide to do, hm? She might choose not to have children.

But what are the consequences of that? She now comes across as insufficiently understanding of the lives of women who do have children.

On the other hand, had she decided to try to combine a career with children she would now be labeled as a bad mother. Can bad mothers become Supreme Court Justices? I'm pretty sure bad fathers can.

What if she had stayed at home first and then launched her legal career? Would that have worked? How many years can you stay out of the legal competition before you will be seen as less competent, less experienced, less everything?

It is a humongous Catch-22, my dears. Humongous. And like the icebergs, most of it is under the surface of our minds, deep in the conventional routines. But what it amounts to is this: Chicks. Cannot. Win. when it comes to the choices between being a mother and not being a mother. Just cannot be done. Whether you are childless, in the labor force with children or at home with children, there's always something wrong with you. THIS is where the click should come.

Fifth, and finally, have a look at this bit in the NYT frivolous fashion piece:

About six months ago, Ms. Franke said, a group of female graduates of Columbia's law school gathered to discuss their law careers. One of the questions posed by the older lawyers was whether younger lawyers saw themselves as feminists. Many said they did not. "The older women were aghast," Ms. Franke said.

The problem, the younger lawyers explained, was that their older peers told them they could easily balance the demands of work and family, but didn't explain how. "They think there is a glass ceiling," Ms. Franke said of some of the young students. "They see it as, 'I have to make a choice not to have a traditional family.' " For those who remain single, though, "the reason should not have to be explained."

I must have missed the feminist meeting or book or whatever where we were told that balancing the demands of work and family, all on the nose tip of one woman, is easily done.

More seriously, I remember reading about the odd oblivion that attaches itself to anything having to do with feminism or even with famous women. They disappear down the Memory Hole in no time at all, and each subsequent generation must discover everything all again. These comments sound a bit like that to me, assuming that they are true. They also make me wonder why the younger lawyers would blame older feminists and not the society. It is, after all, not the older feminists who craft these societal rules or who enforce them.

And I bet you any sum you wish that young male lawyers are not agonizing over the question whether they can have a traditional family or not. That's where the problem lies, you know. We have changed the gender roles in the public sector to some extent (though not enough, especially on lower income levels), but we have had little effect on making the gender roles at home more equal. Hence the Catch-22 and the inane assumption that every woman must try to solve it all on her own. And if she can't? Well, then someone forgot to tell her the trick! Except that you cannot solve a Catch-22 that way.