June
24th 2009
Do you like riding on the passenger side?

Posted under: Gender, jobs, women's history

54convertiblelightblueWe’re road trippin’–and with respect to Jeff Tweedy (“Hey wake up–your eyes aren’t open wide/For the last couple of miles you’ve been swervin’ from side to side“) this is just a quick post to let  you know that the great American midwest is amazingly lush and green compared to our High Plains Desert, and we even enjoy the humidity, too!

I had an interesting conversation over lunch today with a friend who’s a generation older than me–a classic Second Waver, who commented that it’s only women around my age (40) who have really benefited from Second Wave activism and reforms with respect to the working world.  She thinks that women who are even just 10 years younger are much more willing to mommy-track or otherwise not prioritize their careers.  I’ve noticed anecdotally too that there are more women in their mid-30s to mid-40s whose careers are in the driver’s seat in a partnership or marriage.

But, perhaps it’s far too early to say what’s going on with women in their late 20s or early 30s?  Discuss!  “You’re gonna make me spill my beer/if you don’t learn how to steer. . . . I don’t like ridin’ on the passenger side.”

35 Comments »

35 Responses to “Do you like riding on the passenger side?”

  1. Anastasia on 24 Jun 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    I can’t say I like my options here. I’m not exactly mommy-tracked, at least not in my opinion, because I’m still in grad school. It’s true, I turned down a t-t job so my husband could go to grad school. But he turned down grad school admissions ten years ago in order for me to go to a better grad program. We take turns. So I can’t say that either one of us is clearly in the driver’s seat. Maybe we’re not in a passenger car. We’re on…public transportation. We’ll get off and transfer when we need to so we can get where we’re going together.

    and that’s how I experience my generation (I’m 31). We would rather redefine expectations than presume that someone has to be in the driver’s seat and the other in a support role.

  2. squadratomagico on 24 Jun 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    Hm. I’ll be interested to see the other responses to this. It rings true to me based on anecdotal observations, but others may have much direct info. about this.

    All I can say is: I would never have chosen not to work — it just wasn’t something I considered. (Of course, now that I’ve been doing it for 13 years, I’d love to retire… )

  3. moria on 24 Jun 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    Hi, presumed heterosexuality. How you been?

    I like what Anastasia says about public transport. Hard to say what the feminist option for organizing career choices is from a queer perspective within a queer partnership, but I like to believe it’s taking the subway instead of driving a car, however much more complicated that might make things. It’s better for both community and environment in the long run, and less expensive! Stretching that metaphor is probably inadvisable, but as far as I can tell, something along those lines is what I and the rest of my twentysomething all-female grad cohort are trying to do.

    I also can’t imagine not choosing a career – but “work,” in squadrato’s formulation, seems to me a much more vexed category than is implied in the (legit) usage she’s selected in her comment. The so-called mommy-track is labor, after all – whatever happened to the Marxist-feminist line on that? Can we have it back? Mommy Marxists, where are you?

  4. Yancy on 24 Jun 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Really interesting question. As a 30 yr old who works and parents, I wonder if the difference is that my generation (sub-generation?) sees how impossible the “Superwoman” myth is, but hasn’t figured out what the next model of modern womanhood should be? (sorry if that sounds hokey!) What I mean is, it’s clearly too hard to “have it all” if that means working 40+ hours a week, keeping up with our professional/academic fields, coming home to the second shift, baking cupcakes for school parties, keeping our marriage/partnership “sparks” alive, etc. Something has to give. And while I think there are some women for whom child-care is what gives, and they elect not to have children, my sense is that many younger women want to have kids and, well, having ‘em can only be put on hold for so long. Whereas we might (?) be under the impression that one can always come back to a career…whether that’s true or not.

    On a mostly related note–I do wonder why so many women of my age group are reluctant to call themselves feminist or to identify with the feminist movement(s). Granted, I am saying that based on my own wholly informal polls of my friends, so take it with a grain of salt. But, still–how can you be a woman and NOT be a feminist? Baffling.

  5. ej on 24 Jun 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    I wonder if part of the equation might be timing. I spent 7 years in a grad program and 7 more in a t/t job when I met my husband and contemplated starting a family. Giving up that time I invested in my career, either to stay home with kids or to follow him to a t/t job after he completed his PhD was not an option, but who’s to say things wouldn’t have looked different to me 15 years ago?

    So I haven’t given up the career or the kids, and I’d like to think I keep the spark in the relationship alive. I am, however, more than happy to bring store bought cupcakes to a PTA function.

  6. Liz2 on 24 Jun 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    Part of what I understand Historiann to be saying is that women are more likely to be “in control” (although I’m not exactly sure that is the right phrase) of where/how a partnership is located (and yes – this is very heterosexually assumptive). For example, my spouse has followed me to every job I’ve had. I have left one job when it was clear that nothing was going to be found for him, but we continued to pursue jobs with me first and him second – with the goal that we’d stop once we were both happy – and we are. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a mom and don’t share in taking care of my child. We share the responsibilities of baking cupcakes in a way that I see in VERY few relationships. And yes, I’m 39.

  7. Historiann on 24 Jun 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    Liz2–no, I’m saying that women are liklier NOT to be in control, because they’re much, much liklier not to prioritize their careers. (They may in fact be “in control” of the decision to cede control, however.)

    And yes, this is a heterosexually presumptive post because women have to be in relationships with men in order for their sex to be leveraged against them. I’m sure there are lesbian couples in which one woman persistently “plays the man”–I just have never known one myself.

  8. thefrogprincess on 24 Jun 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m struggling to figure out exactly what my “generation” is doing. My sense is that women aren’t necessarily turning back to the mommy track (although I do know some college-educated stay at home moms my age) but I think a lot of women are “otherwise not prioritiz[ing] their careers,” as Historiann put it. This comes in a lot of forms but just generally (and anecdotally) I don’t know a lot of women who wish to be at the top of their respective fields, if that makes sense.

    Also in my conversations with my single career-minded girlfriends (roughly ages 25-28), having children after 35 seems to be an absolute taboo and we’re all starting to get a bit worried about where exactly we’re going to find the kind of men who would support our career ambitions.

    Mostly, though, it’s too early to tell.

  9. Brian on 24 Jun 2009 at 7:20 pm #

    I have noticed this in a non-academis context. I work as an attorney in a legal services office that has relatively good family friendly policies. People returning leave are able to work part-time, flex schedules etc.. Because of the work we do making partner and large amounts of money is not going to happen, but working on impact litigation, legislative campaigns and other broad based advocacy is more the measure of how one contributes to the place.

    I have noticed that younger (20′s – early 30′s)women attorneys are less likely to return to work after being parents with those goals than some of the older parents. This seems in part due to them having somewhat less egalatarian home arrangements than second wavers and to my mind, somewhat less politics than their older counterparts. (The latter could be that I am becoming a grumpy 50 year old leftist-feminist.)

  10. Sisyphus on 24 Jun 2009 at 9:59 pm #

    Of course, it’s dangerous to talk about an entire “generation” across regions, different races, and classes, but I wonder if at least part of “my generation” has opted out of the “career” side rather than the family one. I’m thinking of all the people I know who are doing things similar to those annoying NYT articles about 20-something hipsters who are purposely taking dead-end shit jobs or Starbucks barista jobs to pay the bills while working away for almost nothing at the fulfilling, enriching “hobby” that sorta pays but is never going to be leveragable or respected like a career, whether that’s making artisan chocolate or sewing things for etsy or being a singer-songwriter or working on that novel. (In fact, I’m pissed that I’m in the position of trying to find a “paying side job” to cover bills while I play at my “hobby” of being a literature professor! If I had been planning that I would have gone off and written a novel — this was supposed to _be_ my career!)

    Anyway, I keep hearing about how the Gen X/Gen Y were supposed to be the first generation to do _worse_ financially than their parents’ — it could be that a lot of them looked at the Supermommy who couldn’t have it all and, instead of opting out of the family, opted out of the whole concept of a career instead. I wish they (we?) had done it with a little more attention to Marxism and social justice though.

  11. Flavia on 24 Jun 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    I’m 34, and my friends have only just started having kids, so it’s too early to tell how things will shake out in the long run, but almost none of my friends have “flipped,” if that makes sense — the women who believed their careers would be a priority are still very actively pursuing their careers, even after having a child or two, and those who always said they were willing to sacrifice professional advancement for a family are more likely to have taken time off or to be working in a long-term part-time capacity.

    If I have children, I will not have them before my first book is completed — or, ideally, before I have tenure. But as you can tell from that forumlation, children are, for me, a possibility, not a definitely-must, and that gives me more flexibility than many women. For me, at this point, the bigger question is about co-locating with a partner. In theory this isn’t as big of a deal if kids aren’t involved, and from my nearly 6 years in two different LD relationships I know I can manage the distance. But it does take its toll. Would I sacrifice a particular form of professional advancement — a particular job — at some point down the line, in order to be or to stay in the same place as my partner? At this point, and since it’s never been an option before, I really don’t know.

  12. Historiann on 24 Jun 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Ha! Sis, I graduated from college into a recession 1990. My “generation” (X) was supposedly the original slacker generation–baristas with tattoos and no ambitions, etc. Then, by the other end of the decade, we were all supposed to be dot.com millionaires or something–something rich and “creative class.”

    That whole opting out of the career is just a script that the mainstream media run in recessionary times. Been there, done that, inked the tattoo.

    (Just kidding about the tattoo, though. I’ve never been tempted.)

  13. Dr. Crazy on 24 Jun 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Hmmm. You know, I’m always suspicious of arguments about what “generations” do (see all of the discussion of “millenials”), and I often notice that the people who tend to put forward such arguments are often boomer types, who don’t have a problematic relationship to identifying with their “generation.” This is something that I think often produces tension in conversations between second-wavers and feminists who come after, not necessarily because the women who come after aren’t feminists, but rather because they’re not as likely to identify with feminism through their generation.

    I’m 34, and I feel like I’m stuck in between the two generations under discussion here. I can say this: when I look at the Facebook friends that I have from high school, about half have chosen “the mommy track,” about 30 percent are mothers but also have vibrant careers (one works at NASA!), and the remaining are solely career focused. In general, those who chose “the mommy track” also chose never to leave our hometown, and they married in their early to mid-twenties. When I look at academic friends, it’s likelier that career has been prioritized, but I think that has something to do with the opportunity costs of graduate school, the values that drive a person to graduate school, and location-location-location. When I look even younger, at the women former students with whom I’m friends, I see a lot of career ambition, though I also see a lot of practicality about how they envision career working with their lives as a whole. Those women whom I know in their early 20s are under no illusions that they can have it all. (I will say, the student-friends in their early 20s may be a self-selecting group, though, who might not have gravitated toward me if they didn’t care about career. I’m a role model and all that.)

    Does this mean that second-wave feminism only benefited the generation immediately following it, though? I’m not sure I’m willing to stand behind that claim. I wonder whether the second-wave model for what work means to women is all-encompassing; I wonder whether how women define work in the next 20 years may not build
    in different directions upon what second-wavers started. That isn’t to say that I think that women after the generation after the second wave won’t choose career, but I do think that they might choose it in different dimensions than the second wave envisioned. I’m not sure that’s, by it’s very nature, a bad thing.

  14. Mark K. on 25 Jun 2009 at 12:33 am #

    I’m 35–not sure where that puts me in the generational sorting bins…

    Something I see happening in peers my age and younger is that many people of both genders don’t particularly want careers, in the sense of a more-or-less continuous succession of jobs in a single field with increasing levels of responsibility and pay. The women are the ones who can “get away with it,” socially–the men feel pressured to be the breadwinner, since *somebody* has to. I can think of one exception, and he’s widely viewed enviously.

    I don’t want to overgeneralize from my peer group, but I thought I would throw that out as an interesting bit of data.

    Why are careers so unappealing? Mostly because there doesn’t seem to be much reward in them. Even between recessions, real income for most of my peers has been stagnant for over a decade now–any raises have been wiped out by rising health insurance and housing costs. Meanwhile, we’ve watched the wide net cast of layoffs, unfilled or de-skilled positions, etc. and concluded that meaningful progression is a gamble. To get ahead professionally can require an almost single-minded focus on one’s work–which seems to be what Our Capitalist Overlords really want, anyway. The most politically active of us are the ones without careers, because they actually have the time and energy and lack of fear for one’s job.

    But, again, that’s just me and my peers.

  15. anon on 25 Jun 2009 at 5:50 am #

    I’m also 34 and so in between generations. I have a t-t job, husband, and small child. Husband and I do not live in the same city or, um, state. We think a lot about the issue of career (whose career gets prioritized, why, and what does that mean). I have a few observations to make based on my own experience, but I would like to give some data points first. I have always considered myself a feminist, even though I didn’t meet another woman in my age group who called herself that until grad school. My mother did not consider herself a feminist & was not in any way politically inclined, though she did work, always, by choice (not economic necessity). She was also *always* the driver (literally and figuratively). I didn’t even know that was weird growing up. In my opinion, the feminist movement – as a large-scale social justice movement – collapsed in the eighties and hasn’t recovered. And since the nineties we’ve been dealing with all this post-feminist, girl-power grossness. I would love to have a vibrant grassroots women’s movement that spoke to women across lines of class and race. But I won’t be surprised if future grassroots women’s movements come largely from the “mommy sector” – check out momsrising DOT org for one example. (Because so many issues now are related to work/parenthood balance, rather than more straight forward equality in the workplace issues.)

    But here are my broad observations about careers and motherhood in my age group. It seems to me like more women are definitely opting out of high power careers in favor of part time work or being SAHMs. I think this is the result partially of the success of the women’s movement (women can have jobs, they have choices, etc so in part women are less political – they don’t feel like they have to ‘fight’ for equality anymore), and partially a result of its failure. What I mean by the latter is that women have (in theory) equal opportunity now, but it did create impossible expectations for many – to have a full time high powered job, children, and run a household, all with a husband who probably doesn’t do much childcare or housework. Whenever papers blather on about how women “can’t have it all” I always become enraged because men are *always* left out, as though it’s up to women to have it all or not have it all on their own. When really, what women need are a) partners who are real partners (which some women of my generation have, and which hopefully is a trend on the rise) and b) gov’t *support* for families – ie REAL maternity leave and real health care and affordable day care. In the absence of both those things in many women’s lives, it can hardly be surprising that so many opt out. And on an even larger cultural point, we in the US are still caught up in the gendered dichotomy of men NEED work and women NEED to have babies. Many men gain their main sense of identity from their work, but many women have a different sense of what it means to be fulfilled (obviously this is a VERY broad generalization). For example, I think my family is ultimately more important than my career; my husband would agree to that statement, but if push came to shove, it would be easier for me to give up my cushy t-t job than for him. He would never seriously consider being a SAHD, though he would be better at it than I would (and I have thought about being a SAHM). My job is very very important to me – it gives me a lot of joy, and I am unapologetic about that (ie, I don’t think it takes away from my children – in fact, I hope choosing a career that gives joy and meaning to their lives is something they learn from us by example). But sometimes the injustice of the social structures do make you *choose* which to put first, and it doesn’t surprise me that in the absence of choices or support, many women “choose” family, not career.

    This fact makes me sad, but in an ambivalent way. Why is the only measure of success whether or not somebody has a high powered career? I agree with Dr. Crazy’s last paragraph, about new dimensions. Basically I wish all careers were more flexible, so that both fathers and mothers could have periods where they focused on their families when their children are young and then be able to rush back in full-force and have full-on successful dynamic careers. I’m hoping we’re in a transition period where people will start becoming more radicalized about the life-work balance – but MEN have to radicalize too or it will only be a “women’s” issue which I think is a reductive way of looking at the problem. Feminism is for everyone, benefits everyone.

  16. Nikki on 25 Jun 2009 at 6:32 am #

    I am 39 and as of July 1, officially a tenured associate professor! :-) I have found that amongst my friends, from high school on, the ones who tend to “opt out” are those who were never really satisfied with their jobs/careers in the first place. So, if the choice was to stay at home with their kids or go back to a job they didn’t really like anyway it was a no brainer for them. Whereas, after 7 years of grad school, enduring the market etc etc I never considered not going back to work.

    I should also add that these women could afford to stay home, as their spouses made enough money for them to do so.

  17. Nikki on 25 Jun 2009 at 6:39 am #

    I also think it has become a sort of status symbol amongst a certain class to be able to say that the husband makes enough money to support an upper middle class lifestyle and have a wife who stays at home.

  18. Dame Eleanor Hull on 25 Jun 2009 at 7:04 am #

    Nikki: “become” a status symbol? That’s been going on at least since the Middle Ages!

    Why, this is the Middle Ages, nor are we out of them . . .

  19. Nikki on 25 Jun 2009 at 8:01 am #

    Dame Eleanor Hull: too true!

  20. squadratomagico on 25 Jun 2009 at 9:04 am #

    I think Mark K.’s perspective really resonates with what I’ve seen as well. There is a trend towards questioning how fulfilling and meaningful the conventional workplace really is, versus having more free time, independence and autonomy. Many folks seem to be deciding they’d rather work less hard, make less $, forego whatever social benefits and prestige are attached to career advancement, and trade it all in for the ability to be more multifaceted in their lives. And, as Mark noted, it is easier, for cultural reasons, for women to get away with this choice, particularly if kids are involved — but I think many young men would like to have more flexibility as well.

    Whether young men want to use that desired flexibility towards caring for children, or for pursuing other, more personal hobbies, is an important question at this juncture, however. Frankly, I do not see many young men rethinking the workplace, opting out and then making family the alternative priority, as women seem to do. (I say that without judgement, btw, since I myself don’t have and never wanted children.)

    I myself, though post-40, am very sympathetic to this stance. Indeed, if I weren’t in a circus, I undoubtedly would be progressing faster in my career, rather than at the more measured pace I currently have. But I’d rather have the circus.

  21. human on 25 Jun 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    I just gave up sex entirely, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with picking up some asshole’s dirty socks.

    Okay, yeah, that’s an extreme oversimplification of my situation and my choices, but I am 31 and fine with being single and unpaired, and having the freedom to focus on whatever the f$&* I want.

    Not all of my female friends my age have children. But of the ones I do, every one – every. single. one. – is doing the bulk of the work raising the kids and keeping the house. Their husbands range from being complete dickwads to just not very self aware.

    So, you know. While it would be nice to have a partner, not just to be married but to have someone to share a journey with — it’s obviously not going to happen on any terms that I can accept. So I’m just opting out, only I’m opting out of partner/family instead of career. I’m not sorry, and I’m glad I have the “choice” to do that, but I wish it weren’t necessary.

  22. Janice on 25 Jun 2009 at 3:14 pm #

    Mid-forties and my career has driven our marriage in a lot of ways. My husband left his very stress-filled and much less advancement-oriented employment in a big city full of opportunities to come to the north and be with me. That was 1992 and we’ve both been here ever since.

    I’ve had a lot of opportunities with work. Him? Not so much so. But we recognize that’s a function of the choice we made together and not some inherent value in either of us. On the other hand, I’m often thinking of how much possibility he sacrificed to come and be here with me. If we’d put a priority on staying in the big city, I’d have no academic career (beyond the life of the itinerant and underpaid adjunct).

  23. truffula on 25 Jun 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    the Supermommy who couldn’t have it all

    I understand the reality from which this idea springs but why put the burden on Mommy when Daddy isn’t held to the same standard? As anon wrote above, women need partners who are real partners and as the comments here suggest, when they do, women’s career and life goals are taken seriously.

    That said, I’m a female 40-something tenured prof whose partner stays at home full time with our kids and I still carry a disproportionate part of the household work. Despite appearances, we remain mired in the dominant culture.

  24. Flavia on 25 Jun 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Like Squadrato, I’m interested in Mark K.’s perspective, too, since I feel I’ve seen that among my friends as well.

    I’ve been struck by the fact that virtually all of my male friends have said they’d be stay-at-home dads if they could. Very few of my female friends (or at least those I met in college or after) have expressed a desire to be stay-at-home moms.

    This may be a sample-size problem, or it may, in part, be a reflection of the fact that men aren’t expected to follow through on such statements — and indeed, none of my male friends is a SAHD.

    Still, I think the comments do reflect a search for something more, on the part of my male friends, than just a career.

  25. Z on 26 Jun 2009 at 3:20 am #

    How old are the people who “had it all”? Which generation was it? I mean: I know random people of all ages who did that but not many.

  26. anon on 26 Jun 2009 at 6:09 am #

    I think “having it all” is loosely defined as women who entered the work place, had full-time careers AND children, whether or not the careers were meaningful and whether or not they found this experience excruciating or fulfilling. The “all” in this context is job + children (partner optional). So in my experience, when people are talking about ‘having it all’ they’re usually talking about the first waves of women who went back to work and insisted on their right to work as well as be moms (70s?/ early eighties?). Of course there were plenty of women who still chose to stay at home, or not to have children.

  27. Z on 26 Jun 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    OK – so I went to high school and college in the 70s and grad school in the 80s.

    There were a few married women in graduate school but MOST of them were either (a) doing it as a hobby, not for a career, or (b) doing it as a career but got blocked from that by professors who didn’t take them seriously because they were married. I mean, they could be brilliant and their dissertation directors would refuse to support them for jobs on the idea that they didn’t want to ruin their marriages by helping them work.

    In high school I had 5 main friends and we all went to college. One “has it all” — GREAT job and family. Then there’s me, who gave up family for career. Then there are 4 stay at home moms, of whom 2 had their husbands leave and so went to get certified to teach, and are teaching K-12 now.

    For me the difference between myself/my friends my age and younger people is the amount of serious advice and different examples people even 5-10 years younger than myself got. My grandmothers and their friends had been suffragettes with educations and careers and families. Women now remind me a lot of this generation.

    My sub generation got grimmer news than my grandmothers. We were raised by women who had mostly dropped out of college after the war to get married and who expected the same of us. Although there were important feminist things happening on television, one was not necessarily in a position to be an architect of these. My mother’s big thing was that I should finish college, take advantage of opportunities like junior year abroad, and get an office job for a year or so afterwards, so that rather than marry a college boy I could marry an established executive.

    Re careers, the advice from men was either advice that only applied to the situations of men, or was backhanded (bad advice couched as good, meant to trip up silly little girls). The advice from the few women who had serious careers was that you had to be hard as nails (and they were) and sort of mean (and they were).

    In my first professor job, in the 80s, all the other new hires college wide were young men with housewives.

    All of this is why I think those second wave activists were really smart and brave and that things have improved. Just the fact that you can now show up as a new assistant professor and be married and have a baby and not have people whispering in the halls that you will never make tenure because of this — which really did happen to several people in my second job, in the early 90s — is fantastic.

    HOWEVER. I clearly remember the 80s and how everyone forgot how hard it had been to get the degree of non racial discrimination and non gender discrimination that had been attained. We did not need antiracism or feminism any more, it was said, because their goals had been attained, it was said, and everyone agreed with them anyway, it was said.

  28. Z on 26 Jun 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    P.S. Here’s a useful Pollitt piece on the generational fallacy. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090615/pollitt

  29. truffula on 27 Jun 2009 at 4:54 am #

    So in my experience, when people are talking about ‘having it all’ they’re usually talking about the first waves of women who went back to work and insisted on their right to work as well as be moms (70s?/ early eighties?)

    More specifically it means, I think, middle/upper middle class women. Working class women have always had “all” of it. It was a novelty that my mother had the option to stay at home when her children were born. In working while also parenting and keeping the home, I’m just doing what my grandmother did (though I doubt she ever thought of her job as a “career” and therein, perhaps, lies an important distinction).

  30. Historiann on 27 Jun 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Z wrote, “All of this is why I think those second wave activists were really smart and brave and that things have improved. Just the fact that you can now show up as a new assistant professor and be married and have a baby and not have people whispering in the halls that you will never make tenure because of this — which really did happen to several people in my second job, in the early 90s — is fantastic.”

    Well–few whisper it or say it out loud any more, but having children does dramatically affect a woman’s chances at career success still, whereas having a spouse and children enhances men’s chances for success. It is progress of a sort that prevents people from saying out loud that women with partners/spouses and children are doomed, but if the result is essentially similar, I wonder if that creates a narrative in which individual failures are the fault of the individual rather than the fault of the institutional structure and cultural prejudices. That I think is a classic Second Wave experience–because the assumption is that feminism has worked and women are in fact all treated exactly the same as men, so if a woman fails it’s her own damned fault and not the fault of anyone else. As you suggest, Z, this is the fake “post” world we live in–postracial, postfeminist, etc.

  31. Historiann on 27 Jun 2009 at 7:41 am #

    And, great link to Pollitt’s article. There was a recent article in the Journal of Women’s History I think on “de-waving women’s history.” Pollitt makes several of the same points. Portraying catfights among women is a way of selling print, I guess.

    But, I take umbrage with the claim that women my age “hung up their Hello Kitty backpacks a long time ago.” I’m 40, and am still all about the HK. I’ve seen a child’s jean jacket with a big HK on the back that I would kill for in my size.

  32. The Rebel Lettriste on 28 Jun 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    I’d like to chime with Moria, about the Mommy Marxists. SAH parents are doing work, they just aren’t being paid for it. Would that they pointed that out and rabble-roused a bit more to remind us of that fact!

    And I agree generally, with people’s ideas here concerning the whole “is this job worth all that” question–which is something that I think really does drives many people’s decisions to stay home with children. The workplace can be odious; and it can make a lot of sense to decide to focus on home and child-life instead. Making a fetish of that life is another thing entirely, though.

    I am 33, and have many friends now who have given up (burgeoning) careers in favor of child-rearing. And I have to say I feel some envy. I think that this is partly because both of my grandmothers and my own mother worked. They had to. Being able to focus exclusively on a baby and its needs was a dream only rich and/or lucky people got to live.

    I mourned when I finished my diss. and got a tt job, because I knew that whatever fantasy I’d had about staying home with a baby was effectively quashed. Would I trade my job, my intellectual life and my economic independence for being a SAHM married to a rich dickhead, though? No.

  33. Z on 28 Jun 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    I still think it’s nice that getting pregnant before tenure isn’t an automatic F or a total stigma any more. I also come from the other side of things — rural suburbs in the South where having a family can really help bolster your strength, focus, prestige, and so on. We’re still in patriarchy, so all the options for women have downsides.

    *

    “That I think is a classic Second Wave experience–because the assumption is that feminism has worked and women are in fact all treated exactly the same as men, so if a woman fails it’s her own damned fault and not the fault of anyone else.”

    Classic Second Wave experience, hmmm. It does seem to be what *I* have internalized and need to work on. I thought, “It is possible to insist one be seen as a man and treated as one, and I will do it.” Failed, of course, and blamed myself. This is fundamental.

    But much actual feminist analysis of the 60s and 70s was a lot less superficial than this. I know it’s said that was the goal of the “second wave” but I think that story parallels the now official version of civil rights, which only emphasizes MLK in his more conservative speeches, claims nonviolence worked, and that everything is solved. These officialized stories obscure history, as we know.

    *

    The main difference I see between myself and women a little younger is that a lot of them thought more about WHAT they would like to do with their lives and WHY. For most people born in the 50s I know the big thing was to escape one’s destiny as a housewife. Most of those of us who escaped had careers more chaotic/distorted/stunted than we might have had with more role models, a chance to think about it or anyone to talk to. This is where I think that second wave had a lot of good effects — just by having been present — on the atmosphere for people a little younger.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. But my insight for the day is that all of my women friends from high school, and all of us went to good universities and so on and had advantages of one kind or another — managed our careers without information or the feeling of room to move, the way first generation college students do, or the way workers manage jobs. The struggle was to work at all, and ideally not to do only kitchen work. This when men in our same situation got to ask themselves more seriously and concretely what sorts of live they would like to lead. That is what I now see women of all classes doing, i.e. assuming they have rights to full personhood.

    *

    As I write this I am having 60s flashbacks. Everyone was claiming personhood then — individuals, groups, whole countries. Black shoeshine “boys” carried placards informing the world, “I am a man!”

    I was learning non personhood as child and woman, and I really liked all those liberation movements. I decided my goal must be to become one who could also claim my own rights to personhood. But I notice women now assume rights to personhood more easily than my posse of childhood friends ever has.

    That assumption is what I find so admirable about younger women now.

  34. Z on 28 Jun 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    And – re stay at home parents and so on – I remember that one’s destiny as a housewife (the one I was raised for) didn’t mean you did it as a choice, or that you did it creatively. You might also work, but it would not be interesting work, it would just be work work, to help make ends meet.

    Women younger than me think with more freedom and that is what I admire.

  35. Z on 29 Jun 2009 at 12:03 am #

    Or, having pondered more: to disable someone such that they HAVE to stay at home means withholding information about how to operate in the world and also reducing their confidence such that they believe they cannot function in the (outside) world.

    That is what you do to girls you are raising for someone to be able to keep at home. It is what was done in my day to women of many social classes, and it’s destructive.

    I don’t see it done nearly so much any more and that is how I see there to have been real progress.

    *

    Also – I don’t know who came up with the idea that feminism meant one “should” have a high powered career … I strongly suspect the same patriarchs who claim feminist goals have already been achieved.

    A feminist agenda would include so many things we don’t have. It isn’t about individuals making lifestyle choices such that they have both the executive suite and the baby. That is more like … capitalism? (?)

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