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October 2003 Archives

October 31, 2003

The Opt-Out Revolution. What in the hell?

There has been a lot of discussion and furor on web chat forums and public service school classroom discussions about last Sunday's NY Times magazine feature article, "The Opt-Out Revolution." The thrust of the article is that smart, educated, successful women are still dropping out of their careers when they have kids. Why could this be? To find out, the author interviewed about 5 women who graduated from Princeton (where the author went to school) in different classes since the '70's when the first co-ed class graduated. These are women who, for the most part, went on to graduate school, obtained a professional degree, and had very impressive careers in law, business, writing, consulting, etc., then stopped working. Some have plans to return to work, probably part-time, and some never plan to work again. Some companies, critics fear, will interpret this article as justification for not hiring women into fast-track positions, because of the likelihood that they'll quit after a few years. As for me, the article just raised a lot of questions. Like, the most obvious one, why would you write a very lengthy article for the NYT that implies broad generalizations about men and women, biologically and culturally, and use only a very few white, upper-middle class professionals who graduated from Princeton as your interview base? What about non-professional women? How do working-class families raise their children with both parents working?

The other most obvious question which, frustratingly, is rarely addressed in articles like this (haven't we been reading some form of this exact same article for 20 years? Can women have it all? Supermom? etc.) is: Why is it still the expectation that if one parent will stop working to raise kids, it will be the woman? What are men sacrificing by working full-time for their entire lives?

I have a few questions about the culture of the American workplace too: When will our increasingly competitive workplaces start to value women and change in such a way as to stop so many of them from leaving at the height of their careers? (The author herself says she thought this was the most important part of the article on the NYT readers' forum.) Won't this have to happen sooner or later, since our economy is clearly no longer designed to function with only half of the adult population at work? And why is the concept of work outside the home still a political issue for women? Women working is just not a big deal any more, for most people. Why can't our society as a whole accept that both men and women can work, and not have to make it a political statement? Why can't women adjust their professional goals to include family and a job and French lessons and softball games and mountain climbing and whatever else they want to do, without losing their careers entirely? Or, do women just use babies as an excuse to get off an unsatisfying career track? Are women duping men into working their whole lives, because it's more expected of men to do so? If that's the case, I hope men start wising up.

The President of Princeton, Shirley Tilghman, has a question for her school's graduates too: "Have these young women internalized the idea that women really do not lead?" I can only imagine that President Tilghman feels some disappointment in the choices of her promising female graduates. One last question. Could the considerable resources ($100,000-200,000) spent on these at-home moms' educations have been put to better use, for example, paying for the education of an economically-challenged man or woman who plans to actually practice law or do some work that requires a degree?

Cusack's Credibility at Stake

So from the Amy's Robot Link Factory™ today we learn that John Cusack may be dating Britney. HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE DATING UMA THURMAN FOR CHRISSAKE. John, what happened?? Uma decides to go back to fuckface and you're going to give up that easy? Go over to her house with your boom box right now and make this right.

Fox News, revealed

Salon interviews Charlie Reina [click through the ad], a very angry former producer at Fox News, who wrote a long post on Romenesko when ABC News guy Chris Wallace announced he was moving over to Fox. Reina discusses the obvious political bias of Fox management, but does stress the dischord between management and much of the younger, more liberal news staff. He includes specific anecdotes of his bosses urging him to write prescriptive news stories, expressing an opinion about how events should play out, instead of just covering them. Hardly a surprise, but still pretty alarming. He says, "Hearing the mantra, you know, 'Fair and balanced. We report, you decide.' I mean, come on. Don't make me laugh."

Hey Charlie, if you need a job, go ahead and give us a call. -amy

Amy and I were talking about Fox News bias a few months ago, and my general take on it was, Look, there's no sense arguing about whether Fox News is biased or not. Let's just move on. Everyone just needs to accept that it is biased, and start thinking about a more important question: What does it mean? What does it mean that the primary source of news for a sizable portion of America (including my dad, for example) is deliberately skewing their reporting to favor a certain political ideology? What it seems to mean is that Americans will end up being misinformed, and, worse, they will be convinced that they are not misinformed, because Fox News told them they are right. The most obvious example of this is the fact that 33% of Fox viewers think that we've found WMD in Iraq, but this is just the beginning. As we accept deliberate and sustained bias as a part of the news, the entire idea of truth is undermined, a result which I think is precisely what the far right wants and has been working towards since Bush was elected. If you can eliminate objective truth, then no one can really object to anything you say, and so whoever can get the most people to accept whatever they say -- true or false -- wins. More on this in a few days. -adm

Krugman disses Bush's economic plan, Vol. 37

[Since Rungu's on vacation, you'll have to settle for our economic blogging today.]

That Paul Krugman just won't let up. Today's Op-Ed brings commentary on the recently reported large growth rate of our nation's economy in the third quarter. Is it for real? Is there any way at all that The K-Dawg would buy a Commerce Department report that our economy is strong again, and all is well in Bush's Land of Gigantic Deficits? Of course not!

His point is that consumer spending drove last quarter's growth, and that kind of consumer spending won't last. Especially when it's happening because of low interest rates. If people are borrowing against their homes to buy a new RV, they probably aren't going to keep buying more RVs, or fridges, or above-ground pools. Some financial theorists think that spending will be down next quarter, and Krugman thinks they're right.

Also, there still hasn't been an increase in jobs, which continued to decrease during the third quarter. Adding that to "the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet," and things aren't looking good for Bush's economic plan, though this doesn't stop papers like the NY Post from running cover page headlines like "Bush Boom." Senator Conrad from North Dakota uses an ironic model of alcoholism out of control to describe Bush's policy: "It is a little like a drunk going on a binge. It feels good for a while but you all know that the hangover is coming."

Who's Older?™: Recent Talk Show Guest edition

Jane Campion and the entire cast of In the Cut was on Charlie Rose last week, and it was interesting enough, though as a result of Meg Ryan's scary newly-plasticized face (particularly her paralyzed upper lip), it was a relief every time the camera landed on the beautiful, if airy, Jennifer Jason Leigh. And then last night, Quentin Tarantino was on Conan O'Brien, telling a long and almost-but-not-quite offensive story about how he wished he had invited the Crips and the Bloods to the Kill Bill premiere and given out red or blue jackets to all the celebs in attendance. In honor of these two recent movies, and the fact that Friday is for fun, here's a quick round of our favorite game here at Amy's Robot: Who's Older?™