Thursday, March 13, 2008
Cynical, momentary deviation from the usual topics
Client No. 9's problems have thus far provided endless hours of distraction from less important occupations, like answering emails, raising our children, and, you know, governing this nation, and one almost hates to add to the noise, noise, noise...but alas, I, like everyone else, Have an Opinion. Fortunately, Slate intuited my opinion and printed it up
in an easily read format for wide distribution over the Internet. I think it's fair to say that sympathy for Tilda Wall Spitzer has reached that level called "outpouring" by uncreative journalists searching for a cliche, and that's not a bad thing. Blaming the victim is just as futile here as it is in any situation when a person does something this wicked and stupid to another person, especially one he claimed to love. But every time I see another friend or classmate pick a job because she thinks it will give her the flexibility to go part-time when she has children, or quits because she finds that the world of work is not quite as pliable as she thought it was, I want to take her by the shoulders and shake some sense (and a work ethic) into her. What's going to happen when he leaves you? Or he dies in an unfortunate midlife crisis-related accident? Or the two of you just get sick of each other? Linda Hirshman argues pretty persuasively that the opt-out revolution (whereby highly educated women quit their jobs to raise their children and perhaps do some nominal unpaid charity work) is the worst thing to happen to women...well, ever. She proposes the following rules for use by women who don't want to end up in Tilda Spitzer's situation:
- Don't study art (or music, or theater). Use your education to prepare for a lifetime of work.
- Never quit a job until you have another one. Take work seriously.
- Never know when you're out of milk. Bargain relentlessly for a just household.
- Consider a reproductive strike.
- Get the government you deserve. Stop electing governments that punish women's work.
My husband told me about an alarming study (I'm having trouble locating now) which indicates that most women are stopping themselves at Step 1--and practically single-handedly accounting for the wage gap between men and women--by deliberately choosing low-paying, low-pressure majors (like education) which will allow them time away to raise their children later. So when their husbands make the argument, "You know, honey, you're only working part-time now, and most of your salary is going towards the babysitter, anyway. Why don't you just quit?" they're completely unprepared to make the response they should, which is this: "I value my job, the money it brings in, and the sense of self-esteem I get from having an identity independent of my status as wife and mother."