Getting Back on Track

Just when I was about to accept that the sexist, clueless men who run America will never, ever recognize what an easy, cost-effective investment it is to support working moms with childcare, tax breaks, legal protection at work and incentives for family-friendly business practices, out comes Newsweek's annual issue devoted to women, Women & Leadership: The Next Generation. More than three million people subscribe to Newsweek; I figure the editors there wouldn't devote an entire issue to lauding powerful women unless at least a few of the readers agree that "powerful women" is not an oxymoron.

Anna Quindlen's Everyday Equality essay alone -- it's on the last page but I always read her first -- will carry me for at least another week. If you read the magazine from the front like you're suppposed to, the first feature is a package of short bios on successful working women, mostly celebs like race-car driver Danica Patrick, musician and actress Queen Latifah and Al Gore's daughter Karenna Gore Schiff -- ambitious women but not exactly relevant to average mom who's-driving-carpool-today concerns.

Following the celeb profiles is a real gem, Getting Back on Track, written by -- Oh My God -- a man who chronicles recent corporate efforts to assist at-home moms who want to return to work. "Lately the talk among work-family advocates has focused on finding ways to support women's 'non-linear' career paths -- and to build better 'on ramps' for women wishing to return to work after career pauses," he writes. He goes on to quote Eliza Shanley, co-founder of the Women@Work Network, who says "There's a general sense among employers that whoever figures this out first wins." Yeah! It's gotta be a good day when companies are competing over attracting stay-at-home moms back to work. The article digresses slightly into the celeb-world again (guess this is necessary to hold our interest) by pointing out high-profile moms like actress Calista Flockhart, Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes, and Today's Meredith Vieira to show that even millionaire moms can return to work after taking a break.

And lastly, thank you to the Moms Mean Business article for introducing me to another catchy mama phrase: Mompreneurs: one-woman businesses started by new moms who've figured out there's enough of time and energy to devote to making money as long as flexible hours are part of the package.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 25, 2006; 8:50 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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"the sexist, clueless men who run America"

Nice generalization

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 9:25 AM

Millionaire moms returning to work after having children. Wow, that's something everyone can relate to.

How about articles on how middle- and lower-income women can figure out how they can do the same? There's a lot more obstacles in their way than celebrity moms who have it all already.

Posted by: John | September 25, 2006 9:25 AM

I wouldn't write off the privileged/upper-class/etc. parents involved in issues like these. It is often the privileged ones who are in a position to have their voices heard and bring about change, which then benefits others too.

Posted by: Lilybeth | September 25, 2006 9:27 AM

I read the Newsweek issue and would have appreciated some insight on how buisnesses can help moms (and dads) KEEP working (i.e. on site child care, etc). Not everyone wants on and off ramps.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 9:38 AM

"the sexist, clueless men who run America"

are you including your Washington Post bosses, since the publisher and CEO and executive and managing editors all are men?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 9:55 AM

It's a gross exaggeration and generalization so of course they are a few exceptions including at least some of my bosses, past and present...and of course women can be sexist and clueless too.

I just can't really come up with any other good reasons why it is taking this country so long to figure out how easy it is to raise employee productivity by offering both men and women, parents and childless, greater flexibility at work.

If you have other explanations, please offer them up!

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 10:01 AM

Leslie - the answer to your question is: Inertia. And the fact that it is not that difficult to find replacements for those who don't want to work traditional hours. For every person that wants balance there is more than one person who is willing to put up with Corporate America's inflexibility

Posted by: fabworkingmom | September 25, 2006 10:05 AM

Scarry, I am flying over your area today. I will wave. Look for the big silver plane. No, not that one....over HERE!

Have a good week all!

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 25, 2006 10:06 AM

Leslie: Your "gross exagerations and generalizations" don't endear you to those whose minds you are trying to change. Very off-putting to many women as well.

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 10:07 AM

"I read the Newsweek issue and would have appreciated some insight on how buisnesses can help moms (and dads) KEEP working (i.e. on site child care, etc). Not everyone wants on and off ramps."

And not everyone wants to keep working. That's the beauty of free press and free choice - they can publish articles covering different types of information adn you can choose to read or not read.


Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 10:13 AM

Come on. Leslie is right. It is a generalization, and there are a few exceptions, but in general, the men who are running America are sexist and clueless (at least about women and family issues). Too bad so many people are offended by this, but don't shoot the messenger. Sometimes the truth is offensive.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 10:16 AM

I just can't understand why these women want flexibility. I mean, can't they just take ballet lessons or yoga classes? Maybe these women should just marry men who earn $1.00 to their $.71, and thus capture whatever income premium men may have.

Posted by: Sexist, Clueless Man | September 25, 2006 10:17 AM

I work in a profession that is mostly male (military) and with women who feel like they have to think/act like men to succeed. They all scoffed when I asked if there would be a lactation room in the new office building we are moving to (there is one in our current building), stating that it is not a good use of space. We're all in cubicles and the solution was for me to walk the 20 minutes to the old building to pump in the old lactation room and then come back to work.

From a productivity standpoint, their objections seem ludicris. Instead of being gone for 20-30 minutes twice a day, I'll be gone for an hour twice a day. How is that more beneficial to my coworkers than a lactation room?

So I can support Leslie's generalizations with a few rare exceptions as she stated.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | September 25, 2006 10:23 AM

"the sexist, clueless men who run America"

Aren't you married to a man? Didn't a man help raise you and, lastly, don't you have boys? Why would you say this? It's like saying women aren't good enough or something equally as dumb and sexist. Oh, well, at least you didn't say "white men"

Posted by: Messed up | September 25, 2006 10:37 AM

Hey -- amazing to me how quick the condemnation is when one (me, in this case) dares to attack society's dominant group. It is okay to denigrate women every day through our laws, our advertisements, our television shows, but I can't call men clueless and sexist even once?

Prejudice against women -- by men and women -- is rampant in this culture and basically every culture. It's far more powerful than simple "inertia." And precisely because I am married to a man, have a son, and have had and will have many bosses who are men, I'm committed to trying to get people talking about this wallpaper-like prejudice that is the backdrop of our lives. My goal isn't to endear myself to anyone (although for the record I don't enjoy antagonizing people, either). Although here we go again -- not sure a man would be called upon to "endear" himself to his audience; that's a suggestion that seems to be made only to women.

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 10:45 AM

I'm glad to hear that companies are recognizing that they should recruit Moms who have taken time off to raise their kids. However, this situation doesn't apply to any of the Moms I know. Most of my cohorts take 6 weeks maternity leave then go back to work full time. I know in my case, we could not afford for me to take more than 6 weeks. I was very fortunate to work for a company with management that supports mothers, on-site daycare, and lactation facilities, which made going back so much easier. In the meantime, my career has blossomed and my income now surpasses my husband's. I wish more companies would reconize the benefits of supporting working mothers as mine did. A little story on this by Newsweek might be a good start.

Posted by: IA Mom | September 25, 2006 10:52 AM

"I just can't really come up with any other good reasons why it is taking this country so long to figure out how easy it is to raise employee productivity by offering both men and women, parents and childless, greater flexibility at work. "

This might be easy in journalism or media, but just look through all the jobs listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and think about whether it is just as easy in other jobs. I would also expect that many folks who read this blog agree that it is "easy" because they are upper-middle class, white-collar and work a lot with computers. How easy would it be for someone on the manufacturing line, blue-collar trade, cashier?

Employers will only go so far "to support working moms with childcare, tax breaks, legal protection at work and incentives for family-friendly business practices"
because they cost money and effort to administer and the returns are not worth it. Do you think small-businesses can afford to do this? Maybe large ones like IBM, HP, TimeWarner can do so. Leslie, talk to some mom and pop shops and ask them why they don't have lactation rooms, onsite chilcare, tax breaks, job-sharing, and other family-friendly incentives to make working moms happy. Ask them why they don't do so since you think it is so easy.

How many working moms and dads threaten to quit their jobs because of lack of above-mentioned benefits? How many employers then add those perks to retain them? I'll bet very very few. You know why? Because there is always someone else that can do the job. You are not indispensible. You can wail and complain all you want, but realize that having a job is a privilege, not a right. These days you can be easily outsourced, downsized, redeployed, laid off. We are competing in a global economy.

Posted by: WorkerBee | September 25, 2006 10:55 AM

"My goal isn't to endear myself to anyone (although for the record I don't enjoy antagonizing people, either). Although here we go again -- not sure a man would be called upon to "endear" himself to his audience; that's a suggestion that seems to be made only to women."

Suggested by whom? Leslie seems a bit paranoid today and extremely hostile - maybe she should have called in sick!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 11:04 AM

Suggested by cmac: "Leslie: Your "gross exagerations and generalizations" don't endear you to those whose minds you are trying to change. Very off-putting to many women as well."

Leslie is not paranoid, just literate. Perhaps you need to learn to read.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 11:11 AM

I am coming up on the big day!!! Recently I approached my HR department regarding expressing my milk when I return to work as well as their policy regarding this matter. I was informed there is no policy and that I can pump in the bathroom. Uh, what? I work in a medical setting and was just disgusted at the response I received. Luckily my immediate supervisor stated that they would work something out rather than the bathroom. Regardless, I am more than ticked off and my attitude regarding my loyalty to my current company has completely changed.

Posted by: Soon to be Mom | September 25, 2006 11:11 AM

I'm a married straight fat bald white man with three daughters.

Yes, you can legally discriminate against me. Thanks for the protection.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 25, 2006 11:12 AM

And I'm looking for a "Fathers with only daughters" support group.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 25, 2006 11:14 AM

To messed up --

You said to Leslie, "Oh, well, at least you didn't say 'white men.'"

She didn't, but I will.

Yes, it's generally white men who are in positions of power in our society, and they are most definitely the ones doing the oppressing.

Leslie's characterization of this oppression as the "wallpaper-like prejudice that is the backdrop of our lives" is a brilliant analogy. It's something that exists as the status quo even as it gets older, shabbier, and ultimately uglier. Like grandmother's cabbage rose wallpaper, it badly needs to be replaced but is stubbornly stuck to the walls and requires superhuman effort to remove.

Fifteen or so years ago, I was present at a discussion in a college classroom on the question of substituting "humankind" for "mankind" and "human" for "man" in college textbooks. Most of the responses were from male students in the class, and most of them ran to "Why bother to do that? .... It's always been this way.... Everyone knows what you mean."

Perhaps the 49% of the population which are male do, indeed, "know what you mean" and can be comfortable with such ambiguity; after all, it's no skin off their noses, right? But the other 51% are becoming less sure. They're ready for new wallpaper.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 11:18 AM

Good point that solutions and flexibility definitely must vary based on the type of job and size of company.

I've worked for 50-person companies and 150,000-person companies. There is always some kind of solution possible -- if the employer wants to keep employees productive and loyal.

And of course I'm paranoid! How could you write this column and not be? :)

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 11:18 AM

I'm a married straight fat bald white man with three daughters.
Yes, you can legally discriminate against me. Thanks for the protection.

You are not in a legally protected class because historically, your class has not been the subject of discrimination. In fact, your class has historically been the perpetrators of discrimination. Against people of other races and ethnicities, and against women. I am so tired of hearing white men whine about how they are not protected from discrimination, when there is no evidence that as a class they are in need of those protections. What discrimination do you want to be protected from, Mr. Fat Bald White Guy?

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 11:18 AM

Though I don't think it's necessary to belittle Leslie over it, I do think the "sexist, clueless men who run America" line is both unnecessarily harsh and unproductive. There has been and continues to be horrible outright discrimination against women, as well as a more subtle unwillingness to support progressive change that supports working women.

However, that system is not just perpetuated by sexist, clueless men. It's perpetuated by women as well (haven't we had the discussion a million times about how female bosses can be just as bad if not worse than men? Didn't we just see women tearing other women down for keeping their own names when they got married? haven't we all been criticized by other women for going back to work? Or staying home for that matter?). It's also perpetuated by the focus on short-term profits instead of longer term. It's perpetuated by politicians that pander to a very vocal minority of religious conservatives that want to see traditional gender roles followed in this country.

It's not just a matter of some straight, fat, bald, white man like Mr. EstrogenCentral sitting in his office deciding to keep the women down, it's a broader societal issue; not recognizing that just doesn't seem productive.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 11:20 AM

Really, people can demand such things. Of course, companies are more happy when their employees are beholden to them and they only need to do just enough so you won't look for a new job - they want you to need the paycheck and have to beg them to work there - they really don't care so much about you.
But, realistically, employees who are happier at work do better on the job and are less likely to commit fraud, steal, etc...
but companies don't care. I've seen it over and over again. To get in at the right company and work for the right people is key.
But both my husband and I say all the time we don't care all that much if we get laid off, we'll be fine - we'll find other jobs or something. We're really not worried. but realistically, most people are petrified, and companies use this to their advantage.
But Leslie, you are completely correct - no question about it. Some companies are beginning to realize that happier employees mean better work. But good luck finding them.

Posted by: atlmom | September 25, 2006 11:21 AM

One of the agendas of the current administration is to push telecommuting on the federal employees. Individual components of the government actually receive extra funding based on bendmarks achieved through their telecommuting promotion. In fact, one of the guys I car pool with to the train station is a State Department employee, and the approach his office took to reach these benchmarks was to have the employee sign a document and give a reason why telecommuting wasn't a desirable option if the employee refused to telecommute. So there you go, you have to give the government a little credit for promoting flexibility, even if it is coming from George Bush.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 11:22 AM

Perhaps he wants to be protected from affirmative action, quotas, etc. I'm just curious, fat white bald guy, where are your slaves? What's that, you don't have any? Really? Some people hold their selves down. How long are people going to blame white men or white America for all the problems they have. I know I'm not. People won't be happy until white people are second class citizens, and then there will be no affirmative action or quota system for us.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 11:35 AM

Need to call into question the following working mom urban myth:

"Haven't we had the discussion a million times about how female bosses can be just as bad if not worse than men?"

Yes, I've heard a few women complain that women bosses can be "just as bad" as men. Only 2-3 in the course of my 20-year career, not millions or anything close to that. In my opinion, this comment gets repeated and over-repeated because our culture is greatly comforted by the fact that "men really aren't that bad."

The truth is in many cases men ARE that bad when it comes to prejudice against women. Often perfectly fine, moral, wonderful men can inflict prejudice unintentionally because they are -- as I wrote -- clueless about issues facing women.

Most most men in America (dare I say white men) have lived every second of their lives without experiencing any prejudice. So they truly doubt that prejudice exists.

I find that the one consistent exception is men who have (and are close to) adult daughters who have faced prejudice themselves. These men, through their daughters' lives, have witnessed secondhand the demoralizing, often subtle, prejudices against women in this and other countries.

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 11:37 AM

There is an interesting article about providing flexibility for baby-boomers to keep them from retiring. The idea is that there is a lot of experience and knowledge that could possibly be lost.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/careers/bal-bz.wk.older20sep20,0,5192564.story?coll=bal-careers-features

I see this as a step toward providing more flexibility for all workers. If the baby-boomers have flexibility and it benefits the employers, the powers to be will most likely be more willing to extend this to other workers. Also, this opens the door for job-sharing between retiring boomers and younger workers who are also looking for flexibility.

As a 50-year-old female, this retirement flexibility is more of a concern to me than the issues of the younger mothers and fathers (Been there - done that).

Also, as a 50-year-old female, I do take offense to Leslie's remark about sexist, clueless men. Part of the reason there are more men at upper levels is because they have more experience. 30-40 years ago when they began their careers, there weren't as many women in the workforce. So naturally, there aren't as many women who have risen to the top. This doesn't make these men sexist.

As time goes by and there are more qualified women in contention for these positions, we will see more at the top. I don't feel that these men should now be automatically considered sexist. some are and some aren't.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 11:39 AM

My wife works for a small business (<10 employees). Even though she is by far their best worker, neither she nor I expect the company to do anything special for her when (if) she goes on maternity leave, or when she returns to work. It simply isn't worth it to them to do so for one employee. They have discussed telecommuting some of the time, but don't know how realistic that will be.

Posted by: John | September 25, 2006 11:44 AM

My company claims it conducted a survey regarding the need for on-site daycare. When the results of the survey were announced, the percentage of those responding "Yes I would like on-site daycare" was too small to continue researching this option. Out of the 10 women sitting near me, all six mothers said, in unison, "You didn't ask me!" Makes me wonder who was on the survey distribution list.

I, too, would like to hear about "regular" women making this all work. I suspect we don't because, if it does work, they don't have time to talk about it.

Posted by: Cory | September 25, 2006 11:47 AM

I think it's great that Newsweek devoted an issue to this. I like that the "Getting Back on Track" article focused on some examples of how it seems to be getting easier for women to re-enter the workforce after an absence. It's just too bad that these workplaces that are offering flexible programs only seem to offer them to their senior staffers or law firm attorneys, not staff members who could really benefit from more flexibility. Perhaps the women who are benefiting from these new initiatives will find ways down the road to extend the same benefits to their staff.
~ MJ
http://www.stirringthepot.org

Posted by: MJ | September 25, 2006 11:49 AM

Rockville thank you for your welfare state of mind.

Protect the oppresses from the "Fat bald white men" and all will be well.

Since you don't know me or my background I'll just laugh at your generalizations.

If you don't want to "be opressed" by fat bald white men" this is the U.S.A. work where you want for whom you want, doing what you want.

But if people keep working for terrible bosses and terrible companies, and demand protections expect to continue to have those who will work for terrible bosses in terrible jobs with terrible hours complaining and being seen as part of the problem not part of the solution.

BTW nothing like ad hominem attacks to get your points across.

Luckily my daughters are not being raised as "victims" so they'll be what they want to be in spite of their father being fat bald and white.

Have a nice day!

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 25, 2006 11:52 AM

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!

I appreciate what everone is saying here. Interestingly, I find myself relieved and impressed that Leslie is sort of turning up her nose at the Karenna Shiffs and others whose mega-celebrity and wealth make her a suspect example for the trials and tribulations of working parents. Would it be too full of myself to think that I had an impact on Leslie? Just kidding...

Sort of... :)

Maybe I'm getting soft, but I applaud the fact that Newsweek is devoting so much space to the issue. But the scope of the Newsweek story raises a good question in how much of this trickles down to middle and lower class parents.

And yes, white men can be discriminated against. (you didn't think I woldn't stir the pot a bit, did you?)

Posted by: Glover Park | September 25, 2006 11:57 AM

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!

I appreciate what everone is saying here. Interestingly, I find myself relieved and impressed that Leslie is sort of turning up her nose at the Karenna Shiffs and others whose mega-celebrity and wealth make her a suspect example for the trials and tribulations of working parents. Would it be too full of myself to think that I had an impact on Leslie? Just kidding...

Sort of... :)

Maybe I'm getting soft, but I applaud the fact that Newsweek is devoting so much space to the issue. But the scope of the Newsweek story raises a good question in how much of this trickles down to middle and lower class parents.

And yes, white men can be discriminated against. (you didn't think I wouldn't stir the pot a bit, did you?)

Posted by: Glover Park | September 25, 2006 11:57 AM

Mr. Estrogen,

You say that your daughters "will be what they want to be in spite of their father being fat bald and white."

Well, you may not be the middle-aged white guy who stands in their way, but I guarantee you there will be many who will try to impede their progress. Hope you're preparing them for that.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 11:57 AM

Leslie, I never said men are not bad; I said that the issue is broader than that.

It's interesting that you assume that bad female bosses are an "urban myth." Women can be just as hostile to social change as men - in fact, we have several women who post regularly here to the effect that companies should not be responsible for providing lactation rooms and child care. Ignoring those women in the attempt to make change is shortsighted. Yes, there are a lot more men in power, and a lot more men who have the ability to make working women's lives difficult. But blaming everything on "sexist, clueless men" both alienates the men who do not fit that profile and ignores the women who have the same discriminatory practices or beliefs.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 11:58 AM

Leslie,

I like that you are in the mix today.

----
Wall paper is a good analogy for the combination of inertia and cluelessness that keeps work/family/community stuff the same.

I don't think that language like 'clueless and sexist' helps people notice the "cabbage-rose" wall paper (read old-fashioned and dated) let alone invites us all to get out the steamer and peel the stuff off.

Deborah Tannen's books on communication address some of the vision problems that interfere between people, based on sex, class, and even experience.

Civility: would go a long way to collegial identification of problems persisting at the institutional level.

We need our upstart crows, canaries int he mines, and Norma-Raes but we also need a sustained conversation about problems and solutions.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 25, 2006 11:59 AM

Mr. EstrogenCentral, Rockville was explaining the legal standard for determining who is a protected class under the Fourteenth Amendment and why white men don't fall into it. Sorry you feel victimized by that.

Posted by: Another Lawyer | September 25, 2006 12:01 PM

Pittypat,

Indeed I am and will.

And for all those complaining about your provincial caucasion men are bad, please remember two things.

Globally we are a minority and in other countries/cultures white men aren't the problem.

And I've spent time abroad as the minority. I've spent time speaking barely passable Chinese and being the only "white guy" on a bus, in public, etc. And I've dealt with it. Along with being charged "foreign" prices twice to fifteen times the local standard. And I've dealt with it, and tactfully negotiated better prices than those discriminatory ones they offered.

But I never ever saw myself as the victim. I just did what I could and if I couldn't get the price/deal I wanted I went elsewhere and didn't go off for years and years about how I was discriminated against.

Well except for this little outburst.

Sometimes people are the victims because they let themselves be, they'd rather be "wo is me" than "to heck with that!"

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 25, 2006 12:10 PM

"Although here we go again -- not sure a man would be called upon to "endear" himself to his audience; that's a suggestion that seems to be made only to women."

Yes, and when Linda Hirschman was telling women to suck it up and get a job, you were the one telling her that she needed to frame her argument more gently.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 25, 2006 12:14 PM

Hey, ladies, if you keep on playing the victim card, expect to be treated as such. You will get a lot further a lot faster if you work with men on women's issues rather than teaming up with members of your own gender and working or competing against us.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 12:24 PM

The discrimination against women still exists, for example the recent study about why women recieve less tenure. To keep complaining is not whining it is continuing the fight.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | September 25, 2006 12:25 PM

Mr. EC, I've traveled and been the only white person in a number of foreign places as well, and frankly, I don't think comparing that to systemic discrimination in your home country throughout your life is apt.

The fact that white men have been in power in this country for an extended period of time is what it is - it doesn't mean they're all evil, but to deny the fact that they've held the reins for a long time and that this has brought certain advantages seems silly to me. And recognizing that I have had people discriminate against me because I am a woman doesn't make me a victim - it makes me someone who fights against that and always will.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 12:25 PM

Mr. E --

Being a minority in a county you're temporarily visiting or residing in is not even remotely similar to the experience of being a minority for your entire life in the country in which you were born.

I spent several months as a small child in a ballet class in inner-city Detroit which was all black children and me. Sure, it was a good experience; I've never forgotten it. But did it give me even the tiniest inkle of what being a black person in any part of the U.S. is like? Of course not.

Likewise, it's unrealistic for you to insist that you understand being an oppressed minority because you spent some time in China being cheated out of your money. Even if you were there for years, it's not the same as being discriminated against in your home country -- the one place in the world that you should feel you belong.

As to your point about the global population of white men, that's a non-issue. We're not talking about men and women in business in foreign countries; we're talking about white men who run the corporate culture of the good ol' USA.

You seem to hanker for the very victim status you say your daughters aren't being taught. Why is it so important to you to demonstrate that you've suffered?

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 12:25 PM

Why this facination with victimhood and the need to parse out who is a victim and who isn't? Can white men be victims of discrimination? Anyone who has been to the DC DMV knows thew answer to that question!

Wouldn't we be better served focusing on what unites us, and not on what differentiates us?

Posted by: Glover Park | September 25, 2006 12:32 PM

"I just can't really come up with any other good reasons why it is taking this country so long to figure out how easy it is to raise employee productivity by offering both men and women, parents and childless, greater flexibility at work. "

companies do not care if empoloyees are loyal, highly productive, any of it, they care if the employee is there, on site, doing the job he/she is paid for. Companies view all but a select handful of stars, if that, as totally dispensable. Someone doesnt like it, too bad, you'll be replaced by a 20something who will be paid less than half. THAT is why it is taking so long to change this. Companies just do not see it as a need.Right here on this very blog a few weeks ago,someone said, why do you need to telecommute, you dont have kids? It is that kind of narrow frame of reference that lets companies ignore this entire dialogue.

Posted by: Ritamae | September 25, 2006 12:32 PM

. . . and to continue the discussion of Mr. EC's comments, in some of those countries where white men aren't in the majority, the historical actions of white men (colonialism) and their legacy continues to create problems for certain nations, even if white men left them long ago.

Also, to the poster who takled about never having owned slaves. . .just because YOU never owned slaves, don't think that you don't benifit from the racial ideolodgy that made slavery possible and continues to operate in this country. Same goes with gender ideology. Though I'd argue that the majority of men don't oppress women, that doesn't mean that they don't benifit from the opresison of women (invisible though it can be) just the same.

I'd lay off Leslie. She's a writer. Her job is to stimulate discussion. She's going to do that with extreme word choice.

Posted by: Reston | September 25, 2006 12:33 PM

Glover Park, I was wondering where you were. Welcome back! Not thatI'm on any welcoming committee, I just happen to like people who stir the pot..

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 12:36 PM

There was a great article in the New Yorker recently about the history of unions in the auto industry and their movement for pensions, health care, etc. - and seems tangentially related to this. Businesses are not usually altruistic institutions. If they are "doing good" or paying attention to the triple bottom line, it is because it is going to increase its value for its shareholders. Shareholders "own" the company, so they aren't going to be convinced to invest in programs unless it can be proven that said programs improve worker efficiency, tenure, etc. If men or women want to have better family (or general quality of life) policies, they they need to be prepared to do what workers in the auto industry did so many years ago - 1) work together to have their needs met, and 2) PROVE/EXPLAIN why these policies are better in the long term for the institution. Read the HBR - do companies with higher retention allow workers flexible time? Does the cost of on-site day care cut down on the number of employees who have to leave during the day to care for their children? Until we put the argument into a way that "business" understands, business isn't going to respond to the needs of its workers because it simply doesn't have to.

Posted by: the original just a thought | September 25, 2006 12:37 PM

Small companies are not inherently incapable of allowing for balance/flexible work options. A company I used to work for (which at most had 17 people while I was there although I think it currently has about 12), used to be fairly rigid in terms of hours worked and part-time was only allowed for jobs that were designated as part time to begin with. This is a company where hardly anyone can come in having the knowledge base they need to do the job. So training takes a long time and an individual's productivity isn't very high for quite a while. Starting about five years ago, a few part-time flexible positions started sneaking their way in because it really was a case of either lose the employee entirely (and their years of knowledge) or accommodate the employee's needs. Now, about half of the employees have some kind of either part-time or flexible schedule. But the company is keeping employees A LOT better than they used to. In the eight years I worked there, turnover was extremely high. I don't think management is entirely thrilled with having these various arrangements and, from what I understand, still give people attitude from time to time. But, the job is getting done and employee retention is much better than it was previously. Part of it, I think, is that an employee will put up with a certain amount of crap just to be in a place where they can do a job, get paid, and have (pro-rated) benefits.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | September 25, 2006 12:42 PM

Globally we are a minority and in other countries/cultures white men aren't the problem.

Perhaps specifically white men are not the problem globally, but Men, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, are the global oppressors for women. I still think white men can be considered the oppressors globally. White men obliterated native Americans in North America. White men colonized Afria, Australia, India and South American and oppressed the indigenous people of those countries. Globally, white men have done a hell of a lot of damage.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 12:43 PM

These on-track, on-ramp opportunities will only be available to upper middle class CAREER women. The article notes that Booz Allen Hamilton has adjunct positions for some of its former full-time employees, including mothers. From a business perspective, this makes sense, particularly if these are employees that require security clearances (very expensive and time consuming; BAH has invested in these employees). Also, there is less overhead when these employees work from home. But again, these are highly skilled employees.

On the other end of the spectrum, low-skilled, low-wage pink-collar and blue-collar employees will not have this type of flexibility. A waitress can be replaced within an hour. Ditto with most service sector employees. There is no room for negotiations when you are so easily expendible.

Business models will drive these changes. Unless it makes good business sense (and the example of Booz Allen Hamilton does), employees will not see these sorts of benefits. And for each of us individually, we need to make career decisions that meet our professional and personal goals.

Posted by: single western mom | September 25, 2006 12:44 PM

"I just can't really come up with any other good reasons why it is taking this country so long to figure out how easy it is to raise employee productivity by offering both men and women, parents and childless, greater flexibility at work. "

My mother was born in the 30's and had to quit work when she married. I was born in the 50's and was able to get 6-8 weeks sick time (not necessarily paid) for maternity in the 80's, depending on whether or not the birth was a c-section. FMLA was enacted in 1993 and allows up to 12 weeks maternity time (not necessarily paid). Alternative work schedules, flextime, work from home, job sharing are all relatively new.

Change takes time. Can we work toward the changes without placing blame on entire groups of people?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 12:45 PM

"Hey, ladies, if you keep on playing the victim card, expect to be treated as such."

So what exactly is playing the victim card, Father of 4? Is saying that the man who told me I couldn't do my job because I was a woman, and who then followed me around whenever we were on site together standing way too close and asking me every time I picked something up, "Are you sure you can lift that? Do you need some help? Don't you want to ask a man?" was harrasing me because of my gender playing victim? Was finally telling him that he was being completely inappropriate and that if he didn't stop I would report his behavior playing the victim? Should I just have ignored that and pretended that I wasn't treated any differently than anyone else?

In that job there were several men who told me up front that I didn't belong there and a woman couldn't do the job - within a few weeks we were all pals and I worked there for quite some time. After several confrontations I did end up reporting the guy who wouldn't let it go and then he finally did. That ended up being one of my favorite past jobs. But I'm not going to say that there wasn't a gender issue at first because there was.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 12:50 PM

"I've worked for 50-person companies and 150,000-person companies. There is always some kind of solution possible -- if the employer wants to keep employees productive and loyal."

I guess none of your past employers found the solution to keep you loyal.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 12:52 PM

"Employers will only go so far "to support working moms with childcare, tax breaks, legal protection at work and incentives for family-friendly business practices"
because they cost money and effort to administer and the returns are not worth it."

Do we know that the returns are not worth it? I'd be interested in seeing some real research regarding the value of wasted human capital and lost human capital due to talented Moms opting out, or alternatively, working less productively on the job because they waste time and mental energy dealing with obstacles to pumping, finding safe affordable childcare, finding back up child care when their kid is sick, etc., as well as a comparison to what it would cost to provide some basic support to working moms. Do we really know that the costs outweight the benefits?

A potential parallel in another field is energy efficiency. Research has shown that energy efficiency measures can actually result in net savings to utilities, corporations and individuals... yet getting utilties and policy makers to recognize the multi-billion dollar potential of energy efficiency has been like pulling teeth. Why? Because people assume if such big opportunities were there, someone would have done it already, i.e. that dollar I see on the table must be a figment of my imagination-- if it were real, someone else would have picked it up by now! Slowly, however, some states (e.g. California and Rhode Island) have recognized that perverse economic incentives are embedded in existing energy policy and taking steps to make energy efficiency a top priority-- and their policy shifts ARE producing a positive ROI in the form of net savings and job creation (and I mean a purely economic benefit, not counting the environmental benefits at all).

Why do we assume that government and corporate investments in working moms of the type Leslie suggests have a negative ROI? Do we have any data? Are there any good cost-benefit analyses out there? Or is inertia dictating our assumptions?

Posted by: JKR | September 25, 2006 12:55 PM

The problem with using gross generalizations like, "sexist, clueless men who run America" is that your ultimate message gets lost. Not only does it turn off a lot of people to your points because you chose to open your blog with gross, sweeping, generalizations, then the entire topic becomes about this phrase and not what actions can be taken to make things better.

You can spend all your time defending whether or not the statement above are true and appropriate, but, I think you'll find, that the actual point gets lost: how to achieve balance.

Posted by: Monday | September 25, 2006 1:00 PM

For folks who think that we spend too much time talking about upper-middle class "problems" - TIME agrees with you:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1538507,00.html

Posted by: The original just a thought | September 25, 2006 1:01 PM

" ...sexist, clueless men..."

wow - someone's got a case of the mondays, and maybe a touch of pms.

Posted by: dc | September 25, 2006 1:08 PM

Thanks for the article, The original just a thought - it was a good read!

Posted by: nutmeg | September 25, 2006 1:08 PM

Thanks for the article, The original just a thought - it was a good read!

I agree. I hope more people read this.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 1:10 PM

For an interesting perspective on a country that has implemented some of the policies that Leslie suggested (and more), read about or listen to this story from Marketplace about family policy in France:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2006/09/21/PM200609217.html

One government official in France said, "Women should not have to choose between working and having a family."

Halleleujah and amen!

Before someone tells me to buzz off and move to France if I think it's so swell there, let me say this: I do not want to move to France; I want to live in the US and work to keep improving my country. No I do not think we can or should emulate France 100%-- it's just an example of an alternative vision, one that we may find instructive in some regards.

As the whole victim discussion, one may argue that this country was founded on a sense of wounded victimhood-- can't you just see some British royal saying around 1776, "Oh those colonists, always whining about what they don't have. They did CHOOSE to move to the colonies, afterall; what did they expect? Why do they blame us for their problems?" And if no person since that time had ever gotten angry at the status quo and decided to come up with a better way of doing things, white property owners would still be the only ones with the vote and we'd all still be reading by candlelight.

True victimhood is keeping your mouth shut when being abused-- and that's how the victimizers like it. I'd say speaking up for social and institutional change takes a lot more guts than caving to the status quo.

Posted by: JKR | September 25, 2006 1:13 PM

your quote: "Most most men in America (dare I say white men) have lived every second of their lives without experiencing any prejudice. So they truly doubt that prejudice exists."

Until today's column, I avidly read and respected most of the things you wrote, even though I am a white male. This comment shows how one-sided and clueless your analysis is. I'm glad to see many of your readers (both female and male) taking issue with your discriminatory outlook and your ignorant views about men's lives that you so clearly express in this above quoted comment.

Women (and men) who are victims of discrimination every day are not helped by this divisive rhetoric. Please, focus more on equality rather than generalized attacks on half of the population, your credibility is suffering in the eyes of your readers.

Posted by: . | September 25, 2006 1:15 PM

I have noticed that a lot of folks keep on coming back to the point that men are not the only oppressors of women, and that women do it also. Yes, this is true. As women, we can be our own worst enemies. But why? One reason is that we live in a patriarchal society, and as part of our socialization, through the millenia, we have been taught to value a definition of femininity that has been constructed by men, the dominant force in the patriarchy. For example, Mary Daly, in her book, "Gyn/Ecology," says that women, after millennia of male domination, have unconsciously accepted a patriarchal ideal of femininity. Then, Daly provides examples of socially sanctioned abuses of women, including Chinese foot-binding, witch-burning, the Hindu suttee, and female circumcision. Daly points out that each of these imposed forms of mutilation is based on a male-created ideal of womanhood. She also explains that women become the enforcers or their own abuses, but that these abuses are for the benefit of the males in the society. For example, in our own culture, males tend to find slender women attractive. The ideal women is not voluptuous but rather rail thin. Most women who are this thin also tend to be flat-chested, but of course, men like breasts, so we encourage women to diet to the point of emaciation and then get breast implants. We do this because men find this artificial ideal of femininity attractive.

Margaret Atwood, in "The Handmaid's Tale" showed that she understood how women can be made to do the bidding of a patriarchal society by being the enforcers of male abuses. If anyone has read the book, which has a lot to say about sexual politics in a male dominated society, will remember "The Aunts" who are the women who were charged with making sure that all other women were indoctrinated with and complied with the laws of a society that systematically repressed women.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 1:31 PM

I think those people who are offended by Leslie's comments about the "clueless and sexist men" running this country are also missing an important point about people in charge.

Unless you are in a miniscule minority, you are not one of those people. The people who run the country today, in business, government, etc., are not reading this blog. You are not one of them and she is not defining YOU.

It reminds me of how Republicans can garner so many votes from white men. It's the cool party to identify with, because it means you are rich and in power too (even though you're not, and they rely heavily on people thinking that they are members of the "elite" or have a shot of getting there - even though they do not, and Republican party economic policies hurt them more likely than not.).

Posted by: Rebecca | September 25, 2006 1:38 PM

In my experience the powers-that-be were never sexist, maybe just a touch clueless about what it means to be a working parent. I could hardly blame them, both sets of bosses (one male, one female) where childless when I started working with them.

I have worked for two very small companies (>5 employees) after having my own children. My experience has been that once I presented my case for reasonable accommodations in the workplace, then my boss and I could use dialog to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I have successfully worked out a lactation schedule (including pumping arrangements and even nursing on-site during my lunch break), flex-time, telecommuting, and job-sharing. One of my bosses even offered the use of their office for pumping as it was the only office space available with a door and blinds on the windows for privacy. I opted for the private bathroom, since I had ready access to the sink. I could not convince either company to pay for maternity leave, but one employer did pay for the medically necessitated leave (the hours in excess of my sick leave) when I had to go on bed-rest with my second child.

Companies sometimes seem inflexible about a policy, but that is because they are not sure how to make it work. My employers trust me, my organizational skills, and commitment to getting the job done.

I found that it is always best to present a clear plan, which addresses the concerns of cost to company, job coverage, job tracking, and my accessibility to employer and clients. It is a far better approach than just going on the offensive when working out family friendly arrangements.

The other thing to keep in mind is that for professionals, there are other jobs out there. If you cannot come eye-to-eye with your current employer, then you may have to seek employment with an institution who's views are more similar to your own.

Posted by: dcdesigner | September 25, 2006 1:50 PM

"Unless you are in a miniscule minority, you are not one of those people. The people who run the country today, in business, government, etc., are not reading this blog. You are not one of them and she is not defining YOU."

Be that as it may, the comments are still out of line, discriminatory, and do nothing help make positive change in society.

Posted by: . | September 25, 2006 1:52 PM

An interesting tidbit on sex discrimination:

When Congress was debating the Civil Rights Act, which was the seminal act that banned discrimination, it initially did not include sex in list of the traits based on which it would be illegal to discriminate. A southern Senator introduced an amendment to include sex because he thought it would sink the bill - it was the classic poison pill. So many people were sure that it would in fact sink the bill that they trotted out a whole bunch of women to testify about how it shouldn't be added. In the end, obviously, it did get in but supporters managed to pass the bill in spite of it, and that's how women got protection under the Civil Rights Act. Doesn't really speak that well of our history, does it?

Posted by: Another Lawyer | September 25, 2006 1:52 PM

TO: The original just a thought

Thanks for including the link; it's a good article. Several of us have discussed the class divide on here before.

What the article did not discuss: why there is a plethora of books and articles regarding "problems" faced by upper middle families. The obvious reason: upper middle class has the buying power to purchase the books and magazines with articles that reflect their own lives. Working class folks don't have the disposable income (and time) that upper middle class yoga mommies have, and therefore will not be as likely to purchase these. Also, it's likely that these authors are upper middle class and have always been so.

Every once in a while, there will be an author who covers working class issues and gets a wide audience, such as "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich. But honestly, upper middle class audiences don't necessarily have an interest in the working class. On the contrary: upper middle class parents put their kids in presitgious private schools to segregate them from children of the working class and the outright poor. The upper middle class are interested in their own insular worlds (the same can be said of other subdivisions of people, by income, race, religion...we all have a tendency to want to be with our own because that's what is familiar to us and where we are comfortable).

Posted by: single western mom | September 25, 2006 1:53 PM

You cannot fix a problem until you have identified it. The idea that we can somehow achieve equality for women without acknowledging that we don't have it is ludicrous. The blather about why can't we just all get along and not be mean is bull. Refusing to talk about the reality of many women's situations does not make us victims. It allows us to overcome this situation. True victimhood lies in tacit acceptance and rationalization of the status quo,

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 1:54 PM


" ...sexist, clueless men..."

wow - someone's got a case of the mondays, and maybe a touch of pms.


Gee, it seems like you proved Leslie's point with your PMS comment.

Posted by: dcdesigner | September 25, 2006 1:57 PM

"Most most men in America (dare I say white men) have lived every second of their lives without experiencing any prejudice. So they truly doubt that prejudice exists."

Except for the ones that are overweight, ugly, socially inept, find themselves in an environment out of touch with their background, poor, uneducated, black, Mexican, Irish, Indian, Dutch...

I think everyone has experienced prejudice before in their lives to some degree. In fact, the prejudice displayed on this message board is pretty scathing as well, don't you think? Prejudice and divisive name calling do not advance a cause, solve problems, or promote productivity. And while it would be ignorant to say that as a society, reforms like Affirmative Action are unnecessary, it can be both insulting and certainly discriminatory. Policies that harm one group in order to promote another create more divide, more anger, and still do not solve the problem. Hm... minorities and women aren't being fairly admitted to schools... lower the bar for them!

Back to the issue at hand. Women are discriminated against, that's not really something to debate, its evident. But when you're talking about leaving your job for extended periods, unfortunately it is expected that you may not be able to dive right back in. And why should you? Not just women, but men too. If you leave your job, and it is the result of a choice that you made, you can't expect a lot of freebies. It sucks, but that's the way it is-- workers are commodities. Capitalism-- it's not perfect, but it's the best we've got... for now.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 2:02 PM

Leslie - Whether you are are trying to endear (which you are not) yourself to men, or NOT antagonize (which you are) to men is almost irrelevant. Your rampage on the inequities in our culture is tantamount to being a constant victimizer. The term "man-hater" comes to mind, and there are plenty of people that post on this forum that are like-minded - so you will always have an audience.

Also, there seems to be obsession with flexibility in the workplace in your articles - an inflexible obsession. Are you tied down in a room somewhere being forced to watch The View?

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 2:02 PM

Rockville,

Yes, Mary Daly really pointed up how women conspire to keep the male status quo alive -- in great part because they have learned to work within the male system because that's been the only way to survive.

A book came out a year or two ago on "female genital cutting," in which the practice of female circumcision was examined in many cultures the world over. The country in which the severest form is most prevalent is Egypt, and the practice is common among middle- and upper-class families. A group of such women interviewed about why the practice continues and whether they will do it to their daughters laughed with real amusement at the idea that it is a form of oppression and demanded to know how western women could possibly enjoy sex without having had it done.

The framework of the study -- and, hence, the book -- was sociological, and the point was being made that we in the west are quick to judge other cultures over practices that we find unacceptable.

But another quite reasonable conclusion is that women in these cultures have been indoctrinated by males -- over the course of centuries -- to prefer what is ideal for men but damaging for women. And that they perpetuate this sexist value by being the agents of their daughters' mutilation.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 2:05 PM

Leslie is on a "rampage" today and is a "man-hater"?

Now there's a take on her column that would never have occurred to me.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 2:11 PM

Pitty pat - I was referring to Leslie's response to my post - not her column. However, since you would agree with her "man-hater" tone I wouldn't expect anything to "occur" to you about the post.

Do you look for my posts, pick them apart, them do a little celebration dance?

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 2:23 PM

"Also, there seems to be obsession with flexibility in the workplace in your articles."

Uh, gee, cmac, do you think maybe that's because this is a blog about balancing work and life and that's one of the easiest ways to do it?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 2:24 PM

Pathetic but true -- Glover Park I'm glad you are back!

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 2:35 PM

Mom or not, companies sometimes do the right thing.

I take my child to a music class. His teacher, right after she began working for the company, got breast cancer. Through the treatment and recovery, she was paid as if she was teaching 100% of the classes - even though she was taking a lot of time off. I think she told me he might have been paying her extra (the owner) to help with her increased costs (i.e., treatments...). She is still working for him, about 10 years later. She thinks her boss is the best guy in the world. She is the most loyal employee he might have. She tells this story to many parents she encounters - because she thinks he's so great.
The owner of the company is a 'small' business owner. I guess he could afford to do it - but he felt he couldn't afford *not* to do it - he thought it was the right thing, so he did it. He has a very loyal employee who worked with her through the whole thing. He did not know that she would be working for him 10 years later, it wasn't discussed.
So really, employers could get loyal employees (which, for the most part, they do not have now) and they could get employees who care about the companies, but many times they do not, because they are not flexible or whatever (this is actually not the case with my current employer).
But one reason to tell your kids to get education, etc, is to expand their options and have the ability to quit one job for another if they are unhappy with the job they have. No employers don't have to be flexible, and, as is being said, why should they be?

Posted by: atlmom | September 25, 2006 2:35 PM

"Do you look for my posts, pick them apart, them do a little celebration dance?"

No, cmac. If I seem to respond to your posts with any frequency, it's probably because they're usually among the most outrageous on the blog.

Regardless of what you were responding to, I think that characterizing Leslie as a "man-hater" on a "rampage" is ridiculous. That's the kind of black-and-white thinking that keeps us mired in 19th-century values and perspectives.

If you're going to spout that kind of over-the-top invective, you probably should expect to get some strong responses.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 2:36 PM

Okay, I'm going to play the victim card. Though I laugh at the very thought of this story. I've not thought about this incident for several several years, but maybe wallowing in the mud with all the "male chauvinist pigs" brings out the worst in all of us.

17 years ago I had a female boss, I was in college and working a job to help pay for school. I became a shift manager (at a market research company) and as the company grew my responsibilities were curtailed based on a few things.

1. I didn't party with the boss and her friends.

2. I caught one of the future supervisors committing a terminable offense, but since the boss was paying her to go sunbathing with her, guess who was wrong?

3. I realized the boss was more worried about keeping her friends on staff than maintaining her integrity. Again another employee whom I liked and would consider a friend falsified a survey.

The boss called her down into her office and in spite of the fact that I'd been monitoring the survey and knew she had falsified, and that it was company policy the female employee was let off with a warning. My poker face was not yet developed than and I sat in shock as the boss let this go.

When I was called back to work an hour after I had left, I knew I would be "let go."

I got a couple weeks severance pay because she knew legally she had no leg to stand on and that was the best thing that could have happened to me. By the way the Department of Labor reviewed her records on my tip and she ended up paying several employees overtime pay. I had since gone to basic training and wasn't there to give my copies of my timesheets so conveniently she falsified my timesheets and didn't give me the pay.

Then she had the nerve when she ran into me one time to say, "Now you've made it so nobody can work overtime." I said, "No, they can still work overtime, you'll just have to pay them fairly."

Do I feel like the victim? NO!!! Why should I? Sometimes things work out for the best and it was a great lesson and I grew from the experience. I'd see the signs of nepotism and favoritism much quicker now and move on.

Though there was the time I harrassed my gay boss. He kept talking about an old employee as being a dick. And I asked him what he'd say about me when I left.

He said, "I'd say oh that (John) he's such a dick."

So of course I said, "But you like them so I'll take that as a compliment." He said he's never laughed so hard and appreciated that I could accept him for who he was, but I'm fat bald white and male so please call me prejudiced.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 25, 2006 2:36 PM

case in point, re. women being discriminated against.

I work in an busy office where we answer each other's phones (it's a newsroom). I just answered my supervisor's phone. A man was in the main lobby and wanted to meet with her. I went out, just to tell him that she was in a meeting but he would be welcome to wait. Long story short, he ended out conversation with "who sent you out? Is there a man back there I could speak to?" Just then out executive editor (male) walked by. The man hurried over to him with a "you can go now" at me.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 2:38 PM

A few thoughts:

Just because most oppressors are white men doesn't mean that most white men are oppressors. Alienating half of the human race with misplaced anger is not going to solve the problems we are facing, but rather cut us off from a valuable source of solutions. I think we need to embrace men (figuratively) and their efforts to make society more livable for women, children, and other men.

I think many upper/middle class people care about working class people. We send our kids to private schools because in many cases they are better and we can afford it! I'm sure working class people would do the same if they could, and I would happily pay more taxes if more kids could attend the best schools and escape poverty. (Although I would prefer if current taxes could be spend on our own citizens rather than in Iraq.)

I think a big problem is that our whole economic system is all about squeezing every last nickel out, rather than reasonable profits and reasonable worker and environmental policies. We need global labor rights, which need to be as important as global trade agreements. As long as some country out allows workers to make 12 cents an hour for 80 hours a week, that will depress everyone's wages in a global economy.

I work in a primarily female field, and I fully believe that women can be as bad or worse than men wrt discrimination. There is this sense of "I had to pay my dues, why should she get any special treatment?"

Posted by: anon | September 25, 2006 2:38 PM

seems to me that pittypat and cmac deserve each other - they both seem to specialize in over the top harshness

as for Leslie being a man hater, seems to me she's always pandering to the men on the blog and responding harshely to the women (esp F-0-4 and now Glover Park) - maybe its like that hostage syndrome where they fall in love with their captors

Posted by: cut it | September 25, 2006 2:39 PM

My questions are:
To whom do I communicate my desires for the workplace? How can I be assured requests made to HR are making it through the wickets to management and are not arbitrarily denied? Do I write a letter to the company president?

Are items such as the ones brought forth by Leslie being discussed in current management courses? Is this something that needs to be approached at an academic level as well?

I work for a govt contractor and we are not allowed to telecommute per our contract - and no one seems willing/able to put an addendum onto the contract allowing it (they aren't the ones with the 70 mile each way commute, so its not that much of a priority.)

I agree that alot of times, unless someone sees it happen up close to their family or friends - they aren't willing to do much about the situation.

Posted by: LGB | September 25, 2006 2:41 PM

to the no-name poster:
Maybe I should have phrased that differently - balancing work and life is more than flexibility on behalf of the employer. It is the recent repition of the articles on this one side that is tiresome.

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 2:44 PM

Except for the ones [men} that are overweight, ugly, socially inept, find themselves in an environment out of touch with their background, poor, uneducated, black, Mexican, Irish, Indian, Dutch...

Please!! To say that this is analogous to discrimination against women, or to racial discrimination, is absurd. Women also experience all the forms of discrimination that you describe (and I think that some of the things you describe cannot be considered true discrimination -- people experiencing "discrimination against themselves in situations out of touch with their background"? This is funny. I would classify that as life.) Women experince the same situations you describe, and in addition, they experience discrimination based on the sole fact that they are women. Men never experience systemic discrimination based on solely their gender. Just they opposite. They are favored solely on the basis of their gender. Except on this blog of course.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 2:48 PM

Except for the ones [men} that are overweight, ugly, socially inept, find themselves in an environment out of touch with their background, poor, uneducated, black, Mexican, Irish, Indian, Dutch...

Please!! To say that this is analogous to discrimination against women, or to racial discrimination, is absurd. Women also experience all the forms of discrimination that you describe (and I think that some of the things you describe cannot be considered true discrimination -- people experiencing "discrimination against themselves in situations out of touch with their background"? This is funny. I would classify that as life.) Women experince the same situations you describe, and in addition, they experience discrimination based on the sole fact that they are women. Men never experience systemic discrimination based on solely their gender. Just they opposite. They are favored solely on the basis of their gender. Except on this blog of course.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 2:48 PM

Pitty - Only you seem to respond with such vitriol to my posts - most back and forth I have on this site is pretty civil. If I am outrageous you are nothing short of shrill and annoying.

Calling someone a man-hater "keeps us mired in 19th-century values and perspectives."????? I guess all the manhaters are dead and gone - purged from this earth by heroines like yourself? Are you that old? I too feel your pressure - I will probably be silenced by your stinging posts.

Ouch, quit it.

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 2:48 PM

Mr. EC, What was the point of your last post? Were you trying to tell some story about you being discriminated against? because in the example you gave, you had a bad boss--not a discriminatory one.

Posted by: Reston | September 25, 2006 2:49 PM

Ditto Reston.

What a stupid day on the blog - this is what happens when you use extreme words - it generates rhetoric and extreme debate instead of anything useful. Really, who needs more vitriol in the world there's enough without this sort of dithering.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 25, 2006 2:50 PM

Honestly, I don't think the problem is "sexist, clueless men" so much as just plain old cluelessness.
Some companies are run by idiots. I'm sure all of us in the work world can list many, many stupid managerial decisions that we have personally witnessed and that have affected us detrimentally -- and affected the company bottom lines detrimentally.
A lot of managers make stupid, counterproductive decisions and have stupid, counterproductive attitudes about employees' family concerns (working mothers AND working fathers), but in all honesty, I think that's just one of many subjects affected by bad decisions and bad attitudes. In the end, these bad decisions and bad attitudes actually cost employers money, often big money.
As much as we would like to think that the business world is guided by the invisible hand of capitalism that will result in rational decisions that maximize returns and profits, human error all too often interferes.
Consider some of the ways in which companies make stupid decisions: failure to protect worker safety; cutbacks on regular maintenance and repair (BP's inexplicable failure to do basic maintenance on Prudhoe Bay oil pipelines, for example); pension fund mismanagement (too many cases to mention); failure to take proper environmental precautions, etc., etc.

Posted by: anon mom | September 25, 2006 2:51 PM

"People experiencing 'discrimination against themselves in situations out of touch with their background'? This is funny. I would classify that as life"

Very good, you pointed out the obvious-- discrimination based on prejudices is LIFE. And yes, each and every instance that I mentioned has, at some point in this country, been a topic of importance or currently is relevant to many people. Think the discrimination the Irish and Dutch faced here in the early 20th century was nothing? How about fat people, or the craptacular image that we all need to look like models? Don't think that's a plight shoved down our throats that leads to unhealthy consequences? Maybe I should clear that one up for you by giving you an example instead of being so general... white kid in a black neighborhood/vice versa, a gay person in Mississippi...

I'm not equating the types of discrimination, and yes, women can experience both of those things-- in fact, if you read what I wrote, you'll notice that I said that it's obvious that women are discriminated against. I'm taking exception to the fact that she states that most men anywhere have never experienced discrimination. I would hope that you would agree that this baseless statement holds about as much water as declaring that all men are sexist and ignorant.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 2:55 PM

I have a question for working people who do not have children or sick parents.

Recently my co-worker and I were discussing how busy we have been lately and how we have been racking up the comp-time. I said that it was okay because my sons have a lot of school relate activities which I will need to attend in the coming weeks so that should take a bite out of my accrued comp time. My co-worker (who is in the same department and job position as me) grumpled about prefering to get paid overtime since comp-time is a lose-lose situation for her. She then told me that she lost about 40 hours of comp-time which she did not take last year. I don't really understand why she did not arrange to take some time off before the end of the year. I did not really press her to find out why. I just encouraged her to arrange to take some of that comp-time this year, take a few long weekends or leave early some days.

So my question: Do employees without children (or sick parents) feel that they are not entitled to take personal time off? Are they made to feel that if they are not taking the time off to help family then it is a frivolous waste of company time? Do companies actually descriminate against employees without children?

Is it overt, your boss flat-out denies your request to use your vacation or comp-time.

or

Implied, "I should not take time off for just myself, I need to justify the time, otherwise my employeer will think I am not serious about my job."

In my co-worker's case, I don't even think she approached our boss about taking the time off.

Posted by: dcdesigner | September 25, 2006 2:57 PM

Rockville, thanks for your post about patriarchy - that's exactly what I'm trying to get at. The issue is a systemic, societal bias that is enforced by all members - men and women. To change, we have to look at the system, not just try to blame half the participants. Otherwise you get the debate we're having now: Sexist Cluesless Men vs. Victimized Women, which will never go anywhere.

Worse, the men who aren't sexist and clueless can just walk away, as can the women who do perpetuate the bias, because they're not included in the discussion. We need all parties to be part of the solution, so we need a discussion that understands the roles we all play.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 2:58 PM

Leslie was talking about GENDER discrimination. I think it's fairly obvious.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 3:01 PM

I agree with you, Megan. The whole system has to change.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 3:03 PM

Leslie was talking about GENDER discrimination. I think it's fairly obvious.

You're right, certain types of discrimination are tolerable, much better than others. I'm sure a black man that was turned down for a job because of his skin color feels much different than a woman who was turned down for a job because of her gender. Bravo

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 3:04 PM

Don't put words in my mouth. I never said racial discrimination was tolerable. I think it is as intolerable as gender discrimination because there is no logical rationale behind it. Race our gender does not make a person less qualified for a job, however, and should not be part of the equation. However, a socially inept person would not be qualified for a job as a cruise director for example, and that person not getting the job would not be discrimination. It would be reasonable to deny the person the job because they are not qualifed for it. This would be be life. If you don't get the difference, then you are pretty dense.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 3:08 PM

"Do employees without children (or sick parents) feel that they are not entitled to take personal time off?"

This one doesn't. I take every minute of my leave and have even taken unpaid time off. I've never had to justify a leave request or been turned down in favor of a parent.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 25, 2006 3:09 PM

So how sexists and clueless do I have to be to get that management promotion?

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 3:15 PM

FO4 - If sexism and cluelessness are the qualifying factors, then congrats, you are a shoe-in.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 3:27 PM

cmac:

I've gone back and reread your post to see if I misunderstood you. But here are your exact words, and I can't see that anything I've written to you -- at any time on this blog -- is as forcefully judgmental as this statement to Leslie:

"Your rampage on the inequities in our culture is tantamount to being a constant victimizer. The term 'man-hater' comes to mind, and there are plenty of people that post on this forum that are like-minded - so you will always have an audience."

Is this not vitriolic? Not over the top? Not extreme? Is this "civil"?

Furthermore, I haven't sought out disagreements with you until today. In the past, you've commented lavishly and snottily on posts I've made to the general readership. Mostly, I've ignored those, because I figured that something about me bothers you. Fair enough. If we met in the checkout line at SuperFresh, I don't think I'd like you, either.

But if pointing out statements that have no basis in reality (e.g., "I guess all the manhaters are dead and gone - purged from this earth by heroines like yourself? Are you that old?") makes me "shrill and annoying," well then, I guess I just don't get it.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 3:31 PM

Same here, Lizzie. DcDesigner, I take all of my leave time with no regrets because I earned it!

However, if you work in a very competetive field and rely on face time and things like that, then maybe childless people would feel pressured to work because their bosses don't think they have a reason to take leave.

Posted by: Meesh | September 25, 2006 3:32 PM

DcDesigner,

I'm not childless, but as to your question I do remember one day chatting with our HR person at one of my old workplaces, and she told me the story of an employee at another office who asked to go down to parttime but didn't give a reason. When pressed, the woman said she wanted time to work on decorating the house that she and her new fiance were building. My HR person seemed to think it was outrageous to ask for flexibility for something like that - along the lines of, "come on, you have to have a better reason for something like that!" I would hope that type of thinking wouldn't extend to comp time, which is after all earned, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 3:37 PM

Father of 4, for your new name, how about "Sofa King"? ;)

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 3:40 PM

Vignettes of situational discrimination against any person or group cannot begin to equate to an entire system that is structured in such a way that it routinely inihibits women's ability to succeed in their chosen professional fields.
I am hearing the response of (1) don't be a victim--translation--work harder than everyone else if you want to succeed at the same job, (yeah that's fair and that's exactly how you end up with bitter unfair women bosses), or (2) take yourself out of the situation--where are you going to go? Scandinavia? In law firms, for example, women who suck it up and stay reinforce the clueless leaders' (male and female) idea that the job can and should be done as currently structured and those women frequently are barely hanging on so that they get a seat at the leadership table and the ones who leave are always explained away as having unique personal circumstances and individual choices. How do you get a seat at the power table without sacrificing your own chance to have balance?

Posted by: attymom | September 25, 2006 3:41 PM

@Rockville

If this was entirely because I threw socially inept in there, then you've spent a lot of time wasting your breath by agreeing with the other notions of discrimination and spouting off about one thing you've disagreed with that really doesn't change what I've been trying to say. Go ahead and throw "socially inept" out, try and convince me that any other type of discrimination is justified to the point where you can honestly say that men have never experienced it. I'll wait.

And if you would simply learn to read through a discussion instead of bulldozing ahead, you would notice that, once again, I was refering to discrimination overall-- I know you never said racial discrimination was tolerable, I was using that as an example.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 3:41 PM

Pittypat, occasionally you post something worthwhile and furthers the conversation, but lately you've degenerated yourself into mostly launching personal attacks against posters who's ideas you don't agree with. Please try to behave with a little more dignity and your message will be easier to tolerate.

Thanks!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 3:47 PM

I, for one, dislike the people who play the victim. Women do it, but so do ethnic minority groups. To me, playing the victim is insisting that your situation affords you certain priviledges or excuses. Like people who think that the government owes them something. Leslie and the women on this blog whom I've read (so far) are not, IMO, playing the victim. In a perfect world, they would have the exact same opportunities as men. That's not this world. So these women are trying to make it equal. They are willing to work for it, by staying extra hours or whatever. They don't want special treatment--they want equal treatment. They don't want hand-outs or freebies. They want a chance to be a good employee. What employer would begrudge them that except ones who don't think that women deserve a level playing field?

Posted by: Meesh | September 25, 2006 3:48 PM

Think you could be much more condescending, Father of 4?

You often post long, "educational" lectures that seem intended to clear things up for the rest of us.

Perhaps this plays well at home, but it pretty much reeks of arrogance here.

Perhaps you could be persuaded to put a sock in it?

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 3:51 PM

Meagan, I asked the single person in my that I respect the most and knows me the best, namely my wife, what would be an appropriate posting name.

"JerkTooth", she said without thinking.

I like it, It doesn't have so much kick or punch to it as it does "bite". :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 3:54 PM

Father of 4, that's hysterical! I could definitely get attached to JerkTooth.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 3:55 PM

Rockville and Megan, as usual, I agree with you. We are fighting against an established system, not people. As it happens, white men created and dominate the system in the U.S., which is corporate America. The majority of CEOs and presidents are men (please spare me the expeceptions; I know there are women CEOs). They set the expectations, which is what we're working against.

I'm hoping that times will comtinue to change, despite the fact that more women are choosing to "opt" out. As an aside, I think it has as much to with the vocal religious minority enforcing gender roles and it does with growing wealth among the welathiest. Women who are poised to make the most difference in their companies are usually wealthy enough to stay at home. The growth in wealth for that sector has only added to that.

Posted by: Meesh | September 25, 2006 4:01 PM

Kids or not, some people just like to be martyers.

Posted by: To dcdesigner | September 25, 2006 4:03 PM

To Five - I am going back to your and Leslie's quotes

Leslie - "Most most men in America (dare I say white men) have lived every second of their lives without experiencing any prejudice. So they truly doubt that prejudice exists."

Five - "Except for the ones that are overweight, ugly, socially inept, find themselves in an environment out of touch with their background, poor, uneducated, black, Mexican, Irish, Indian, Dutch... "

So Five, I take issue with most of the situations you describe as discrimination. First of all, Leslie was talking about white men. So the idea that black, Mexican, Irish, Indian and Dutch men are included in her statement is erroneous. Second, you make references to men who are ugly, socially inept, or in situations where they are out of their element. None of this qualifies as discrimination either. The only even remote possibility of discrimination is against fat men, and they have a much easier time than fat women. So I would say that in your whole description of situations where men are subject to discrimination is very weak. If you don't want people to bulldoze over your arguments, then you are going to have to present stronger ones.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 4:03 PM

Whew!

If I read one of the above posts correctly, I think Father of 4 and I have been credited with changing Leslie's thinking on a couple of issues.

1) I think it was fairly obvious that when I awarded that distinction to myself I was doing so tongue in cheek.

1.5) I'm nearly 100% certain that Leslie is fully capable of thinking on her own. (note additional use of tongue in cheek tone.)

2) I haven't posted on this board for a few weeks after a pretty shameful display of bad manners on my part, so I don;t think I really have all that much influence.

3) But assuming for a moment that my words are THAT powerful...damn, I'm good! (see nos. 1 and 1.5 for use of tongue in cheek tone.)

Posted by: Glover Park | September 25, 2006 4:03 PM

It really is an interesting question - why is corporate America so inflexible (for the most part) when so many employees would like so more flexibility and it would yield loyalty and increased productivity? A real conundrum. I may have been a bit flippant in sighting "inertia" as the main cause in my earlier post but what else could it be? Is there some vast upper management conspiracy to keep mothers (and others seeking balance) down? I think not, it's just that the current status quo was previously okay with a male dominated workplace in which the men were the primary breadwinners and they didn't understand the importance of spending time with the kids. Now that women have successfully established ourselves in the corporate world and technology has improved flexibility option, things are not changing as quickly as one would think because:
1) No one wants to be regarded as "not serious about their career" - many women especially do not want to fulfil a stereotype and the current norm is that serious employees put in the hours
2) workers are replaceable - for every one employee that wants flexibility there are 2 replacements who don't mind the hours (FYI - this is NOT backed by any statistical survey)
3) Employees are afraid - No one wants to be the first person to ask
4) Benefits are hard to quantify - the biggest payoff of flexibility is employee morale which is very difficult to measure
5) Most upper management don't need it - Those at the top are still predominantly males who are the primary breadwinner and therefore flexibility is not such a need for them and they don't understand its import to employees

Posted by: fabworkingmom | September 25, 2006 4:04 PM

And before anyone says anything about me doubting if Leslie can think on her own, the phrase, "nearly 100% sure..." was meant to be a joke. I am more than ceretain that Leslie CAN think on her own and does so everyday.

Posted by: Glover Park | September 25, 2006 4:05 PM

Meesh, when Meagan asked me to explain what does it mean to play the victim card, I think you nailed it. Not only did you say what I wanted to say, but you said it much better than I could have.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 25, 2006 4:07 PM

JerkTooth and Meesh, I can get behind that I think. It's just that you never know what someone means when they play the "don't play the victim card" card (ha ha) - some people seem to mean "never speak of discrimination you big whiner" whereas other people mean more like what Meesh said.

I think the tougher call is when you're advocating for new policies though, because that often means re-allocating privilege, for lack of a better word. Like the discussion about lactation rooms - is providing that space helping to level the field for breastfeeding mothers who had previously faced obstacles others hadn't, or is it giving a special privilege to them by letting them have a private place to pump. I don't want to restart that debate (I got hot headed enough the first time!), but my point is just that some of the accomodations that working mothers ask for I think can fairly be characterized both ways.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 4:15 PM

So Five, I take issue with most of the situations you describe as discrimination. First of all, Leslie was talking about white men. So the idea that black, Mexican, Irish, Indian and Dutch.

Going to fast. I'll admit that Irish and Dutch men are for the most part white. But I would add that Leslie would probably not be including in her definition of white men those who are male immigrants from foreign countries, at least if we are talking about discrimination in America.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 4:15 PM

@Rockville

Okay, maybe we're just not seeing eye-to-eye here on the basic premise. If this is simply about gender, as you've pointed out, then don't bring the label "white man" into this argument. The fact that you can bring one race into it and exclude the rest, exclude anything else that is discriminated against, the fact that this is only supposed to be about gender should not allow you to make the one exception of "white men don't understand discrimination".

I take it you agree with Leslie when she says that they have never experienced discrimination for one second in their life? How many times have you been discriminated against in your life? By people that don't like the way you look? By people who are turned off by your accent? By people who think you're stupid because you're European and don't have a mastery over the language? How about by your boss who thinks that their masters earned at Gudger College makes them more intelligent than you? There are plenty of men who have experienced it-- THAT IS MY POINT. I'm not trying to prove that men are equally or more discriminated against than men. It is not exclusive to women when it comes to work, when it comes to anything. When you speak in absolutes, as Leslie has, expect responses to them, as they are usually inaccurate. It's asine at worst and irresponsible at best.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 4:20 PM

"Going to fast. I'll admit that Irish and Dutch men are for the most part white. But I would add that Leslie would probably not be including in her definition of white men those who are male immigrants from foreign countries, at least if we are talking about discrimination in America."

I understand your point, but if it's simply about gender, don't bring "white man" into this. Minorities and men of color are no exception to discrimination against women.

*I'm not objecting to anyones calling out white men per se, I just don't think it's entirely objective to do so.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 4:24 PM

Well, folks, I finally had a little time to read the blog and today seems to be a real free-for-all.

=====

I just can't really come up with any other good reasons why it is taking this country so long to figure out how easy it is to raise employee productivity by offering both men and women, parents and childless, greater flexibility at work.

If you have other explanations, please offer them up!

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 10:01 AM

=====

The problem is that discrimination of any sort is a macro-socioeconomic trait. Most of these traits have been in place for centuries. To change one of these macro-socioeconomic traits takes decades and not months or years. Despite the civil rights advances made over the last 40 years, we have removed most of the superficial problems, the problems of subconscious racial "feelings" and "beliefs" take generations to change.

Likewise for macro gender changes. 30 years ago, women did not have the types of freedom in the workplace. They were frequently relegated to the "pink collar" jobs unless they were exceptionally gifted, had good networking, or were very lucky. Now, there are significantly more opportunities, but it took most of 20-30 years for the true advances to take place. We are still only about halfway down that journey and we will have a long way to go for true gender (or racial) equality in the workplace. The trend towards good employee benefits for supporting working mothers is barely 10 years old. Although it is accepted in some of the more forward thinking companies, in general, until there is more societal acceptance of this type of thinking (and that is slowly developing), it will not be a priority for the majority of the mainstream companies. As it becomes more acceptable, or as it becomes increasingly obvious that it has long-term economic advantages (e.g. saving money for the company in the long-run), it will become more common.

Not that we shouldn't try to promote such things, but that we have to be patient because such trends take decades to advance. 20 years ago, I still had people who would talk normally to me on the phone without knowing my background and when I told them my (obviously ethic Asian) name, they would suddenly start speaking slower, louder and using smaller words. I actually had people in the 1980's refuse my business because of my race (being asked to leave a business because I was disturbing other customers). Now, most people would be aghast at such a thing, but that's because racial acceptance is much more common now that 20 years ago.

Blaming clueless and sexist men for not changing macro-socioeconomic traits in the short run is unfair. No matter how good an idea is, society cannot change that fast. Much as I hate it and rail about the slow change of racial relations, I also have to sit back and bite my tongue sometimes over the slow progress. But I recognize how much easier I have it than my parents did and I recognize how much easier I have it than I did when I was just out of college, oh so long ago.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 25, 2006 4:31 PM

" ...sexist, clueless men..."

wow - someone's got a case of the mondays, and maybe a touch of pms.

Now THAT'S sexist!

What was Leslie's post about again? ;>

Leslie, BTW, I like your responses. Keep it up!

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | September 25, 2006 4:31 PM

Five, have you no ability to read things in context? Leslie is talking about prejudice against women when she makes her reference to white men who have never experience prejudice. She says: "

The truth is in many cases men ARE that bad when it comes to prejudice against women. Often perfectly fine, moral, wonderful men can inflict prejudice unintentionally because they are -- as I wrote -- clueless about issues facing women.

Most most men in America (dare I say white men) have lived every second of their lives without experiencing any prejudice. So they truly doubt that prejudice exists.

I find that the one consistent exception is men who have (and are close to) adult daughters who have faced prejudice themselves. These men, through their daughters' lives, have witnessed secondhand the demoralizing, often subtle, prejudices against women in this and other countries."

And Leslie refers to white men because they are the ones she was originally complaining about. The men who run this country (the government and corporate America) are predominantly white.


Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 4:31 PM

Five --

You said, "How many times have you been discriminated against in your life? By people that don't like the way you look? By people who are turned off by your accent? By people who think you're stupid because you're European and don't have a mastery over the language? How about by your boss who thinks that their masters earned at Gudger College makes them more intelligent than you? There are plenty of men who have experienced it-- THAT IS MY POINT."

But these examples you're giving are not examples of discrimination. They're instances in which someone has simply made a judgment on some aspect of your person. That is not discrimination; it's personal preference. To be actual discrimination, the preference must be accompanied by action that in some way reduces your options or opportunities -- or freedoms.

Sure, millions of white males -- and females, for that matter -- have inspired the judgmental opinions of others regarding their appearance, intelligence, financial stability, mental health, etc. We've all been the target of disfavor unwarranted by anything other than some personal characteristic we have. But this doesn't rise to the level of discrimination unless there is an action attached that abbreviates our rights.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 4:39 PM

I've been reading this blog for the better part of this year since I am a young professional that's considering motherhood in the next year. Wanted to tap into the expertise of parents who are balancing - either taking time to stay at home, working part time, juggling full time work outside the home, etc. I also like hearing about childcare options on this blog - pros and cons of different arrangements, etc.

HOWEVER...in the last few weeks have seen this blog go down the inevitable man-hating, "women as victims" path that I have seen in so many "progressive" women's magazines and college courses.

I made the intentional choices to delay having a child, further my education to earn an MBA (taking on loans that come with that), work incredibly hard at my career and save up cash in preparation for a family - so we can have more flexibility when the time comes. If I was so fixated on how unfair the world was for me, I would have just wallowed in the negative and never gotten anywhere (then complained on this blog that I was in a dead end job every day).

I manage a team of men and women all older than I and I have been promoted many times in my young career. My opportunities are far greater than my mother's - when she was told she could choose from stewardess, nurse, secretary or teacher if she wanted to work (nothing wrong with those professions, just making a point that she had limited options).

The fact that Time even has an article like this one, and we are openly talking about lactation rooms, paid time off, on site daycare and flexible work arrangements shows that we are moving in the right direction (my company has all of these things and we are run by a white man). Are we moving fast enough? Absolutely not, but I would hope we would get there by standing as a united front, with our "oppressive" men and making this happen together.

As long as blogs like this teach future mothers that the "mom realm" is a bitter, victimized place, we will not get there. Balance is not a "women's issue" - it is a family issue, a human issue, not an issue that should be hijacked by angry women claiming to be feminists so they have an excuse to rip apart any woman that states she is having a happy, productive life with her family. There are men on this blog too...only when we fully embrace all male roles (including stay-at-home-dads and those in other "traditionally female" occupations) will women really be able to be "anything we want".

You can continue to talk through such weighty topics as how small a wedding ring should be for the wife not to be considered chattel, lessons on proper blog grammar usage and the merits of not changing your name. I will get back to working with political committees and within my corporation (men and women) to push substantive changes through. My supportive (and some slightly bald) male friends will work along with me. I just please hope that the few bitter writers that dominate this blog (there are a ton of rational ones - they just get lost) do not teach their daughters that men are all sexist and clueless any more than you tell them any races, ethnicities, orientations, etc are inferior. That would be a tragic step backward for our advancement as a people and will do nothing to further the causes you claim are important to you.

Posted by: Done with this Blog | September 25, 2006 4:43 PM

"Gee, it seems like you proved Leslie's point with your PMS comment"

reel 'em in boys...

Posted by: dc | September 25, 2006 4:44 PM

She also says that only after someone else brings up white people. So I'm to take it that her whole tirade was aimed at whites from the get-go? I don't care if she thinks that white men are the only ones prohibiting her, discriminating against her, trying to kick her dog... that doesn't make it right. White men may be in power in the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court... so how is it that their whiteness is affecting your managers discrimination (whatever color, creed, etc.) against you when he says "no, you cannot quit your job for 6 months then come back"?

What is it you're trying to prove exactly? That whites really DONT know what discrimination is? That Leslie has a valid point? This post has to do with women trying to get back into a job after they leave to have a child, family etc., yes? If a man were to do the same thing, do you think the company would be understanding because he's simply not a woman?

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 4:51 PM

I think that if you want to change the behavior of either big corporations, or of women who could climb high in corporations, but instead opt out, you need to stop framing it as a moral question, and instead explain why it's good for them. People who have made it to the upper echelons of corporate America got there because the status quo works for them personally. Many companies would be better off if they could hang onto women who have the option not to work, and most women who can choose not to work might actually benefit more from working than staying home, if the position could be sufficiently flexible.

I believe that women are an asset to corporate America, and there must be a way to accomodate many mothers' desire for greater flexibility which improves the company's bottom line.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 25, 2006 4:52 PM

@Patt

With those prejudices, discrimination will follow. Not in every instance, but prejudice leads to discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional. If you're a minority, disabled, overweight, foreign, a different religion, don't have formal education, you can be discriminated against, and it is entirely possible that it will affect your rights.

Posted by: Five | September 25, 2006 4:52 PM

Done with this Blog, you may be done, but I for one find this blog to be highly entertaining and a great stress reliever. It shows me an array of people who have it worse off than me, because they can only find time to wallow in their self-pity. And it is a great forum on which to unload when one is experiencing a particularly bad case of PMS ;)

Posted by: Not done yet AKA "Half Baked" | September 25, 2006 4:55 PM

"The word discrimination comes from the Latin "discriminare", which means to "distinguish between". To discriminate socially is to make a distinction between people on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit. Examples of social discrimination include racial, religious, sexual, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic, height-related, and age-related discrimination. Whether a given example of discrimination is positive or negative is a subjective judgement (i.e., in the eye of the beholder).

Distinctions between people which are based just on individual merit (such as personal achievement, skill or ability) are generally not considered socially discriminatory. Consequently, prohibitions against such discrimination generally will not prevent a government from acting in a legitimate and justifiable way based upon the merit of an individual person.

Posted by: Discrimination Defined - From Wikpedia | September 25, 2006 5:03 PM

I knew at some point someone would get desperate enough to dreg up the old "man hater" term. Haven't heard that thrown around in a while.

For the record -- and for all of you wonderful men who post on this blog, including the at times beloved and at times behated Father of 2, Father of 4, Glover Park, etc -- I do not hate men.

I hate the power that men have over women. I hate the fact that they use that power way too often and too cavalierly. I hate that through no virture of their own, just luck of birth, they get to benefit from hearing "men are superior" messages throughout their lives.

And maybe I don't even "hate" these things. As I say to my kids, "hate" is a very strong word. And I like men in general waaay to much to hate them.

Posted by: Leslie | September 25, 2006 5:06 PM

I also take exception to the generalization that men (and even "white men") have never faced discrimination in their lives.

Age, weight, and disability discrimination are very rampant in our society and are non-gender nor race biased. If you are too old or too young, you may frequently be denied opportunities that are otherwise available to most people of both genders. Any one who denies that weight discrimination exists really needs to clean off those rose-colored glasses. There have been several cases of blind testing with a heavy person and a controlled average sized person and frequently larger people are told there are no openings when more attractive people are offered applications and interviews. Larger people often cannot use services even vital ones that emergency rooms, hospitals, public transportation, etc because the facilities are only designed for normal sized people. Although great headway has been made through the ADA for people with disabilities, there are still inherent limitations for disabled people. Restaurants who advertise that they have large-print and braille menus don't bother to ensure they actually have it (we've been to places, asked for the advertised menus so my wife could read them and been told they don't have them). Most public agencies do *NOT* print all of their materials for patrons in large print and braille. Very few have audio-adaptive instructions. There are still many places that someone in a wheelchair cannot go.

Anon said it very well:

====
"Just because most oppressors are white men doesn't mean that most white men are oppressors. Alienating half of the human race with misplaced anger is not going to solve the problems we are facing, but rather cut us off from a valuable source of solutions. I think we need to embrace men (figuratively) and their efforts to make society more livable for women, children, and other men."
=====

I don't think I can say it any better.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 25, 2006 5:10 PM

yetanothersahm said "I think that if you want to change the behavior of either big corporations, or of women who could climb high in corporations, but instead opt out, you need to stop framing it as a moral question, and instead explain why it's good for them."

That is such a good point, and Anna Quindlen talks about it in her Newsweek article. She talks about the how the women's movement was couched as a struggle against men, but how it is a struggle against waste as much as anything. Women have a lot to contribute, and if society found ways to receive and accomodate those contributions, we would be so much better off. Quindlen cites a study by Catalyst, the research organization that tracks women at work, It apparently reported in 2004 that the Fortune 500 corporations with the most women in top positions yielded, on average, a 35 percent higher return on equity than those with the fewest female corporate officers.

So making the workplace more accessible to women does in fact affect the bottom line and make business more profitable. But we don't hear that as often as we should.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 5:15 PM

Leslie,

Maybe it's because I know too many exceptions to the rule that I find these types of generalization against men to be so disturbing.

I work with a large number of racial minority men. Thanks to my wife's disability, I know a lot of visually impaired men. I have a large number of gay male friends through various interactions. And so many of these men whether they are white or not are in various ways discriminated against.

I find more of the problems are with institutional and corporate management. Although that is primarily stocked with white males, the subset of white males that fall into this group is not a dominant portion of males or white males in general. So I hate to see these types of gross over-extending generalizations because I think they falsely include more people than they correctly include.

And in the long run, I think that promotely these type of sexist generalizations only seeks to alienate many of the people who are in the positions to make the changes that you want to see. They have the ability to make the progress, don't turn them off of your message because of the terms you use to couch it.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 25, 2006 5:19 PM

'I hate the power that men have over women. I hate the fact that they use that power way too often and too cavalierly. I hate that through no virture of their own, just luck of birth, they get to benefit from hearing "men are superior" messages throughout their lives.'

Leslie, if you could just knock that hate filled chip off your shoulder, you might win more friends and influence more people.

Why do you think men have so much power? You sound very bitter.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 25, 2006 5:24 PM

Experience mom, what makes you think the balance of power is equal between men and women or that men don't have so much power. I am not trying to be snarky. I am interested in your reasons.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 5:28 PM

"I hate the power that men have over women."

That is so interesting, and it really helps me understand where Leslie is coming from better. This might sound strange, but honestly I have never thought of it this way on a personal level - the discrimination I have dealt with has always just felt like someone's ignorance, ego, or other negative trait getting in my way, never as a power that someone has that they can use against or over me. I suppose that perspective is reflective of my own level of privilege, that I would not hesitate to walk away from a job where I was not respected because I know I have the skills and family support to see me through something like that.

On a societal level, as I've said ad naseum, it similarly feels much more to me like an ingrained system of biases that have to be routed out and changed in all the places they hide - be they policies or peoples' subconscious - rather than men holding their power over women, which I guess stems from my own experiences. Anyway, that just really jumped out at me as a source of differing viewpoints and I thought it was interesting.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 5:30 PM

Megan, I agree with you that men are not the only ones that are sexist. Our society is sexist on a systemic level. But it is hard to separate men from the society because men, in the end, are the ones that derive benefit from systemic discrimination against women. Women may enforce it also, and many men may deplore it, but in the end, men are the ones who ultimately gain from it, whether or not they agree with it. Even men who deplore sex discrimination have not been as a class consistently or vehemently opposed to it. They may not even recognize it as such from their vantage point. Some women don't even see it.

Posted by: Rockville | September 25, 2006 5:36 PM

White men can and do play the victim card on occasion. As a female engineering student I was **occasionally** not always given the benefit doubt by those who thought were victimized by being a part of the majority. My SAT scores / HS grades were above the college average & my college grades were much higher than the average, so it was fairly easy for dismiss -- but it would have been hard for me if I were in the bottom half (where approximately half of the white males in question were).

Posted by: sidenote | September 25, 2006 5:44 PM

Dudes, you guys are off the hook today. Anyone who has attempted to ask/offer something not related to the "patriarchy 101 team" vs. "the stop-whining-about-non-existent discrimination team" vs. "the discrimination exists, but only toward my group" team has been ignored by the people intent on calling eachother names and accusing one another of being unreasonable.

No one likes to think they're sexist, just like no one likes to think they're racist. I grew up in the south around plenty of stone cold racists who would insist over and over that they were "not prejudiced". Usually that statement was followed by a big "but, ..." and ensuing denigration of blacks, latinos, etc. Same goes for sexists-- many sexists, in fact, think they treat women (at least the women in their lives) quite well by regarding them as precious objects to be sheltered and taken care of (as opposed to simply equals fit to take on the same professional tasks).

Few people are self-aware enough to admit their deepest character flaws. I always hate that feminists have to be more restrained, more diplomatic, more reasonable, etc. than whomever they're trying to convince in order to get taken seriously, but it's simply a fact of life. The minute a feminist makes a slip, a generalization, a poor choice of words, she'll be pounced on and denounced as just another hysterical female imagining things.

I've often wished that people would focus on the substance of my arguments and give me the benefit of the doubt for any errors in communicating them-- but the more high stakes the discussion, the less likely people are to do so. Also, the ability to rake someone over the coals anonymously makes people even more critical. So, Leslie, though I had no problem with your post, and unfair though it may be, I would suggest more careful wording in the future to avoid having the discussion devolve into name-calling. Though the emotional content of the posts is high, the discussion as a whole ends up being kind of boring.

Posted by: JKR | September 25, 2006 5:45 PM

Rockville, I am totally with you on that point. As much as I'm trying to be grandiose here, I regularly refer to "sticking it to The Man," or not working for "The Man," etc. Leslie's last post just jumped out at me because in spite of that, I've never really thought of as men actively using their power over women the way Leslie talked about it, and that difference just sort of surprised me. Because men (in general) have clearly gotten many subtle and not-so-subtle advantages from this system, but it just never strikes me so actively, I guess. Sorry, I'm losing my ability to think clearly...

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 5:53 PM

We actually have a unique moment in history for women to prove that they will change things when they hold the highest offices in the land.

Nancy Pelosi - House Majority Leader - 2006
H. Rodham Clinton - President - 2008

That's two out of four. Go out there and make it happen, women! I can't do it. I'm clueless.

Posted by: Working Dad | September 25, 2006 5:54 PM

'Experience mom, what makes you think the balance of power is equal between men and women or that men don't have so much power. I am not trying to be snarky. I am interested in your reasons.'

I object mostly to Leslie dumping all men into one group, and labeling them bad. In the working world, I encountered both men and women with power, and their reasonableness and ability/willingness to help me move up was not based on their gender. Many people use their power for the greater good, Leslie talks about power as if it is a bad thing. Power is part of the social structure, something to work with, not fight against, IMHO.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 25, 2006 5:59 PM

To those think that Leslie's comment about men having power over women is off the wall, I can say from my own work experience that I see men exercise their power over women constantly. The male leaders of my organization give implicit weight to anything another man in the organization says. They take it as a given that their opinions are correct. When they look for an opinion outside the organization, it is inevitably to another male head of an organization-- a "trusted source, someone who knows what they're talking about" that just so happens to look like them (male, white, Christian, affluent). None of the "trusted sources" are women. When the women in the organization (who are the mid-level and below and literally do the bulk of the work of the organization) they cannot and do not open their mouths to speak without having a stack of evidence and research to back up what they are saying in a folder in their hand-- because they will be questioned, will be asked to provide evidence in a way the men never are. The women know they have to be twice as good, twice as prepared in order to have any credibility. Oh, and out and out disagree with a "trusted source"-- it doesn't matter if he says the moon is made of green cheese, the top female manager has to find a way to diplomatically dissuade her boss without saying that anyone is actually wrong. The men have no compunction about being blunt and saying if they think an idea is baloney. We're a small organization, so I see it with my own eyes. This organization, though small, has tremendous financial assets and wields hefty influence on a number of key local, state and federal policy issues through its work. So yes, I see every day the power that "men have over women". (And for the record, I am trying to transition out of this job, because it drives me crazy.) As per my earlier post, none of the men in question (even the board chair, who has publicly and seriously shushed/dismissed his wife when she was trying to speak) would ever, in one million years, admit to being sexist.

And to the folks who love to call feminists "angry and bitter" see my post from earlier today re: the revolutionary founders of our country. If no one ever got pissed off with the status quo, nothing would ever change.

Posted by: JKR | September 25, 2006 6:05 PM

JKR, I don't think it's unfair to ask someone who publishes in a national newspaper to be careful with her words. If a male columnist posted about hysterical, weak women you know we would be all over him for it. It's crappy that feminists get held to a higher standard, and it's crappy that people personally attack Leslie, but taking issue with her characterization of the problem is fair game.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 6:08 PM

Megan,

Don't you think that Leslie has a bit of an obligation to act as a lightning rod? She throws out the topics, puts a spin on them, and then lets her readers go at it. That's her job. She's not writing op ed columns for the WP; she's writing blog columns, which by definition are meant to incite controversy.

She seems to be doing her job pretty well.

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 6:20 PM

Pittypat wrote, of Leslie's _On Balance_ :
she's writing blog columns, which by definition are meant to incite controversy.
---
Blog, by definition?

Blog is new, both as a phenom and a word.

We are "defining" blogness in culture right now. Blog-land or blogNation or the blogsphere is bigger than one column in the WaPo.

Blogs -- interactive, public web-based blogs, most with comment function -- are NOT NOW, by definition, meant to incite controversy.

----
Too soon to define this interactive technology, concept and word in such a uni-dimentional way.

---
Don't want to offend. Do see your point. But as a specialist in digital communication (opps, pardon the creditialing move) I wanted to weigh in.


Posted by: Colllege Parkian | September 25, 2006 6:26 PM

Pittypat,

That's definitely one way to look at things. I don't agree though - I don't think controversy for the sake of controversy is that useful; I think it tends to distract from the actual issues rather than contribute to changing things. I prefer the days that this blog generates discussion of solutions and experiences and ideas as opposed to a lot of what JKR aptly described as namecalling. I certainly don't shy from debate, I'd just rather debate ideas and solutions rather than whether sex discrimination exists.

But I do agree that Leslie generally does a great job of getting discussion going, and I'm glad she does (though I wish I didn't get so addicted to it sometimes). I just disagreed with the way she framed it up today.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 6:37 PM

"I'd just rather debate ideas and solutions rather than whether sex discrimination exists."

Sorry, that's not exactly what I meant - more that I'd rather not battle over whether the problem is victimized women or sexist piggy men.

Posted by: Megan | September 25, 2006 6:39 PM

College Parkian --

Yes, point taken about defining. But, if blogs are, as you say, "interactive, public web-based [entities], most with comment function," then doesn't it hold that differing opinions are being solicited? If everyone agreed on the subject matter being discussed, there would be no point in blogging.

Maybe I should have said "by design" instead of "by definition," as that is closer to your explanation. Would you agree that this is a better description?

Posted by: pittypat | September 25, 2006 6:43 PM

"Design" is better concept here for this moving target.

But the interactive and public quality does not always mean controversy.

You said, "incite controversy."

Why not, equally or even preferably,

"invite conversation"

"proffer solutions"

"define or capture the problem."

My other area of scholarship is civility in science/technical discourse.

I think of blogs as a kind of electronic agora -- a gathering place of ideas.

--
Off to IRL....in real life.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 25, 2006 7:16 PM

Pitty (and it is a pitty I am still posting to you) - I don't shop at SuperFresh so there is no chance of running into me there. Nice that you assume you wouldn't like me on sight though - explains a lot.

You do correct my grammar - I don't think I am the only one mistyping on here. Funny thing is, you started your posting today by commenting on my comments. You seem to enjoy the role as senior editor - congratulations, you are recognized as such.

I don't comment lavishly on your posts - if anything I am restrained - I have to physically stop myself from posting to you because you are so ridiculous. One of your flowery posts had my neighbors laughing for hours - it was a hoot! Nothing like a cold beer and reading Pitty's pitiful posts!

Last point as I need to dinner on the table, I don't think calling someone a man-hater is over the top when they use terms like "sexist, clueless men." Leslie can complain all she wants about being called a man hater - but when you walk like a duck and quack like a duck....... But - it's her blog, she can cry if she wants to. Same goes for you.

Posted by: cmac | September 25, 2006 7:17 PM

Maybe there is a difference between "regular" jobs and "professional" positions. Or maybe a difference between government agency and private industry.

In my 30+ year federal career (from typing pool to technical analytical position), I have seen many people both promoted and overlooked. I do believe I have seen discrimination against white men. Whether you call it quotas or affirmative action, there have been many people promoted because they are female or racial minority or handicapped. I'm not saying that they aren't good enough or don't deserve it, but sometimes there was a definite "we need a woman, or a black man" during the selection process. As a female, I believe that I have personnally benefitted by receiving a promotion to a systems position when the powers to be were looking to have a larger femal presence.

I don't believe that discrimination has been completely wiped out, but, at least in my government agency, women do have opportunities.

And, I have also found that some people who were overlooked because they were (take your pick), not a woman, not a brown-noser, not a minority, not a man, too old, too young, not a friend of the boss, were really not selected because their opinion of themselves was highly inflated and they were flat out not as good as they thought.

Maybe this blog would be productive if people actually discussed possible solutions rather than just fighting and pointing fingers.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 7:48 PM

Best posts of the day award to Donewiththisblog and Dadwannabe.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 25, 2006 7:54 PM

It's nice to hear someone with a different opinion on the blog, five please come back and stay!

Posted by: actually | September 25, 2006 10:17 PM

To the anonymous 7:54 poster. Thanks. Since no one responded to anything I posted, i wasn't sure if anyone even bothered to read it or just breezed past my posts.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 25, 2006 11:53 PM

DadWannaBe, I for one, read your post very carefully. You are exceptionally reasonable. And your wife. blind? Want to have kids? Fascinating!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 26, 2006 5:36 AM

DadWannaBe, I for one, read your post very carefully. You are exceptionally reasonable. And your wife. blind? Want to have kids? Fascinating!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 26, 2006 05:36 AM
=====

Actually, my wife is visually impaired due to a genetic disorder. In her case, she has had some very advanced corneal stem cell transplantation that has brought her back from legally blind (20/800) to able to drive (20/60). She cannot be refracted for better, but after several years where she couldn't drive, we're very glad that she can drive again. Despite the good vision, there are still aspects where she is visually impaired (including not being able to adjust well to changing brightness conditions).

We are currently looking into some alternatives (including donor egg to avoid the genetic issues since her disorder is genetically dominant).

To be fair, I've know several handicapped parents and in some ways they make better parents as their children learn additional life skills for coping with the handicapped.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 26, 2006 11:53 AM

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