The So-Called Ambition Gap

A new report from the Brookings Institution argues that there are fewer women in political office in the United States because of an "ambition gap" between men and women:

Extensive research shows that when women run for office, they perform just as well as men...The fundamental reason for women's underrepresentation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gender gap in political ambition; men tend to have it, and women don't."

Now wait a minute, here. Great news that women do as well as men in office; I'm glad to know those stats. And, according to the report, female politicians increased significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, although they don't come close to reflecting women's 51 percent population status: 24 percent of statewide elective officials, 16 percent of members of Congress, 10 percent of mayors, one presidential candidate...

But it's quite a leap to conclude that women do not run for office because we lack political ambition. What a loaded accusation. Are women defective because we lack male ambition? The report makes it sound as if women are missing a body part.

Here are the real roadblocks for women in politics: A lack of role models. Low self-confidence in the political arena. Abysmal financial support. Pitiful recruitment by entrenched political organizations. Reluctance to subject our families to public scrutiny.

And my favorite: Our pragmatic acknowledgment that women, unlike men, are expected to keep up an endless grind at work and at home with limited support from employers or husbands, leaving little time or energy to add a third job -- running for office -- to the list.

As Post reporter Ruth Marcus confides in Our Own Glass Ceilings, "When the governor of Alaska gave birth the other day to her fifth child, my inital, not-especially-enlightened thought was: How in the world will she manage that? I have just two kids to juggle and no state to run, and I'm dropping balls left and right."

The Brookings report explores the list of pragmatic barriers, but fails to headline them as prominently as the whole "women lack ambition" pity party. Women may well fear that being "ambitious" taints us as unfeminine, but we've got plenty of desire to change the world. Women just dress up our ambition differently from male ambition -- maybe because we've been socialized to think of ambition as an undesirable female characteristic.

In her landmark book, Necessary Dreams, New York psychiatrist Dr. Anna Fels argues that ambition is a natural human trait everyone shares.

"The women I interviewed hated the word ambition when applied to their own lives," writes Fels. "For women ambition necessarily implied egotism, selfishness, self-aggrandizement, or the manipulative use of others for one's own ends. Despite the fact that women are currently more career-oriented than at any time in history--and often more clearly ambitious--there is something about the concept that makes them distinctly uncomfortable."

Ambassador Swanee Hunt, director of the Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School, explained the "ambition gap" in this way yesterday on Michel Martin's NPR program, Tell Me More. If you try to convince female potential political candidates to run, Hunt says, "By saying 'here's how you can have power,' " women are very unlikely to run for office. But if you say instead, 'You can do so much good for people in need,' they are more likely to run."

So, I argue that women are plenty ambitious -- in politics, in our professional lives and at home. The "gap" is in people's perceptions and definitions of female ambition. Ambition in a dress looks different. Get over it. The real obstacles to success won't get addressed if we poo-poo women as lacking ambition and stop the discussion there.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself and the women in your life "ambitious"? Why do you think women don't run for political office more often?

Don't forget a different kind of ambition: if you see Sex and the City: The Movie this weekend, send me your reaction by Sunday night so I can include your review in Top Ten Reactions to Sex & The City in Monday's Top 10 Tips.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 29, 2008; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
Previous: Female Soldiers' Private War | Next: Can You Find Balance in a Flip-Flop?


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Any balance issues here today? Nope? I guess it's Leslie as usual.

Posted by: Looking for balance | May 29, 2008 7:37 AM

First Leslie rails against the idea that women don't have ambition etc, missing a body part, blah blah. Then she asks for your reaction to a silly,hookup movie about washed up, over the hill floozies. Classic Leslie

Posted by: yawn | May 29, 2008 7:55 AM

I like the "reluctance to subject our families to public scrutiny" bit, but I think it's more than that -- it's also ourselves. Look at this blog: post isn't even up 30 minutes, and already the first couple of posters have jumped all over Leslie.

Women are subject to conflicting expectations, and we know it. Look at the recent studies about women in power -- people say women don't succeed because they need to be more assertive, but then have very negative reactions to women who actually are assertive. So if you're going to put yourself out there, you have to be willing to run that tightrope of just-enough-not-too-much, know how to play the game and hit that balance just right, and have an extremely thick skin about all the people who are going to be pissed off whatever you do.

It's not that I'm not ambitious. It's that there's very little in life that would be important enough to me to subject myself to that kind of hell to get there. And power sure ain't on the list.

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 8:10 AM

Laura, So, because Leslie is a woman and writes poor and silly solumns, she should be given some slack? If she were a man would you care? This is not a matter of assertiveness, it is a matter of moman that writes a column in which she satirizes the military and inclines that women in the military should be pitied one day, but the next she writes that woman are being treated unfairly. Who is treating women unfairly? This the problem.

I know plenty of women in politics, many of them head up local, county and state committees, seats and chairs in both parties. The reason they do not go further are wide and varied, but to blame other women is crazy, stupid and igonorant.

I know this will get erased, so much for an open and honest discussion.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 8:33 AM

And let us not forget money. I bet there are many women who would love to be part of the legistlative process but don't have the funding/backing. Is it easier for an unknown man to get financial backing for a campaign than a woman?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | May 29, 2008 8:35 AM

Women tend to be more risk averse in several areas. I've considered running for public office locally and one thing that concerns me is spending the family's savings to finance various campaign expenses (posters, a website, etc.) for a job I might not win. Unfortunately, it's my experience that many men DON"T feel guilty about spending their family finances on running a campaign which may or may not be successful, but that as women we frequently do.

I know that the solution for things like this is more independent fundraising through organizations like Emily's list, etc. but most of those organizations are for financing people who are already running for congress and so forth. THere's little funding available for running small-time local campaigns -- which are frequent stepping stones for bigger and better things.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 8:38 AM

Hey, I agree there is a lot of rant in me on this subject. But I think my anger and frustration is justified. Diversity in political candidates is essential to a thriving democracy over time. We simply do not have enough in our political system at this time, and in my opinion, it hurts everyone and it undermines our culture over time.

KLB -- There is a lot of good stuff in the Brookings report, and in the Tell Me More clip I've linked to in today's blog. I'd encourage everyone to read/listen to both.

One of the big problems IS lack of funding from the entrenched political system, which tends to favor male candidates. There are other problems, too -- the system favors incumbents, and the same old arguments that are effective in getting men to run (repeatedly) fail to persuade most women.

And 8:33, I'm happy to keep your posts up, as long as you use a screen name and keep the venom to a minimum. Open and honest does not mean you can trash me and other posters. It's just not productive, and I have an obligation to everyone to delete posts that violate our discussion policies.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 8:42 AM

Also want to acknowledge the humor in my rant...right next to my heartfelt plea for Sex and the City reviews.

As I hope I've made clear -- a passion for shoes and a passion for politics, change and empowerment are not mutually exclusive!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 8:44 AM

"But it's quite a leap to conclude that women do not run for office because we lack political ambition."

I absolutely have no interest, desire, or ambition to run for political office. Neither do any of my female friends. In fact, we don't even discuss politics.

The biggest office I ever held was Girl Scout leader. I have no leadership ambitions beyond that.

Actually, I don't know any men who have political ambitions. They are ambitious in other areas, but not politics.

The majority of Leslie's life has been spent in a political city which does not reflect the dreams, desires, and ambitions of the majority of the citizens of this country.

Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 8:53 AM

"I don't know any men who have political ambitions" should be

"I don't personally know any men who have political ambitions"

Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 8:56 AM

"Abysmal financial support. Pitiful recruitment by entrenched political organizations."

I don't see an ambition gap, but then I am in a profession where women are generally comfortable taking advantage of opportunities as they arise and making opportunities happen when they do not. Politics is no game for someone who needs role models, lacks self-confidence and sweats the impact on her family.

The two factors you've identified above are where the rubber hits the road. Everyone is happy to jump on the bandwagon of a female candidate who has name-recognition and can finance the first 25% of her campaign. It's very, very difficult, though, for a woman who lacks name recognition to get early funding. Men with similar credentials, e.g., business leadership roles, party credentials and connections, are recruited. Women rarely so.

I am not nearly as concerned about who is out in front. I am concerned about who heads the RNC and DNC, who leads the major campaigns, who has a reputation as a powerful behind-the-scenes broker, who has the impact to get donors to line-up simply by saying the word. THAT's the part of politics in which I'd like to see significantly more women participate. The "family" excuses set forth above don't stop anyone from being influential.

Posted by: MN | May 29, 2008 8:57 AM

I'm part of a monthly women's book club called "Project Get Informed" which has focused on politics. We've read books on politics, books on the movements, issues, and parties, and discussed them. It's been quite an eye-opener to hear the differences between older and younger women when it comes to making electoral decisions. The older women in our group have been just grateful to see a woman running for President. The younger women are focused on issues, not gender. I wonder if the Brookings Report analyzed the influence of age in making their findings...FWIW, I appreciate everyone who posts a screen name!

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 9:08 AM

Lurker - I don't understand why you seem proud to say that you and your female friends "don't even discuss politics." Please explain.

Posted by: mango | May 29, 2008 9:12 AM

"older" and "younger" are in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:14 AM

I'm a woman who has voted in every election since becoming eligible. I have plenty of ambition, but absolutely no stomach for the limelight. Am I willing to work long and hard? You bet. Do I relish having every blemish in my life dissected by the media, including my posts online? No. Will I run for office? No. I won't vote for Hillary Clinton, but do I think it's fair that even her cackle was pounced on by the media? No. She's been vilified for being ambitious.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 9:21 AM

"She's been vilified for being ambitious. "

I beg to differ. She's been vilified for being a liar and someone unable to share a sandbox, so to speak.

When we call a man an elitist snob with a weird wife, a la John Kerry, no one asserts that a hatred or disdain for men underlies that opinon. Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.


Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:26 AM

I am just looking for those scones that Fred promised!

Posted by: Mako | May 29, 2008 9:34 AM

I haven't gotten to the Brookings report yet but this topic is something that I studied in a women and politics course. Surprisingly, the studies and books we had found that parties are very happy to fund women candidates and debunked the lack of funding argument as a barrier. The funding argument comes into play when you have no name recognition or aren't independently wealthy, male or female. Women enjoyed good representation locally and more likely to be on school boards. Most women waited until their children were graduated from high school to begin a political career. In many ways, a bigger barrier to the women was the women themselves, doubting their abilities and passion. Voters are also another issue, as there still exists a block of people who will not vote for a woman under any circumstances. The problem seems to be more endemic than systemic in many ways and socializing girls to want to enter public life is probably the best way to increase their representation in politics.

Posted by: FloridaChick | May 29, 2008 9:34 AM

Or maybe women just don't have the stomach for the gutter swill that passes for political discourse in this country.

Posted by: BxNY | May 29, 2008 9:35 AM

I absolutely have no interest, desire, or ambition to run for political office. Neither do any of my female friends. In fact, we don't even discuss politics.

The biggest office I ever held was Girl Scout leader. I have no leadership ambitions beyond that.

Actually, I don't know any men who have political ambitions. They are ambitious in other areas, but not politics.

The majority of Leslie's life has been spent in a political city which does not reflect the dreams, desires, and ambitions of the majority of the citizens of this country.

Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 8:53 AM

Translation: I am proud to be an illiterate, simple-minded ostrich.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:39 AM

I consider myself ambitious. Ambitious enough to have completed a M.A. in Economics while working full time! I think the largest deterrent is still the fact that women, for better or worse, on average (of course there are exceptions, Fred!) still are responsible for the majority of household work even when both partners work full time. When do women, even those who are politically ambitious, find the time to campaign and fundraise in a manner that doesn't leave them open to being criticized for not attending to familial or work responsibilities?

I'm not saying men are bad, for those who will jump on me. In fact, it looks like men are doing more housework then ever before in this country. I'm just saying that for the most part women are doing more then ever, and that I think there is a serious time constraint on women. The Brookings paper does mention it, and they do take it into account, but I'm not sure that I agree with their implication that the gender gap in ambition is the primary explanation for why fewer women run for political office in this country.

Posted by: canary28 | May 29, 2008 9:46 AM

We have a local man challenging an incumbent Congressman in the Republican primary here in VA who has credentials, stellar policy ideas and some money. Aside from the HUGE hurdle of running against an incumbent, his biggest hurdle is his personality - which is equivlant to a wet rag. Even if you want to be in politics and have the ideas and the money, you better be able to deliver a message.

I would estimate that over 50% of the local political activists in my party, in my county are women. I don't think this is unusual, but I could be wrong. In our party the women run the show, they are involved in every aspect, but when it comes becoming a candidate many have no desire to run. I don't blame them, it is a very personal decision. Sometimes they hold more power behind the throne, and more power to them.

Posted by: Get Real | May 29, 2008 10:09 AM

Running for political office -- is it ambition or ego (or both... or more?) I think a lot of women just have too much good sense to dive into politics / public life. I see their ambition and passion directed to (oftentimes) more proudctive pursuits.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | May 29, 2008 10:23 AM

Again, I think women are ambitious in different ways. Maybe we just don't want the political life. I strive to balance my intellecutal interests, my career interests, and my family obligations. To me, that is a sign of success. Not working 80 hour weeks with a lot of travel.

I remember reading an article in the Post of life for congressmen that were also mothers. They hardly had a chance to see their kids. Why would most men or women want that? I don't call it ambitious. Just different.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 29, 2008 10:24 AM

I don't honestly know why anyone, male or female, would want to run for political office. Worst case scenario, your life becomes an open book, your family is scrutinized, your every utterance is viewed as slanted or racist/sexist/ageist, etc.

The people who DO run for political office tend to be Type As, and there aren't nearly as many Type A women as men, at least in my experience.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 29, 2008 10:35 AM

"Lurker - I don't understand why you seem proud to say that you and your female friends "don't even discuss politics." Please explain."

"Translation: I am proud to be an illiterate, simple-minded ostrich."

Not discussing politics is just a fact, not a matter of pride. We discuss our families, jobs, children, vacations, activities and hobbies - just not politics. We discuss current events, but not politics. We have found that it is better to keep our political opinions to ourselves :). That doesn't mean that we don't follow current events and that we are not aware of what is going on in the world.

As far as the 'translation' - WOW. Is everyone who doesn't live exactly the way you do an illiterate, simple-minded ostrich?

Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 10:41 AM

I think one aspect we haven't touched on is self-esteem. Most of the women I know, even those in executive positions, are quick to say that they don't know enough about issues to even discuss them. Yet these women run departments and hospitals with hundreds or thousands of employees. I think most men & women operate with confidence within a very narrow realm. Women however tend to defer to others (or at least keep our mouths shut) in outside areas. I don't buy the lack of time argument, but I do believe that many women simply aren't willing to believe in themselves and their abilities.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 10:42 AM

When one of my friends got pregnant and had an abortion back in college (this is 1977ish), one of her reactions was 'well, I guess I can never run for public office now' Sadly, she's probably still right. And please, don't turn this discussion into one on abortion please! Many people, not just women, have no wish for the extreme publicity surrounding running for office.

Besides, running for public office exposes our own internal hypocrisies.

Posted by: dotted | May 29, 2008 10:43 AM

"many women simply aren't willing to believe in themselves and their abilities."

do you really think this is an individual choice women make?

as in, a woman wakes up and says "today, i'm not going to believe in myself"?

it's more complicated than that. i think it's too simplistic to blame women for lack of confidence.

men (white men, at least) are told from day one that the world is theirs and they can do anything. role models abound. they are the hero of every story, every fairytale. everyone is supportive. teachers call on them when they raise their hands in school. no one asks them, at age 3, who they are going to marry when they grow up. so naturally they have confidence in their abilities. i don't think "willingness" has anything to do with believing in themselves.

and just as naturally, women haven't gotten this kind of widespread cultural support and thus don't usually develop strong internal confidence. (there are individual exceptions, of course...and support for girls has grown rather dramatically over the past 30 years, in the US at least.)

the causes of women's collective lack of self esteem are complicated and rooted in our society, not in women's "willingness to believe in ourselves." so are the solutions.

we don't build these glass ceilings ourselves.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 11:08 AM

Leslie, I don't blame women at all. We are dealt very poor hands. For example, every man I've ever met, however stupid, ugly, and ill-mannered, believes he can nail a supermodel. Most of the women I know, even those who are gorgeous, well-educated, and kind, are shocked that any man finds them attractive. We're socialized to think less of ourselves. I'm not immune myself. But I think we need to stop it. And we need to stop doing it to one another. I hate hearing women say about another women, "Who does she think she is?" Can we at least make the decision to be supportive of one another (a very SATC attitude, I might add)? When we stop thinking of ourselves as victims, we'll be able to accomplish a great deal more.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 11:25 AM

"men (white men, at least) are told from day one that the world is theirs and they can do anything"

this may be true of white men of a certain socioeconomic class, but it is not true of all white men. how many white boys in appalacia are being told that the world is theirs and they can do anything?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 11:31 AM

"For example, every man I've ever met, however stupid, ugly, and ill-mannered, believes he can nail a supermodel. Most of the women I know, even those who are gorgeous, well-educated, and kind, are shocked that any man finds them attractive. We're socialized to think less of ourselves."

Babsy, we must hang out with very different crowds! Either that, or I walk through life with blinders on. But I agree that women need to be more supportive of one another in almost every way. The lack of it on this blog has certainly bitten me in the a$$ a couple of times.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 29, 2008 11:33 AM

Does Leslie really believe that if there was no sex discrimination, an equal percentage of men and women would enter each and every profession? That in that glorious utopia of equality, 51% of politicians, day care workers, coal miners, and trash collectors would be women?

Men and women are different. And that's OK. Maybe most women have better things to do than run for public office.

Posted by: Rockville Dad | May 29, 2008 11:39 AM

Is everyone who doesn't live exactly the way you do an illiterate, simple-minded ostrich?


Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 10:41 AM

No, but I am not surprised that logic is not your strong suit.

Illiterate and simple-minded wouldn't describe the vast number of people who do not live as I do. Both adjectives apply perfectly to a woman who describes herself and her friends as limited by choice to topics of no significance. If you exclude politics from your conversation, you are pretty much down to recipes, cleaning and sports. Later you say you discuss current events but not politics. You can't have one without the other. For example, if you discuss the earthquake in China, you indirectly are discussing the impact of Chinese policy and politics on post-disaster assistance. If you discuss gay marriage, you are discussing a topic of much political interest and action. Methinks you have designated the P word as a bad one and are kidding yourself.

Posted by: Get Realer | May 29, 2008 11:39 AM

I think the reasons why women don't get into politics as much are varied and complicated. Some of it is that society is not too friendly to women who have the kind of drive and ambition to want to dive into the political arena, and a big part of that is that women are socialized to get along, be nice, work cooperatively, and not outshine others, which are traits that are almost the opposite of what is needed to win political office (competitiveness, a certain amount of tolerance for aggression, the ability to showcase your talents and accomplishments, the ability to point out the defects of your competitor). Women are socialized to define success differently than men, and thus, the fruits of political ambition seem less appealing to us. Does that mean that we don't have political ambitions?

I think it means that we don't necessary see the value of politics the way it is currently being played. Which is too bad. Because we could add so much to politics if we were more involved. It's kind of a vicious circle. We don't get involved because the dynamics of politics is so unappealing, and it remains unappealing because we aren't involved in it enough to really change it. I do think that if women were more involved in politics, it might be a different game. It's just tough to break into the game. Hopefully, in the next generation, more women will see the value of getting involved, and then, perhaps, the dynamics of politics will change, just as the dynamics of the professional workplace has changed for women in the last few decades.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 11:41 AM

"men (white men, at least) are told from day one that the world is theirs and they can do anything. role models abound. they are the hero of every story, every fairytale. everyone is supportive. teachers call on them when they raise their hands in school. no one asks them, at age 3, who they are going to marry when they grow up. so naturally they have confidence in their abilities. i don't think "willingness" has anything to do with believing in themselves."

WHAATTT????

Leslie, I just don't live in your world.

I have NEVER been told that the world is mine because I'm a (sort of) white male.

I HAVE been told by my parents and others that I can be whatever I can achieve because I'm an American. My sister was told that, too, BTW.

The hero of every story, every fairytale? You must not have read the stories I did. Or maybe you missed the part where most of the "bad guys" were white males, too? Captain Hook? All the WWII comics, with the Aryan enemies?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 11:49 AM

"Maybe most women have better things to do than run for public office."

Or maybe we have been fooled into thinking that politics is inherently such a dirty game that it is not womanly to participate, that we should keep our hands clean, and that it is unbecoming for us to have a voice in it. The problem with this is that our lack of participation in politics does have a tremendous impact on us. By not participating, we are allowing ourselves to be subject to policies and decisions that may not be in our best interests. We are losing opportunities to spearhead initiatives that would benefit us. We are not being heard in the same way that we might be if 50 percent of elected politicians were women. This is not to say that all women want the same thing. We are a diverse group. But the fact of the matter is that when we are under-represented in politics and government, the issues that we care about also are under-represented in the policies and laws that our government adopts.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 11:51 AM

ArmyBrat -- Are you just TRYING to get me to burst a blood vessel???

I love you dearly, but come on: OF COURSE you don't consciously know you've been told how fabulous you are because you are white and male.

Your parents did not greet you each morning and announce: "Oh joy, here comes the lovely white male walking down the steps again!"

Stereotyping and cultural bias are never that obvious. (Okay, in Saudi Arabia, maybe, but not here.)

But just because you as a member of the most privileged class don't KNOW you have benefitted from being a member of the most privileged class doesn't diminish your privilege.

In fact, a sign of your great privilege is the luxury of being unaware of it.

And I'm very happy to hear your sis got some of the good stuff from your parents, too. I'm sure it served her well. But I would bet you that she has a few stories of gender bias that took place outside your supportive home environment. A good home is critical, but we all still have to work and live on the outside and it's not all roses.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 11:55 AM

"Both adjectives apply perfectly to a woman who describes herself and her friends as limited by choice to topics of no significance."

ARe you the ultimate decider of which topics have no significance? Maybe your definition of discussing politics is different than mine. We do not discuss the political candidates and elections. We do discuss natural disasters such as the cyclone and the earthquake, but do not comment on the politics surrounding those events. it's a more general discussion. We do not discuss recipes. We do not discuss gay marriage. We do not discuss, or watch, Sex and the City. We discuss our childrens' activities and education. We do not discuss the politics of NCLB. We discuss how we care for our aging parents, not the politics of health care. We do not discuss the war - I am against and they are in favor - why would I want to have an uncomfortable debate when none of us will change our views?

Posted by: to Get Realer | May 29, 2008 11:56 AM

"men (white men, at least) are told from day one that the world is theirs and they can do anything."

Leslie, surely you can see the flaws in this sort of self-pity. Do you really think Ronald Reagan's alcoholic father or Bill Clinton's alcoholic stepfather raised them to think that the world was theirs? Richard Nixon succeeded as far as he did burdened by the enormous self-doubt and insecurity that ultimately undid him. FDR was paralyzed from the waist down.

Plenty of men (just like plenty of women) succeed in politics despite having to overcome huge obstacles.

Posted by: tomtildrum | May 29, 2008 11:58 AM

The hero of every story, every fairytale? You must not have read the stories I did. Or maybe you missed the part where most of the "bad guys" were white males, too? Captain Hook? All the WWII comics, with the Aryan enemies?

Army Brat - Perhaps you were never explicitly told the world was yours, but every nuance and implication of our myths, legends, fairy tales, and archetypes favors the status of the white male. Go back to the Judeo-Christian religion. God is male. In Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the hero is Prince Charming who saves the damsel in distress and gives here a better life. Where would she be without him? Yes, the males can also be villains, but they are always powerful. Captain Hook was no shrinking violet, and neithe were the Aryan armies.

White men, whether good or bad, are generally depicted has weilding power and having control over their lives and destiny. Women are depicted as in need of rescuing. I just don't think white males realize how good they have it, because they have never had to view the world through anything but their own privileged status.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 11:58 AM

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 11:08

Leslie, you should seek help, your constant victimhood mentality is really sad and irritating

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:07 PM

let's change this to ON VICTIMHOOD, written by a woman whose husband is worth millions of dollars. Revolting

Posted by: break that blood vessel.. | May 29, 2008 12:11 PM

Stop it with the "women are still responsible for housework" canard. It's BS.

I pay for a maid every week. I make dinner 2-3 nights a week. I get the kids ready in the morning and am the only one to give baths at night. I vacuum weekly and I am the only person in our house to do laundry.

I overheard my wife tell her friends that she could do so much more "if I only helped around the house!!!"

She still believes she does laundry. She doesn't. She still believes she vacuums. She doesn't. She still believes she's the sole cook. She isn't. She still believes she does most of the cleaning. Our maid does most and I do the easier clean-up work.

Just this morning she complained to me that I left dishes in the sink and how she has to do all this work around the house and AFTER I EMPTIED THE DISHWASHER, WHY DIDN'T I PUT THE DISHES IN THE SINK BACK INTO THE DISHWASHER.

Would anything get my wife to acknowledge that I emptied the dishwasher and put the dishes away at midnight? No, nothing would get her to recognize that.

So I call BS on any woman who claims she does the majority of the housework. It's 2008, you don't

Posted by: Washington, DC | May 29, 2008 12:11 PM

I just don't think white males realize how good they have it, because they have never had to view the world through anything but their own privileged status.
------

Are you smoking crack? White males never heard of Martin Luther King Jr? Where were you in the 1968 riots??? Where were you in the 1991 riots? Where were you in the Anita Hill hearings and every single sexual harassment and ethic training seminar we take every year to make sure no one gets sued.

Honestly, we are asked to view the world from the eyes of people who don't look like us every single day! That's the entire freaking culture we live in! In 1940, sure, I'd believe you, but every day after April 1968 your comment is a lie.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:15 PM

I'd like to pull things back from attack mode here. I don't think personal attacks on Leslie for bringing up points for discussion are fair. I do think women and men are raised very differently. I was raised (with my two brothers and one sister) to believe that I could do anything. But my sister and I were taught how to cook, clean, and sew, while my brothers were taught how to do lawn work. It was both explicitly stated and covertly assumed that we girls would marry and have children. Such things were never discussed in connection with the boys. It's been a constant struggle to maintain my own identity as a worthy member of the family without a spouse and children, which are the real yardsticks for success. I think that we should admit that we all view those who are different as mildly suspicious or outright threatening. Those who are different make us question our choices, and we don't like to do that.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 12:25 PM

I am very interested in politics and have NO desire to run for public office. Bleh! And it's not that I don't feel good about myself. It's that I feel TOO good about myself. I live and work among confident women whose choices run from hard-core full time work to staying at home by choice. In my experience, most women have, as an earlier poster said, more common sense to want to pursue public office. Most men I know don't want to, either.

I'm glad there are people who are willing to do so, as someone's got to do it, just as I'm glad there is someone willing to do any of a million other jobs that I don't want to do but need doing!

I also don't feel "underrepresented." I don't care what my representatives' gender, race, sexual orientation or anything is. I care how they vote on issues of interest to me. If they vote with me, I vote FOR them. If they don't, I don't. Skirt, pants or pantsuit -- it doesn't matter to me.

Posted by: MarylandMom | May 29, 2008 12:26 PM

"So I call BS on any woman who claims she does the majority of the housework. It's 2008, you don't"

Washington DC

I hear you (espeically the dishwasher thing!), and encourage you vent here anonymously. I've learned it's just not worth it to say these things at home. Keep the peace and focus on what's good.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | May 29, 2008 12:28 PM

@Washington DC: I thought one of the advantages of paying for a maid was that the couple wouldn't fight over it anymore. You don't seem to be getting your money's worth.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 12:29 PM

actually, the pantsuit is a problem for me, but that should be over soon, I hope

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:30 PM

Men are naturally the gender of the leadership role. It begins in the bedroom then branches out to the family and community. Most women prefer it that way.

Posted by: The Power Tool | May 29, 2008 12:31 PM

Okay, I'm attacking you, Power Tool! Are you insane? Or are you really a wimp who lives in his mother's basement and delivers pizza? You obviously haven't ever had a date, let alone sex.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 12:34 PM

Wow. This blog has not had a real fight in a long time

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:38 PM

I'm in my corner and rarin' to go! Power Tool, did you choose your screen name as a prop to your...inadequacy? You just keep thinking you're God's gift Sweetie, and we women will let you keep your illusions about your physical and leadership prowess. You've obviously lost the battle on the intellectual front.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 12:41 PM

Leslie may not have the white male privilege but she sure has the "blonde" privilege!

Posted by: Oh Yea! | May 29, 2008 12:43 PM

'On Balance' needs to find a little balance or get a new name. Perhaps we could call it Women's Issues since several of the recent articles fit better under that heading (The So-called Ambition Gap, Female Soldier's Private War, What are you doing May 30th? Or the latently anti-male Diamonds, Duds and Divorce) and have little or nothing to do with work life balance.

This is certainly a valid topic worthy of discussion, but I miss On Balance.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 12:53 PM

That's right. And not only does she have the "blonde" priviledge, Leslie's also got the "smart woman" thing too. take... her... down..

Posted by: Oh Yea, uh, more. | May 29, 2008 12:54 PM

I hear you (espeically the dishwasher thing!), and encourage you vent here anonymously. I've learned it's just not worth it to say these things at home. Keep the peace and focus on what's good.
---------

I'm not saying my wife doesn't do work around the house. What I am saying is that she does so much less than she truly believes in her heart that she does.

Last night I spent about 30 minutes cleaning the house, including the aforementioned dishwasher, but this morning she reacted as if I had done nothing. Perhaps she really didn't see the work I did? Perhaps she and her friends and movies and TV or memories of her parents' life are so strong that they created a prejudice that won't die.

She dismisses that I get dinner on the table before she gets in the door because the dinner is, you know, soup or leftovers or based on frozen prepared fish, or salad (because you don't have to really cook salad) or something that is merely functional and not gourmet. And so, yes, sure she makes much better food than I do, but it's a fantasy to suggest that she makes dinner 7 nights a week- a fantasy she clings to.

And the thing is that for years this worldview was true, women did the housework AND worked outside the home. But if you're under 40... I don't know anyone for whom this is still true. The guys I know who didn't do their own work are my friends who are still single at 35.

One of our better friends is a couple who have a more traditional split of work- he doesn't cook- but he also completely finished their basement, including installing handmade cabinets on the weekends.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:56 PM

JJS and Oh Yea, uh, More, you make my point about how we attack those who are different. Just look at how I attacked Power Tool. Different = threatening = must be attacked. Let's give Leslie a bit of credit. I may not always agree with her, but she's managed to assume a powerful role. Of course, if she were a brunette, I would respect her infinitely more!

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 12:58 PM

you attacked power tool because he said something stupid and intentionally offensive, not because he is "different" or "threatening"

Posted by: Oh Yea, uh, more. | May 29, 2008 1:02 PM

Okay, a California girl has to speak up here.

Both my Senators are women. My office is in the district of the Speaker of the House, and my home is in Congress-critter Barbara Lee's district. Everyone representing me and my family at the federal level (I could also drop the names of my State representatives, but nobody would recognize them) is a woman. DH is unrepresented by these people? I don't think so.

So, when will the rest of the country catch up with my state?

Posted by: Sue | May 29, 2008 1:03 PM

Batsy1, it's a fundamental fact of life that goes down to the very act of procreation. For men, sex is a physical act that requires aggression, for women, it is a physical act that requires submission. Men that aren't aggressive, don't procreate. Likewise for women that refuse to be submissive. That's why there are more men than women seeking positions of authority. It's the Darwin thing.

For this reason, I'm confused why some feminist refer to their God as a female. I would think that if God was a female, she would have done much better than to create man to be the females' companion, don't you think?

Posted by: The Power Tool | May 29, 2008 1:04 PM

babsy1: "It was both explicitly stated and covertly assumed that we girls would marry and have children. Such things were never discussed in connection with the boys."

Umm, as the oldest son I was told from as far back as I can remember how important it was to "carry on the family name". It was also stated many times by my paternal grandmother how important it was for me to father a son, and have him be the fourth generation with the same first name.

(My younger brother was also told that he needed to have children to carry on the family name just in case.)

Very few parents, with the exception of some Catholics who want a priest in the family, want their sons to stay single and childless forever.

So yes, boys are also told about the importance of marrying and having children.

Now, neither my brother nor I was ever told how important it would be to get married, have children and stay home to raise them - my paternal grandparents very much lived a "gender stereotypes 'r us" life. But that's different from what you stated.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 1:05 PM

"For men, sex is a physical act that requires aggression, for women, it is a physical act that requires submission."

Do not to say this on your online dating profile!

Posted by: to TPT | May 29, 2008 1:07 PM

Lurker - I understand your desire to avoid political debates with friends, it can get ugly... isn't there a saying about polite conversation not including religion or politics? :) Regarding your original post, I think the choice of discussion topics with friends in private is separate from political ambition/interest in general. Certainly DC has more people interested in politics - that is a major reason many people move here I'm sure. Just as this area isn't a good sampling of the population, single towns and cities elsewhere are not either - neither Leslie nor the rest of us should generalize based on our observations of non-sample populations of friends/family/neighbors.

That said, if research shows that women lack *political* ambition, why must we (Leslie) be so outraged? Equality does not mean men and women have to want the same things - but rather equal opportunity to do whatever it is they DO want to do. If other factors are involved in fewer women being in politics that have to do with opportunity, that is different and I'm not saying women in politics isn't important. But don't tell me I have to act like a man and want the same things as a man to be equal to a man.

Posted by: mango | May 29, 2008 1:14 PM

To try to bring "On Balance" back "On Topic", I read through the Brookings paper again (I had already read it once). I'd like to address the fallacy cited by many people above about women not being able to raise money. (See, for example, Leslie's original comment about "Abysmal financial support."; KLB's comment at 8:35; and the anonymous comment at 8:38.)

The Brookings paper says (pp. 1-2) "We link this persistent gender gap in political ambition to several factors. Women are less likely than men to be willing to endure the rigors of a political campaign. They are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. They are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family obligations with a political career. They are less likely than men to think they are "qualified" to run for office. And they are less likely than men to perceive a fair political environment."

Nowhere in that list is the ability to raise money mentioned.

In fact, the paper later goes on to note that the difficulty in raising money is A TOTAL LIE. See p. 3:

"In fact, women perform as well as men when they do run for office. In terms of fundraising and vote totals, the consensus among researchers is the complete absence of overt gender bias."

In terms of fundraising, the consensus among researchers is the complete absence of overt gender bias. Think about that for a minute - women raise money as well as men.

This really is an important issue, so if we can let's please try to tone down the emotions and stick to the facts. That's how you solve the problem.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 1:16 PM

PowerTool, sex for men requires not aggression, but an intact circulatory system. Aggression is the motive you have attached to it, which in many cases is viewed as rape, a crime less about sex than about power. Women don't need to be submissive for sex, only patient. As a feminist, I know God is neither male nor female. A female God would have done a better job.
Army Brat, you're right about the mandate to "carry on the family line." But in my family at least, there was little talk of the "heir and the spare" bandied about. Of course, we girls were charged with changing our names, but heaven forbid the boys would have wanted to do so.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 1:16 PM

My how this blog has deteriorated. About what we are told growing up, my parents never mentioned anything about who I would marry. I played with Barbies and created little dream worlds but my sister disdained them and played sports instead. The focus was always on doing what we liked and getting a good job and education when we were older. Even to this day my parents never mention anything about grandchildren or the "when are you going to get married?" speech. I guess we missed the boat on that one.

Posted by: FloridaChick | May 29, 2008 1:18 PM

Thanks for addressing the funding issues again ArmyBrat. I brought it up before, but no one ever said anything. It hasn't been a real issue for years as the studying I did on it was in 2003 and the materials we used looked back at least a decade.

Posted by: FloridaChick | May 29, 2008 1:22 PM

Thanks AB, for getting us back on target. I'm a Californian with two powerful women senators. But most political work gets done at the local level, and my district, city, and county governments are sorely lacking in women representatives. The candidates for office locally have only to submit their names for office to see attack ads start blossoming. Until we can get back to dispassionate discourse rather than personal attacks, I think women will avoid political office. I'm an offender as well, as you can tell by my recent posts. But now this Californian is going to take some leave and head for the ballpark. Franks are half price during day games!

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 1:24 PM

holy cow you go to a few meetings and lunch and a bloody battle breaks out.

To MN's point - I'd like to the see the underlying power structure of politics have greater female representation. Someone made the point that women are often involved in local party organizing - we certainly saw this with the mother of a childhood friend of my BF who was actively involved in county Democratic organizing. Does this translate up the chain to state levels? Do women who do get involved ask for a seat at the table for discussion of all issues - defense, immigration, national security or just those with a more personal/family level connection - education/health care/caring for our aging population?

I have anecdotally seen evidence (press coverage) that Dems and Reps have sought out successful women for campaign contributions but I'd be curious to know how many women put their money where their mouth is so to speak. Emily's List has historically done a good job raising funds for liberal Democratic candidates - don't know what avenues a moderate or conservative candidate of either party has.

Maybe it's a product of how I was raised but I never remember being told I couldn't do something because I was a woman. I considered a single-sex college education and passed up admission to Smith to attend a school where the gender balance was not 50-50. (It is now). I learned to be my own best advocate, to speak up in seminar classes and it has served me well in the world. Women can succeed in politics (look at Sue's representation).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 29, 2008 1:30 PM

"why would I want to have an uncomfortable debate when none of us will change our views?"

Why would none of you change your views unless you are a self-satisfied, insecure, close-minded lot? How pitiful to not be open to a better argument or a viewpoint supported by more persuasive facts. At minimum, listening to your friends and even strangers is an attractive social skill. So is having an opinion supported by cogent argument.

Posted by: Get Realer | May 29, 2008 1:36 PM

Thanks AB for point out the fundraising fallacy. Fundraising is just sales of another kind. People seem almost hard-wired to be natural salespeople - if you aren't you have to work really hard at it. I don't think any candidate male or female relishes fundraising...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | May 29, 2008 1:38 PM

PoaWM: "Emily's List has historically done a good job raising funds for liberal Democratic candidates - don't know what avenues a moderate or conservative candidate of either party has."

The WISH List ("Women in the Senate and House") - pro-choice Republican Women

Otherwise it's more generic groups that will fund women aligned with their causes.

babsy1: "The candidates for office locally have only to submit their names for office to see attack ads start blossoming. "

I agree, and from a personal level this would prevent me from ever running for anything. (Not that I have that ambition, but even if I did...) I mean, who needs to see his/her picture photoshopped in next to {insert villain of choice here}? More important, who really needs to see every action of every family member reported on the news and subjected to attacks? In the context of W's presidency, did/does it matter that his daughter Barbara tried to get away from her Secret Service agents to have fun with her Yale classmates? Or whether Chelsea Clinton was dating a Stanford swimmer or not? Give 'em a break.

The one thing I found interesting in the study, though, was the last item on the list of why women don't run: the perception that the political environment isn't fair. Yet on the basis of gender it IS fair - from p. 3 "A candidate's sex does not affect his or her chances of winning an election . . . Winning elections has nothing to do with the sex of the candidate."1

The reference "1" is to: Seltzer, R.A., J. Newman and M. Voorhees Leighton. (1997) Sex as a Political Variable, Boulder: Lynne Reinner. More recent studies arrive at the same conclusion. Based on her analysis of a series of public opinion polls and election results, Kathleen Dolan (2004, 50) concludes, "Levels of bias are low enough to no longer provide significant impediments to women's chances of election" (Voting for Women: How the Public Evaluates Women Candidates. Boulder: Westview Press).

So the perception differs from reality and thus women don't run.

(Of course, politics is unfair in many ways - incumbents have an overwhelming advantage; gerrymandering creates unbalanced districts; etc. etc. etc. But the Brookings paper asserts that it's not unfair on a gender basis.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 1:42 PM

Obviously, right now, there isn't equal representation of genders in political office. But things ARE slowly changing. Call me an optimist if you want (or deluded, I don't care), but it's a woman who's the Speaker of the House now, a woman running for President (you can say she's done, but at least she was an actual contender), a woman in the Secretary of State role (second time), and women in positions of corporate power all over the place. Carly Fiorina? Meg Whitman?

It's happening. It's just happening slowly, and of course there are men -- and women -- who want women to be the power behind the throne rather than sitting on the throne. Change takes time.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 29, 2008 1:50 PM

I don't necessarily believe the Brookings paper is the be-all and end-all of the finance debate. Maybe it's right. I don't have the time to mini-research whether it is.
I suspect that: (1) local and state races are driven by different factors than federal races and (2) there are more viewpoints and sources of relevant info on this topic than Brookings.

Posted by: MN | May 29, 2008 1:54 PM

Get Realer,

First of all, I want to enjoy the things I have in common with my friends, not debate the differences. Do you think that Catholic and Jewish friends should spend their time together debating their religions? Should I spend my time convincing my TV watching friends that what they watch is mindless and a waste of time? Should I have discussions about why I think they should or shouldn't breastfeed? I think it is fine to state your opinions to a friend, but when it is obvious that you have different outlooks, I just let it go. I am not trying to have meaningful debates when I am with my friends. I just want to hang out and enjoy their company.


Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 1:56 PM

BTW, I get plenty of intellectual stimulation at work. It's nice to be low key on my personal time.

Posted by: lurker | May 29, 2008 1:58 PM

Dandylion,
Is that you pretending to be a power tool?

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 2:07 PM

AB,

Too bad Matt from Aberdeen is not here. Rather than your current footnotes, Matt could cite a footnote from Plato's The Republic!

Posted by: Obscure you say? | May 29, 2008 2:24 PM

So, when will the rest of the country catch up with my state?

Posted by: Sue | May 29, 2008 1:03 PM


Good Lord, hopefully never. If having all those women in office means living in a screwed up state like CA, I hope women never take the bait in my state.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 2:35 PM

Just back from my hair salon...and I'm wearing my glasses. So you better take me seriously now!!!!!!!!!

The financial bias is real...it's why people continually cite the importance of Hillary's success as a fundraiser. She showed that women can raise "real" money (although Obama's success in this arena undermines her impressive fundraising feats).


I have really enjoyed this spirited discussion. Thank you all and I hope it continues. You've inspired me to be more serious in the future. Now I'm off to write tomorrow's entry -- it's about balance and flip-flops.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 2:36 PM

Maybe it's the combination of personality plus reinforcement.

I've noticed that when surveyed, more men than women indicate that they know "a great deal" about investing for their retirements. But when you ask questions, the genders are about neck-and-neck. With the edge going to the women (who tended to downplay or not recognize the extent of their knowledge).

Many cultures seem to reward hubris in men, but frown upon it in women, overall. Some more so than others. I find it odd that America "isn't ready" for a woman president, but Pakistan already has had one. Or something. Maybe it's the water!

Personally, I neither wish to subject myself nor my family to the sort of sh*t-sifting that is normally is reserved for someone going for an SES-level position. Or an IT security clearance.

Posted by: Me, I think | May 29, 2008 2:39 PM

Lurker - I get exactly how you feel. As much as I enjoy a political discussion, I have friends that I don't discuss politics with, because I just know that it won't take us to a good place. But we have other things in common, which makes it enjoyable to spend time with them. I also think that often, people have more in common than their political views would suggest. I have a number of friends who have very different political views, but when it comes to the way they live their lives, we are very similar. In these situations, I find polical beliefs to be quite secondary, and sometimes, just irrelevant to our friendship.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 2:40 PM

(Sorry, long post; skip to the next message now if you want to.)

Leslie: "But just because you as a member of the most privileged class don't KNOW you have benefitted from being a member of the most privileged class doesn't diminish your privilege."
Emily: "I just don't think white males realize how good they have it, because they have never had to view the world through anything but their own privileged status."

No, I'm not trying to make anybody burst a blood vessel, but this "you don't realize how good you had it" stuff begs for a response. So, long story follows:

Background: there's a famous scene in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" at the "Bridge of Death". The bridge is guarded by "the old man from scene 24." He asks each traveler 3 questions; if the traveler answers the questions correctly, he may cross the bridge; anyone who can't answer the 3 questions is cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. The bridgekeeper asks King Arthur: "What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow in flight?" Arthur's answer is a question: "What do you mean? An African or European swallow?" The bridgekeeper doesn't know, so he himself is cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril and Arthur and his knights pass safely.

The point is that the proper response to a ridiculous question is an even more ridiculous question.

I used to work for a Federal Agency. The cafeteria started implementing portion control. If you ordered something, they would use a scale to give you the proper weight - but no more - of your order. One lunchtime roasted potatoes were a side dish. If you ordered the roasted potatoes, they didn't just give you "a scoop of potatoes" or "two potatoes", they used a scale to weigh the potatoes they were giving you.

A fellow engineer was upset by this, largely because it seemed like the inefficiency of weighing potatoes more than canceled out the savings in portion control. So he came back after lunch and posted a message on an internal electronic message board. He posted the message: "How much do potatoes weigh?" and then later went on to post a long diatribe about the inefficiency and stupidity of weighing potatoes.

A good friend, fellow engineer and fellow Monty Python fanatic - call him "Joe" - couldn't pass up the opportunity. On the message board, he copied the line "How much do potatoes weigh" and followed it with "What do you mean? African or European?" Remember, the point is that the proper response to a ridiculous question is an even more ridiculous question.

"Joe" got a call from the EEO office later that day. His message was racist and highly offensive. See, he was asking whether the server was African-American or European-American, and implying that only African-Americans are stupid enough to weigh potatoes, and this would have repercussions. Joe accepted that some people aren't Monty Python fanatics and didn't get the joke, but he explained what it meant. Too bad for him. The EEO officer explained to him again that his joke was offensive, and that the only reason he didn't realize it was offensive was because he was a white male. If he wasn't a white male he'd realize how offensive it was.

Now, there's a whole lot of stereotyping in that comment, and there's a whole lot in yours, too. You're a white male so your privilege means that you're not capable of understanding that you're privileged. Cultural disability, you know.

(The end of that story was that the EEO officer filed a complaint against Joe; Joe filed a complaint against the EEO officer for racial and gender discrimination. Joe quit the Government and came back one week later to take his old job as a contractor. He was out of reach of the EEO folks, and he darned near doubled his salary in the process.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 2:41 PM

we don't build these glass ceilings ourselves.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 11:08 AM

Yes, Leslie, some women do. If you have insecurities it is not always someone else's fault. Again, the victim mentality gets very old.

Posted by: Get Realest | May 29, 2008 2:41 PM

"The financial bias is real...it's why people continually cite the importance of Hillary's success as a fundraiser."

But, Leslie, does that mean the financial bias is real, or just that people still believe that it is?

Not saying it doesn't discourage women in either event -- even if there isn't a bias in reality, women may be unnecessarily staying away because they think there is. But the solutions to those two problems are very different.

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 2:42 PM

we don't build these glass ceilings ourselves.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 11:08 AM

Yes, Leslie, some women do.

Some do...but it took a long time to enshrine those "women can't/don't" canards. It will take time and concerted effort to dismantle them too.

Think of it as reconstruction. That didn't go so well either, but things ARE improved and improving.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 2:45 PM

"The financial bias is real.."

I'm sorry, but at this point you're going to have to cite some reliable references for this, or I'm simply not going to believe you.

The scholarly article you yourself cited disproves this, along with a number of other well-regarded studies.

"Proof by emphatic assertion" is not an acceptable technique.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 2:47 PM

This brunette thing is not working! I thought you were going to take me seriously now. I feel another rant coming on...

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 2:51 PM

Flipflops tomorrow and SATC on Monday? I'm getting out of here for a while!

Posted by: Power Tool | May 29, 2008 2:51 PM

I think you are really going to regret missing the flip-flop discussion. Very pink. With a secret panel that hides a weapon!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 2:54 PM

The social science that Lawless and Fox produce is right on but there is evidence to suggest the lack of political ambition among women has a partisan dimension. Presently, women Democrats outnumber women Republicans as candidates to and members of Congress by more than 2 to 1. Let me elaborate on one explanation as to why this is the case:

Data I am working with (survey research of Democratic and Republican party delegates) shows that men and women partisans often hold significantly different views regarding women's political participation even when considering their ideology, income, level of education.

Compared their Republican sisters, Democratic women delegates are much more enthusiastic about women's political participation and the less likely to embrace stereotypes about women being less suited to run for and hold elective office.

Here's the crazy thing; when looking at the 1992 (the so-called year of the woman in which women ran for Congress in record numbers) versus 2004 datasets, Republican women delegates are SIGNIFICANTLY more likely than Democratic delegates (male and female) AND Republican male delegates to AGREE that women are less emotionally suited for politics than men. (The survey actually asks a question worded very closely to this statement.) I have a lot of theories about why this difference has emerged and candidate support groups like EMILY's List, WISH, and SBA List are certainly in the mix here; the effect of this partisan gender gap among elites will surely widen, not close, the present imbalance between Democratic and Republican women officeholders.

Posted by: RL Cooperman | May 29, 2008 2:54 PM

to AGREE that women are less emotionally suited for politics than men.

Well, if your social circle continuously sings about the glories of the gilded cage while imprisoning you in it, most people eventually join the chorus. While ignoring the freedom outside. Of course, with freedom comes responsibility for oneself. Maybe that is what is slowing people up, fear of not "making it"?

Rewarding wanted behaviours while ignoring or those that are not wanted works. Perhaps Republicans tend to be risk-averse?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 3:03 PM

AB - I agree with you on one thing. In our efforts to be politically correct, we sometimes do go overboard and take offense at thing that are innocent. Sometimes, it is all in perception. People who have historically experienced discrimination in a systemic manner might actually be oversensitived to it, so that even an innocent remark might seem offensive because it reminds them of something that is not so innocent. I remember a number of years ago, there was a bruhaha in DC government, because some official that was talking about money or resources used the word niggardly to describe someone or something as stingy or parsimonious. The word immediately drew offense from many in the audience, because of its resemblance to the other very offensive n word, even though etymologically, it has no relationship to it. In the end, the speaker conceded that while he/she meant nothing offensive by using it, that it would have been better to use a different word.

My point is that since the speaker had never been the target of the n word, he/she probably did not bat an eye at using the word niggardly. But someone who has been the object of racism might be reminded of racism when hearing it, and the word, by its mere resemblance to a different offensive word, might take on offensive connotations to those who have been the targets of that particular kind of racism. It's all in perception.

So maybe, the EEO officer in your story had some sensitivity to the use of the term "African or European" that your friend did not have. That does not make your friend racist by a longshot, but it does show that there is more to racism than just overt intention. Sometimes, people may perceive racism in words and actions that were not intended to be so because their perception is colored by experience that suggests that racism is alive and well. And people who have never experienced racism might be mystified at this response, because they have never experienced racism themselves.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 3:10 PM

AB, I love that story. Reminds me of the time a prospective client repeatedly asked "what's the answer," and I (a peon not running the show) muttered "42." One guy (an apparent Douglas Adams fan) snorted his drink out his nose; everyone else looked at me in befuddlement.

But: here's the thing. The fact that some folks overreact doesn't mean there isn't a problem. I think of my dad as an example: he firmly believes in women's rights, married two hugely smart women, admires and respects women, etc. etc. etc. And yet for years, all I heard from him was "the reason women aren't represented in higher-level positions is because women have only been in the profession a few years; you have to give it time." My stepmom and I would argue with him over this, try to explain some of the subtle barriers, but he just couldn't see them and would not be convinced that problems were more than the occasional statistical outlier.

Then my stepmom got totally jacked around by her Fortune-500 (heck, Fortune 50) company. As in, was told repeatedly that she was second in line for the general counsel's position. Was told that a couple of people had questioned her readiness, because she didn't have international or operations experience. Was asked to take an overseas assignment to address both those issues, with the promise that when she returned in 3-5 years, the GC would retire, and she'd have his job. Kicked butt overseas (by any business measure). And while she was gone, they promoted six old white guys who had never set foot outside of HQ over her. It really floored my dad to see, up close and personal, how that kind of under-the-table, invisible sexism still comes into play. And of course, the guys who made that decision -- and who were on the receiving end of the managerial benificience -- would have sincerely denied that it had anything to do with gender.

Point isn't that men are evil or clueless. Point is that when you grow up female, you see stuff like this all the time. Like the little comments my mom brought home from work. Like my jr high, which made girls wear skirts in gym, made us do cutesy stuff like aerobic dancing, and automatically signed us up for home ec, while the boys took shop. Like my chemistry professor who had never, ever given an A to a woman. Doesn't matter that at home, I got the "I am woman, hear me roar" upbringing -- when I walked out the door, I still got little messages every day. When it's part of your daily reality, you just naturally get more sensitized to that kind of stuff than when it's not. Sure, some folks get oversensitized and start seeing problems where they don't exist; but on the other hand, the fact that someone else doesn't see a problem doesn't mean that the problem doesn't still exist.

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 3:12 PM

Emily,

I remember when that happened. Sadly, the person who used a perfectly appropriate word in context ended up losing the job. It seemed to me at the time (and now too), that a valuable opportunity for attitude adjustment was lost by the participants and the observers.

Just because a word initially sounds offensive doesn't mean that it is so--and most of us should utilize our dictionaries more often. And breathe in and out of paper bags before we broadcast our ignorance of our language.

Linguistic tin-ears should at least make an effort to think a little before they speak, and try not to be too surprised if someone (or lots of someones) take offense.


Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 3:16 PM

"Here's the crazy thing; when looking at the 1992 (the so-called year of the woman in which women ran for Congress in record numbers) versus 2004 datasets, Republican women delegates are SIGNIFICANTLY more likely than Democratic delegates (male and female) AND Republican male delegates to AGREE that women are less emotionally suited for politics than men."

Hmmm. Wonder if the women would have called themselves "social conservatives"? :-)

And with that, back to work. . . .

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 3:16 PM

Hmmm. Wonder if the women would have called themselves "social conservatives"? :-)

While clutching their pearls, no doubt. Makes me wonder how many women really do read and BELIEVE in the premise behind "The Rules".

Eww.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 3:19 PM

In view of all your sensitivities, I will do my best to deliver only X chromosomes from now on.

Posted by: Power Tool | May 29, 2008 3:23 PM

What was the point of that story, ArmyBrat? So one EEO officer didn't get the joke and thought your friend was insensitive white male - how does that even remotely respond to whether or not you are aware of your privelege? That the accusation has been leveled by less thoughtful people does not render it untrue.

Posted by: Huh? | May 29, 2008 3:25 PM

ArmyBrat,

I'm on your side for this one.

Posted by: anon woman | May 29, 2008 3:28 PM

"men (white men, at least) are told from day one that the world is theirs and they can do anything. role models abound. they are the hero of every story, every fairytale. everyone is supportive. teachers call on them when they raise their hands in school. no one asks them, at age 3, who they are going to marry when they grow up. so naturally they have confidence in their abilities."

Wow, Leslie. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but that is one of the most sexist statements that I have ever seen. Why go to all of the trouble when you could have simply said "I hate white males and it is obvious that they are the root of all evil".

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 3:34 PM

JIS - How is Leslie's comment sexist. I think it is mostly true. Plus, I did not detect that she hates males, only that she sees their status as privileged. There is a huge leap from acknowledging this privilege to hating men. Plus, I doubt she hates men, since she has a husband that she seems to like well enough, and son as well, I think.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 3:39 PM

"My point is that since the speaker had never been the target of the n word, he/she probably did not bat an eye at using the word niggardly. But someone who has been the object of racism might be reminded of racism when hearing it, and the word, by its mere resemblance to a different offensive word, might take on offensive connotations to those who have been the targets of that particular kind of racism. It's all in perception"


No, it's about being educated and understanding english. Next up Ebonics for everyone!

Posted by: educate yourself | May 29, 2008 3:45 PM

JJS -- join the long queue of men who've tried to rewrite women's stories for centuries...relatively successfully until the internet made mommy blogging possible...

the only problem with your rewrite is that I don't hate white males and I don't think they are the root of all evil.

But I do think they are a big part of the problem, and a big part of the solution. 84% of our Senate is male. The majority of senior partners in law firms are male. The majority of police officers are male. the majority of corporate executives are male. These are the people setting policies, making laws, enforcing laws, and making hiring (and firing) decisions that affect whether we can feed our families and pay our rent.

So, yeah, part of the privilege gig is that men need to shoulder responsibility for making our world more fair and equitable. That is still part of our country's value system, isn't it?

See what Laura wrote at 3:12. She captured the jist of my message about growing up female in USA far better than I did, but that's what I was trying to get across.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 3:47 PM

Huh? - my point is this:

1 - both Leslie and Emily asserted that I am privileged, and I don't realize that I'm privileged precisely because I'm privileged - I can't see what others see.

2 - but I've heard that comment made before (about a friend, not me, but still...) and found it to be blatantly false

3 - so, since all of our world views are colored by our own experiences, my reaction is to reject Leslie's and Emily's assertions as so much "stuff and nonsense".

I thought Emily's and Laura's responses were excellent - thoughtful, well-reasoned. But I still disagree with the original assertion.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 3:50 PM

Such acrimony today! It just destroys all the muse that wells within my soul! Fear not, I have a light little ditty ready for tomorrow! In line with tomorrow's topic of footwear.

Posted by: Songster | May 29, 2008 3:53 PM

So because it was false in that one instance, it's always false? That's the gist of your argument? Aren't you usually the one who wants statistics instead of anecdotes?

I would think you of all people would realize the danger inherent in extrapolating from one isolated incident to everyone, everywhere.

Posted by: Huh? | May 29, 2008 3:54 PM

AB, Brilliant retort to Leslie's unbelievable slap in the face to you and all white males. That a couple people like Emily (of Emily's list?) agree with Leslie is even more disturbing.

And congratulations to your friend Joe. I love it when the funny and stand up guys win, and I am sure that story has been told numerous times over the years.

Posted by: Get Realest | May 29, 2008 3:55 PM

Denial is not just a river in Egypt, boys...

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 3:57 PM

By the way, AB, for what it's worth I personally think arguments on both side of this are overblown.

It stands to reason that there will be some things that will be overlooked by those of us who haven't experienced them, because we simply don't know to look for them. I think denying that it probably happens in some situations is pointless. But to say that all members of a particular category of people are incapable of seeing, of having empathy or of learning through the experiences of others is equally absurd, if not more so in my mind. Naturally, some individuals are better at empathy and abstract learning than others, but I do not believe those qualities can be broken out by race or gender any more than ambition and ability.

Posted by: Huh? | May 29, 2008 4:01 PM

"denial is not just a river in Egypt, boys"

well, that got me laughing!

Posted by: dotted | May 29, 2008 4:06 PM

Huh? - yea verily, with my Master's degree in Statistics and engineering nature, I do strongly prefer data over anecdotes - hence my rejection of Leslie's continuing contention that women face a strong bias in campaign fundraising.

In this particular instance - an assertion that I as a white male can't see my privilege because of my privilege - I have an anecdote; I have no counter-evidence; and I have no strong, reliable scientific data. Thus, I'm forced to rely on the empirical evidence at hand to reach my conclusion.

I will note that I know of people who are privileged for other reasons than "white male" - e.g., people who grew up with extraordinary wealth, or with political connections - who seem to deny that privilege, so I'll acknowledge that sometimes such an assertion can be true. But in this case I'm unconvinced.

Now, the question for you, Huh? is this: do you have any sound, scientific evidence that white males - taken as a population, across economic bounds - are culturally incapable of seeing their privilege precisely because of their privilege? Because if you do, I'd like to see it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 4:07 PM

Huh? - whoops, you posted your latest response while I was editing mine. Wish I'd delayed two minutes because your response was a good answer to the question I posed.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 4:10 PM

Funny - DH would agree with Leslie on the white male privilege discussion. Back in the days when we were leaving the Air Force to become DINKs (Dual Incomes and No Kids), his starting salary was 30% higher than mine. I had a college degree in our field, and he had two more years of work experience. It seemed to both or us that our starting salaries should have been equal, or at least close.

Now he's a SAHP, and has encountered the glass floor under the sandbox.

Any group is going to more easily include new members who are like the people already in the group, whether it's the mommies at the local playground, or the male managers in the office.

But I think privilege and inequities are changing - slowly.

Posted by: Sue | May 29, 2008 4:13 PM

AB - Why are you unconvinced? In other words, are you saying that you recognize how white males do have certain privileges, and are unconvinced that you cannot see them because in fact you can, or are you saying that you see no privelges associated with being a white male in America?

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 4:25 PM

"But I still disagree with the original assertion."

Well, of course you do, because you're privileged. And the fact that you don't see that is proof of both your privilege and that the argument is true.

Or, you know, of the fact that it's all a bunch of overblown hooey.

I gotta say, I do love the circularity of the logic on both sides of this one. :-)

I like Huh?'s response on this. I think our world views are shaped and changed (or not) based on our own capacity for empathy and self-awareness, together with our own experiences and those of the ones we love -- I know men who suddenly "discovered" that they were feminists when stuff started happened to their daughters. :-)

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 4:26 PM

Leslie, join the long list of people that say sexist things in the name of fighting sexism. You qualify or justify none of your statements and none of them have do with history. Those were your personal views, not history.

Blogging also given anti-semitism and neo Nazi a home.

I actually agree that there is sexism and that we need to be fighting it. It doesn't give me the right to make up stuff about white males. I have taken alot of hits for creating a confirming environment for females over the years and it is one of the things that makes me proud. Broad sweeping generalization don't help the cause you supposedly support. A modest amount of rhetorical sensitivity would go a long way.

You want trends that refute your bias? Who graduates in higher percentages on every level of education, males or females? Females. Is this the proof that everything is in favor of the males that you so want to scream about? I don't know.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 4:28 PM

Thank you, Huh?

I actually agree with what you said and I agree both arguments are (somewhat) overblown. I never meant to say that white males cannot possibly be aware of their own privilege. I know many who are, and many who are just a little bit. But I see a lot of absolutely wonderful guys who are totally clueless to how much unearned privilege they enjoy.

And by the way, the same goes for white women vs. african-american women. we vanilla mochas can live our entire lives in blissful ignorance of how much unearned privilege we enjoy just because we were born into the dominant ethnic class in this country.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 4:29 PM

Emily, she is making broad generalizations about men that she offers no qualifications for or proof to back up. That is insensitive and sexist. If you changed the gender of her statement and placed it anywhere it would be seen as sexist. The moderater of a blog has a greater responsibility. Thinking something sexist is true doesn't make it less sexist. Also, there are plenty of men that are married that are sexist and hate women. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 4:33 PM

Who graduates in higher percentages on every level of education, males or females? Females. Is this the proof that everything is in favor of the males that you so want to scream about?

Look at Sue's post at 4:13. She stated that when she and her husband got together, although she had a degree and he did not, he made more than her because he had 2 years more experience.

The fact of the matter is that men tend to go more into fields where degrees are not needed, but pay is still good. There tend to be more male plumbers, electricians, construction workers, etc. The fact that they don't have degrees does not mean that they are not well compensated. In contrast, women pink collar jobs are not as well compensated. And a lot of women start out doing admin work even when they have degrees. So looking at just degrees is not a very good measure of success. A better measure is to look at overall career success. I think, by and large, whether you have a degree or not, men are still paid more than women. Why is that, if women have more degrees?

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 4:36 PM

(not reading other replies first)
What's wrong with statistics showing that fewer women feel compelled to run for office? I'm betting fewer men feel compelled to become pre-school teachers. And I know that fewer women are compelled to major in philosophy.

What's the value judgement on this? We can use it to look at our society, ask why this exists, whether we want to change and how.

But it's not saying anything is right or wrong about having or not having a particular ambition...simply that it does or does not exist. A woman isn't wrong for not having X ambition.

Posted by: Liz D | May 29, 2008 4:37 PM

Leslie, you are absolutely right Laura did a great job of capturing the issue without making sexist generalizations. It was informative without being offensive. She is actually helping the cause.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 4:39 PM

Bravo, JJs, you managed to agree with me and insult me at the same time!

The only disturbing thing to me about today's heated discussion is that most people seemed to miss my point. I guess I am in the minority when I get riled up when people accuse women of lacking ambition. This is such b.s.

As an openly ambitious woman it kills me to hear women written off as being unambitious.

Also, totally separately, it also bugs me when posters hold me up as "the moderator." I do have an obligation to delete offensive comments and *try* to steer the conversation in productive ways. (Like herding cats.)

But I'm in this gig because I'm opinionated. Not because I enjoy toning down or "moderating" others' opinions. I personally don't think y'all need "moderating" -- I have respect for (almost) everyone here and the notion that you need a bosswoman strikes me as insulting, actually. Especially the idea of ME being the one put in charge of toning everyone down.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 4:48 PM

As usual Leslie is spouting that the system must change to accommodate women. It's her typical sexist feminist rant on this platform that is supposed to be about work/life balance.

Any shred of realistic journalism here was long ago lost. What a shame, this has so much potential but has deteriorated to typical judgmental diatribes by Leslie with no facts to back her up.

Posted by: Blah blah blah | May 29, 2008 4:48 PM

I just find it amazing how sensitive SOME white males are, when discussions are about their priveleged status. Such incredibly think skins, but of course, this is probably a result of being so sheltered by society for the past few millenia. I shudder to think how they would react if there was real discrimination against them.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 4:53 PM

Ditto -- No one here has every claimed I was a journalist, dude.

Dotted, so glad I made you laugh. Thanks.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 4:53 PM

I meant thin skins.

Posted by: Emily | May 29, 2008 4:54 PM

Leslie, I am just disappointed that you model behavior that you claim to be against. I think person judging which items are offensive should be making offensive comments. Call me crazy.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 4:55 PM

And FWIW, my sister did tease my white male nephew about who he would marry at age 3, and my other white male nephew is completely encouraged to play with "pink female" toys.

While not really topic related, I've really enjoyed hearing the stories about how people deal with subtle discrimination and how it's changed people.

Posted by: Liz D | May 29, 2008 4:57 PM

I am crazy and a bad typist.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 4:58 PM

No argument there.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 4:59 PM

JJS -- I understand why it disappoints you.

But I've lived 43 years without being able to speak out against all the large and small prejudices I and the heroes in my life -- beloved female friends, relatives, teachers and colleagues -- have suffered. I hope you can understand why it is hard to be perfectly fair, calm and kind in my high heels.

Seems like a double standard from my view point. Admirable, yes -- realistic, no.

In some ways it strikes me as a twisted version of "now, now, women need to be nice in order to be liked" kind of thing. It's darn difficult to be strident, passionate, opinionated...and nice.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:00 PM

Sometimes, when people appear to be writing 'past' each other, a good laugh is most appreciated!

Posted by: dotted | May 29, 2008 5:01 PM

and, just to be fair, calm and kind, I completely overlooked all your typos!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:02 PM

Lesie - I wanted to change the '...and nice' to 'and stay sweet' I'm sure you catch the reference.

Posted by: dotted | May 29, 2008 5:02 PM


Another thing: although I am definitely not in favor of intentionally insulting others, I do think that a little taste of what prejudice feels like is more life-changing than all the intellectual study in the world.

JJS, I wonder if you felt some of that today.

Prejudice really, really hurts.

Most people who are Caucasian, especially men, but also some white women, have little clue how it feels to be discriminated against and how demoralizing it is to see your parents, children, friends and colleagues suffer from it. The gender bias women feel, while real, is very different from racial and ethnic bias.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:06 PM

Daily effects of maleprivilege

Most of us are taught that sexism is something that puts women at a disadvantage, but are not taught to see one of its corollary aspects, male privilege, which puts men at an advantage.

Following are some daily effects of male privilege, or conditions men can count on, but women cannot.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my gender most of the time.

2. If I should need to walk home alone after dark, I can be pretty that no harm will befall me.

3. I can be pretty sure that my boss and colleages will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping for cars alone, assured that I will not be asked where my husband is and otherwise asked questions that assume I know nothing about vehicles and am not the decision-maker.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my gender widely represented in positions of power.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my gender made it what it is.

7. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my gender.

8. I do not have to educate my sons to be aware of systemic sexism for their own daily physical protection.

9. I can be pretty sure that my son's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their gender.

10. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my gender on trial.

11. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my gender.

12. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my gender.

13. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my gender.

14. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, or unheard.

15. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another gender is more likely to jeopardize her chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

16. If I declare there is a gender issue at hand, or there isn't a gender issue at hand, my gender will lend me more credibility for either position than a woman will have.

17. I am pretty certain of finding people who would be willing to mentor me, to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

18. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a woman would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

19. I can select my clothing for the workplace without having to consider whether, if I dress casually consistent with the business casual dresscode, visitors and those who don't know me will assume I am a member of the administrative staff.

20. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my gender will not work against me.

21. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my gender.

22. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my gender is not the problem.

23. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my gender.

24. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my gender.

25. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

-- based on writings by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women

Posted by: Unacknowledging Male Privilege | May 29, 2008 5:07 PM

Dotted, your "stay sweet" was great. made me laugh. and also reminded me of when i was in college, trying to recover from a nasty battle with anorexia. as part of my recovery i used to blab on and on to everyone who would listen about how i was trying to gain weight. (what i was really doing, and i knew, was trying to save my own life.)

A lot of men -- college boys, my dorm advisor, professors, the guys who worked in the cafeteria -- would listen with great sympathy. Just when I was ready to soldier bravely on and eat a steak or something, they would add "It's great that you are gaining weight, honey. Just...don't gain too much."

I love men...but boy, there are a few things they may never understand!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:10 PM

UMP Thank you. That was great great great.

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:11 PM

Leslie, I understand completely, but I don't accept it. You want there to be a higher standard, fairness towards and equity for women. You think that the 'women lack political ambition' assertion implies that women lack ambition which doesn't ring true. I agree. Great. I couldn't agree more. I think you would be better served in your effort by setting a higher standard yourself. Lead by example. The insensitivity that you have encountered should make you want to be all the more sensitive if you really want to fix this problem in my own humble opinion.

Posted by: jjs | May 29, 2008 5:15 PM

Interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 5:32 PM

"11. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my gender."

LOL!

Off to drink now -- bye, y'all.

Posted by: Laura | May 29, 2008 5:32 PM

Off to wrangle dinner, homework, baths, irritating phone calls from telemarketers and DH at the exact wrong moment, etc.

Good discussion, all. Nitey nite!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:36 PM

I love men...but boy, there are a few things they may never understand!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 5:10 PM

Um, wow.

My partner and I go to a regular social/educational group that is 99% female. We talk about relationship issues and at least 5 times a night someone will say "Don't you hate how men (not Partner obviously) will always...?" or "Not offense to you, Partner, but men always..."

One time my partner finally decided to make his statement and called to the only other male in attendance last night and said "No offense to the women, but don't you hate how they always...?"

There was a general great laughter and some uncomfortable tittering from everyone- but the point was made. It's not OK just because you're the minority or because other people agree.

If that's how you really believe Leslie, then you have nothing to add to the world.

Posted by: Liz D | May 29, 2008 5:52 PM

based on writings by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women


gee, an opinion from a professional feminist working at a radical feminist college. No bias there.

Posted by: give it a rest | May 29, 2008 5:56 PM

Liz D -- Honestly have no idea why my statement offended you. I liked your post but it did nothing to explain the offense. Explanation? Kindly, please...

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 6:08 PM

UMP, that list is about as offensive as Leslie. Take your gender bias and go home, leave the rest of us to deal with life in a real world, not a divided, petty, crybaby way that you apparently do.

Posted by: Get Realest | May 29, 2008 6:17 PM

Leslie, the point here, with jjs and Liz D., is not about whether you have to be "nice" or "sweet" in all of your passion, stridency, or amibtion. It's about the need to make arguments that are well thought out, reasonable, and most of all, not gross overgeneralizations based on sex.

Whenever you say something about men as a group -- as in, "I love men but they don't get it" -- you are making a generalization about an entire group of people based solely on their sex. This is precisly what feminists have been fighting against for years. Just as it is offensive to you when someone suggests that "women lack ambition," because you don't want them to dismiss your own ambition based soley on your sex, so is it offensive to make assertions about men as a group. You are doing exactly what you say you are against, whether you say it nicely or snidely is beside the point.

Take people as individuals. Do not make them representatives of their genders, and do not assume that they are defined by the actions of others of the same gender.

Posted by: Huh? | May 29, 2008 6:31 PM

Thank you for the explanation. Now I do understand.

I wasn't being serious that all men "don't get it." Just some. I think some of these conversations go sour because we take each other too literally. Sorry -- no offense meant!

Posted by: Leslie | May 29, 2008 6:47 PM

I agree. It is a forum without context. We can be too literal with others' words and miss the various meanings of our own too easily. But I enjoy it and your passion and spirit anyway.

Posted by: Huh? | May 29, 2008 6:54 PM

leslie, what we have here is a failure to communicate...

And a bad case of penis envy.

Posted by: Dr Phil | May 29, 2008 9:02 PM

Realistically, yes, women have it more difficult, typically than men.

SO WHAT? Everyone has their challenges.

I always say, it's like when you watch a football or basketball or whatever pro/college game on TV. Many times the losing team fans say: oh, well, the umpires were against us - every call went the other team's way. Well, then, there you go. You have to be better than the other team AND the judging and the umpiring and the whatever, and not complain about it. You just have to do - we all have our reasons that we don't have it as good as the next person, but we all have to overcome it. That's just the way it is.

As for the gender roles - as I've mentioned before, I have two sisters, and my mom raised us to NOT cook, clean, sew, etc. Mom was GREAT at it all, but DID NOT want us to grow up and get married - she obviously wanted us to have more opportunities than she did - she made darn sure we were going to college, etc.

My cousins household is more typical, I think. Son, daughter. Son taught from very early on that he will have to support himself, how to do his finances, how to get a job, what to do, be focused on career. Daughter was asked all the time who she was dating, comments were made on who she was dating, as to whether they were appropriate or not, her going to school wasn't really that important cause she was only going to get married - so her job (not career, mind you) wasn't important cause it didn't matter cause she was going to just get married.

This was the typical thing - my DH went thru it too - he is the boy, he has two sisters - they were always told that getting married and having kids was important - that was not what my DH was taught...

Posted by: atlmom | May 29, 2008 9:37 PM

oh, and i started out in the engineering school. Clearly, many profs were against women in the field.

I switched to math, which is what so many women in the engineering dept did, since about 1/2 the graduates with math degrees were women. Um, and I think someone once said women were no good at math, that's why they don't go into that subject (my theory is that men and women learn differently, and math/science curriculums are geared towards how men, not women, learn, which is why more men than women succeed in those areas)?

Posted by: atlmom | May 29, 2008 9:39 PM

UMP, that list is about as offensive as Leslie. Take your gender bias and go home, leave the rest of us to deal with life in a real world, not a divided, petty, crybaby way that you apparently do.

Posted by: Get Realest | May 29, 2008 6:17 PM

That's what the real world is like, bucko. Only a crybaby would be offended by a list she finds inaccurate.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:40 PM

Oh, what the heck - I've been in the company of a bunch of idiots of both genders doing a good job of trying to destroy a youth sports program for the last few hours, so taking a shot at this blather will make me feel better :-)

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my gender most of the time.

Sort of. Since I'm an engineering geek, I can arrange to be in the company of people of whom the majority are my gender. Not all, there are numerous "girl geeks" (which term they like, lest anyone be offended), but mostly male. Of course, in any other facet of my life - at home with DW and 3 DDs and one DS; running a girls' softball program with over 600 girls; dealing with school; dealing with relatives - this is completely out of the question. So I'll give you a 1/2 on that. Of course, I really don't understand why this doesn't apply to women, too. DW can certainly arrange to be in the company of mostly women should she so desire.

2. If I should need to walk home alone after dark, I can be pretty that no harm will befall me.

Never lived in downtown New Orleans, now, have we? Or DC's Ward 8, or parts of West B-Mo, or... I could be reasonably certain that harm would befall me should I walk home alone after dark. Okay, I would most likely not be sexually assaulted, just mugged, robbed, and/or killed.

3. I can be pretty sure that my boss and colleages will be neutral or pleasant to me.

This has been more an issue of jobs and bosses than jobs. DW confirms this.


4. I can go shopping for cars alone, assured that I will not be asked where my husband is and otherwise asked questions that assume I know nothing about vehicles and am not the decision-maker.

OK, I'll give you this one. Most car sales-critters are pigs. (No, I don't stereotype; not at all. Well hardly ever. Once in a while maybe. :-)

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my gender widely represented in positions of power.

Yep, and blasted, criticized, etc.


6. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my gender made it what it is.

Yep, I'll give you that one.

7. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my gender.

Nope. Been there, done that. Only male on the PTA? Only father taking his daughter to swimming lessons? Sorry, this one is way, way, way off base.

8. I do not have to educate my sons to be aware of systemic sexism for their own daily physical protection.

I do have to educate my son about his physical safety in certain neighborhoods of West B-Mo, and DC's Ward 8, and...

9. I can be pretty sure that my son's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others' attitudes toward their gender.

Don't understand this, but I'll give it to you because I can't refute it.

10. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my gender on trial.

Yes, but not to a female group. :-) 1 point each.

11. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my gender.

Depends on what the situation is. "Challenging" situations do not exist solely in the traditionally-male-dominated-environments.

12. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my gender.

Bzzt - wrong. Only man on PTA, remember? "What do the men think? Can you support this?"

13. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my gender.

Again, depends on the situation. Most of the school principals are female.

14. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, or unheard.

Why would you belong to an organization where you didn't?

15. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another gender is more likely to jeopardize her chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

Bzzt, wrong again but thanks for playing. A hard-core technical argument with a female engineer will advance the career of whichever of us is right - both of us if we play our cards right.

16. If I declare there is a gender issue at hand, or there isn't a gender issue at hand, my gender will lend me more credibility for either position than a woman will have.

Again, don't understand this one, but I'll give it to you because I can't refute it.'

17. I am pretty certain of finding people who would be willing to mentor me, to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

Okay, maybe. Personally I've never had a problem finding a mentor. I don't know a hard-working, qualified female engineer who's had a problem, either, but there probably are some. I'll give you this one too.

18. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a woman would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

But I might be called "freak" or "weird" or something else if I went ahead and did what I want.

19. I can select my clothing for the workplace without having to consider whether, if I dress casually consistent with the business casual dresscode, visitors and those who don't know me will assume I am a member of the administrative staff.

Don't know. For the most part I wear what I want and always have; it's the engineering culture. The female engineers do the same.


20. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my gender will not work against me.

Huh? No clue about this.

21. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my gender.

Please, tell me how. Cause I've had this happen lots of times. I just don't let it bother me.

22. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my gender is not the problem.

Okay, I'll give you this one.

23. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my gender.

I'm sorry, but where? To the best of my knowledge, "men only" colleges have gone the way of the dinosaurs. There are still a few female-only colleges, but they're dying out. I flat out reject this one.

24. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my gender.

Okay, I'll give you that one.

25. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

No, I will feel like a total geek in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the engineering subculture.

So out of 25, I'll accept (maybe) 8 as correct; a couple more as partially correct; and a lot as wrong or naive.

There, now - I feel better. Off to scream at some lawyers who think their personal ego and position is far more important than six hundred young fastpitch softball players.

(And I'm rooting for Megan Elliot of Calvert High and ASU in the upcoming College Softball World Series, for what it's worth. Tough when she'll go against Ashley Brignac of John Curtis High and Louisiana-Lafayette, and Amanda Tincher of the Shamrocks and Virginia Tech, but I gotta go with Megan.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 29, 2008 10:41 PM

hey, I was/am a professor in engineering. Many profs were against me, but so what, I succeeded anyway. Small minds and all.. The point is, you fight the good fight and do yourself good. It is the only way to be right with yourself and the world. Learn that and you'll go far.

Posted by: dottted | May 29, 2008 10:48 PM

Wow! I just got home, and this discussion was almost as good as the ballgame. (We won!) I am tremendously impressed by the range of opionions, and especially by all the research that was cited. I'm sorry I missed it.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 29, 2008 11:05 PM

One thing that came to me in the night (you know how that happens -- a little peace and quiet let's the voices of reason bubble up).

By saying "don't blame women here" I am not suggesting that women adopt an attitude of passivity and victimhood. We can't just whine and head home. Although we are not the ones who built the glass ceilings, we are the ones who have to shatter them.

To continue AtlMom's referree metaphor, a team can win a game even when the refs are making calls against you. Sometimes you just play the hand that's dealt you, and that's what I see women doing every day.

I only meant to question the kneejerk reaction of laying all responsibility at women's feet, which strikes me as strange, destructive and totally irrational.

Who wants to grow up with assumptions that her weight matters as much or more than her IQ and work ethic? What woman wants to be sexually harassed at work? Who wants to be paid 25% less than men? Does any woman actually want to pump breastmilk while sitting on a toilet at work?

Okay, I digress, but I'm hoping this clarifies my concerns a bit.

Posted by: Leslie | May 30, 2008 6:15 AM

AB, that was good work. And I totally understand your frustration in youth sports...perhaps we should start a separate blog just to tackle that hornet's nest.

I want to point out one thing: many of your fine refutations address non-economic bias. Such as being the only dad at the PTA or swimming lessons or another female-dominated group.

What you are describing is being the outsider in a group. This stinks and is uncomfortable.

But it is different when you face discrimination that affects your physical safety and your ability to be economically independent and provide for your family. This is the kind of bias women (and minority groups) routinely face in our country, on top of the social bias you describe.

All discrimination and experiences of being the outsider are painful and arguably wrong. But it's important to distinguish between social isolation and prejudice that affects your job, your safety, and your family's economic security.

Posted by: Leslie | May 30, 2008 6:23 AM

Speaking of economic bias, I know I've said this before, but here goes again. Men in nursing, a profession dominated by women, make more money and are promoted faster.

Posted by: babsy1 | May 30, 2008 7:01 AM

It's pretty simple. Being the primary caregivers of the family and a distinct lack of balance sucks the ambition right out of us, whether it's running for office or climbing the corporate ladder.

We women will need to change the system before we can lead the world.

Posted by: Amy@UWM | June 2, 2008 10:19 PM

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