One of the most intriguing characters on “Scandal” is First Lady Mellie Grant. She’s not just a WASP sent from Central Casting, or a put-upon wife of a philanderer. Mellie gave up her Yale and Harvard-bred ambitions for the full-time job of photo ops and glad-handing as the First Lady. Just like Lucy Ricardo always wanted husband Ricky to just give her one opportunity to be in a show, Mellie Grant wants to influence policy and make big moves wherever she can. At every turn, she is stopped, often angrily, by her husband the President and his apoplectic Chief Of Staff. Both men remind her, every episode it seems, that the First Lady is supposed to be pretty sidekick, not a policy wonk. In one episode, Mellie is witheringly informed her job is to be “ornamental.”
Watching Mellie Grant on “Scandal” has made me look at Michelle Obama differently for sure. It’s not hard to imagine she, too, feels a bit trapped in a golden cage. We don’t exactly know whether Michelle Obama feels like her intellect is being wasted, but we do know from Jodi Kantor’s book, The Obamas, a portrait of the Obama marriage, that Barack’s high-level staff has bristled in the past at Michelle’s involvement. But also we know that Michelle dedicated her first year as First Lady to acclimating her two children to their new home and school and has spent many years since promoting healthy eating and exercise. All this has been summed up by Michelle Cottle, a Daily Beast scribe in a piece for Politico Magazine, as a feminist failure. Keep reading »
When I arrived at the basement of the Calvin Theater in Northampton, Massachusetts, I found folk musician Ani DiFranco in the midst of trying to get her six-month-old son Dante down for a nap. Minutes later I spotted the young baby — still very much awake — strapped into a carrier about to head out on a walk. This meshing of work and life happens daily for DiFranco, who is back on the road after having taken some time off to have her second child. Like his sister before him, Dante has joined DiFranco on tour, and the singer has been relearning how to split her time between motherhood and music.
While her son (hopefully) walked his way into a nap, DiFranco and I discussed everything from hitting the road as a mother of two, the notion of “having it all,” her ever-growing relationship with her fans and so much more. Keep reading »
According to UK’s Guardian, Japan’s young people aren’t having a whole lot of sex. In fact, a study found that 45 percent of women 16 to 25 “were not interested or despised sexual contact.” Despised. The desire to get married is declining, and fewer babies were born in Japan in 2012 than ever before. The changes have been so drastic that officials are fearing for Japan’s ability to repopulate itself.
But when the Guardian looked closer at the conundrum, it appears Japanese youth have some pretty good reasons for rejecting dating. This leads me to wonder whether Japan’s declining sexuality is a sign of what may be in store for other countries in the future. Here are some reasons Japan’s young people are swearing off sex:
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In 2003, The New York Times Magazine published an article by Lisa Belkin about the “opt-out revolution” — highly-educated women with prestigious jobs who left the workforce for full-time parenting. Was this, it seemed to ask, what our feminist foremothers had fought for?
The article was trashed from here to the moon with good reason: it focused on the wealthy elite who are able to leave the workforce to be stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) with no major dent to the family’s way of living. Pre-recession, some of these women assumed they would be able to transition easily back into the workforce. Others threw themselves into volunteering, putting their skills as go-getters to work elsewhere.
Now, Judith Warner from the Times Magazine has followed up with another piece about women (not the same group of women) who “opted out” of their high-powered jobs to be SAHMs … with varying degrees of personal happiness and professional success 10-15 years on. Keep reading »
In June 1961, after applying to Harvard’s graduate program in city planning, Phyllis Richman received a letter from Harvard asking her exactly how she planned on having a career and a family.
You see, Phyllis’s admission seemed like a waste of time to the admissions office. William A. Doeble, a professor in the department to which she had applied, wanted to make sure that she really wanted to put all of the time and money into an education that they felt she may never use when she was already so busy being a wife.
In his letter to Richman, Doeble wrote:
“[F]or your benefit, and to aid us in coming to a final decision, could you kindly write us a page or two at your earliest convenience indicating specifically how you might plan to combine a professional life in city planning with your responsibilities to your husband and a possible future family?” Keep reading »
Last week, The New York Times published a fairly straight forward news piece on the bountiful array of studies conducted here and in other parts of the world that suggest that offering paternity leave to new fathers could actually help stimulate the U.S. economy while also supporting women in their quest for work/life balance. The piece starts off with a brief anecdote from writer Catherine Rampell’s personal experience, about having two relationships come to an end because the men she was dating expressed a desire to see her eventually put aside her career, at least temporarily, should their relationship become so serious that they get married and have children. She writes:
I don’t pretend to know how common this situation is, and how many other young women have found themselves in it. But it clarified not only the choices that future mothers must make about their careers, but also how early in their careers they must begin to think about them. And while fairness and feminism may urge us to find better ways for women to balance work and life — Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter have certainly made impassioned cries — the most convincing argument seems to be an economic one.
The rest Rampell’s piece focuses on how women who hope to have children someday have a better shot at being successful at “leaning in” at work if their male partners are “leaning in” more at home, and are being given the support to do so via things like paternity leave. And, more importantly, should the United States follow in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Norway and offer paternity leave, it would not only benefit those straight couples who chose to partake in more balanced work-life accommodations, but the economy as a whole. Men would be given the flexibility to spend those precious early weeks with their children, women wouldn’t find putting their careers on the backburner the more financially feasible option, and, by keeping more women in the workforce, the economy would grow. Rampell offers a whole bunch of supporting evidence and, all in all, it is one of the least objectionable pieces I’ve read on the benefits of our society striving towards equality for men and women at work and in the home.
But lo and behold, one person managed to be deeply offended by Rampell’s article: Tom Matlack, the founding editor of The Good Men Project, who published a response called “What’s A Guy To Do?”, which, among other things, calls Rampell’s piece an “attack on dads-at-large.” Say what? Keep reading »