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Books: Reshaping the Work-Family Debate

December 5, 2010 | Books,Devra Renner,Economics,Education,Ethics,Family,Getting sick,Journalism,Leslie Bennetts,Linda Hirshman,Motherhood,Norway,Parenting,Politics,PR,Research,Sarah Palin,U.S. government,Vacation,Work,Working Mother

“Writ small, this book is about reframing debates about work and family. … Writ large, this book is about reframing American politics. Work-family issues have not been placed at the center of an analysis of U.S. politics, but it is time to rethink the assumption that they do not belong there.”

Wow. Joan C. Williams knows how to start off a book. She knows how to end it and fill the middle, too. But I’ll let you find that out by reading Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter. (I highly recommend reading it. Williams is brilliant.)

It’s what she said in a Wilson Center discussion with Barbara Ehrenreich in September, though, that really gets to the heart of the matter of this book:

Litigation has accomplished a lot, but federal employment law cannot give us social subsidies or workers’ rights. The only way we can get those things is through legislation. The only way we can get that legislation is by very significantly shifting the political culture in the United States.

The only way to shift the political culture is to start a national conversation about gender pressures on men, she said. Until we do that, we won’t see much progress for women.

Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock, authors of Mommy Guilt, will understand this book. Even though their book is about mothers, most of the work they do is about parenting. They spend a lot of time reminding others that parenting is something both mothers and fathers do.

Statistics show that both mothers and fathers in the United States feel the scales overwhelmingly tip in favor of work and short-change their family lives.

When asked, American parents — 90% of American mothers and 95% of American fathers — say that they wish they had more time with their children. These levels are sharply lower in Europe. (p. 2, Introduction)

Why are these levels lower in Europe? Because European countries structure workplaces around their workforces, recognizing that everyone has a right to a personal life.

They have a saying in Norway, “We don’t live to work, we work to live.” It’s just the opposite in America, a Norwegian might say, as he straps his baby on his back for a mountain hike — one of many during his nine weeks of “pappa leave.” When the leave is over, he will return to his 35-hour workweek, which enables him to pick up his child from daycare in the afternoon and still have several hours of family time before bedtime. Every day.

A Swedish father wrote a guest post for me about his experience as a parent in Sweden. He asked three years ago, regarding non-existent benefits in the United States, “… how do we change the system to make it easier to combine children, family and work?”

He’s not the only one who’s been asking that question. Many have been asking how to get family-friendly legislation passed. Williams looks at why we haven’t been able to get it. To answer the first question, we must first have an answer to the second question.

For one, there’s a class culture gap that polarizes employees and keeps them from coming together on specific issues.

For another — and Williams doesn’t discuss this in her book — companies don’t want legislation. They want to handle “family-friendly benefits” on their own. That means offering very little with a big splash of advertising and PR to make some magazine’s “best companies” list.

In reality, most companies on that list don’t want to offer comprehensive benefits or even one guaranteed sick day for each employee, based on lobbying efforts on their behalf by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

As the largest lobbying organiztion in the United States, the Chamber spent $91.7 million on lobbying in 2008 and $144.5 million in 2009. It — along with the companies it respresents — opposes any efforts to expand Family and Medical Leave Act leave or to mandate paid sick leave. It opposed a bill that would give employees seven paid sick days a year. It opposed SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) and the Employee Free Choice Act. It aggressively opposes union-backed proposals to increase minimum wage.

Some of these “listed” companies are multinational corporations with offices not only in the United States but also in Norway and Sweden. Benefits for white-collar American workers at these companies might be better than most: six weeks of paid maternity leave (and maybe up to a week of paternity leave for fathers), lactation rooms and maybe they can even buy vacation time. (Yes, that was touted as a “benefit.”)

Their employees in Norway and Sweden, however, get paid family leave of one to three years, the option of part-time work, shorter workweeks, paid sick leave and paid vacation. Why? Because all of that is legally required in those countries.

In Europe, … paid leaves are financed through social insurance, which leaves European employers more competitive than U.S. employers, for two reasons. First, European businesses do not have to pay the steep 30% ‘benefits load’ — the cost of a benefits package as a percentage of a worker’s salary — that many U.S. businesses pay. Second, because European employers are not responsible for covering the cost of paid leave themselves, they can afford to replace the worker on leave. In contrast, when U.S. employers pay the wages of workers on leave, often they simply heap leave-takers’ responsibilities onto their remaining workers, with no compensating increase in pay. This practice fuels workplace resentment. (p. 35)

In the United States, “The notion that having a child is a private frolic that does not deserve community support is implausible. There is no reason to expect that society should be able to privatize the costs of raising the next generation of citizens — from which all society will benefit — onto the backs of the women who bear them. This habit impoverishes women economically and men emotionally.” (p. 107)

Williams finally, finally, finally asks (and answers) the same question I’ve been asking for years. It’s not, “What’s wrong with women?” as Leslie Bennetts, Linda Hirshman and several others have asked. It’s, “What’s wrong with the workplace?”

Somewhat “coming full circle,” Williams starts with Lisa Belkin’s 2003 article, The Opt-Out Revolution, and I learned about Williams’ new book from Belkin’s more recent article, Calling Mr. Mom? and blog post of the same name.

In the first chapter, Williams expands on work she did in 2006 on a paper called “Opt Out” or Pushed Out? How the Press Covers Work/Family Conflict, The Untold Story of Why Women Leave the Workforce, which debunked the “opt-out revolution” myth perpetuated by media reports.

Even better for me, at that time, was a journalist debunking the myth — which had been perpetuated by journalists — for an audience of journalists when E.J. Graff wrote The Opt-Out Myth essay for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2007.

Graff explained: “Here’s why this matters: if journalism repeatedly frames the wrong problem, then the folks who make public policy may very well deliver the wrong solution. If women are happily choosing to stay home with their babies, that’s a private decision. But it’s a public policy issue if most women (and men) need to work to support their families, and if the economy needs women’s skills to remain competitive. It’s a public policy issue if schools, jobs, and other American institutions are structured in ways that make it frustratingly difficult, and sometimes impossible, for parents to manage both their jobs and family responsibilities.”

And how are American institutions structured? With masculine workplace norms.

… although work-family conflict traditionally is associated with women, a prime mover of work-family conflict is masculinity. Inflexible workplaces have proved so hard to change, in significant part, because of the intertwining of masculinity with work schedules and current understandings of work commitment. (p. 33)

What do masculine workplace norms get us? No paid family leave. Long hours. Unequal pay. And motherhood as the strongest trigger for gender bias.

As a culture, we need to stop lying to ourselves, stop pretending that the ‘choices’ thrust on us by outmoded norms are actually choices made of free will. We need to stop ignoring the fact that the available choices are dismally inadequate. (p. 40)

 
I couldn’t help thinking of the movie 9 to 5 when reading this book. Didn’t Judy, Violet and Doralee take care of flexible work schedules and job sharing 30 years ago? Sure, they had to poison, hogtie and hold captive their sexist boss. But, hey, they got the job done, right?

Well, OK. Real life is much harsher. Many employees are “one sick child away from being fired.” They are often forced to make the impossible decision to choose between work or their children. When they pick their children (because they’re sick and daycare or school won’t take them or, worse, they’re headed to the emergency room), employees are often fired.

This is not just a working-mother issue. It affects fathers, too. Current research shows that this kind of inflexibility is not just an issue for women:

“Roughly 55% of the arbitration that WorkLife Law studied involved men.” (p. 56)

But it’s time to realize that the workplace is a “gender factory” constructed for “ideal workers” without family responsibilities.

Let’s begin with pregnancy. The only reason pregnancy represents a problem for employed women is because the ideal-worker norm is designed around someone with a man’s body (no time off for childbearing) and men’s traditional life patterns (no time off for child rearing or other care work). Once again, the issue is not whether men and women are really different; the issue is why this particular difference matters in this context. As Martha Minow pointed out long ago, men are as different from women as women are from men. What gives women’s difference salience in the workplace is the weight of unstated masculine norms. (p. 129)

“The ideal-worker standard and norm of work devotion push mothers to the margins of economic life. And a society that marginalizes its mothers impoverishes its children. That is why the paradigmatic poor family in the United States is a single mother and her child.” (p. 103) Emphasis added.

Williams does a great job of breaking down the differences between classes and explaining the need to bridge those gaps and rebuild an alliance between progressives and “the Missing Middle.”

“The most refined fuel for class resentments is the culture of casual insults leveled by progressives toward the white working class. Changing U.S. politics will require an embargo on such insults.” (p. 152)

“As Theda Skocpol pointed out nearly a decade ago, progressives tend to focus so intently on poverty that they miss Americans in the middle of the income distribution. Skocpol finds it ‘puzzling’ that ‘our policy debates deal so little with the fate of working families of modest means.’ She recommended ‘a new family-oriented populism’ that offers supoprt for working families on the type that exists in Europe, namely, universal programs, rather than means-tested programs that are limited to the poor. Her analysis has been largely ignored.” (p. 161)

Maybe it’s time to stop ignoring this.

Williams challenges cultural fantasies about feminism (especially Sarah Palin‘s version of it — the five pages she spends deconstructing Palin alone is worth the price of the book), and she says she wants to start a national conversation about gender issues.

A conversation.

Is that enough? Who participates? Then what?

Posted by Becky @ 7:50 pm | 8 Comments  

Books: No Excuses

October 24, 2010 | Benefits,Books,Economics,Education,Family,Gloria Feldt,Leslie Bennetts,Linda Hirshman,Motherhood,Politics,Work

I just read No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power by Gloria Feldt. I bought the Kindle version.

If I’d only read the headlines and tweets, I might have dismissed it as a (sadly familiar) scolding of “not doing feminism right.” When I saw, “Women’s roadblock to power: themselves,” I thought, wait a second. I thought I had a good sense of who Gloria Feldt was (we met in Chicago in 2009), and this doesn’t sound like that. I’d better read this book.

It’s a great book, and I’ll tell you why.

I just need to get a few things out of the way first.

Feldt quotes so many inspiring people and tells the stories of amazing women. She also quotes Linda Hirshman and Leslie Bennetts, both of whom I disagree with on so many levels. Feldt may call Hirshman her “tough-love feminist friend,” but to many, Hirshman is a bully. Bennetts says she’s simply the messenger, but it’s actually her “message” that’s flawed. Her heart may be in the right place, but her supporting evidence isn’t.

Feldt takes a couple of surface swipes at women who “opt out” of the workplace. They should just “cut it out” because, you know, she and other feminists of her generation didn’t work their butts off so these youngsters could just sit on theirs. (My words, not hers.)

Looking at the issues we face as women through a completely individualistic lens presents us with a problem, or maybe it’s just an excuse. I liken it to the so-called choice feminists who say that what the women’s movement fought for was solely to give them options, and every option, including opting out of the workforce or total indifference to politics, is equally valid. It’s individualism dressed up as feminism. (Location 2082, Kindle edition)

It’s just not that simple. Women get fired because of pregnancy and lactation, others are pushed out for other reasons. Many women don’t want to “opt out” and wouldn’t if they had more rights. For example, lactation wouldn’t even be a work issue if women had guaranteed, paid family leave. But they don’t. So they get lactation rooms. If they’re lucky. Most get nothing.

I do, however, agree with her advice to work together on these issues, especially considering the standing advice is to “negotiate individually with your boss.” That’s fine, until your boss takes another job and you’re left with a boss who refuses to (and isn’t required to) honor your previous agreement. Or maybe your company will have layoffs, and you (with the flextime or on maternity leave) will probably be the first to go.

When you’re up against a work-life balance problem that requires changing a long-used process — perhaps you’re trying to change a policy like creating flextime, ensuring sick leave, or getting more women onto the executive team — you can, to a limited extent, improve your situation independently of others by negotiating your own terms of employment. But that won’t alter the underlying structure that perpetuates the problem. If you want to change the system, you need to function like a movement. (Location 3719, Kindle edition)

When all choices are framed as radically individual ones, not only are women less likely to perceive their own power to determine the course of their lives and the quality of others’ lives, but they are also less likely to seek the recourse and strength that can be found in a collective movement united in Sister Courage. (Location 5093, Kindle edition)

At one point, Feldt talked about a meeting where she asked a room full of university professionals why men earn more money.

“Because they ask for it!” they said.

No, they don’t. Money falls in their laps like manna from heaven. OK. Sweeping generalization alert! (As in, “they [all] ask for it!”) But I’d bet a lot of them don’t. They’re rewarded with more money because the guys they work for figure they deserve it. (Another generalization alert!)

So, let me get specific.

My husband and I graduated from college at the same time from the same university. We had different majors and worked in different industries, but we earned the same salary in our first jobs out. In less than five years, his salary was more than double mine. He never once asked for more money or a raise. I, on the other hand, spoke up often. About everything. I was told no or shown the hoops that I should jump through before I would get what I requested, whether it was more money, the proper equipment to do my job or getting a sexist boss to treat me fairly. (I ended up leaving that job, and he stayed on for several more years, probably getting raises he never had to request.)

I once applied and interviewed for a job when I was working another. They were interested until it came to money. They choked on my salary requirement and asked what I earned in the job I had. I told them. I was better off staying where I was, they told me (and I was already earning less than half my husband’s salary).

So, while my husband was offered more money at every new job he considered, I was always offered less. Just a few years ago, I finagled an interview for a management position, which was really five jobs squeezed into one. When I asked about salary, it was all I could do to not fall out of my chair. That wasn’t a living wage for one person, let alone a family of five. If I hadn’t bitten my tongue, the next words out of my mouth would have been, “OK. Close your eyes. Pretend I’m a man. Now what’s the salary?”

By far the most confounding problem facing women today is not that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the open doors in numbers and with intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all. (Location 789, Kindle edition)

When I started reading in No Excuses about all these wide-open doors that women should be walking through, I couldn’t help but thinking, with a side order of sarcasm …

Oh, oh, oh! Did you get us paid maternity leave?

*pause*

No.

OK. Umm. Oh, oh, oh! Did you get us equal pay?

*pause*

No.

OK. Umm. What about universal child care?

No.

Well? Did you at least get us one guaranteed paid sick day?

No.

But, seriously. I’d be missing the point if that were my overall response to this book.

This is a great book because it is overwhelmingly positive, encouraging and inclusive. It builds momentum and fosters hope. It says, “Now is the time to claim power. Let’s do it together.”

I may not agree with every one of her assessments on why women are “stuck” where they are, but I do agree that women are stuck, and it’s best to work together to change that. As she said, this is an exciting time, “flush with the promise of transformation” and that women should embrace their “power to push the fulcrum, finally, to abundant justice and full equality so that women can at last lead unlimited lives.” (Location 5326, Kindle edition)

How could you not get swept up in that?

I thought it was interesting that she told the story of Joan Gerberding of Mediaguide and Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio because I’d recently read a book by Eric Shoars, Women Under Glass: The Secret Nature of Glass Ceilings and the Steps to Overcome Them, in which he talks about the dearth of women at the executive level in the radio industry. His advice for gaining parity for women in the radio industry was a mentorship program. While that’s a great idea, it’s far too simplistic. Feldt confirmed my thoughts by quoting Cherie Blair, “We need more than mentors. We need real structural change.” (Location 1820, Kindle edition)

I’m good at connecting people who belong together. I’ve always wanted to gather a powerhouse panel of amazing women, but I haven’t been able to do that yet.

You know who can? Gloria Feldt. She knows everyone from Gloria Steinem to Shelby Knox. She builds bridges instead of burning them. She builds people up instead of tearing them down. She looks for opportunity and equality at every turn.

She wants to inspire: “There are many reasons why women have been held back or have stepped back from our power. But there are no excuses anymore. My intent is not to assign blame, but to inspire women to embrace our historic moment; not to dish up ancient history, but to envision a bright future, and to provide the tools to make it happen now while the opportunity is hot.” (Location 143, Kindle edition)

I might just think this book was written by someone who plans to run for office. Hey, it’s happened before. I know a certain president who wrote a couple of books before he got elected.

Is that a wide-open Oval Office door I see?

I stood up and asked, ‘What in the world is wrong with leading?’ (Location 5308, Kindle edition)

What indeed. What do you say, Gloria? You walking through?

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Working Mother works for … you?

Posted by Becky @ 5:26 pm | 19 Comments  

Michelle Obama speaks in whose voice?

May 8, 2009 | Advertising,Barack Obama,Benefits,Bright Horizons,Corporate Voices for Working Families,Economics,Ethics,Journalism,Michelle Obama,Parenting,PNC,Politics,PR,Procter & Gamble,Research,Work,Working Mother

Michelle Obama spoke at the Corporate Voices for Working Families annual meeting Thursday at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. CVWF also released its report, Innovative Workplace Flexibility Options for Hourly Workers, which claims to show “that flexibility for lower wage hourly and nonexempt workers is being used effectively in a variety of business settings.”

Obama “praised the organization for its research,” though it’s unclear if she read any of the research or looked beyond a press release. If she had, she would have found layers upon layers of conflict of interest and even direct opposition to her husband’s policies.

Companies participating in the CVWF study were Bright Horizons, Marriott, PNC, Procter & Gamble and another company that remained anonymous. Bright Horizons and Marriott sit on the CVWF board of trustees. They and PNC are corporate partners, and Marriott is also a funding partner with CVWF.

Obama also said that “some 22 million working women don’t have one paid sick day.”

Many of the CVWF members would keep it that way through lobbying efforts on their behalf by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with which they are affiliated through local chambers. The Chamber opposes any efforts to expand Family and Medical Leave Act leave or mandate paid sick leave. It opposed a bill that would give employees seven paid sick days a year. It opposed SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) and the Employee Free Choice Act.

Posted by Becky @ 6:25 pm | 2 Comments  

Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney

August 7, 2008 | Advertising,Books,Breast cancer,Colbert Report,Colin Powell,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Media,Movies,MSM,Music,Parenting,Pink,Politics,PR,Race,Research,SLBTM,Statistics,Television,U.S. government,Verizon,Work,Working Mother

I just finished reading Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. I received a review copy from the publisher, Modern Times, an imprint of Rodale, Inc.

As I was getting ready to write something about the book, I ran across Maloney’s July 29, 2008, appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. At first, I thought I would just include it with other links, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District – New York’s 14th – Carolyn Maloney
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Is it really funny that women get fired for lactating?

Here’s a quote from Maloney’s book.

I also heard numerous stories about difficulties in the workplace, including one woman whose male colleagues mooed outside the door as she expressed milk to take home and another woman being banished to do so in her car across the street from her office.

I didn’t laugh once while reading her book, but maybe I missed something. Exactly which issue that she wrote about was funny? Rape? Domestic violence? Burkas? Breast cancer? Or maybe prostitution? That link goes to a 2007 feature in Prism magazine, which Maloney reprinted on page 246 of her book and said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.

Depictions of prostitution in the media and popular culture (including the movie Pretty Woman) can be grossly misleading, even glamorous. In fact, street prostitutes are typically trafficked, exploited, battered, and often force-fed drugs by slavemaster pimps. This series of mugshots of street prostitutes, which documents their first arrest to their eighth, illustrates the reality of life on the street, which more closely resembles a descent into hell than a Hollywood movie.

Is that funny? If not, I’m confused about why one of the first places she went to discuss her book was Comedy Central.

The blurbs on the back of her book are written by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, Ellie Smeal and Arianna Huffington. (Geraldine Ferraro was also included in the online “praise” section for the book.) Were they slapping their knees and giggling at the sight of Colbert using a breast pump while Maloney smiled and kept her cool? If not, does that mean they just can’t take a joke?

I’ve written about the blurred lines between celebrity and politics. It’s as if something has shifted. Instead of looking back as former government officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the joke. Hey, they’re even in on the joke because so many things that happen in Washington are, well, a joke. Is that it?

Maybe I just don’t get the whole Inside the Beltway atmosphere. Is it really just a non-stop college kegger where everyone has to hit the beer bong and slam shots until they puke their guts out to prove they can keep up?

Sigh.

About the book

About the author

Excerpt

Maloney’s book is a fairly comprehensive list of women’s issues — what’s been done, what’s been undone and what still needs to be done. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, not much of the information is new, but it’s interesting to read about the issues from Maloney’s perspective as a policymaker.

She put a “take-action guide” at the end of each chapter, providing contact information for some of the groups and organizations working on specific issues. Her goal is to convince readers to do something, anything: “I hope to persuade you that any action in support of your beliefs matters, whether it is large or small, brief or time-consuming, successful or unsuccessful.”

She included women’s personal stories as well as her own story and a wealth of information from other sources.

She draws upon the work of Martha Burk (Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It), Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued), Jody Heymann (The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?), MomsRising (The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want – and What To Do About It), Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff (Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men–And What to Do About It), Joan Williams (Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It), Marie Wilson (Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything), among many others.

She also included some of her own research and highlighted inconsistencies between cultural myth and everyday reality.

Maloney mentioned Morgan Stanley, which settled a class-action sex-discrimination case for $54 million and then another one for $46 million, yet it consistently appears on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list, a topic I have written about many times.

You might think that Morgan Stanley would work especially hard to eradicate sex discrimination after so costly [$54 million] an episode. But the firm settled another class action sex discrimination suit in 2007 for $46 million — bringing its overall sex discrimination price tag to an even $100 million. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to a few good days of trading.

Despite these incidents, Morgan Stanley has been cited numerous times by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. That makes me wonder how bad things are at other companies.

While she pointed out the inconsistency of the companies that appear in Working Mother with their employment track record, she listed in the take-action guide the National Association for Female Executives, which might be a perfectly fine organization. But it falls under the umbrella of Working Mother Media, which publishes Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of the whole thing.

She also gave this example.

If you drive your Mitsubishi to the airport after filling its tank at Sunoco, board a Boeing-built plane for a United Airlines flight, use your Verizon cell phone service to call your spouse before you take off, and then bite into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ve just enriched six household-name companies that have settled or lost sex discrimination cases and lawsuits in recent years.

Right. At least one of those companies — Verizon — makes Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list year after year.

In the take-action guide at the end of the “Health Care That’s Always There” chapter, she recommended (among others) Dove’s Campain for Real Beauty as a way to “start health education early by teaching our young and teenaged girls about issues that affect them.” If you scratch the surface of Dove, you’ll find a wee bit of image manipulation of its own.

Unilever is the maker of Dove products (and major “research” funder), which are the basis for the Campaign for Real Beauty and its self-esteem education for young girls. Unilever also makes and markets Axe products, which exist in a parallel universe where the V.I.X.E.N.S. (Very Interactive Xtremely Entertaining Naughty Supermodels) and Bom Chicka Wah Wahs don’t have “real beauty” or self-esteem issues.

In “The Pretty Woman Myth” chapter, Maloney wrote about misleading portrayals of prostitution in popular culture and mentioned that the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006 went to ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’” whose lyrics include:

Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah

I remember when that happened, thinking, what?!? There was George Clooney, smugly patting himself on the back for Hollywood being “out of touch” for “giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” That was in 1939. Just how long was it, dear George, until the next black person was so honored? That would be 1948, then 1964, then 1982, then 2002. And just how far has Hollywood come, George, by glorifying “the black man” … as a pimp, not to mention portraying women of all colors as simply a venue for making money? Hollywood’s out of touch, George. Ya think?

Which brings me back around to the Comedy Central appearance.

If it’s a matter of reaching a younger audience? C’mon, they deserve more credit than that. It’s not only “the kids” watching Comedy Central, and “the younger audience” is watching much more than just Comedy Central. And there are tons of young, vibrant, intelligent voices on the Internet. Dust off the mouse and start clicking.

Besides, there’s not a damn thing that’s funny about this book. Just like the issues Maloney discusses in the book — the media and popular-culture myths that harm the efforts to improve the lives of real people — Maloney’s Comedy Central appearance did nothing but belittle and mock some very serious societal issues. The people behind the stories about sex discrimination, prostitution and unacceptably high infant-mortality rates (to name just a few) deserve much more than to become the butt of a comedian’s joke.

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Posted by Becky @ 4:10 pm | 18 Comments  

Bennetts: Men shirk chores because women let them

April 19, 2008 | Daddy bloggers,Family,Leslie Bennetts,Work

Hey, guys, fathers, dads, daddybloggers… Leslie Bennetts writes about you this time in “Chores for two: Why men don’t pitch in.”

Ask your typical American dad what size shoes his children wear, and you will likely draw a blank stare. He has no idea. Guess who makes sure the kids’ toes aren’t poking through their sneakers?

OK, Typical American Dads: Do you know what size shoes your children wear?

(If you do, you’re one up on me. I have to dig around in the closet and look at the shoes to find out what size my children wear.)

Here’s another question: Are you a lot like children?

And while I recognize that gender stereotypes are risky, in my experience husbands are a lot like children. They will get away with whatever they can get away with. When you put your foot down and make it clear that you won’t take no for an answer, somehow the kids’ rooms get cleaned, the groceries bought, the laundry folded. It really does work, I promise.

(My husband already has a mother.)

In case you haven’t seen me cite this quote enough already, here it is. Again.

So why aren’t women demanding something closer to parity? While many are resigned to seething in silence, the stakes are far higher than they seem to realize. When wives permit their husbands to shirk a fair share of the homemaking and parenting, not only do they themselves suffer, but chances are good that they’re also sentencing their children to a similar fate. When you have kids, everything you do teaches them how to live their own lives when they grow up. Unfortunately, all too many women are still teaching their children that “woman is the nigger of the world,” as John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it so memorably in a song lyric years ago. And what too many fathers teach their sons and daughters is that men can get away with dumping the scut work on their wives, and that women will grit their teeth and put up with it.

Posted by Becky @ 2:34 pm | 13 Comments  

Revisiting Linda Hirshman

March 17, 2008 | Family,SLBTM,Work

Why did New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer cheat? Because his wife was an “opt-out revolutionary.” She “quit her day job.” And it’s all her fault. Right. Because husbands whose wives don’t opt out? They never cheat.

Posted by Becky @ 9:00 am | 3 Comments  

Revisiting Leslie Bennetts and The Feminine Mistake

March 16, 2008 | Books,Family,Work

It seems Nataly at Work It, Mom! is in a bit of a pickle. She signed up Leslie Bennetts to write a series of articles over the next 10 weeks called “10 Reasons Working Moms Should Feel Great About Themselves,” based on her book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (now out in paperback). The first article was called, “Reason number one: Working women are happier.” Nataly is surprised by the reaction.

I won’t comment on the article. I’ll just send you to my review of The Feminine Mistake. I think that covers it.

Oh, wait. One thing. Who planted daffodils today?

Show of hands?

Posted by Becky @ 10:33 pm | 5 Comments  

And the winner is …

December 5, 2007 | Audience participation,Blogland games,Books,Family,Motherhood,PR,Tracy Thompson,Work,Working Mother

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Rhonda Van Diest!

One signed copy of The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression by Tracy Thompson is on the way. Thanks, Rhonda, and thanks to everyone who played along. Big thanks to Tracy, too.

Posted by Becky @ 9:51 pm | Comments  

Working Mother sells diet to captive audience

November 27, 2007 | Advertising,Ethics,Health,PR,Work,Working Mother

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Remember how Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela to sell more breast pumps make sure companies support breastfeeding employees? Well, Working Mother also is “in partnership with” Kraft Foods Inc. to sell diet food offer employees “nutritious food.”

Kraft (a “100 best” company and major advertiser) and Working Mother held the “first-ever Office Kitchen Takeover” at SC Johnson‘s corporate and manufacturing facilities in Racine, Wis. (SC Johnson is a “100 best” company and major advertiser.) They stocked the company’s kitchen for a day with Kraft’s South Beach Diet prepackaged foods on Sept. 18, 2007, for a captive audience of some 2,500 employees.

“SC Johnson is on our ’100 Best Companies’ due to its family-oriented culture and its commitment to helping employees strike a good work/life balance,” says Tammy Palazzo, Vice President of Research and Women’s Initiative, Working Mother Magazine. “The South Beach Diet(R) Office Kitchen Takeover awards the company even further by providing healthier food options for busy employees — from the convenience of their own office cafeteria.”

Touted as healthy, convenient, nutritious and delicious, the South Beach Diet is a weight-loss plan, according to Kraft’s own press release, with three phases that couldn’t possibly have been implemented in one day. What’s next? Weekly weigh-ins?

If they were really interested in providing employees with healthy snacks, why not “take over” the kitchen with baskets of fruits, vegetables and nuts? But where’s the selling point in that?

Not only does Working Mother offer its 2.2 million readers as a target audience for advertisers, it now uses employees of “100 best” companies/advertisers as a captive target audience.

Posted by Becky @ 2:53 pm | 4 Comments  

Working Mother works for … you?

November 16, 2007 | Advertising,Benefits,Ethics,Family,Health,Journalism,Work,Working Mother

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What a teleconference! Oh, the things they plan to do! For you!

  • Paid family leave?
  • Paid sick leave?
  • Paid vacation days?
  • Portable, affordable health insurance?
  • High-quality, affordable childcare and preschool?

:::Shh! Hear that? That’s the sound of corporate executives across the country having a collective heart attack.:::

Nah, not really. The teleconference was a platform for Working Mother to roll out its latest venture: to give “best of congress” awards every two years (starting in September 2008) to members of Congress “in recognition of their leadership in improving the quality of life for working families.”

But I’m jumping ahead. Here’s what happened.

Donna Klein, who earns $200,000 a year as founder and CEO of Corporate Voices, read her welcoming remarks and said we would hear from Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans and Jami Taylor, a mother and activist. Klein tossed out some statistics — that the American workforce was under increasing pressure to meet the goals of a global economy and that childcare-related absences cost business $3 billion a year. (The $3 billion a year is a statistic from 1991 by an organization, Child Care Action Campaign, that apparently no longer exists.)

She mentioned that more than 30 bills dealing with family issues — FMLA, childcare-subsidy increases, workplace flexibility, etc. — were before Congress. She gave statistics about breastfeeding and encouraged working mothers to “advocate for lactation space” because “many employers are open to suggestions.”

Evans also talked about breastfeeding and lactation rooms. Which made me wonder … why are they so focused on lactation rooms?

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Then I found this.

A full-page advertisement in Working Mother’s October 2007 issue by Medela, a major breast-pump manufacturer, said that Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela “to gain a better understanding of what the Working Mother 100 Best Companies are doing to help support their employees who are breastfeeding.” Medela offers — for a price — services to corporate clients through its Healthy Babies, Happy Moms, Inc. (That’s one of their corporate lactation rooms in the picture.)

Business ears perked up with the news in 2005 that 73 percent of mothers were breastfeeding. Considering that the United States has a high percentage of working mothers yet offers no guaranteed paid maternity leave … well, you do the math. What did Medela hear? Ka-ching! If maternity leaves were kept at the bare minimum or non-existent, Medela got to sell more breast pumps. Eh?

According to a Jan. 10, 2007, Wall Street Journal article, “it is all about business plans, market share and product placement.”

In another lift to sales, nursing products are being reconceived as fashion accessories. Celebrities have discussed their nursing protocols with the news media. When U.S. pump company Medela Inc., a unit of Medela Holding AG of Switzerland, sought to put its products on TV shows three years ago, it found no takers. Last fall, its pumps were included in story lines on “ER,” “Weeds,” and “The Office.”

(Medela, based in McHenry, Ill., is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce via its membership in the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce.)

Back to the teleconference.

Pryce mentioned several initiatives before Congress (mortgage foreclosures, war on terror, health care, education, SCHIP) to illustrate “that Congress is always working on something that can affect you,” but she didn’t mention where she stood on any of the issues.

She also didn’t mention that she has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which should offer an idea on where she stands on issues important to employees and working families. Here’s her voting record. Here’s who gives her money.

Next up was Evans, who was introduced as having “surprising” news. Evans went through the list of lists her magazine publishes (100 best, best small companies, best law firms, etc.). Then she talked about a survey of 500 women that revealed the No. 1 reason they work was for money. The No. 2 “surprising” answer was to use talents and training. No. 3 was to be great role models for their children. (She didn’t give specifics of the survey, so I don’t know when or by whom it was conducted.)

Why was the No. 2 answer a stop-the-presses! surprise? Got me. What did she expect the answer to be? Besides, it wasn’t clear what this “surprise” had to do with advocacy.

Here are her suggestions for callers to “get involved.”

  • Ask your company to apply for our list.
  • Express your voice through our MomBlog (at workingmother.com, natch).

Next up was Jami Leigh Taylor with “an amazing story of courage and triumph.” Taylor explained that she had been working for a few years on availability and accessibility of maternity insurance. They paid $22,000 out-of-pocket for a healthy pregnancy with no complications because her husband’s company dropped its maternity coverage just before she had a baby. Here are her tips.

  • Start with congressional staff. Make friends with the chief of staff.
  • Attend events they are already scheduled to attend.
  • Bring the kids! (Whisk them out if they get too fussy.)
  • Look at it as a way to get dressed up and go out on a date!

The results of her BFF-ships with staffers? Has she gotten anyone to write legislation or pass laws? Dunno. She didn’t say.

After a few questions, the teleconference ended.

So what did we learn?

  • Working Mother and Corporate Voices will give “best of congress” awards.
  • Evans was surprised! that women work to use their talents and training.
  • Ask your boss for a lactation room.
  • Take the kids to meet your senator or representative!
Posted by Becky @ 9:04 pm | 10 Comments  


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