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You've Come a Long Way, Maybe?
An article in the Washington Post yesterday really pissed me off. You've Come a Long Way, Maybe, by Linda Hirshman, debated whether or not women will elect Hillary Clinton to the White House in 2008 and skewered womankind along the way.

Linda Hirshman is, to say the least, a polarizing personality. Most recently, she's turned her poison pen toward the stay at home mom. In her book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, Hirshman is extremely critical of well educated women who opt out of the work force. Hirshman believes that women have a duty to remain in the work force, low quality daycare and family unfriendly company policies be damned, and to force their husbands to step up to the plate. Until then, Hirshman argues that women will continue to create their own glass ceiling and hurt the feminist cause. While I commend her thoughts about forcing men to truly shoulder their share of the burden at home, Hirshman rarely veils her contempt for women who have chosen a different path from hers. While I have not chosen to stay at home, I can still see the fork in the path that led me to my chosen life. That being said, I should have known to relax or perhaps have a bottle glass of wine before reading her article. Ms. Hirshman did not disappoint and, although I did not check my blood pressure after reading the article, I could feel that little vein in my forehead throbbing away.

Ms. Hirshman's latest article basically discusses why Hillary Clinton won't be able to rely on women's votes to win the 2008 presidential election. Her theory is that women do not vote rationally. To "prove" her theory, she surveys six well educated white women who are stay at home moms, supposedly the soccer mom demographic. The results of her survey?
A 49-year-old former public relations executive in suburban Maryland told me she votes the political agenda she learned from her lefty father. She reads The Washington Post, but there are no books on her bedside table. She counts on her husband to tell her what's in the Nation magazine and on the Web.

A 36-year-old former financial sales executive considers herself an independent, reads only the Style and Weekend sections of The Post and the Marketplace and Personal Journal sections of the Wall Street Journal, and also counts on her husband, a Republican, to tell her what's interesting in the rest of the paper.

A former human rights activist told me that she still reads the New York Times, skims the Economist, and gathers political information from PBS's "News Hour," a local broadcast from the BBC and from her church.

Neither the former teacher nor the retired television reporter read any newspapers at all.

There are some constants. Most of the women read People and Real Simple magazines. They all listen to news on the car radio, mostly National Public Radio. And almost all their full-time working husbands consume immeasurably more political information than they do ("He reads 10 times what I do," one told me), reading news magazines and political Web sites and bringing home political information from their jobs. The women gather little information from their almost exclusively female society of other stay-at-home moms.

You can practically see the disdain she has for these women dripping from the page. But it doesn't end there, she also compares the female vote to a high school popularity contest where we apparently vote for the best jock or the guy with the prettiest hair. She goes on to quote statistics:
To this day -- as even my D.C. area correspondents seemed to confirm -- women just aren't as interested in politics as men are. The Center for Civic Education recently reported that American women are less likely than men to discuss politics, contribute to campaigns, contact public officials or join a political organization. About 42 percent of men told University of Michigan researchers last year that "they are 'very interested' in government and public affairs, compared with 34 percent of women."

Worse, women consistently score 10 to 20 percentage points lower than men on studies of political knowledge, regardless of their education or income level. Studies dating to 1997 have shown that fewer women than men can name their senator, or know one First Amendment right. They even know less about the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade than men do.

As a 2006 study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press put it, American adults live in "A World of His and Hers." Two million more men than women read either Time or Newsweek; more men listen to radio news and talk radio, read the paper and get news online. Only broadcast television news plays to more women than men, and a lot of that is TV news magazines and morning shows. Not only do fewer women read the newspaper, but almost half the women surveyed said they "sometimes do not follow international news because of excessive coverage of wars and violence."
What was the point of Ms. Hirshman's detailed insult of women and their political acumen? To show that women are more likely to vote for the person than the policy. If Ms. Hirshman's premise is true, then HRC's clear problem is her discomfort with getting personal.

What annoyed me about the article was not Ms. Hirshman's conclusion about the obstacles HRC faces in an election. I'm with her there. No, what sent my blood pressure through the roof was the argument that women are not rational and are less informed politically than men.

And then I thought about it for awhile.

And now I realize that I am not angry with Ms. Hirshman. Although she clearly chooses to state her arguments in a manner intended to provoke ire, I'm afraid that Ms. Hirshman might be correct. No matter how much I fight to be thought of as an equal there are still women who simply do not care. How can any woman who does care about equality or the future state of our world remain so ill informed? That thought makes me sad. How can we change the world for our children if we don't educate ourselves and vote accordingly? I'm not angry at Ms. Hirshman, I'm angry at every woman out there who doesn't pick up a newspaper and read it, or turn on the TV and watch some news, or read through a news magazine instead of People. Of course there are almost as many men who are equally apathetic, but they aren't my sisters. I expect more of women.

After reflection, I was still a little bit angry at Ms. Hirshman but then she saved herself with this comment in response to a question from Philadelphia during the online discussion of her article.
Philadelphia: If there is a gender difference in terms of attention paid to politics and world affairs, why do you think that is? Is there something about the way women are socialized that would lead them to be less interested or vice versa? Is it because the major players in these issues mostly are men?

Linda Hirshman: From time out of mind, western culture and doubtless other cultures that I know less about have assumed that women are from nature and men are from culture -- in other words, that men are responsible for the built environment and women for making babies. Although we have indeed come a long way, it is hard to see the data and not think that women continue to be socialized, and to choose to be socialized, to occupy themselves with the private, the individual, the family, the children. Just looking at the "baking cookies" submissions to this live chat makes me think about how hard it is to get out of the kitchen. But whatever is is not necessarily right. Women are human, and politics is part of the realm of the human. My work is aimed at breaking the iron bands of men are from culture and so forth. If Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- mother of, god knows, eight or something -- could see that women belonged in the world of politics, surely we literate, liberated, birth control-empowered, law school-educated women can see it too.
I'll drink to that. And now I'm off to read the paper. Join me?


Share the Love Awards
Heather over at One Woman's World, has the Second Annual Share the Love Blog Award nominations going on right now. She's accepting nominations until January 31, 2007, so if you have anyone you'd like to give some props to, head on over and nominate them.

Trust me, I wanted to nominate more but I am far too slow to manage to collect all those URL's in the 15 minute time I have alotted to blog while T gives H&H a bath. In fact, I've already thought of at least 3 additional bloggers I must go nominate. So here are my current nominations:

1. Best Humor: A Little Pregnant
2. Happiest Blog: Chicky Chicky Baby
3. Best Writing: Bub and Pie
4. Best Site Design: OK, I was too lame to nominate anyone for this category.
5. Most Inspiring: Rachel Emma
6. Blogger You'd Most Like To Meet: Pundit Mom
7. Most Thought-Provoking: Angry Pregnant Lawyer
8. Woman Power! -- Best Representative of Women: Pundit Mom
9. Best Commenter: Bub and Pie
10. Blog(s) You'll Never Stop Reading: (I refused to pick just one. In fact, I need to add more.)
Pundit Mom
Crank Mama
Bub and Pie
Chicky Chicky Baby


Six Strange Things About Me
I've been tagged by Pendullum over at Dribblingwitt??? for a meme. Lucky me. Woo hoo. Can you feel the joy? Actually, this one isn't that bad, so I will forgive her. I'm supposed to tell you six strange things about me. I don't know that I can tell you six strange things about me. I might be able to come up with one strange thing, or maybe two slightly interesting things, or perhaps six boring things about me. To paraphrase the divine Miss Austen, the difficulty may be in limiting me to six boring things at once. So here it goes:

1. I don't eat hamburger. Blech! Anything with ground beef is also out.

2. My parents are distantly related. Yes, I'm from Louisiana but it's not as bad as it sounds. It's a very, very distant relationship. However, they have the same last name with one vowel difference. Confused the hell out of many people who were convinced that my mother had simply forgotten how to spell her own name.

3. My ankles crack like popcorn when I walk up and down stairs.

4. I have an insanely irrational fear of ants. Not just a lone ant, but trails of ants. I feel like they're going to start trailing after me and swarm.

5. I cannot sleep without reading first. It doesn't matter if I'm exhausted, completely drunk, or medicated. I must read.

6. My middle name is spelled incorrectly on my birth certificate. We didn't discover this until we requested a copy from the great state of Louisiana before I went to college. So my middle name (Michelle) is "officially" spelled with one L instead of two.

So there you go. It's probably more like 1 strange thing and 5 mildly interesting things, but it's all I've got for now. It's been a looooong day!

Now who to torture next....? I tag Mrs. Chicky at Chicky Chicky Baby and the dynamic duo over at The Madness of Modern Families. Have fun, ladies!

Cartoon by Hugh MacLeod from Gaping Void.


The White Elephant in the Room
I'm actually not going to talk about the State of the Union address. Not. going. to. say. a. word.

Did you hear that? I swear I just heard a giant sigh of relief from T. Several of his very nice but very Republican friends know about my blog now so I'm sure he's happy to avoid the inevitable conversation about his Communist wife or comments from his friend JC (doesn't stand for Jesus Christ) about how I should move to Canuckistan. (J's term, not mine!)

So, instead of discussing the big white elephant in the room, I give you my adorable 12 month old:

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The Ultimate Girls' Club
Did you catch Diane Sawyer's interview with all 16 of our country's female senators? If not, you can find it here. Part I aired on Wednesday and dealt mainly with the reaction of the senators to Barak Obama's recent announcement and a discussion about whether more women in power would mean fewer wars. (I only found it notable because Diane Sawyer asked Hillary Clinton what she thought of the announcement. I'll let you watch it to see what Senator Clinton said but, no, it's not earth shattering.) Part II aired on Thursday morning and I caught it on my trusty Tivo.

Everything I've read about the interview has focused on the women/fewer wars discussion, but I found the second part of the interview, titled Power Women and Balance, more intriguing. Diane Sawyer asked the senators for their thoughts on everything from family to the differences between men and women. I loved it when Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told us that the morning before her first floor speech she rehearsed while she made her daughter's peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I loved it even more when one of the senators admitted that she is addicted to Project Runway. But what really struck me was the response to Ms. Sawyer's question about whether or not it is possible for powerful women to "have it all"? The uniform message of every senator was that it is possible to be a powerful woman and have a family. Clearly, there are limitations. For instance, Mary Landrieu (D-LA) pointed out that women and men need support at home to do both jobs well. A response from Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also gave me pause. She told Ms. Sawyer "You can't have it all," but then went on to say, "but you can be a mom and a senator." The aired portion of the interview didn't expand on Senator Murkowski's remarks, but I'd like to think that she was trying to remind us that we don't have to "have it all." We can't all be perfect mothers, work 80 hours a week, bake cakes, and shuttle our children to every activity known to mankind. But women can hold powerful positions and be good mothers at the same time.

I realize that not all of us are like those 16 amazing women, but I loved hearing what they had to say and I loved hearing their message about work and family. (And, yes, I'm about to start talking about a relatively privileged set of well educated women who have the luxury to "choose" whether or not to work. So sue me. I write about what I know.) All too often, I hear young women lawyers around me worrying about how on earth they will ever be able to have families. Already many of the women in my law school graduating class have dropped out of the legal world. Some of them wanted to be stay at home mothers but some of them weren't left with many options. When you work for a large firm that expects in excess of 2000 billable hours a year (more if you want to make partner) and expects you to be available on a whim 24/7, working part-time isn't really an option and working full time means never tucking your children into bed at night. But not all firms are like that. Mine certainly isn't and in fact prides itself on keeping its lawyers fat, balanced, and happy. (Well, maybe not the fat part but you know what I mean!) The powers that be at The Firm (my firm) understand that lawyers who have time for life are better lawyers and that it is in The Firm's best interest to keep its women from becoming part of the "opt out revolution." Being a lawyer and being a working mom doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition.

The senators probably aren't the best examples of "balance" but they, and other powerful women like them, are part of a changing force in this country. If we want family friendly policies, part-time work options, flexible schedules, and a change in social attitudes that will make working and having a family easier, having high profile Senator moms pushing for them can't hurt. Now I'm not saying that all women must stay in the work force, family or not, and blaze a trail for future generations. Part of the feminist movement was about choice, wasn't it? But only when changing social attitudes push more and more employers down the family friendly trail will women truly have a "choice" about whether to work or not. I'm just happy to hear that the new Girls' Club agrees that the roles of mom and corporate/legal/medical/(insert profession here) maven are not incompatible.

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The Worry That Never Ends
There's something morbid that I've been thinking about lately and it really bothers me.

Let me give you some background first - I've always been pretty realistic negative. When I was younger, I found that being negative was a great way to keep myself from being overly disappointed about a test score or my performance in a swim meet. Before the test, event, date, or whatever, I'd simply imagine the very worst happening. In my daydream I'd get an F on my Calculus test, I'd come in dead last in the 100 yard breaststroke with half the school watching, or I'd throw up all over my date for the Homecoming dance. Then, if I got anything less than what I really expected of myself - an A, 1st place, and being a fabulous dating companion - I'd think well, hell, it could have been much worse. And I somehow thought that thinking the worst would actually make it easier if it ever really happened. Of course, it never did.

I still do this. The night before an important hearing, meeting, or trial, I'll picture myself falling flat on my face, forgetting how to speak (let alone doing it in a persuasive manner), or making an ass of myself in front of a judge, colleagues, a client, or all three at once! For the record, I've only forgotten how to speak in court once (one of my first times) for about 10 minutes 10 seconds. It felt like an eternity but it was by no means as bad as I had imagined it.

But I also imagine the worst in ways that I wish I didn't. I sometimes imagine horrible things happening to the people I love most. T dies in a fiery car wreck when I'm a bit worried that he's late getting home. My parents, flying across the country to see us, plummet to their deaths in a freak airline disaster caused by a domestic terrorist who has concocted some way to bring the plane down with 2 ounces of bottled water and a nail file. And the worst - I drive over the high rise bridge near my house, am hit by an oncoming car, pushed off the bridge, and we plummet down to the surface of the water. Then, if I happen to be conscious in the daydream, I try futilely to figure out how to get 2 children under 3 out of their car seats and swim us to the surface before we all drown. My own horrible little Sophie's Choice.

Now don't worry, there's really no reason to call the Crisis Suicide Hot Line or anything. I don't dwell overly on these horrid little tableaus. In fact, they flash through my mind in 30 seconds or so and I mentally stomp them into ashes. I'm not quite ready for the psych ward, or even a nice Xanax prescription. I just worry about the people I love. I can't really imagine anything happening to them, especially my children, or how I would react. It's astounding how much scarier the outside world becomes once you become a parent, isn't it? I think that my horrid daydreams are a reaction to that. A way to try to prepare myself for the worst and somehow make it easier if it happens. Of course, we all know that it never really will.

So now that I've dumped my neuroses onto the Internet, I need to sneak upstairs and kiss my little boys. I truly am blessed.

On a completely unrelated topic, I have this nifty little monitoring service called Google Analytics. I've actually posted about it here before. Not only does it tell me interesting things like key words picked up by search engines, it also tracks daily visitors by such features as specific geographical location and domain name. So if, say, someone from my past felt it necessary to obsessively check my blog several times a day, I would know about it. I'm just saying.

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What About Moms Who Want to Work?
I am the Tuesday guest blogger over at Leslie Morgan Steiner's wonderful blog On Balance on the Washington Post online.

Check it out if you have a chance. You have to register to view Washington Post online content, but it is free.

What About Moms Who Want to Work?

Edited to add:

Please keep in mind if you read the article that I'm not making any judgments about women who do stay at home or work part time. I'm simply talking about why I choose to work and not making any judgments about other choices. I'm not even making any statement about the blog to which I was responding, aside from the fact that I have received overwhelmingly supportive comments from female mentors regarding work and family. I just wanted to share that support with other working women.

I'm not entirely sure why this is a hot button topic for so many women, but it is. I guess we all feel judged by others, no matter what our choices are. Anyway, a (stay at home) friend was hurt and insulted by my article and that was never what I intended.

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Happy Birthday, Littlest Man
My sweet Holden,

You were a surprise but what a darling surprise you turned out to be.

Before you were born I was so worried. I couldn't imagine how I could possibly love you as much as your brother. I didn't understand how I would have room in my heart for another all encompassing love. But then you came and I did. I swear those first few months you were here my heart ached from growing so much. You're my second born but I hope that you always realize how special you are.

You taught me to be patient, to accept my limitations, to live in the moment, and to relax in my role as your mother. When you give me that adorable little look - you know, the one where you look up at me through your eyelashes and smile - all is right with the world and I am at peace. And when you open your eyes wide and laugh, I can't help but laugh with you.

I'm sad that you're now one and your babyhood is almost over. At the same time, I'm so excited to see what comes next for you. You're already starting to talk to me and I can see so much understanding in your eyes. You want to run and jump and play with your brother and all the big kids. You want to taste everything, literally and figuratively. I can't wait to watch you do it.

I wonder all the time what you'll be like as a little boy and as an adult. Will you love words and be a writer? Or will you love all things mechanical like your Daddy? Will you be a swimmer like Mommy? Or will you want to play baseball? Will you be a kind person and a good husband and a loving father? Most of all, I wonder if you will always adore me, Mommy, the way you do now? I know that I can't hope to hold on to you forever. I know that I won't always be the first person you see in the morning and the person you run to for comfort. But I hope you know that I will always adore you as much as I did the day you were born and as much as I do now.

Happy Birthday, my littlest man.



Gender Stereotyping at McDonald's
I've always been absolutely positive that I would never be guilty of reinforcing gender stereotypes in my children. As a child I played with trucks just as much as baby dolls and I now work in a very male dominated field of the law. My parents expected my brother and me to alternate washing dishes and mowing the lawn. B and I hated both chores equally. As a parent, I vowed to do the same. I would ensure that my daughters and my sons were treated equally and would go forth into the world expecting and demanding the same treatment throughout their lives and careers. Of course, you would never catch me dressing my daughter solely in pink and frills and she would never, ever own an Easy Bake Oven. Smug in my enlightened superiority, I have never really reexamined my views since actually becoming a parent. Occasionally T and I will have a spirited discussion about whether or not Hollis's choice of the pink Dora toothbrush or the pink and purple fish sippy cup is socially acceptable, but that's been about it. (FYI, I'm all for the pink toothbrush but T is slightly against it.) However, last week I was forced to look at my own behavior after an innocent trip to McDonald's.

So call me naive, ignorant, or just plain stupid, but I had no idea that McDonald's had "boy" and "girl" toys for their Happy Meals. When we swung through the drive through after a trip to the Children's Museum on Saturday, the cashier taking our order asked if the Happy Meal we ordered was for a girl or a boy. Flustered, I answered "boy," but honestly had no idea why they asked. It only occurred to me as we pulled up to the window that the toys were different for girls and boys. On the occasions when Hollis has gotten Happy Meals in the past, he's been with us in the restaurant and we were never given a toy choice. I guess everyone just assumed he wanted the "boy" toy because, looking back on it, he's never received anything remotely girly, pink, or even Disney in his earlier Happy Meals. (This time Hollis ended up getting some sort of dragon Yu-gi-oh thing but I have no idea what the "girl" toy was. It might have been much cooler. The dragon thing only held Hollis's interest for a few minutes and then he handed it over to his brother for chewing.)

After I worked myself up into a lather over McDonald's policy of gender stereotyping our nation's children, it occurred to me that I haven't been much better. I don't overtly hand out "girl" and "boy" toys but almost all of my toy choices for H&H have been traditional boy or gender neutral toys. They have lots of blocks, toy cars, trucks, books about trucks, truck puzzles, and truck jammies, but no baby dolls. Despite the fact that Hollis loves to try to help us cook and clean, he doesn't even have a toy kitchen or pots and pans. The closest we've come to encouraging the domestic arts in my son is the toy vacuum cleaner that we routinely hide in the closet because the constant whirring of the motor drives us insane. So, for all of my talk about raising children outside of the boundaries of traditional sexual stereotypes, I've fallen right into the "boy" toy trap myself.

So how do I fix this? I need to look more closely at whether or not I'm unconsciously steering my boys in a certain direction and make sure that I allow them to make choices. T and I already model the behaviors and attitudes we want to instill in our boys, so I am positive that they will grow up to be strong, independent men who respect and seek out strong, independent women. What we do in our home is the easy part. What concerns me more are the attitudes H&H will encounter once they leave our home - for daycare, school, sports, and, of course, McDonald's. I just hope that I can help them develop enough self-confidence to ask for the "girl" toys they want and the wisdom to ignore what anyone says about their choices.

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My Little Photographer
You'll have to bear with me through a bunch of Mommy posts, folks. I've just spent the last 10 days with my kids so my brain has turned to partial mush. In the meantime, you can ooh and aah over my children's accomplishments with me.

This is what Hollis has been up to lately. Well, and what I've been up to lately as well. I'm following through with that resolution about keeping the scrapbooks up to date. Hopefully this one will last longer than a month....

Clearly my two year old is destined for artistic genius.


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