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Answering Harvard’s question about my personal life, 52 years later
June 8, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

"In 1961, Phyllis Richman applied to graduate school at Harvard. She received a letter asking how she would balance a career in city planning with her 'responsibilities' to her husband and possible future family. Fifty-two years later, she responds."

Background on Richman. Books by Phyllis Richman, including the gastronomic murder mysteries she began writing as she neared retirement from her decades long career in journalism.
posted by DarlingBri (54 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is like the ultimate version of thinking of a zinger of a comeback on your way home, 20 minutes after someone has said something insulting to you.

Good on her for making it all work when the world didn't want her to. Seeing blatant sexism like this from only a decade or so before my birth is shocking. I guess we've come a long way, baby?*
posted by LooseFilter at 10:45 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is like the ultimate version of thinking of a zinger of a comeback on your way home, 20 minutes after someone has said something insulting to you.

Yes! And it's made all the better by Dr. Doebele's waaaay weak attempt at a response, which I didn't expect to see.

As a planner who had about a 50/50 gender split in graduate school, I'm glad things have changed along some metrics.
posted by threeants at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was awesome. Read to the end to see Dr. Doebele's pathetic reply.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this paragraph, on the last page, really sums up the point:
To the extent, Dr. Doebele, that your letter steered me away from city planning and opened my path to writing, one might consider that a stroke of luck. I’d say, though, that the choice of how to balance family and graduate school should have been mine.
She was successful and that's awesome, but it supports the idea of "easy mode" versus "hard mode" for privilege; she was successful based on a high degree of personal ability and, as she points out, some luck, and who knows how amazingly things could have turned out if she'd had the opportunity to do what she was actually interested in? For every amazing (and super-smiley! I love that picture) Phyllis Richman, there are a bunch of people who could have done great things but weren't able to bounce back after failing to clear that first hurdle owing to something like race or gender while others with similar abilities could.

Anyway, thanks for posting this! I didn't know anything about her and I enjoyed reading about her life and experiences.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is not a letter that I would write today. While far from perfect, conditions for women working in the profession of city planning are, I believe, far more accommodating than in 1961.
Ugh.
posted by grouse at 11:00 AM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


That was awesome.

What would be more awesome, I think, is for our country to shift a little in the idea of WHO should parent. Mom doesn't need more than a few weeks off to recover; Dad is perfectly capable of staying home with the children if the mother wants to be the breadwinner.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one wondering why Harvard's planning school seems to have had an assistant prof as DGS? Because that shit ain't right.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2013


Of course, on second thought, most people parenting now don't have any choice since both parents are often required to work.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:01 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one wondering why Harvard's planning school seems to have had an assistant prof as DGS? Because that shit ain't right.

This is a common miconception; at the time, Doebele was actually just Acting Head of Dreamcrushing and Concern Trollage.
posted by threeants at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Her essay is wonderful.

But do we really need take shots on this guy for his response? He's probably in his late 80s or early 90s, retired, and this was a letter written a half century ago. And, frankly, the letter reflects views that were perfectly in line with the rest of the country at the time. It wouldn't stand today - and it shouldn't have then - but I don't expect this man to have to defend himself over it in 2013.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:04 AM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think this is an overreaction. The dean made an observation that was probably true in his experience at that time (that married women find it difficult to carry out careers in planning), and simply asked for clarification.

In serious graduate education and demanding careers, personal life IS a factor. True, the dean's question is a litte dated, a little presumptuous, a little paternalistic. But it's hardly the height of horrifying sexism it's being made out to be. I think we need to have a little perspective.
posted by shivohum at 11:09 AM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't expect this man to have to defend himself over it in 2013.

I wouldn't say I was looking for him to defend himself, but I think her letter was an excellent chance for him to respond in a way that explored what the campus and society was like in 1961 - in short, the circumstances, preconceptions and situations that caused him to write the letter the way he did. Between her letter and a more thorough, thoughtful reply on his part, I think we might have had a wonderful set of documents that examined a bit of the issues and perceptions around gender roles, careers, and so forth in the 1960s.

He's listed as professor emeritus. I don't know how that works at Harvard, but the folks I've known with that have that status still seem to have offices and perform some functions around campus.

Anyways, it is what it is.
posted by nubs at 11:13 AM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't expect a man to have to defend himself over a shockingly sexist letter he wrote 50 years ago, no. But the reason I don't expect him to have to defend himself is because I don't think he should defend himself. The only reasonable response is, "Wow, I'm really sorry that I wrote that to you. I'm so glad that you and thousands of other women have proven that I and others who used to thing as I did were wrong."
posted by decathecting at 11:14 AM on June 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


In 1975, visiting clients at a giant glass-plate manufacturing firm, the process was carried out in vast cathedral halls. Overhead cranes handled material between each production process. The final sequence was served by women overhead crane operators, while male operators handled everything up to that point. Why women operators, I asked.

"It's the final and most expensive part of the process," said the plant director, "women operators handle glass more gently and work the cranes delicately." What a great idea, I said, is that on men's rate plus a premium?

"No, no," said the plant director, "women's rate"

Equal pay legislation was passed into law in 1975.
posted by Schroder at 11:15 AM on June 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


but I don't expect this man to have to defend himself over it in 2013.

Well, he shouldn't defend himself, though his tepid response tried to-- he ought to have just owned the hell up and said "I apologize; I did a shitty and sexist thing to you fifty years ago." In saying "sorry I'm not sorry" and making it clear there's not a huge distinction between current him and past him, the professor is really the one dragging the issue out.
posted by threeants at 11:16 AM on June 8, 2013


So, women were underpaid to more competently install... glass ceilings!?
posted by maggieb at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2013 [40 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: "Am I the only one wondering why Harvard's planning school seems to have had an assistant prof as DGS? Because that shit ain't right."

Was he actually DGS or was he just the guy on the admission committee who got tasked with writing the insulting letters?

In my office, we have a filing cabinet that contains all the professional correspondence of some mathematician (who, Google tells me, is not only still alive, but still active). I'm kind of relieved that this isn't the sort of thing we found when we decided to open the filing cabinet. (We did find letters from the early 90s that had been typed by a secretary, which seemed a bit mind-blowing.)
posted by hoyland at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2013


He's listed as professor emeritus. I don't know how that works at Harvard, but the folks I've known with that have that status still seem to have offices and perform some functions around campus.

Functions performed around campus by professors emeritus: posted by DU at 11:20 AM on June 8, 2013 [23 favorites]


In serious graduate education and demanding careers, personal life IS a factor. True, the dean's question is a litte dated, a little presumptuous, a little paternalistic. But it's hardly the height of horrifying sexism it's being made out to be. I think we need to have a little perspective.

As someone who presumably engaged in what you're calling "serious graduate education" with an MS, a PhD, and 2 years now in a "demanding career", as far as I'm concerned she should have written "Because fuck you!" and left it at that.

Personal life is personal and never should have been and never should be the domain of the admissions committee. As others say, he has no business defending himself because this kind of shit was and remains completely indefensible.

I hope he has granddaughters and I hope they read this story and I hope they make him answer in a more accountable way than he did in the Post.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:21 AM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


In serious graduate education and demanding careers, personal life IS a factor. True, the dean's question is a little dated, a little presumptuous, a little paternalistic. But it's hardly the height of horrifying sexism it's being made out to be.

I think the sexism comes from the fact that male graduate applicants were not asked this question. I think it's a pretty stark example of the kinds of gender barriers women faced at the time.

I think we need to have a little perspective.

I agree. My perspective in posting was that this was a reality for women grad students in 1961. And that I'm glad for all of the work that's been done since to make things better than they were 50 years ago.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:31 AM on June 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Personal life is personal and never should have been and never should be the domain of the admissions committee. As others say, he has no business defending himself because this kind of shit was and remains completely indefensible.

I disagree. What he did was hardly "completely indefensible."

Personal life enters the admissions process all the time, and it does affect the viability and length of graduate education, and of careers afterward. Personal statements often offer perspectives into personal life. So do CVs. Letters of recommendation often speak to applicants' personal qualities. The applicant's name, ethnicity, and research interests all offer perhaps unwitting perspectives into presumable personal lives, which the admissions committee takes into account, like it or not, consciously or not.

If you were applying to the foreign service, and an essay asked: do you realize that you are going to be posted to bunch of far-off outposts, and are you ready for the impact this will have on your family life -- would that be a fair question? I think it would be.

At that time, married women probably did find it hard to be planners. And the dean probably had talked to dissatisfied married women who couldn't square career with family, probably because society was less hospitable to such combinations back then. And it was expensive to go to graduate school. So he was simply informing this woman of the fact, asking her if she realized the full ramifications of this decision on her life. The dean wrote in his response: You were about to make a considerable investment of time and money. I thought it fair that you be aware of employment conditions as I then perceived them.

It was perhaps not his place to act in this protective and advisory role. But completely indefensible? Hardly.

--

I think it's a pretty stark example of the kinds of gender barriers women faced at the time.

I agree -- it's just that this letter merely pointed out those realities. The male applicants weren't asked this question because they didn't face the same realities.
posted by shivohum at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ya, I don't think he needed to write a defensive letter, or even an apology, or anything. Most likely, the WP contacted him for a response and that's what he came up with on the spot. Which is unfortunate. But it seems like a natural human reaction to be defensive to me, and largely irrelevant.

The point was the atmosphere of sexism and how it played out though this guy and others in a similar position, not just this one particular guy and the crappy thing he wrote 50 years ago.
posted by smidgen at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2013


But do we really need take shots on this guy for his response? He's probably in his late 80s or early 90s, retired, and this was a letter written a half century ago. And, frankly, the letter reflects views that were perfectly in line with the rest of the country at the time. It wouldn't stand today - and it shouldn't have then - but I don't expect this man to have to defend himself over it in 2013.

How many women did he write these letters to? How many other professors did the same? How many women, even now, in their retirement, still smart from the humiliation of being patted on the head and told women weren't suited for the work they wanted to do, that they knew they could do, if they go the chance?

Old wounds need addressing. Memories are short. This is one way to keep them fresh.

People still have trouble believing me when I tell them that there were separate men's and women's classified ads when my mom started working. And she never made as much as her male peers, or got the recognition she deserved, for doing the work she did, and till the day she died, it hurt her. She knew she was as good or better as the men promoted above her; that was her strength and her curse, that she never believed the shit she was told, but she was still affected by it.

I care a lot more about her and the women like her than about this guy's "right" to feel unchallenged and comforted in his dotage. What he did was wrong, and if he's never dealt with that before (as his response indicates), he should now.
posted by emjaybee at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


But don't you think there is sexism in the idea that women weren't *already* aware of the difficulties? That they needed some guy to tell them this? I don't expect the foreign service to highlight the fact that you'll be sent to remote posts either -- because well, unless you're an idiot, you would *know* that.
posted by smidgen at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a great letter. I wish I could say that this is no longer a problem. My perception is that being a mother, or planning to be one, is still a liability in some academic fields, while being a father is celebrated as long as it doesn't dent your hours in lab too much.

I went to a panel once where faculty were offering advice to postdocs who were about to start their first independent positions, and one dude said something along the lines of, "you should have kids strategically because you get extra years on your tenure clock if you have them when you're an assistant professor." Of course, this is only a strategic advantage if you assume that someone else is actually doing most of the work of raising your children.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it is very hard to know how to read the 80+ year-old Prof Emeritus's 2013 response, without knowing more about his existence now, and what he did during the intervening 50 years. It could either be a jaw-droppingly obtuse response by someone with good mental acuity but other very bad traits - or "the best that could be done" by some family ghostwriter who was trying to put a mild face on things without putting a serious mea culpa in his mouth - or something else entirely. Without more information about that, I actually think it was not a great editorial decision of the Post to put the guy's name in, and call for a response from him.

This is not at all to excuse the original attitude. It was awful. (This is among the reasons I can't watch Mad Men - my mother was part of that generation, and it is part of what destroyed her.) But it takes an unusual 80+ year-old person to write, or even to sign onto, a letter that says "yes I sucked" when contacted out of the blue about something bad he had done 50 years earlier.
posted by sheldman at 11:48 AM on June 8, 2013


But don't you think there is sexism in the idea that women weren't *already* aware of the difficulties?

There probably is a little sexism in that, but then again, people can be remarkably ignorant (often when they choose to be). You would think law school applicants would know about the job market by now, but there are still a lot of law school applicants who think they're going to be Perry Mason when they come out of law school. There are still a lot of people who apply to Ph.D. programs in the humanities without fully realizing how tough a tenure-track position is going to be to get. And even with the Foreign Service, even if people have some vague idea that they'll be going elsewhere, it wouldn't be remiss to ask them to show they've thought about it in some depth.
posted by shivohum at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2013


The impact of graduate school on one's personal and family life is substantial and should absolutely be given prime consideration--by the applicant. It's no one else's goddamn business.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:53 AM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


In the 1990s, I saw an employment application form, still in use by a medium-size employer, which asked "Does your husband mind if you work?"
posted by sheldman at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personal life as part of the admissions process? No. Personal life as part of the post-admission/pre-enrollment discussion? Absolutely yes.

Graduate school is expensive in time and money. When I look at my classmates who dropped out of my doctoral program they dropped because their lives outside of school. During orientation - before classes and school loans - the faculty led a conversation about home life, work life, if you needed to travel for business, were you planning a baby? This was for male and female students. One person dropped out during orientation because that conversation helped him clarify that he couldn't do everything. Several other people dropped out midway through the program for work or family reasons. Unlike the guy who bailed during orientation, they did so with heap of debt.

When I look at the student debt crisis and the number of unemployed law school graduates I wish more schools were honest about the challenges. Of course, doing that during the admissions process makes this all kinds of wrong. However, I wish school engaged in conversations about school/work/life balance before they accepted your student loan check.
posted by 26.2 at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree -- it's just that this letter merely pointed out those realities. The male applicants weren't asked this question because they didn't face the same realities.

The letter pointed out and reinforced those realities.
posted by kmz at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I get what you're saying, but I think there is a fine line between making someone aware of the difficulties, and putting up yet another barrier. I don't think you want to be an apologist for him, even as you realize he was a product of his time.

He wasn't being crazy given the time, of course, but he wasn't offering helpful advice either. He was making an assumption that women aren't cut out to be graduate students, and he was indirectly making this clear to a potential women graduate student.

You mentioned ethnicity being an unconscious factor in people's thinking, and I agree that it has an impact (but wish it didn't). But it is actually illegal (or legally actionable, at least) to write the kind of letter he wrote, with reference to ethnicity. However the same kind of circumstances exist. Very often parallels between -isms don't work, but I think this one clearly does. It's worth thinking about that.
posted by smidgen at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Old wounds need addressing. Memories are short. This is one way to keep them fresh.

And this is necessary for the same reason that it's necessary to remind people who they have to thank for 2-day weekends and 40-hour work weeks.

Feminism and labor unions: Ae you aware of how much that you take for granted that you owe these movements?
posted by straight at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Her essay is wonderful.

But do we really need take shots on this guy for his response? He's probably in his late 80s or early 90s, retired, and this was a letter written a half century ago. And, frankly, the letter reflects views that were perfectly in line with the rest of the country at the time. It wouldn't stand today - and it shouldn't have then - but I don't expect this man to have to defend himself over it in 2013.


I agree totally.

When I entered first grade in 1965 "everybody knew" that the only jobs appropriate for women were nurse, teacher and secretary. For those of you not alive during that time period it is extremely hard for you to grok just how ingrained in society that it was that a woman's place was in the home. That phrase, infuriating now, was just simply status quo then, and few questioned it.

That letter, although ridiculous to us now in our frame of reference, was addressing the reality of the times it was written in. We have our own frames of references now, and I promise you in fifty years there will be things that we all agree on now that our grandkids will be laughing their butts off at.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, women were all equal - we just should be ready to write long essays on how we manage it whenever a male gatekeeper asks. That's hardly sexist, I mean, they'd ask the same of men if those men were women at the time.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


1. I find it interesting that Dr. Doebele didn't take the opportunity to respond to the specific question Phyllis Richman asked: whether he'd signed (or supported) the petition seeking recognition of Denise Scott Brown. That could have been a chance for him to demonstrate that, today, he's interested in actively, visibly, doing something to support and promote the career of a deserving professional woman.


2. About the comments on whether it was appropriate for him to point out to her the risk that she might eventually "have some feeling of waste about the time and effort spent in professional education", I really agree with kmz above: "The letter pointed out and reinforced those realities." I was struck by Richman's descriptions of how she subsequently approached the careers she considered:
When we moved to Philadelphia — a city with the top urban-planning school and a legendary planning commission — at first I shied away from planning. I felt more confident applying for magazine writing jobs because I had some journalism experience.
By the mid-1970s, I was writing for The Washington Post about food festivals, holiday bazaars, ethnic markets and cooking for a family. I timidly queried a few national magazines, astonished when Esquire bought my idea of “The Watergate Gourmet,” reviewing restaurants identified in the Watergate hearings from the point of view of their privacy and discretion.
(Emphasis mine.)

Those few words in his letter changed the way she thought about her prospects:
Before your letter, it hadn’t occurred to me that marriage could hinder my acceptance at Harvard or my career. I was so discouraged by it that I don’t think I ever completed the application, yet I was too intimidated to contradict you when we met face to face.
If she had gone to Harvard and pursued a career in planning, undoubtedly she would have faced many obstacles. But she faced many obstacles in her writing career, too, some of which she was able to overcome and some of which she couldn't. But she still had a successful, fulfilling career, even in the face of blatant sexism.

This is a perfect example of the difference between encouraging and discouraging someone. Helping someone make a big decision with their eyes wide open can be kind, but it can also quash the energy and confidence that makes the impossible possible.

She could have gotten the same discouraging question about a writing career. But she had experience - which made her confident - and she just kept knocking on doors, even when a promised job went to a man, even when employers explicitly offered her less money than a man would get. "No, you don't get this job" is not the same as "No, you won't be successful in this path."

Sometimes, when you don't know what you're doing is impossible, you can make it possible - for yourself and for those who come after you.


3. I really want to read her "Watergate Gourmet," and I'm disappointed that my library's online access to old copies of Esquire only goes back to 1984.
posted by kristi at 1:34 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


That essay made my day. Given lemons; made lemonade; SERVED IT.
posted by immlass at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a great letter. I wish I could say that this is no longer a problem. My perception is that being a mother, or planning to be one, is still a liability in some academic fields, while being a father is celebrated as long as it doesn't dent your hours in lab too much.

This is actually factually true. Men with children on the tenure track are more successful than single men on the tenure track in achieving tenure. They also get promoted faster. Women with children on the TT are less successful than single women. It takes them longer to get promoted.
posted by liketitanic at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think we need to have a little perspective.

Yes, let's have a little perspective.


In the 1990s, I saw an employment application form, still in use by a medium-size employer, which asked "Does your husband mind if you work?"

Women with children on the TT are less successful than single women. It takes them longer to get promoted.



In academia and corporate America there is now greater equality. Blue collar workers, pink collar workers, and the poor and lower middle class women still face an uphill battle. It was said to me after hire at a job not too long ago that I'd probably be happy to have some 'mad money', as if I were working for the frivolity of it all. No, asshole, I'm happy to be able to pay the damn bills. And in discussion with the male and female janitors at the same job, apparently the males are paid $2.00/hour more, as they are expected to take out the cardboard boxes--something any able bodied female could do just as well (and usually, they did anyway, as the women were much more conscientious.)
posted by BlueHorse at 4:08 PM on June 8, 2013


Holy shitsnacks.

The (pretty recent) past is a foreign country... And damn creepy one at that...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:15 PM on June 8, 2013


And this is necessary for the same reason that it's necessary to remind people who they have to thank for 2-day weekends and 40-hour work weeks.



In academia and corporate America there is now greater equality. Blue collar workers, pink collar workers, and the poor and lower middle class women still face an uphill battle.

Blue/pink collar workers are also not guaranteed a 2-day weekend or 40-hour work week (often less so you don't get benefits/vacation/insurance, and simultaneously far more as you cobble together 2–3 jobs to make ends meet).
posted by heatherann at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blue/pink collar workers are also not guaranteed a 2-day weekend or 40-hour work week (often less so you don't get benefits/vacation/insurance, and simultaneously far more as you cobble together 2–3 jobs to make ends meet).

Wait, I think it was just a joke about how things are worse for many more women across economic strata vis a vis gender equality, not in terms of comparing labor conditions?
posted by liketitanic at 5:00 PM on June 8, 2013


In serious graduate education and demanding careers, personal life IS a factor. True, the dean's question is a litte dated, a little presumptuous, a little paternalistic. But it's hardly the height of horrifying sexism it's being made out to be. I think we need to have a little perspective.
The year is 2010. I am a 22-year-old female applying to graduate school at an interview with one of the faculty members I applied to work with. "So, do you have plans for children?" the professor asks? My friend is a married woman interviewing for a graduate program at a great school in 2009. She forgot to take off her wedding ring before the interview. "Oh, I see you're married?" the professor says. "What does your husband do?" He's a graduate student, about 3 hours away. "What does he think about you applying to go here?"

Then there's this essay from a few weeks ago:
At about eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I began talking to folks in my field about possible postdoctoral fellowships. Being that close to delivery, I couldn’t travel. But, one particular scientist and potential future employer was coming to my university on other business and asked to meet with me. I could tell as soon as I walked in the room that he was made uncomfortable by the enormity of me. We talked for about twenty-five minutes. I showed him some data, talked about my future plans and interests, and he quizzed me a little about the basic physiology of my field. My legs fell asleep during our meeting and I had to stand to restore the blood flow to my feet. At the end of our meeting he told me how much he like my work, and said that he was interested in discussing opportunities at his university for me. But he had one final question for me.

“Are you planning to have another baby in the near future or are you going to focus on your postdoc?”
posted by ChuraChura at 5:40 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Richman wrote:
Even in the field of food writing, I found a gender split. When food served home and family, it was considered the realm of women. When it involved sophistication and money, men were the writers. Women wrote about cooks; men wrote about chefs.
I know someone who is the son of a moderately famous food writer from the 1970s/1980s. He has fond memories of going out to expensive restaurants in NYC and elaborate home-prepared meals while his father was entertaining or writing a cookbook. But his dad never once made an ordinary dinner for the family. That was his wife's job.
posted by nev at 5:42 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


liketitanic: I could be missing something. Was there a joke?

My point was that "we" only have 2-day weekends and 40-hour weeks to be thankful for if "we" doesn't include the working poor. Mainstream feminism has often been blind to this, and I'm glad to see people trying to correct that.
posted by heatherann at 5:45 PM on June 8, 2013


My point was just that this kind of history lesson is necessary because a lot of stuff we take for granted was given to us by movements (feminism, labor unions) that a lot of people ignorantly scorn. I wasn't trying to claim that everyone across the board has benefited equally from those movements. (Although I think even the working poor, cobbling together multiple part-time jobs, have things to thank the labor movement for.)
posted by straight at 6:09 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


heatherann: "My point was that "we" only have 2-day weekends and 40-hour weeks to be thankful for if "we" doesn't include the working poor."

Even the working poor do, at least in theory and to the extent that their jurisdiction hasn't loosened such regulations, get overtime pay after 40 hours or 5 days of work. Those protections, at least on paper, aren't affected by one's income or wealth.

To the extent that this has been eroded, and to the extent that it's possible to work around it by having most of a company's workforce doing less than 30 hours a week and similar crappy-but-legal maneuvers, I'd point in large part to the way businesses and corporations have managed to roll back many of the advances and protections that unions and the labor movement had achieved.
posted by Lexica at 6:31 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


They get overtime pay if their over forty hours is with the same employer.

A number of the working poor - majority perhaps? - work more than one job. I know of a few people who worked three. I have to admit I remain astonished they didn't die under that much work.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:41 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to birthdatabase.com Doebele was born in 1927 and is old enough to remember when women( including mothers) were encouraged to enter the workforce during WWII. His condescension is uncalled for.
posted by brujita at 9:01 PM on June 8, 2013


Concerning the concerns over getting mad at someone who did something sexist decades ago: as an Australian, I've wondered the same thing about people involved in enforcing racist policies concerning Aborigines and immigrants in bygone decades. Would they have changed their opinions, or are they lying in hospital beds complaining about black and chink nurses? I hope for the former, but I can see why people would hope for the latter; because it would give them someone to yell at, rather than an abstract concept.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:04 PM on June 8, 2013


Yeah wait.. so did she not respond to the original letter and then not go to Harvard? I mean.. it seemed like a reasonable question, for the time.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:54 PM on June 8, 2013


I promise you in fifty years there will be things that we all agree on now that our grandkids will be laughing their butts off at.

I hope that's the case. I hope the consumption patterns of U.S. citizens now are regarded with something akin to horror, much like we regard the extinction of the passenger pigeon or the slaughter of the buffalo. I hope that our grandchildren recoil in disgust when Grandpa lets fly about how letting two men marry is unnatural. I hope that the abrogation of civil liberties is considered as arrant as the McCarthy era atrocities were. I hope that the idea of religions dictating when human life begins and imposing their morals on everyone in a nation regardless of creed is considered ludicrous.

And I hope when our grandchildren ask, "How on Earth was that considered okay? What did you do about it?" ... we all have the good grace to say, "It was considered okay because we were wrong. And we are grateful that we've learned."

We don't hide behind "We were in keeping with the times, so it was okay."
posted by sobell at 11:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doonesbury is relevant.

Having been born only in 1981, and with little personal understanding of the hurdles women faced even in the era of Gloria Steinem and Ms., my previous assumption was that this strip overstated the problems to serve its satire. Now I know better.

The female character in the strip is Joanie Caucus, who became Doonesbury's avatar for sympathetic exploration of feminism and women's liberation1 almost from her introduction in 1972.

Years later, after the strip's hiatus in 1983/84, with Joanie now a lawyer working as an aide to congresswoman Lacey Davenport2, married to Washington Post reporter Rick Redfern and mother to (an infant) Jeff Redfern, strip creator Garry Trudeau began using the then-novel phrase "having it all" to describe lives such as Joanie's, which purport to sacrifice neither career nor family in service to the other.

In the strip published August 25, 1985, however, Trudeau used a supporting character to voice a more jaundiced take on the concept of having it all, in which attempted involvement in every possible facet of life resulted in full engagement and satisfaction in none.

---
  1. She replaced in that capacity the earlier, ultimately less prominent character Nichole (dossier; self-link), whose feminist views were more often played for humor, albeit with ultimate sympathy for her complaints.
  2. Linking to wikipedia entry in lieu of character dossier on official site.

posted by The Confessor at 6:37 PM on June 22, 2013


Functions performed around campus by professors emeritus:
•tottering


Functions performed around Metafilter by DU:
•ageism
posted by biffa at 6:48 AM on June 28, 2013


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