What’s In a Name?

Juliet could not marry Romeo because of a long-standing family feud between her family (the Capulets) and his family (the Montagues). She laments that if it weren’t for the name “Montague” their love could survive  – “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Brides from the 80’s to the present do feel that names matter and often put much thought into whether of not to take their husband’s birth name or retain their own.

History Lesson from Jolly Old England

The heterosexual tradition of the wife taking the husband’s name is based on English common law that held a husband and wife are one “person” under the law – resulting in the end of the wife’s separate legal existence – along with all her “single person” rights. Wives were considered “chattel” and were essentially owned by their husbands. This name change heritage is the reason many feminists beginning in the 70’s retained their birth names.

What to Name my Married Self?

It was 1984 and I was tempted to change my last name to my husband’s – primarily because it is a common name that is easy to pronounce and spell. I toyed with my options – use his name, keep my birth name or do a hyphenated combo – a new naming option that was becoming popular among baby boomer feminists seeking to make a statement about their independent value as wives.

Ultimately I decided to stay with my birth name because that was who I was and that was the statement I chose to make.

I’m glad I did not decide on the hyphenated option – based on the horror stories of friends who did – including confusion with governmental forms and transactions and pharmaceutical prescriptions – to name just a few.

In a bow to tradition, we gave our daughter her father’s last name.

What Goes Around

Fast forward some 20 years and my daughter faced the same decision. She and her husband pondered creating a new last name that was different from either one’s. But when the time came to make the decision, they chose to keep their own birth names.

30-Something Professionals

Two of my nieces, an attorney and a physician, who married within the last 10 years, each decided to change to her husband’s name. Their reasons for changing  were the same –  their husband’s names were easy to spell and pronounce and they wanted the same last name as their children for school and medical communication. They commented that in this day and age, name change is no longer the feminist “statement” that it was in my day. They are both feminists in their own right and make no apologies for changing their last names. It is noteworthy that their mother also changed her name – so tradition may have had something to do with it too.

A Change of Heart

A professional colleague of mine recently celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary. She did not change her name when she married even though her husband wanted her to do so at the time. She is a feminist and wanted to maintain her identity. However, after 20 years, she decided to change her last name as a “gift” to him and in acknowledgement of their love and successful marriage. Surprise . . . surprise . . . although he was deeply touched by her sentiment, he told her that he had gotten used to her name and valued the independence it stood for and wanted it to be an example for their own daughter.

One Couple’s Thought Process

My husband and I both wanted to have the same name as each other. For us, it was a way of expressing our . . . unity / solidarity – an emblem of our family-ness that we wanted to present to the world – also it is easier if you are going to have kids – avoids awkwardness and confusion with teachers, etc. That said, we did not automatically use my husband’s name – we considered combining our names to come up with a new name but that would make it hard for descendants who might want to do some family genealogy and no combination of our names sounded good – one combo was the name of a famous drag queen! We then discussed using my name but ultimately our decision to use my husband’s name came down to consideration of our fathers. My husband’s father is sentimental and wanted to see his name survive – my father wasn’t particularly concerned about his name dying out.

Same Sex Marriage

A 40-something lesbian couple, who are friends of mine, decided to have one name and to use the name of the wife whose grandmother survived the Armenian genocide during and after WWI. At 6 years old, her grandmother witnessed the shooting of her family by Turkish soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. Children not shot were put in a boat and taken out to sea to be drowned. The soldier in charge of her grandmother’s boat could not execute the plan and instead set the children free. Her grandmother was taken in by a local family of Turks and passed as Turkish until at 15 she was taken as a bride by an Armenian soldier who took her to America where she lived to age 93. Proud of her grandmother and her heritage, this couple will continue the Armenian legacy – even though her name is more difficult to pronounce and spell. This couple, married after the Supreme Court’s recent decision approving same-sex marriage, wanted to make their own statement – not about feminism but about remembering the genocide and her grandmother’s struggle.

Another lesbian couple I know decided that each would change her last name to the birth name of one of their mothers. The mother they chose raised her daughter by herself after her husband left home. As tradition had it at the time, the daughter was given the father’s  birth name. Now this daughter wants to honor her mother by making her mother’s birth name the family name for her new family – two moms and two children – each mom giving birth to one child and both children having the same sperm donor.

As for men, the literature suggests that it is uncommon for gay men to change their names when they marry surmising the reason due to the fact that boys, unlike girls, grow up never expecting to change their name.

Interestingly one of my gay friends told me that some gay couples who have a child chose to give the child the father’s name that is most “WASPish” in a belief that such a name will give their child a “leg up” in getting along in a world where bias still exists.

Other Countries

Italy – by law spouses keep their birth names

Greece – by law women are required to keep their birth names

Germany – the couple must choose either name as a “family” name

Spanish-speaking countries – children receive both parents’ names

Japan – the law doesn’t recognize different surnames for married couples

China – wife keeps her birth name but children take husband’s surname

What is Happening Now and What Does it Mean?

According to a 35 year study published in 2009 in the journal Social Behavior and Personality  a woman’s decision to retain her birth name reached its highest point of about 23% in the mid-90’s and the percentage has been declining ever since – down to about 18% at the time of the study.

I’m not sure what this all means – it could mean that most women today are comfortable with spousal equality in marriage and no longer feel compelled to make a statement – it could mean that they agree with Juliet that no matter their name, their marriage, like Juliet’s rose, will “smell as sweet”. Or, it could be a manifestation of an anti-feminism pendulum swing. Whatever the case with hetero-sexual couples, we are likely to see more name creativity among gays and lesbians now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

Song for This Post (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself – I love this song! “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” from 1964)

http://www.last.fm/music/The+Reflections/_/%28Just+Like%29+Romeo+&+Juliet

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY . . . BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER!

 

Wonder Women – Take 1

BACK TO SCHOOL –  as an “Oldie”

It’s been a long time since I was in a university classroom – way before there was such a thing as “women’s history”. I was excited to be taking a 6-week class called “Wonder Women” at SDSU in its adult education cent11899901_10206164814993673_3075127152598643231_ner.

Like me, 32 students were “senior” gals and there was 1 token “senior” guy (looked like his wife brought him along). Unlike college, with everyone rushing in at the last minute, this crowd arrived a good 10 minutes early to drink their coffee and chat with their friends.

A few minutes before starting time, our professor, Dr. Susan Cayleff, arrived. She too is an older gal – clad in black pants, shirt and vest with colorful native-American jewelry. Her dark shoulder length hair served as a distraction for her hands while she lectured – at times putting it behind her ears and occasionally up into a ponytail. Her Boston accent with its classic “ar” sounding like “aah” frequently required translation.

What we find out, as she introduces herself, is that she is a Ph.D. in the Women’s Studies Department, a published author of a number of academic books, and the faculty adviser to the LBGTQ student organizations. (BTW, I learned that “q” has been added to the acronym to stand for “questioning”).

What we would find out, over the course of 6 weeks, is that she is smart, funny, a great story-teller, non-judgmental and kind – an excellent combination for a teacher.

The class covered 5 individual women and one couple who were firsts in their fields and standouts in women’s history. Enjoy and learn from their stories!

WONDER WOMAN # 1 – Nellie Bly

Born, Elizabeth Cochran, near Pittsburgh in 1864, Nellie Bly (her pnellie-bly-library-of-congress-promoen name) was one of the first investigative journalists – formerly called “muckrakers” (figuratively meaning exposing the world’s evils and literally meaning scooping up the poop). She came of age in the Progressive Era when photojournalism, a genre began by Jacob Riis, graphically portrayed the disparity between the rich and poor and gave rise to various reformist movements.

Due to family poverty caused by her father’s early death, Nellie and her mother moved to the city to run a boarding house where she met young immigrant girls – many Polish and Irish girls who, considered the hardiest of immigrants, worked as domestics in wealthy households.

NELLIE TAKES PEN TO PAPER – AN EDITORIAL THAT LAUNCHED HER CAREER

AT 18, Nellie wrote an impassioned editorial rebuttal to an article written by Erasmus Wilson, titled, “What Girls Are Good For.” He wrote that girls are good for staying in the home and doing domestic tasks. He further wrote that working women were a monstrosity.

Outraged, Nellie wrote an opinion editorial stating, “Someone has got to stand up and tell them what a girl is good for”. Soon thereafter she was hired by The Pittsburgh Dispatch where she wrote opinion pieces and detailed the lives of individuals and the plight of working class women – until she was transferred by the paper to cover traditional women’s matters such as fashion, gardening and society events so as not to raise such a ruckus.

EXPOSING CORRUPTION – Going Undercover and Writing Other Perspectives

Bored with covering “women’s” articles, Nellie moved to New York where she talked her way into the office of Joseph Pulitzer who ran the New York World – landing a job as a journalist. One of her most noteworthy articles was “Ten Days in a Madhouse” – an expose on patient abuse and neglect that she wrote after going undercover as a catatonic/amnesiac patient. It is absolutely incredible to know that while undercover, Nellie was certified as insane by numerous doctors. It’s heartbreaking to read about the abuse the patients suffered – being made to sit for hours tied to wooden benches in filth, with rats rampant and inedible and insufficient food.

Her story resulted in a grand jury investigation and significant improvement in the care of the mentally ill.

When the Pullman railroad car workers in Chicago staged their big strike to protest a lowering of their wages at the same time their rent was increased in the “company town” housing in which they were required to reside, Nellie was the only reporter telling the strikers’ perspective.

NELLIE THE ADVENTURER AND MARKETER

A multi-dimensional talent with a spirit of adventure, 25 year-old Nellie successfully pitched her editor to allow her to attempt to travel around the world in 72 days – to beat the 80 day record of the fictional Phileus Fogg in the popular Jules Verne novel. She succeeded in circumventing the globe in only 72 days all by herself – setting a world record and in the process becoming an international sensation and making loads of money for herself and the publication.

MARRIAGE – NEW CAREER – BACK TO REPORTING

At 31, Nellie married 73 year old, Robert Seaman, who was a wealthy manufacturer of steel containers. Nellie became the president of her husband’s company and one a very few women industrialists. Her career in business was successful until employee embezzlement caused the company to go bankrupt.

Nellie then returned to reporting and wrote stories on Europe’s nellie_blyEastern Front during WWI and on the Suffragette movement in the states.

NELLIE’S LEGACY

She was a pioneer woman journalist and an original investigative journalist. Her work exposed corruption and injustice. She was an adventurer and risk-taker. She was courageous and provided a role model for many to follow.

MY MUSINGS ABOUT MODERN DAY “NELLIE BLYS”

First, it is important to understand that “investigative journalism” is deep reporting on a single topic – often taking months. Its reports are considered primary source.

In researching contemporary women investigative journalists, I’m sorry to say that this profession is dominated by a 4 to 1 ratio of men to women.

Also, since the cost of investigative journalism is high given the time it takes to research and write a report, it is disappearing from mainstream media. Moreover, since such media requires advertising revenue to survive and since these advertisers do not want exposes that might impact their bottom lines, this type of in depth reporting called “muckraking, investigative journalism, and watchdog journalism” is becoming less available in the media. Books are replacing media for today’s muckraking.

Examples of such books by women authors are: Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” – an expose on the working poor and Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side – an expose on Bush’s questionable tactics of his war on terror.

SPECIAL SONG ABOUT NELLIE BLY – her 151st birthday remembered

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrrgeZKvFEo

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY. . . . . . .BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER!

 

 

 

 

How Planned Parenthood Helped a Friend

My Musings

Lately there has been a lot of negative press about Planned Parenthood. Last week I wore pink and “stood with Planned Parenthood”. This got me musing about the past and a very special second-hand experience I had with Planned Parenthood in Chicago about 20 years ago.

A Most Memorable Day

My memory of that day is vivid. It was a beautiful crisp fall day as only Chicago can have with its bright blue sky, puffy white clouds, and tree-lined street of orange, red and yellow leaves.

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I had just arrived home from an otherwise unremarkable day at my law office.

As I opened the door and said, “I’m home”, Lindy and my daughter came out of the kitchen carrying a tray with a teapot, mugs, and cookies. They each hugged me and then we all sat down to have some tea.

After pouring our tea, Lindy said she had something important to tell us. With a shaky voice, she told us she was pregnant. As her tears began to flow, she said that she was scared and had no idea what to do.

I was speechless for a bit as I watched the tall, thin blonde girl, wearing a grey college tee shirt and faded jeans, sip her tea and cry.

After some more hugs and a few cookies, I asked about her boyfriend, Devin. Lindy told us he was supportive and was going to leave the decision up to her. He too, was scared and hadn’t yet told his family.

With my daughter’s arm around Lindy, and my dog’s face in her lap as Lindy rubbed her behind her ears nonstop, I suggested she go to Planned Parenthood to explore her options. I had never been to any of its clinics but I knew it provided healthcare for women – including abortions.

Meet Lindy

Lindy, an 18 year old college student, was working for me to provide after school supervision to my 12-year-old daughter. She was from a small town in the Midwest and had recently moved into the dorm at a local urban university near my home. She was a lovely young woman with a special talent for relating to my daughter as an older friend rather than a babysitter. She also loved our dog and enjoyed walking her around the neighborhood with my daughter after school.

First Love

Shortly after beginning her freshman year, Lindy met Devin – a local Chicago commuter student from a nearby western suburb. The two 18 year olds began dating and soon fell in love – a true first love for each.

Visit to Planned Parenthood Clinic

After tears and hugs and another pot of tea, I suggested that Lindy go to Planned Parenthood as I had heard this organization might be able to help. The next morning Lindy and Devin went to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic. They met with a social worker and a nurse who explained their options: 1) have and keep the baby, 2) have the baby and put her/him up for adoption, or 3) have an abortion.

Making the Decision

The next few days were very difficult for this young couple weighing their options and going back and forth on each possible choice.

Three days after visiting the clinic, Lindy reached her decision. She decided to have and keep the baby. Devin agreed with her choice. The couple then decided to tell their families.

Reactions

This did not go well – especially for Lindy whose parents told her they would cut off her funding for school. Hearing this disappointing news about Lindy’s parents, I offered my basement as a substitute dorm roomwhere they both could stay.

Devin’s family was more supportive and helped the couple fix up my basement to live in while continuing their classes and awaiting the birth of their baby.

The months went by and Lindy and the baby inside her grew. Devin showed his love in many ways as they adjusted to their new home in my minimally refurbished basement.

It’s a Girl

Right on time, their baby girl arrived with chubby cheeks and the same red hair as Devin’s mom. The kids decided to get married. I’m happy to say that Lindy’s parents were finally won over by the couple’s devotion to each other and the wonder of their first grandchild.

Fast Forward

It’s been almost 20 years since this all happened. Lindy and Devin are still married and have had two more children. Their red-haired daughter is now older than Lindy was at the time of giving birth. Lindy and Devin each finished both bachelor and master degrees. Both sets of grandparents couldn’t be prouder.

Planned Parenthood’s Support

To this day, Lindy thanks the social worker and nurse at Planned Parenthood who laid out her options and ultimately helped her make her decision by stressing that she had to ultimately do what was right for her.

Lindy knew that neither abortion nor adoption were right for her. To see her lovely family today, it’s so clear she made the right decision.

Why I Stand with Planned Parenthood

The reason I am sharing this story at this time is because Planned Parenthood has recently been under outrageous and unfair criticism – something that this resilient organization has nobly born since its origins dating back to 1916 when Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. and landed in jail for violating the law – convicted of distributing birth control literature considered obscene at the time.

In my opinion, Planned Parenthood does not get nearly enough credit for the breadth of its services and how it continues to help women from all walks of life.

For Lindy and all the other women who have been able to chose what is right for them, THANKS and I PROUDLY STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD!

For this Post’s Song, What Song Could be Better than Steve Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” written about his new baby daughter – ENJOY!!!!

We’ve come a long way…………….but the journey is not over!

What is a Feminist and do we Still Need Them?

Recently I had lunch with a 34-year-old son of a friend. He was very interested in my blog topic but was curious about what is a modern day feminist – having had, what he called, less than fun encounters with some strong women.

Similarly, a few weeks back I was chatting with a mid-50’s male lawyer colleague who opined that given all the laws now in place, there is probably no more need for feminists and activism.

Of course, “this got me musing” about feminism of the past and the present and what is a feminist and whether or not we still need them.

My Definition of Feminism

Let’s start with my definition of a feminist . . . . a person (man or woman) who believes the sexes should have equal opportunity notwithstanding the differences between the sexes and works toward that end. 

My daughter, who is 30 and a social justice activist, surprised me by disagreeing with my definition. In her opinion, one can be a feminist without being an activist. She and many of her friends would consider themselves feminists but are not necessarily out there carrying banners – not sure but perhaps this has to do with how relatively easy the Millennials have had it and the current controversy about the “f-word”.

Whether you chose my definition or my daughter’s, the equal opportunities to which I refer in my definition include education, employment, healthcare, politics, sports, the arts, religion, medicine, law, finance, government, corporate governance, film, music, writing, military and every other aspect of life that you can think of.

It’s Not About Man-Hating

Feminism has zero to do with one’s opinion of men – but has everything to do with wanting women to have all the advantages historically afforded to men.

It’s Not About Opening the Door 

Feminism has zero to do with manners. Men opening doors, carrying parcels, walking on the outside of the sidewalk and paying for dinner (not all the time but on a more equal basis), or doing other traditional “manly” chores such as handy-man work around the house, are all fine and in fact, are welcomed my many – including me.

In the Old Days

The feminists of the past focused on obvious disparity in opportunities – such as the right to own property (and not be property), the right to vote, the right to work and receive equal pay. The feminists of the past were the suffragists, the promoters of the failed Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution and other legislation designed to even the playing field. Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were leaders of the early feminist movement (the 60’s through the 80’s).

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In the New Days

Female feminists of today include some notable artists such as Patricia Arquette, Jane Fonda, Amy Schumer and Jessica Williams. Stand-outs in the political/governmental/global arena include Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde and Malala.

Let’s not forget contemporary male feminists – some famous such as Jon Legend, Alan Alda, the Dalai Lama and Jon Oliver, and some not so famous such as my boyfriend, my son-in-law, the guys I work with and most of the husbands of my friends. (I guess it’s apparent that I surround myself with like-minded people.)

Current Controversy About the Word “Feminist” 

Until I started this blog, I didn’t realize that the word “feminism” (a/k/a the f-word) was so explosive among many young people. Many do not self-identify as feminists, not because of their beliefs, but because they don’t want to be seen as controversial, man-hating, superior, and bitchy. Others avoid it because of a belief that it is too narrow – connoting a white middle-class older women’s thing. Most agree with equal opportunities and many have enjoyed such opportunities, but nonetheless avoid this moniker to avoid controversy. 

So, Do we Still Need Feminists? 

As my work colleague noted, there is a plethora of laws that prescribe equality – that said, the actualization of equal access still lags. 

For example, let’ s looks at politics and government.

  • Women in Senate – 20%
  • Women in House – 19.3%
  • Women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies – 5.2%
  • Women on Board of Fortune 500 companies – 17%

As an aside, according to a research study by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business, corporations that had more women board members performed significantly better than their counterparts with only male members (40 % higher sales and 50% more return on equity).

As for women in government, the key negotiators in the recent US/Cuba agreement were women on each side of the bargaining table.

Since women make up about half (50.8%) of the U.S. population and now make up over 50% of college graduates, as well as law, business, and medical school graduates, it is likely that, in the not too distance future (another couple generations) women will make up half or more of our governmental representatives, corporate executives and other positions of leadership in education and the arts. Leadership positions for women in the military, religion and sports will likely take a lot longer due to cultural mores and long standing and ingrained male dominance.

Given the numbers and notwithstanding significant progress that has been made since the 60’s, in my opinion, we still need activist feminists (as opposed to the kind that hold the equality beliefs but do not chose to identify) until such time that our numbers are spread evenly in societal leadership – only then will ALL women, both leaders and followers, of color and white have access to true equal opportunity.

For Those Who Like Lists   —— 5 Myths About Feminists 

  • they look down on men
  • they rebuff men’s courtesy
  • they look down on motherhood
  • they are bitchy and without humor
  • they don’t shave, wear makeup or have any style

Song for this Blog Post 

OMG – you’ve got to see and hear this video – talk about being right on the mark!

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY . . . . .. . .BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER!

 

 

Are Girls Better Team Players Now That they are in the Game?

You Can Have the Sports Section 

I am not a sports fan. I’m of the mindset that one ball game per year is more than enough – and then only with a couple beers and peanuts. When I grew up in the 50’s, not many girls played sports. Rather, many of us longed to be cheerleaders. I still remember trying out for the squad, practicing non-stop for weeks only to be eliminated in the very first round!

Suffice it to say, I only followed sports if my home-town team was on the verge of winning something big such as the Chicago Bears and their Super-Bowl Shuffle in 1985 and then I learned only enough to make polite cocktail conversation.

Recent Women Sports in the News

The reason I am writing this post about women in sports is because recent news got me musing about how the world of women in sports has changed so much in my lifetime.

  • US Women soccer team wins world cup but the size of its purse pales in comparison to the men’s. 
  • First woman becomes NFL coach. 
  • First Women’s surfing championship held in Oceanside with winning purse equal in size to the men’s.

Beijing Olympics Soccer Women

Title IX Becomes the Law of the Land and the Games Begin 

Many give credit to Title IX (passed in 1972 but its implementing regulations weren’t published until 1975 and its effective date for implementation wasn’t until 1978). Crazy but its focus was NOT sports. Rather, its focus was requiring all public educational institutions that received federal funding, to provide equal opportunities for women with respect to all their educational programs and activities. Its impetus was actually hiring and employment opportunities for women.

The proponents of Title IX look to its significant impact on women’s athletics. Since its implementation, girls’ high school programs increased nine-fold and collegiate women’s programs increased 450% – with the most popular women’s athletic programs being basketball, volleyball and soccer.

True Story About 15 Year Old Girl

I was recently blown away to hear about a colleague’s daughter who is an incredibly good athlete, plays softball and, at only 15, was recruited by numerous colleges and universities and just accepted UC Berkeley’s offer for a full ride.  OMG, no worries about early admission, personal essays, SACT scores or MONEY! Good for her and for her folks who encouraged and schlepped her to and fro since she first held a bat at about 5 years old. It’s great to hear that girls/women have the same kind of collegiate opportunities reserved only for boys/men in the old days.

Team Players and Corporate America 

Before girls had these kinds of athletic team sport opportunities, many in corporate America hesitated hiring women for managerial and professional jobs for fear they did not have “team” experience. Having had numerous positions of leadership in corporate America over the years, I found women to be more naturally team oriented than their male counterparts. Perhaps the guys needed the sports “team” experience to knock their egos down a peg or two – something the gals maybe didn’t need . . . don’t know, just conjecture.

Wind in My Sails 

I do want to share an anecdote about the only sport in which I ever participated – sailboat racing. I have always loved the water, swimming and boating. In my mid-20s, I was asked to join 2 friends on their 19 ft. sailboat named “Streaker”(named before streaking became popular – lest you think we sailed au natural).

We raced on Lake Michigan by Chicago. My first skipper opined that I took to racing “like a pig to slop”. That said, my greatest value was my ballast (a/k/a weight on a windy day) and my ability to follow orders yelled at me by a very competitive skipper. Who knew that “trimgoddamnit” is actually three words?

Fast forward to my mid-40’s when I resumed the sport after a 10 year maternity leave – this time on an all-woman/5 member crew. Picture this scene . . . a sunny afternoon in late August with a light wind blowing and the J24 fleet is battling it out for the championship. It’s the second to the last leg on an Olympic course and we are on a “run” with the wind at our back billowing our multi-colored spinnaker.

To port (on our left) was our competition – the all male crew we had traded first places with over the season. We are “neck and neck” or “beam to beam”. We are only about 10 feet apart – so close we could hear everything they said.

Our strategy was calm, steadfast, purposeful, sail trim and steering with no extra movements to rock the boat. Any questions were answered with calm, clear direction.

Our competition, on the other hand, was freaking out. The more we moved ahead, the more they yelled and fell behind. Never before had I experienced such exquisite joy in this boy/girl challenge.

You probably guessed that the girls won that race and we took first place for the whole season. Our skipper wore green sequins and I wore red ones – yes, we were called “port and starboard” as we accepted the first place trophy at the awards banquet!

So, why am I regaling you with my one and only sports victory? My point is that, in my opinion, and based on my very limited experience, girls/women do not need team sports to understand and implement teamwork – either on the water or in the office!

Size Does Matter

Even though I am not into sports, I am pleased that my athletic sisters can do their thing and hopefully soon they’ll be able to make as much money as the boys – because yes, size (of the purse) does matter.

Tune for this Post – The Super Bowl Shuffle!

https://archive.org/details/SuperBowlShuffle

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY . . .BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER

Mommy Wars – Has There Been a Cease Fire?

Sweet Smell of Victory

Recently I heard something very gratifying on NPR – according to a recent Harvard research study, daughters of those moms we used to call “working moms” are more successful professionally than daughters of those moms we used to call “stay at home moms” – and their sons are more conscientious.

FINALLY vindication for those of us who pioneered as career women against most all odds!

The Battle 

Hearing about this research got me thinking about days past (something I enjoying doing for this blog) and the saga of the St. Something Afterschool Program. (I changed the name to protect the innocent). 

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The Battle Ground

Back in the early 90s my daughter attended a small Catholic grade school from 8:00 am until 2:30 pm. The school was in a “gentrified” urban neighborhood. The church was considered quite liberal in the day – offering social groups for not only oldsters and youngsters but even divorced and gay Catholics.

Over time a group of us “working moms” began to chat about the hassle of finding daycare for our grade-schoolers. As action oriented gals, we decided to get together to develop an after-school program at the school. Our idea was to create a fun and enriching program primarily for those kids who needed daycare until their parents got off work.

Our afterschool “committee” consisted of a physician, a lawyer, a marketing executive, an accountant and a computer specialist. Our “war room” was my dining table where we gathered in the evenings, drank wine, munched on cheese and crackers and attacked our project with the same zeal we mustered when working at our respective downtown offices.

Working Moms’ Battle Plan 

A month or so after we began, we finished a business plan document – and it was damn good if I say so myself. It addressed financial, operational, educational and regulatory concerns. Had it been an investment opportunity, no doubt we would have attracted lots of capital! We described a self-supporting afterschool program open from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm offering fun, safe and learning activities for the kids and convenience for their working parents.

We were STOKED and couldn’t wait to take our bows once the Pastor and Parish Council finished clapping.

Stay-at-Home Moms’ Battle Plan 

Naively we asked to present our proposal and obtain permission to proceed. Unbeknownst to us, battle lines were being drawn and delay tactics immediately began.   “The Parish Council has a full agenda . . . the Pastor will be on vacation . . . out of town . . . out to lunch . . . in the confessional . . . saying the rosary . . . otherwise indisposed . . . thinking pure thoughts . . .” (you name it).

Time to re-group and strategize. We decided to meet one-on-one with the parish power brokers to see what gives. The self-appointed Grand Poo-bah was a woman who had been a successful bank executive until her first child was born. She then used her executive talents to control the Pastor, the Parish Council and all other things “St. Something”. She was smug in her self-righteousness and overall a pain in the pitooty.

When she finally deemed to meet with our appointed spokesperson, she explained that she understood our desire for an afterschool program, but that she and the other stay-at-home moms had met and decided to torpedo the afterschool program proposal because (get this) they did not want to encourage parish mothers to have careers – particularly since they had all given up their careers to foster “the best interest” of their children.

Strategic Withdrawal

As strong as our working mom group liked to appear, her words were like a dagger to our hearts. In those days as pioneer career moms, we had ambivalent feelings about leaving our children during the workday.  We were in unchartered waters and clearly didn’t want to harm or disadvantage our children.   Those were tuff and somewhat lonely times for working moms.

The Flanking Attack 

Used to setbacks in our careers, we quickly moved to plan B – modifying the business plan to include a modest profit on operations and meeting with ancillary power-brokers and other working mom families. With the backing of a large group of the former, who also just happened to be generous donors to the parish, we were able to be added to the agenda of the next parish council meeting and get approval to proceed with developing an afterschool program. The afterschool program opened the next semester and it thrived and to this day is one of the school’s most effective recruiting tools.

Retreat of the Grand Poo-bah 

One of the biggest ironies was that the Grand Poo-bah actually signed her own kids up for the program. It turned out that the working mom’s kids liked it so much that the stay-at-home moms had to sign up their own kids (at least a couple days a week) so as not to miss out on all the fun!

Back to the Research Study About Daughters of Working Moms 

By the way, I shouldn’t brag – but back to the research about daughters of working moms doing well – I can attest to the fact that my daughter and her friends, whose mothers also worked outside the home, each appears to be doing well – one is a veterinarian, one is a non-profit executive and one is a lawyer/activist. All three (now 30-year-old women) are professionally successful, contributing members of society, and seemingly happy in life. 

Has There Been a Cease Fire?

According to a 2013 Parents Magazine survey, 63% of moms believe mommy wars still exist but only 29% have ever experienced the impact first-hand. That said, when the author of the magazine article googled “mommy wars”, she noted nearly 25 million results! So, whether the war still exists or not, there continues to be lots of buzz about it.

The Moral of the Story – Let Us Move From a Cease Fire to a Truce 

Once again I return to the “choice” theme of my blog musings. We boomer feminists worked long and hard to create choices for women and to ensure these same choices for our daughters.

I know many young women, including my nieces and young women attorneys with whom I work, who continue to struggle with doing the right thing for their children and for themselves. At least now they will have the benefit of the referenced research study to know that their work outside the home will not harm and will actually help their daughters.

The choice to work at home or outside the home is not easy and it is very individual. We should celebrate the choice and not judge our sisters for their choices. 

Special Blog Post Song 

Last, but not least, I hope you enjoy this post’s song, Although this parody does not address mommy wars per se, it is a very fun music video and makes some great points about working women. 

http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/12/bitch-in-business-video

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHERHOOD – To Be or Not To Be?

BABY TALK 

It’s time to talk about babies – having them or not and if so, how many? Why having none is “selfish”, having one is “unfortunate for the only child” and having two or three is “just right”.

ACCOMPLISHED 30-SOMETHING WOMAN CHOOSES NO KIDS

The other day at the office I was chatting with a 30-something, professional woman about her upcoming wedding. She is smart, competent and beautiful. She showed me photos on her smartphone of her wedding gown – an elegant strapless white sweetheart design with just the right amount of bling. She will be marrying a man she met 2 years ago on match.com. In traditional mode, she plans to change her last name to his to illustrate her commitment. (name change or not? – fodder for a future blog)

Since she was so forthcoming, I asked about her plans for kids. She replied, “only the four-legged furry kind”. Trying to be politically correct, I said something like,

“gotta love the 4-legged kids – love my 4-legged granddog and cat.” She went on to tell me how hard it is to hear reactions to her no kids stance such as, “don’t worry, honey, you’ll change your mind once your biological clock starts booming”. Her ready response to which – “I had uterine cancer”. Her reply quickly shuts down the kid conversation causing the perception of her to go from selfish to victim.  She then quips that cancer had nothing to do with her decision to forego motherhood. She told me she never did and doesn’t now want kids and she’s sick and tired of being judged negatively for her decision.

IN THE OLD DAYS

This discussion got me thinking about women’s childbearing choices or lack thereof. I just finished reading a very interesting historical fiction called, “The Invention of Wings”. It’s about the Grimke sisters who were abolitionists from the south in the early 19th century. The novel elegantly depicts a time when certain women had no choice but to marry to leave their parents’ home – they needed husbands to take care of them because they had no legal rights to own property and producing offspring was their part of the deal. (BTW – the word “spinster,” which is still a legal term for unmarried woman, derives from women who spun cloth and were able to support themselves without a husband).

CHOICES: MY MOM, MY DAUGHTER, AND ME

Thinking about women’s choices in my own life, I reflect on my mother, my daughter and me. If my mother had the choices available to today’s women, she would likely have opted for a business career with no kids. That’s not to say she wasn’t a good mother – she loved and cared for her three kids the best way she knew how. She never took a job outside the home while we were growing up, even though the family could have used the extra income, because my father thought to do so would cast a negative perception on him and his earing capacity.

Thank goodness my daughter, also a thirty-something, is free to choose her maternal destiny. As a social justice activist and a soon to be lawyer, she will likely forego motherhood to have the time, energy and focus to advance her many causes – including her belief that overpopulation is a real issue.

As for me, ironically, I always thought I’d have a house full of kids. But things did not go that way. Due to divorce and early menopause, I only had one child, and as it turned out, one was probably my max capability. 

Having only one child, I was always somewhat apologetic. When asked about why, I would reply, “would have loved more but divorce got in the way” – changing folks’ perception of me from an ill-advised mother of an only child to a victim of circumstance. Had things been different, I would have had a hard time making a decision to have only one child – although I truly believe it turned out the best for both my daughter and me. My daughter loved being an only child and notwithstanding all the attention, she turned out to be an unselfish and well-adjusted person – a fact I take little credit for – she just came out of the chute this way.

THE ONE CHILD CHOICE 

A young woman friend recently struggled over the “only-child” choice. She is a lawyer and her husband is a doctor – in many ways they are perfect parents with lots of love and means and good ethics. It was hard for her to decide to just have one – she worried her son would miss having siblings and that somehow her choice could permanently scar her son’s life. I tried to help her reconcile with her ultimate one child choice. But she, like many of us, had a built-in bias. In the old days if a family only had one child, the common belief was there was a medical problem preventing more.

WOMEN WHO HAD NO CHOICE 

The women who wanted children and were not able to have them have their own stories of being judged and never quite accepted by their childbearing counterparts. I am beginning to understand how hard it must have been for them to listen to the non-stop baby/children growing up stories of most of their friends – since I am now experiencing the same phenomenon with respect to overly gaga grannies! You’d think they had nothing else of interest in their lives (I say with a bit of jealousy).

A close friend who couldn’t have kids due to a medical condition made a comment that I found particularly poignant – something about having no one to leave all her photos to – thankfully today’s photos are mostly digital and can be disposed of by a click of a button – leaving no need for future offspring to be the recipient of those big boxes and random fading, curly-edged holiday, summer vacation and graduation family photos. (Ironically, I have a few such boxes and my kid has no interest).

WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW? 

In looking beyond my own circle to get a sense of whether social mores regarding childbearing are changing, I googled the topic and found there have been numerous lively discussions within the last few years. On having one child, Lauren Sandler, author of “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One” defends her position in an opinion piece in the NY Times Sunday Review (June 8, 2013). On having no children, Jill Filipovic writes in The Guardian (August 16, 2013) “Most of us grow up feeling that we should have children and that our lives will be unfulfilled without. We need new social norms”. In Choices (September 15, 2014) Julia Ma listed 25 celebrities, including Betty White, Oprah, Helen Mirren, Condoleezza Rice, Dolly Parton and Ellen who decided to forego children.

The fact that people are talking about it, and many are staunch defenders of choice, leads me to think that the historical role of women as primarily baby-makers is changing – albeit slowly.

MORAL OF THE STORY

If there is a message in these musings about the decision of motherhood or not, it is 2 fold: first, let us celebrate the fact that women finally have choice about their reproduction and second, let us not judge our sisters for the choices they make.

BECAUSE SOME READERS LIKE LISTS

In closing, I’d like to leave you with my list of 10 things NOT to say to women who chose to have no kids or only one.

  1. you’ll change your mind once your biological clock starts really ticking 
  1. don’t make a decision you are likely to regret your whole life 
  1. having children is the only way to become more truly human 
  1. who is going to take care of you when you are old? 
  1. bright, healthy and productive people like you have a duty to procreate 
  1. an only child will be lonely 
  1. an only child may grow up selfish and unable to get along with others 
  1. if you can’t or don’t want to have a baby yourself, you should adopt 
  1. you need to continue your lineage 
  1. having babies keeps cancer at bay

SONG FOR FUN 

It took me a while to come up with an “appropriate song” to accompany this post.Hope you enjoy GLEE’s (tongue-in-cheek) rendition of Paul Anka’s classic 1974 hit – “ You’re Having My Baby”. (according to Wikipedia, considered one of the worst songs of all times !)

We have come a long way………………BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER

 

– ANNE

The “Pill” and its Impact

The Pill

The other day, I turned on my radio to a classic country station and it was playing Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill”, written and recorded in 1972 but not published until 1975 due to its controversial nature. The song is about a wife who is continuously pregnant and caring for her kids while her husband cats about. The theme of the song is control over her life and the changes that are coming now that she has access to the birth control pill. She is no longer willing to be barefoot and pregnant. Although the song was considered quite divisive in its day, it also did quite a bit a good. According to Wikipedia, Loretta was congratulated by a group of rural physicians claiming that her song did more to highlight the availability of birth control to low income rural women than all their literature and outreach combined.

For those of you who have never heard it and for those of you who haven’t heard it in years, I’m including it here for your listening pleasure.

Example of Some Lyrics

“All these years I’ve stayed at home

While you had all your fun

And every year that’s gone by

Another baby’s come

There’s gonna be some changes made

Right here on nursery hill

You’ve set this chicken your last time

Cause now I’ve got the pill”.

The Revolution

It’s hard for young people to imagine how revolutionary the pill was – with a claimed 99% success rate, for the first time women were in actual control of their bodies – with one small pill per day dispensed from a feminine circular purse size container.

The “Moral” Issue

Raised Catholic, I was acutely aware of the ”moral” issue that accompanied this medical break through. My father was a “detail man” (at the time there were no “detail women”) who educated physicians about the benefits of the pharmaceutical products sold by The Upjohn Company. One such product was the pill. I know he had a religious conflict promoting the pill – because we always had a substantial stockpile of physician samples in our basement. Somehow he was able to keep his job notwithstanding his reluctance to promote the pill.

The Times – They Were “a changin”

Thinking back to the early 70s, it was an amazing time for women in history. The pill had been on the market for a decade but was finally gaining traction. In 1973, Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. Burning bras (or abandoning them if burning is in fact an urban legend) to protest the confinement of preordained women’s roles, losing the moniker “Mrs.” for “Ms.”, and marching to enact the Equal Rights Amendments were the hallmarks of the early feminists. (Btw, the current controversy about what is and what is not a feminist is noteworthy – in my opinion, feminists do not hate men, they simply recognize the strengths and talents of women in addition to those attributable to motherhood).

From the early 70s to the early 80s sex for women became fun and free of worry over pregnancy and STDs (before AIDs/HIV came on the scene). Women’s reputations no longer rose and fell on their virginity. We could finally relax and enjoy the ride (so to speak).

The sexual revolution was about more than sex. It was about women beginning to take our place in society as equals – in bed as well as in other arenas– finally free of the unwanted consequences of enjoying our sexuality. And we sure did enjoy it. I know lots of grandmothers, who are retired professionals and upstanding contributing members of society who, in the day, made love outdoors, in the sky, on boats, in elevators and restaurants and had so many sex partners that they lost count! Think of this the next time you see a plump, grey-haired lady tending her grandchildren in the park!

What’s Happening Now

Fast forward 40 years and now we are talking about over the counter access with full insurance coverage of the pill. A recent University of California study concluded that unplanned pregnancies (which comprise 50% of ALL pregnancies) could be reduced by 25% with such access and coverage.

In addition to “The Pill,” there is now another pill – a little “pink pill” that supposedly enhances a woman’s waning libido. The FDA has yet to approve it causing some controversy about FDA’s gender fairness – having approved the little blue erection pill for men but not the little pink pill for us. Don’t know much about the little pink pill other than the middle-aged woman from a research study who sings its praises on a TV report while walking hand-in-hand with her formerly love-starved husband – but I am very pleased that society is beginning to realize that even post menopausal women have a right to enjoyable sex.

From a song about birth control that shocked the nation 40 years ago to over-the- counter access and a little pink pill to enhance libido . . .

We have come a long way…..BUT THE JOURNEY IS NOT OVER!

– Anne