“Family Responsibility Discrimination” is not the same as Sexism

I’m all for equality, but for equality of opportunity, not some feel good, “let’s move all the targets around so that everyone in the special groups gets a prize” equality, so things like this from a Slate article about Working Mother Magazine’s list of best places to work, frustrate me to no end:

Novartis isn’t alone in having serious dissonance between its official policies and the experiences of its female workers. Thirty-six companies that have been on Working Mother‘s 100 Best Companies list have faced “family responsibilities discrimination” suits filed by employees who are pregnant or care for young children, sick family members, or aging parents, according to Calvert. Plaintiffs prevailed in 15 of those cases, including in suits against Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young, two accounting firms often heralded for their efforts to retain women by instituting family-friendly policies.

In many ways, Novartis fits right in with patterns observed in this emerging legal area. With more than 2100 family responsibilities discrimination cases having taken place so far, lawyers in the field have begun to make classifications among them, coining terms like “maternal wall discrimination” to describe cases involving working mothers, “new supervisor syndrome,” in which a working parent doesn’t run into trouble until a new boss comes along, or “second child bias.” (Ditto, except it’s a second baby that comes along.)

I”ve done a lot of research on employment discrimination, but I have to admit that I have not seen the term “family responsibility discrimination” before.  I don’t understand why, if an employee has other responsibilities, whether they be to family, a second job, a hobby, or anything else, that interfere with the job that the employer needs done, the employer is somehow wrong for taking that into account.

Women will never get ahead as long as they keep claiming the mantel of family responsibility for their own, because an employer who needs an employee in a high level position needs that employee’s responsibility to be work.  Obviously, in most families with small children, there are going to be important responsibilities that must be attended to, and those responsibilities will sometimes have to come before one person’s job.  This is why it is foolish to think that a two people can both be full service parents and high achievers in their career as well.  One member of the family must put his or her career on pause occasionally, which may mean, and should mean, that you will be less important to your employer.  Unless you happen to be married to a senator, an employer simply isn’t going to pay big bucks for a job in which the employee is not vital to the organization. 

Individual families must work out which party will carry this role, or find a way to divide it, with both the family positives and the career negatives going to each party.  Someone’s career must suffer if there are family responsibilities to attend to.  Women do themselves a sexist disservice to assume that that person must always be the woman, and to expect employers to simply ignore and absorb the resulting costs.


Michelle, Could You Please at Least Consider a Frying Pan?

As I’m sure most of us are aware, Michelle Obama has staked out her official First Lady cause as the fight against childhood obesity.  She’s planted an organic garden, complete with its very own beehive.  She’s bought $5 a dozen eggs and certified organic Tuscan kale from a local farmer’s market.  She told the world that her pre-adolescent daughters were getting fat

But there’s one thing she’s not doing.  She’s not cooking

[W]hen The Washington Post asked Mrs. Obama for her favorite recipe, she replied, “You know, cooking isn’t one of my huge things.” And last month, when a boy who was visiting the White House asked her if she liked to cook, she replied: “I don’t miss cooking. I’m just fine with other people cooking.” Though delivered lightheartedly, and by someone with a very busy schedule, the message was unmistakable: everyday cooking is a chore.

Now, it’s perfectly fine for the first lady, this one or any other, not to cook.  Unlike most of us, she’s got a full staff who can make whatever she and her family crave on a whim, and they can be directed to keep things as healthy as she desires.  And I’m well aware that the mere idea of suggesting that a woman should cook is as fraught with sexist implications as requesting that a woman get you a cup of coffee.  So, I’ll be clear: If Hillary Clinton had become president, suddenly adopted a couple of youngsters for some reason, and Bill were taking up the cause of childhood obesity in his spare time, I would be making the exact same argument about what he should do.  Here, Ms. Obama has taken up this cause, so she is the one who is accountable for making it more than just a PR stunt. 

Gardening, even if it must be organic, is a perfectly fine hobby.  It’s healthy and tasty, and it provides a good science lesson for the kids.  It’s also expensive, time consuming, seasonally and geographically limited, requires land that many people don’t have access to, and produces very little output for the work required.  I keep a small garden myself, and it’s great to have fresh tomatoes and chilies in the summer, but it doesn’t pay the grocery bills by a long shot (and I live 500 miles south of the Obama family).  Making a garden pay for itself takes an enormous amount of dedication, talent, and luck. 

Exercise, also stressed by Ms. Obama, is also a great thing.  But, again, it’s effectiveness is limited.  New studies are now showing that exercise does very little to help obesity and can even be counterproductive by causing the exerciser to eat more. 

Really making a dent in childhood (and adulthood) obesity requires encouraging healthy eating on an everyday basis for all kinds of people.  Restaurant meals are absurdly high in calories, and who doesn’t feel the urge to eat more when going out?  Take-out’s no better, unless you spring for limited “healthy” options at inflated prices.  In my experiences, processed foods (such as those from a box or can) are less satisfying and encourage overeating.  Real, home cooking, with highly flavored, minimally processed ingredients, are the best way to reduce obesity.  And, for those of us not living in the White House, that requires doing it ourselves. 

And, contrary to stereotype, most cooking is really very simple.  Just follow a recipe; they are available, for free, by the hundreds of thousands.  Yes, it takes some time, but there are enormous resources devoted to recipes that can easily be completed after a normal workday.  I have a solid collection of delicious dishes that can be made with staple ingredients in less time than it takes to detour and wait at the drive-thru.  And you can’t tell me that she couldn’t have fun creating something with her kids that they can share. 

How about, instead of some elite organic garden that’s unavailable to many Americans and ultra-expensive eggs, Ms. Obama dedicated her advocacy to learning how to cook, and teaching her daughters to do the same?  She could invite us to follow her on the journey of a formerly unwilling home cook.  She could take a class, or hire a private instructor, and post her experiences and new found knowledge online to encourage families to try.  She could learn about, and share with us, wonderfully healthy, easy to use ingredients that don’t cost a lot of money, like whole grains, hardy greens, squash, seasonal produce and frozen vegetables.  She’s already appeared on the FoodNetwork twice; certainly they would jump at the chance to devote an hour or so to her quest for healthy, fun, and flavorful foods. 

Ms. Obama, please try to become just a little bit of a foodie.  Help us convince families to avoid junk food and have fun doing it.

Huzzah for Free Speech!

A Colorado school has settled with th student that they wrongfully arrested and suspended for wearing a “Nobama” tee-shirt and holding a pro-McCain sign at an after school hours, pre-election Michelle Obama  speech. 

According to the ACLU, Dakota Ridge school officials told Benson to leave. When he refused, officials had Benson handcuffed, searched and arrested for interference — a charge that carries up to six months in jail and a $750 fine.

Absolutely Fabulously Inappropriate

Michelle Obama is, in my opinion, a very lovely woman who often dresses in a very unflattering way.  So, I was really impressed by the dress I’m about to show you.  In fact, I was so impressed that, although I rarely consider fashion worth blogging about, when I first saw the picture over at Cynthia Yockey’s, I was tempted to blog a well played Mr. President, just for having this smokin’ hot of a wife:

 Barack and Michelle Obama at the ceremony to award a posthumous Medal of Honor to the family of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti.

Then, I read the caption.

Barack and Michelle Obama at the ceremony to award a posthumous Medal of Honor to the family of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti.

Good God, woman!  I can only hope, hope that there was some confusion, that she did not know that she was going to this event, or the nature of the event, or through some error she had only packed one reasonably dressy item and this was it, or she spilled coffee on everything else that she owed that morning, or something.  I simply choose not to accept that the first lady of the United States of America deliberately chose a splashy cocktail dress to wear to a ceremony honoring a fallen solider.  It is simply not right.  This is a fabulous dress to wear to some semi-formal awards banquet or dinner, it is a killer dress for date night, it would look delightful at a party.  I’m sure that there is no etiquette demanding that a person wear black to an event honoring a fallen solider, but something reasonably conservative would have been appropriate, no?

By the way, here’s an actual fitting tribute to the brave young hero whose memory she disrespected at that event.