Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Insightful Reporting from the New York Times

What is it with the New York Times and working mothers? In 2003, a New York Times magazine piece about eight female Princeton graduates announced the "Opt-Out Revolution": highly educated women choosing to stay home with their children instead of working outside the home. Last fall, an article about the professional ambitions (or lack thereof) of Yale female undergraduates caused a stir both on campus and nationwide. And yesterday, the Times published an article about working mothers who travel on business trips (you can click on the title of this post to view the article).


Once again, instead of addressing the complex issues surrounding working women and family responsibilities, the reporter chooses to write a simple, somewhat sensational piece about these seemingly flighty women who only travel in order to get away from their squabbling children. The article details the massages these women schedule and their elegant dinners; it positions these luxuries in contrast to the banal demands of the home. A quotation from one of the women interviewed anchors the piece: “I can go home and deal with two screaming 6-year-old twins and a grumpy preteen [. . .] Or I can go to the Four Seasons in Mexico City and drink Cognac in the bathtub.”

So, according to this portrait, women who travel on business are both irresponsible mothers and irresponsible employees. They neglect their children and erroneously see these important business trips as personal vacations. They are self-absorbed individuals who only want "me" time. Interestingly enough, this article unwittingly explores the conflict facing these women who don't fear being seen as bad mothers or bad workers. One of the women even says, "You meet all these investors, and they’re all men [. . .] They all look at me, and they always ask, ‘Oh, and how often do you travel?’ It’s such a loaded question. I’m now going to look like a bad mom or a bad portfolio manager.” Of course, instead of exploring such an essential conflict for these women, the article glosses over it and moves on to report another woman's "date with herself" in Vegas.

It seems that women continue to face stereotypes about their inability to balance their personal and professional lives. What no one is talking about, of course, is that fact that most work environments make it incredibly difficult for women to fulfill their duties at work and those at home. This article from the Christian Science Monitor - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1030/p13s02-wmgn.html - explains how more women are "pushed out" of the workplace than "opt out" of it. As Basha astutely noted in an earlier post, the workplace is not yet family-friendly, and until it is, it's shameful to continue to criticism parents, especially mothers, for struggling to operate in both the professional and domestic spheres.

1 comment:

Eric Sandberg-Zakian, ES '07 said...

I absolutely agree with everything Maggie wrote.

I also want to raise another issue. I wouldn't be surprised if many businesswomen take business trips to avoid children, shortchanging their employers and their families. Businessmen do too. Politicians lie and steal. Academics plagerize. Baggers at grocery stores often neglect to give me an indivudal plastic bag for each package of meat (raw chicken juice on the veggies, ewww).

Why take a group of professionals, identify a potential problem, then blame women for it?

What is disturbing about the NYT article is that it has to be gendered. They picked a gender-neural issue and blamed women.

We never see "Disturbing trend of male CEO's defrauding share-holders" We just see "CEOs defrauding share-holders"

But here we see "working mothers cheat families" rather than "working parents cheat families"

I wonder why....

("I wonder why" is sarcastic. the answer is sexism. rigid societal-enforcement of gender roles that oppress women. that's the answer.)