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January 20, 2011

Comments

Sarah Brodsky

I'm not sure I understand how the college major analogy is relevant to relationships. Many people double major, or major in one subject as an undergraduate and then study something different in graduate school. Is it really better to have a single major than a double major? If not, how does the analogy show that it's better to settle down with one person?

Gina

"Or better yet, who is more admirable? A woman who is the CEO of a major corporation with no husband to slow her down, or a woman who is married with five children and no career? Which one of those made you cringe? Made you feel more pity? My guess is the latter."

Honestly, I don't think either of them should make us cringe or feel pity. I understand your point, and the need to value motherhood more, but let's not let it make us value professional women less. The CEO may be exactly where God called her to be at this point in her life, and there's nothing to cringe about in that. (And some of us may want to be mothers, but unable to at this point. There's only so much in our lives that we can control.)

Wendy

Love your take on this, Nurit. Interestingly, back in the early 1970s, George Gilder wrote that detached sexuality doesn't benefit men either (not from a physical standpoint, nor emotionally) and was taken to task for this. But check out CNN today and Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor, is saying much the same thing; specifically, he talks about men afflicted with SADD ("Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder," caused by watching too much pornography):

http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/20/how-porn-is-changing-our-sex-lives/?hpt=C2

Emily

I think the college major analogy works. To specialize is to get more out of something, going deeper and there are benefits to doing that. Double majors have some drawbacks for that reason. I see so many men who think they have "everything" because they have all these options in terms of hooking up, but until you commit, you really have nothing except illusions.

Nurit Weizman

The analogy is just to show that we value focus and direction in the professional and academic life and that dabbling too much is greatly frowned upon (parents are not thrilled when their children stay in school for 7 years because they think there are so many cool classes to take). Even with double majors or different grad schools, it's still a focused path that will feed into one main career.

If we "hooked up" with every major we were slightly interested in, it's obvious we would lose tons of money in college. My point is that many women feel they pay a huge price as well (as the article points out) when hooking up with multiple men purely for physical interest. This shouldn't surprise us since commitment and direction gives us more profound pleasure, even in the academic/professional sense. I'm also making the point that committing to a professional direction is seen as mature, where as committing to one person is often seen as naive. Why is that?

Additionally, one should note that the analogy is not to equate people with majors. Majors don't get hurt when we drop them. But women have been noticing that it does hurt to be dropped because their counterparts were only interested in them superficially. Many women are finding that no one is willing to meet that wonderful challenge of committing to learn and care for her for the rest of her life.

As for the CEO and mother example, I'm not quite sure how the example should make one feel as though professional women are being portrayed as less valuable, or that their position should make us cringe. My point is only that she is often perceived as a go-getter and independent while the mother is seen as an oppressed pushover who is suppressing her intelligence (or doesn't really have any). CEO's are great, but aren't stay-at-home moms too?

Alpana Trivedi

Hello, folks. I know I've disappeared for a while, but I thought I'd check in:-). Anyway, the college major topic is VERY relevant to me. I was an undergrad for nine years and that's because I loved college and I loved learning. I know some people know when they're really young what they want to be, but I didn't. Nor do I think that I'm meant to do just one thing in life, careerwise. I'm in the Navy right now and my job doesn't have much to do with my majors in English and psychology. I went to college to enjoy exploring and learning and I guess....well, that's the stage I liked to stay in before I had to graduate. Now there's a statement...HAD to graduate, but it's true. I don't for a minute consider any of my education wasted. If I won the lottery, one of the things I would do is take classes/courses on different things.

I also thing that to compare not wanting to choose one career to not wanting to choose one life partner is somewhat like comparing apples and oranges. I don't believe that settling down with one man is going to "shrink" my horizons when it comes to exploring life. I know nowadays it's considered liberal or feminist to say that we don't want to settle down with just one person, but liberal should encompass different choices, including the choice to be with one person, the choice to stay single, the choice to have a large family, the choice to stay childfree, etc. Wendy, I recall a chapter in Girls Gone Mild where you go into details of that. You were talking about Linda Hirshman's book Get to Work. One of your arguments against her stance on full-time work outside the home was as follows. "Women may indeed get more social approval by designing a wrap dress than by comforting a child--primarily because of judgmental people who devalue the private sphere and relegate it to a silly collection of 'boo-boos.' But does this mean that our private actions are intrinsically any less significant?" A very good point indeed. And Gina makes a good point in response to Nurit's post when she says that there's no reason to pity the homemaker or the CEO. They're both doing what they're being called to do, whether that work is paid or unpaid, inside the home or outside.

For that matter, I have many interests in my life that will not make me any money. I love to cross-stitch presents for my friends and family. I love making cards from scratch. I love writing in my journal. I consider myself a very strong feminist, but I don't believe for a second that my work (my paid work) is the only thing that describes who I am (although the military does see me as its property while I have a contract with it LOL). I believe my creative interests and my ability to connect with friends emotionally (without the walls of texting, MySpace, or Facebook) define me more.

In regards to dating, I don't date as an activity. I don't feel the need. I believe that if and when I'm meant to come across the "right person" it will happen naturally and when I least expect it and my job right now is to live my life as authentically as possible.

Looking forward to hearing more.

Nurit Weizman

"And Gina makes a good point in response to Nurit's post when she says that there's no reason to pity the homemaker or the CEO. They're both doing what they're being called to do, whether that work is paid or unpaid, inside the home or outside."

Alpana, I think it's great that this is your take. And my apologies if my questioning the audience seemed offensive to you as a person who doesn't find either one pitiful. However, my point is that there is an extremely harmful social construction out there that motherhood is pitiful and lacks real stimulation or empowerment. As one girl I recently met said to me, "Why just be mothers? Don't they want to do something greater with their lives?!"

I'm also glad to hear you believe that motherhood and marriage should be a respectable choice. But, as the article illustrates, society does not cater to this choice and many women are unhappy. So if it really is a legitimate choice, than maybe we should value it much more than we currently do. And to do that, we need to develop stronger values of care and commitment. The article reads, "Women have plenty of freedom, but freedom does not translate easily into getting what you want". Women are not getting what they want. Yes, perhaps some women do not wish to settle down, but the issue at hand here is that many women do! How can we help them in feeling more fulfilled?? And why are women being pressured to settle for less in the hook up culture?? When my friend wanted her "first kiss" to be special and with someone who really cared about her, the response she received was, "You're expectations are too high". And because male behavior is so approved of, as nothing is valued more than sexual independence, women feel that they have to lower their expectations or commit to celibacy.

GCarty

Isn't motherhood undervalued by society precisely because it is unpaid?

What was really so subversive about Playboy magazine was not its pictures of scantily clad women, but it's promotion of the bachelor lifestyle. This was also meade far more appealing by social and technological developments in the post-WWII era fast food, laundries, household gadgets).

According to Barbara Ehrenreich in The Hearts of Men this was the principal driver behind the rise of feminism. Women now needed to be able to support themselves financially because men no longer needed to "buy the cow" (get married and support a wife financially) in order to have the "milk" (hot food, clean clothes and access to sex).

Cady Driver

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Maybe it's time we considered honoring those hands once more.

Gina

Stay-at-home moms ARE great. My mom has been one, and I want to be one too someday, if I ever get the chance. They're doing a wonderful thing.

But I think I'm coming at this from an entirely different angle than you, Nurit, because I'm a single woman in a religious culture that sometimes (though unknowingly) tends to treat singles, particularly single professional women, as second-class citizens. So maybe I got a little defensive when I shouldn't have. But I didn't mean to. I'm only arguing that we should be careful not to judge people's worth by their marital and parental status. While we're being careful -- as we should -- not to put down stay-at-home moms, let's also be careful not to move to the other extreme.

Shanna

I don't think the college major analogy is a particularly good one either. A lot of people start off with gen ed, switch majors or end up in an entirely different field then what their undergrad is in. Many colleges encourage taking electives outside ones major just for the purpose of broadening ones horizon. I think the main problem with it is, it all depends on context. I've seen people naively "commit" to majors and career choices, and I've seen people maturely commit to relationships. And let's be honest here, a college major or beginning a new career isn't the same kind of commitment as marriage. Even if a person doesn't realize until their junior or senior year that their major isn't right for them, in an up economy they can still land a decent job, or they can try a different direction in grad school. You don't get that chance with marriage.

Nurit Weizman

Thank you, Gina, for the comment--I see where you're coming from. I just want to expand on something. Many times as a women studies student, I witnessed students and professors give reasons to support more casual relationships and more casual physical intimacy. They would also sometimes say marriage and "waiting" till marriage was fine (and often times they would criticize that it was not fine), but that one must be extremely careful with the institution. One of my professors even said she believes "love" is a social construction--making it hard to take people who say "I do" all that seriously. In that same class, another girl regretfully had to "confess" that she has a monogamous boyfriend. Marriage was never outright supported or perceived as admirable in my department. And also, no one was careful to make sure married stay-at-home moms never looked bad.

My opinion is that I think we need to switch the conversation around now. We need to look at WHY MANY WOMEN ARE NOT FEELING FULFILLED in the hook up culture. Because many aren't, it's right to take a look at hook up culture and see what it is lacking--and for many, it's profound connection to another human being. I'm showing reasons of why commitment is admirable. It gives us a profound knowledge of another human being and makes us responsible for their happiness and pleasure, including physical, for all of life. Women should not be made to feel shameful for wanting this and the hook up culture must be revisited to address the unhappiness many have with it.

Gina

Okay, I see your point better now, and it's a very good one. Thanks for clarifying.

Alpana Trivedi

Nurit, I actually remember your post about the experience you had with your women's studies classes. You said that after spending time with a Jewish family, you lost the support of people who were supposedly promoting choices and empowerment for women. I also remember you saying that most of the support for your point of view came from other students, not professors. It seems that many people are so afraid that modesty means advocating turning back the clock to when women had no rights. A true feminist would certainly not feel threatened by women making a choice to stay at home with their children. Unfortunately, the meaning of feminism gets twisted around (just like the meaning of modesty and monogamy), many times by people who want to blame it for everything going wrong in the world today. Such is the case now every time someone even suggests that waiting for one right person before being intimate with him/her is a good choice.

It is considered "liberated" to have casual relationships and casual sex, but true liberation comes from honoring what your heart, conscience, and intuition tell you (whether that is a traditional or nontraditional choice; we're all called to do different things) and if many women have to "convince" themselves that being emotionally detached in relationships is a good thing, then it can't be all that liberating.

Regarding women's studies, the department at my school was very good and there wasn't any marriage-bashing or promotion of one choice over another. If anything, many class discussions were about balancing work and family (and about how some women might want to stay at home, but economic necessity prevents them), since majority of feminists do end up getting married and having kids.

Nurit, I'd really like to have more one-on-one discussions with you about different aspects of feminism. You have a point of view that has more thought put into it than some either/or "sound bite" views.

Mike DeGrood

Hey Nurit,

Here is the problem that I have with with your argument:

You say..."We understand that true success and creativity can only come from focus and limitations. If we let ourselves be limitless, we spread ourselves horizontally, but never reach ultimate vertical knowledge."

My question is: What is the problem with wanting to expand one's knowledge in a horizontal fashion? Is it naïve to think that someone with a general skill set can’t succeed?

As Robert Pirsig said, “The range of human knowledge today is so great that we’re all specialists and the distance between specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely among them almost has to forego closeness with the people around him.”

Well, frankly, I’d much rather know a little about a lot than a lot about a little. Also, I’m not clear about what the dialogue in your post has to do with feminism as opposed to the general human condition. It seems to me that everyone, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity is searching for a purpose. Perhaps you could expand upon this. Fell free to contact me at gmdiv88@gmail.com .

Best Wishes,

Mike


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