Friday, April 4, 2008

Advice for women lawyers

A few weeks ago we were discussing "post-modern" marriage and the different forms that marriage might/does/could take. I was reminded of that this morning when I came across this study of women lawyers, who have higher divorce rates than male lawyers. Women professionals are also three times more likely than their male counterparts to remain unmarried.

Intuitively, these findings are not surprising to me. The study's author, Robin Fretwell Wilson, speculates that successful, highly educated women -- such as those who become lawyers-- are attracted to successful men. The latter, she theorizes, don't give women the "care and support" they need. She urges women lawyers to seek out men who will provide that care and support.

Her advice seems a bit simplistic to me, as does her theory, though it rings true at least in part. I think traditional gender roles are incredibly difficult to shrug off, for both men and women -- even highly educated ones. When women have work demands commensurate with those of men, "women's work" at home is less likely to get done. Depending on both male and female expectations of themselves and each other, this creates major stresses. Then there is the possibility that the woman lawyer will, by objective standards, be more successful than her male partner. The pitfalls are numerous . . . which isn't to say they are not worth navigating for those who desire both marriage and career.

I am also reminded of the Arlie Hochschild quote in that Mary Becker piece that we read earlier in the semester -- to the effect that women don't stand up for themselves -- for equality, if you will (my paraphrase)-- in the context of marriage because of the desire to avoid conflict in that context. After all, how much conflict can a marriage survive? What's a woman to do? Maybe the answer is to look for a partner who not only will love and support her, but who doesn't have to be constantly confronted/nudged/cajoled/hit over the head about doing his fair share.

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