Sunday, July 19, 2009

Three Cheers for Sotomayor!

She looks set to be the next Supreme Court Justice.

Here are two commentaries about the esteemed nominee that I feel are worthy of sharing.

The first compares Sotomayor's appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee with that of Anita Hill, testifying in the Clarence Thomas hearings almost two decades ago. It is Jill Abramson's op-ed contribution, "Women on the Verge of Law."

The second is about the irony of identity politics in the confirmation hearings this past week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Married to the law

That's a common theme of two items I read this week, one about Sonia Sotomayor's personal life, one about the personal lives of young women lawyers generally.

Here is a link to the former, and here is a link to the latter.

Here is an excerpt from the former, which appeared in the New York Times:
Now and again, friends persuade Judge Sotomayor, 55, whose workweeks stretch seven days, to try a blind date. But she acknowledges loneliness as a frequent companion. “There are many friends who have known me for most of my adult life; what they know is that the professional success I had achieved before Peter did nothing to bring me genuine happiness,” she said of her fiancĂ©, Peter White, at her 1998 induction to the United States Court of Appeals. Ms. Sotomayor and Mr. White split two years later.
Here is an excerpt from the latter, which appeared in Young Lawyers Blog:
According to a publication from an ongoing study called After the JD, comparisons between the 2000 Census and a study of young lawyers conducted in 2004 show that young women lawyers aren’t as likely to be married and definitely aren’t as likely to be mommies as their non-lawyer peers. According to the 2000 Census, 59% of women ages 27-32 are married. Among female lawyers ages 27-32, 47% are married. That somewhat smaller percentage comes with a plus – only 7% of the female lawyers in that age group are divorced compared with 12% of the general female population at that age.
Since these items appeared, Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, has gotten a lot of attention for these comments:

“There's no such thing as work-life balance .... There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."

Welch said women who take time off can still "have a nice career," but their chances of reaching the top are smaller, according to the Wall Street Journal account. "We'd love to have more women moving up faster," he said. "But they've got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Women on the U.S.S.Ct.

Read Emily Bazelon's column here, based in part on an interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Judging mothers

It's something I think about a lot. Society judges mothers, and mothers judge each other, of course. Sometimes the legal system gets in on the action. Here's an example of the latter from Judith Warner's column this week, Dangerous Resentment. Here's an excerpt:
The issue I want to take up today, however, is not that of tricky choices, or over- or under-involved parenting, questions that have already been discussed with much gusto elsewhere. What really sent my head spinning after reading Kevane’s story was the degree to which it drove home the fact that our country’s resentment, and even hatred, of well-educated, apparently affluent women is spiraling out of control.
Read the whole column and see what you think of what Kevane did--and whether it should have been punished with jail time.

Acting like Dorothy

Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, that is.

A story in the ABA Journal online today says women lawyers too often act like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz by failing to ask for something. Dorothy failed to ask the Wizard for something for herself, and today's women lawyers fail to ask for credit, reward, or recognition. The story quotes a blot post by Patricia Gillette, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who gives this advice.
[W]omen need to take a more active role in managing and advancing their careers, in part by courting clients, socializing with firm leaders, touting their capabilities and pressuring firms to expand leadership opportunities for women.
Generally good advice, but I think it's easier said than done and self-promoting women can be judged pretty harshly for such behavior. Somehow, its just not as "becoming a lady." Plus, why do women have to ask for credit or recognition? Shouldn't those in a position to give the recognition do so without it being sought? Do men have to seek or demand such recognition?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

More on work-life balance

I'd missed this posting to Lisa Belkin's Motherlode column until it made the New York Times top-5 most emailed stories for the week.

The subject is one for all of us who are or will become mothers : "Scaling Back Career for Baby."

Of course, it should also be an issue for all who become fathers ...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I think I just wanted to share the strong feeling I had while taking a shower tonight and slowly soaping up.  I just felt how important it is for women to love every part of ourselves, not matter how imperfect.  I have a goal to lose weight.  I put on about 50 lbs. in the space of one year, not just because of not eating right or not exercising.  My goal is to lose that 50 lbs.  

Some background:  I'm 5'3" and have weighed as little as 107 lbs.  I've struggled with weight all my womanly life, as defined by puberty.  I swam in high school and weighed 150 lbs., accompanied by constant re-affirmations by my family that I weighed too much.  When, after meticulously, relatively healthily, losing all that weight and reaching 120 lbs., which was my goal, then 107 lbs., not my goal but not an entirely unwelcome development, in my media-saturated mind, I found myself in a body I did not recognize.  I had so completely, negatively, associated myself with the slightly heavy body I had that, when I was lighter, I couldn't accept it.  It was an even deeper sadness than the self-loathing of feeling too heavy.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  I was exhilarated, I was alienated from my own body.

So this is what I want to say: wanting to lose weight is not bad.  The studies show that Americans are relatively and objectively, as a group, overweight.  Being overweight is bad for your heart, bad for your health - you don't know the inconvenience of ill-health until you have to monitor yourself for diabetes daily.  What I want to say even more: losing weight is at once physical and metaphysical.  

You have a metaphysical self.  It is that part of you which will not leave you.  If you do not love that part of yourself, losing weight will only be temporary.  I guess even now, I have a good in mind that is not entirely free of suspicion, losing weight and keeping weight off.  But I would argue that is not my only goal.  I want to feel good.  That is my ultimate goal.  And, while I know that being lighter is part of that destination, I also know, thru experience, that being lighter will mean nothing if I did not love myself when I was heavy.

So to all the women out there who are dieting, a not entirely free-of-cliche injunction: love yourself!  It's easy to say, harder to execute.  The good news is that the difficulty is only relative.  How can you not love yourself?  You are awesome, you are exactly, at this moment, how you were meant to be.  You are perfect.  Admire your physicality.  Admire how breathtakingly beautiful you are.  Associate yourself with your soul, that part of you which will not leave you, ever.

Then, if you happen to, thru hard work or chance, be lighter than you are now at some time in the future, it will still be, indelibly, you.  You will truly feel good because you felt good even when you were heavier.  Because you loved, and love, you.  It's all very paradoxical, yet true.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A fascinating spin on marital infidelity

Don't miss today's Room for Debate: A Running Commentary on the News, which is called "The Clueless Wives Club." I found especially incisive the comments of Wharton's Betsey Stevenson. Following is a quote in which she sets up a dichotomy between marriages she characterizes as "separate spheres" and "shared lives." Here's an excerpt in which Stevenson characterizes her own marriage, one in which couples match well in terms of how to live their day-to-day lives. She calls this the "hedonic" or "consumption" or "shared lives" marriage:
In these marriages, spouses typically share the daily jobs of running a household, with both employed in paying jobs and both contributing equally to home production.

By contrast, more traditional marriages are described by economists as “production-based” or “separate-spheres” marriages. In production-based marriages, couples benefit from dividing and conquering. One person specializes in market production, while the other specializes in raising the children and work in the home.
What kind of marriage or committed relationship are you in?

Stevenson suggests that the former are more stable. Hmmmm.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An important story about work-life balance for high-powered folks

Don't miss Rachel Swarns' story in the New York Times, "'Family Friendly' White House is Less So for Aids." Here's the lede:
When President Obama talks up the family-friendly vibe at the White House — the nightly family dinners, the flexibility to attend school presentations and join impromptu plunges in the pool with his girls — his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, sets him straight. “Family friendly to your family,” Mr. Emanuel counters.

* * *

“No matter how much the president tries — and he and Michelle try, they do — the White House is brutal on family life,” said Mr. Emanuel, who has struggled to make time for his wife and three children since they moved here from Chicago.
The story goes on to document the struggles of many White House staffers to spend time with their kids, many of them quite young. A few aids have even left for less demanding jobs. I am relieved to see that many male parents are featured in this story, and that it is not only the female aids who are struggling to do both.