Working Women in Their 30s

An essay on pacing and perspective for the long haul

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Illustration: Anna Parini. Screen grab from top of The Ambition Collision, here.

Yesterday, The Cut published an essay by Lisa Miller, entitled The Ambition Collision, about a loss of career ambition that’s hitting the author’s female, thirty-something friends. Some parts of it resonate with us—we’re both in our mid-thirties—so we’re sharing it with you.

We note that this article is about upper middle-class professional women, i.e. not applicable to a lot of women in the same way Lean In wasn’t a primer for many folks. We’ll also note that our professional paths haven’t been so climbing-the-career-ladder oriented as Miller’s friends’, nor so (apparently) smooth. Still, some of Miller’s essay does touch on thoughts we hear from friends and feelings we’ve experienced about the lack of meaning in white collar jobs.

In the spirit of sharing some perspective on how to handle this disappointing reality without resigning from professional life, and, frankly, pacing oneself for any tough, long-term effort to change entrenched systems, here are the concluding paragraphs of The Ambition Collision.

“A dose of perspective is, perhaps, required here. The lesson of The Feminine Mystique was not that every woman should quit the burbs and go to work, but that no woman should be expected to find all her happiness in one place — in kitchen appliances, for example. And the lesson for my discontented friends is not that they should ditch their professional responsibilities but that they should stop looking to work, as their mothers looked to husbands, as the answer to the big questions they have about their lives. “I think possibly work has replaced ‘and they got married and lived happily ever after,’ and that is a false promise,” says Ellen Galinsky, co-founder of the Families and Work Institute. “Everyone needs to have more than one thing in their life. We find people who are dual-centric to be most satisfied. If people put an equivalent stress on their life outside of their job they get further ahead and are more satisfied at their job.”

“To be clear: This is not about settling, about making peace with the humdrum sexism of traditional workplaces. Rage and revolution are called for, and such upheaval requires more professional investment by more females, not less. Instead, this is about a shift in perspective — an appreciation for imperfect circumstances and unmet yearnings as facts of life, and a willingness to seek gratifications and inspirations outside the boundaries of a job. Dogs are helpful in this regard. So are children and friends and sports and museums and live music and sex and activism and charity. The other day, I saw a 6-year-old girl wearing a T-shirt that said “Undefeatable.” She was skipping down the street and holding her father’s hand. And I thought, That’s the problem right there. Surely, that girl is as defeatable — or as undefeatable — as anyone. But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t grow up to fight.”

You can read the full essay here.

Op-Ed: ‘The Policies of White Resentment’

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Photo by Steve Rotman. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0.

This weekend we read Carol Anderson’s editorial, The Policies of White Resentment, in the New York Times Sunday Review. For us, it provided a framework for understanding the series of incendiary social policies coming from the Administration in D.C., from the ‘Muslim Ban’ in January to the President’s recent call to law enforcement officers to rough up arrestees.

Professor Anderson holds an endowed professorship at Emory University, and earlier this year she won a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for her book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. We found her article’s synthesis of current events helpful. (Our readers who are more knowledgeable about the politics of race may find it old hat. Please let us know if this is the case! And feel free to point us to other reading we ought to be doing.)

We’ve excerpted the article here, with a link to keep reading if you’re interested.

The Policies of White Resentment, by Carol Anderson

“White resentment put Donald Trump in the White House. And there is every indication that it will keep him there, especially as he continues to transform that seething, irrational fear about an increasingly diverse America into policies that feed his supporters’ worst racial anxieties.

“If there is one consistent thread through Mr. Trump’s political career, it is his overt connection to white resentment and white nationalism. Mr. Trump’s fixation on Barack Obama’s birth certificate gave him the white nationalist street cred that no other Republican candidate could match, and that credibility has sustained him in office — no amount of scandal or evidence of incompetence will undermine his followers’ belief that he, and he alone, could Make America White Again.

“The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

“Like on Christmas morning, every day brings his supporters presents: travel bans against Muslims, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Hispanic communities and brutal, family-gutting deportations, a crackdown on sanctuary cities, an Election Integrity Commission stacked with notorious vote suppressors, announcements of a ban on transgender personnel in the military, approval of police brutality against “thugs,” a denial of citizenship to immigrants who serve in the armed forces and a renewed war on drugs that, if it is anything like the last one, will single out African-Americans and Latinos although they are not the primary drug users in this country. Last week, Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the latest package under the tree: a staffing call for a case on reverse discrimination in college admissions, likely the first step in a federal assault on affirmative action and a determination to hunt for colleges and universities that discriminate against white applicants.

Continue reading at NYTimes…

Midweek Reading: Trauma, Kids, and Schools

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We are hard at work on the next installment of our series, Small Stones Interviews. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not still treating ourselves to some reading worth sharing. (With iced coffee. Hiding in the coolest part of the house. If you aren’t doing the same, thank your lucky stars for either air conditioning or geography, and send cooling thoughts to the western half of the country.)

Our next interview will feature a violence-preventionist who works in social-emotional learning–SEL, for those in the know. We’re doing our homework, and we recommend this recent piece from NPR Ed, “When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline:”

“Generally there just was really not an understanding of how trauma impacts a child,” says Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a mental health agency for kids and families.

“Teachers and school staff really look at children through the lens of, ‘What’s wrong with that child?’ Versus, ‘What happened to that child?’ ”

“If I’m walking down the hallway and somebody bumps into me, and I don’t have a significant trauma history, I’m gonna say ‘Oh, sorry, excuse me,’ ” she explains. “Whereas a kid who’s been exposed to trauma on an ongoing basis, if somebody bumps into them that might be a threat.” From there, she says, the survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.

Crocker has developed ways to help students who are dealing with those experiences. Two full-time social workers hold one-on-one sessions with students who need someone to talk to. Teachers send disruptive students to a room called the wellness center for a meditative time-out that’s not supposed to be punishment.

If students fight, they first work it out through group discussion. Kids who act up or shut down get extra support, not detention or suspension like they used to. The idea is to tend to life troubles at school, instead of sending kids home.

Go check out the whole thing and report back next week for more on SEL.

 

 

Know Your Rights

Warmup reading for our upcoming interview with a civil rights lawyer

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Image courtesy of The ACLU

In advance of this week’s Small Stones interview with a civil rights attorney (coming soon!), we’ve been thinking about how much we, personally, know about our individual rights. For sure, we’re quite privileged ourselves—white, highly-educated, and relatively wealthy—allowing us to mostly assume we’ll be treated legally and fairly. But, we’re both women, one of us is a religious minority, and the other has been pregnant, so we we’ve felt some fear, too.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lots of handy “Know your rights” guides: if you have an encounter with the police, if you experience voter intimidation, if you’re a religious minority, an immigrant, pregnant, work in a nail salon, and so forth. Below, we excerpt their summary of rights if you’re a Muslim (or perceived as Muslim) and experiencing discrimination at the airport. You can read the full text here.

Your Rights at the Airport and the Border

The Constitution and federal law prohibit customs and border agents from performing stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

You have the right to:

Be free from discriminatory questioning at the airport or border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have the authority to ask your immigration status when you are entering or returning to the United States or leaving the country. They have the power to determine whether non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have the right to enter the country. If you are a U.S. citizen and you have presented a valid passport, you do not have to answer officers’ questions, although refusing to answer routine questions about the nature and purpose of your travel could result in delay and/or further inspection. If you are a lawful permanent resident, we recommend you answer officers’ questions… Officers, however, may not select you for questioning based on your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs…

Continue reading “Know Your Rights”

Weekend Reading

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First in our reading list is, appropriately, a summer reading list, via Public Books. It’s curated by their section editors, and covers topics from Global Black History to Literary Fiction to Comics. Our library lists just expanded from reasonable to out-of-control…here are a few we’re really excited about:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson (Roaring Brook). This warm, witty, and inclusive picture book filters first-day-of-school jitters through the perspective of the school itself, giving young readers a new outlook on a familiar place…

In Gratitude by Jenny Diski (Bloomsbury). Part of it is mourning: those of us who read everything Diski wrote read this memoir-of-dying as a goodbye to an essential habit. Part of it is the pleasure Diski always gave: seemingly familiar stories told by dispensing with any of the usual reference points, like some sort of trick of the light making you step gingerly into a room you thought you knew…

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters (Mulholland). In the spirit of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, this account of slavery still ongoing in 2016 America asks readers to notice how much (or how little) has actually changed in our own world of racial profiling and third-world factory production…

Public Library: And Other Stories by Ali Smith (Anchor). Smith’s latest collection looks uncannily like the bookshelf of a library: you don’t know what you’ll find next to what, but you do trust that some logic governs the juxtapositions.  The lyrical statistics and laconic anecdotes that caulk together Smith’s stories add up to a story of their own, about the neoliberal British state replacing librarians by volunteers and selling off reading rooms to private fitness clubs.  The collection ends with Smith’s partner going through her dead mother’s purse to dispose of credit cards, reward cards, driver’s license: “The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to throw away was her library card.”

Next week’s interview is with an Episcopal priest working in interfaith education out of Chicago. If you’d like to get a quick preview of what we’ll be discussing, check out this quick read from Daily Kos about the contemporary Sanctuary Movement:

A month after popular vote loser Donald Trump’s election, some 450 houses of worship nationwide pledged to become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, with one church in the Los Angeles area calling for “holy resistance” to his mass deportation force. And houses of worship have heeded the call, with the number of congregations vowing to protect immigrants from ICE doubling to 800, according to a new report from 60 Minutes. Undocumented parents like Jeanette Vizguerra—recently named one of Time’s 100 most influential people—have fled to churches for safety and as a last recourse.

And in honor of our first Small Stones Interview, we want to finish up by highlighting LaQuisha Beckum’s non-profit, Generation Reformation, and some of its programs. Check them out, and get in touch with the organization if you are local, have question, or even have services to offer! They are particularly looking for funding to complete the Generation Reformation organization site, which you can find here. The Facebook page is here. One of their projects is an after-school program that you can check out here.

Wednesday Reading: Our Research Edition

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News is coming fast and furious. Before we dive in to our post, a couple quick links:

Resistbot.

Contacting your representatives, with students.

Now, back to the post we began drafting yesterday afternoon:

We’re busy over here getting our new oral history project off of the ground (come talk to us!), and as we do so, we’re doing a fair amount of background reading. So today’s post is about sharing some of that material with you. Consider it a preview into the conversations you’ll soon be able to read for yourself, and drop any links of your own in the comments. Or find us on Twitter!

If you, like us, didn’t know much about the Sanctuary Movement of the ’80s and why it’s coming back around, here’s a great place to learn more, via Religionlink.

In the 1980s, some American churches defied federal law by harboring undocumented immigrants from deportation to their war-torn Central American home countries. Several pastors were arrested and put on trial. At its height, between 400 and 500 churches were involved in what came to be known as the “sanctuary movement.”

Today, the Trump administration’s immigration policies — the proposed building of a border wall, the crackdown on undocumented workers — have prompted a revival of the sanctuary movement. After Donald Trump’s election, organizers reported a near doubling in the number of congregations involved, either through the providing of services or housing of undocumented immigrants. And the movement has broadened beyond its original Christian and Jewish participants to include Muslim communities.

The Rumpus has an excellent interview with Jeff Chang, whose most recent book, We Gon’ Be Alright, is now out.

The opposition to Trump was mobilizing minutes after he won the presidency, and of course it’s going to reach a new stage next week [at the inauguration]. What I worry about is, what happens—and this is a question so many of us were asking ourselves in the mid-2000s—what happens if we actually win? Will people retreat to a state of complacency? Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of social justice movements that put issues of economic injustice, racial inequality, and environmental justice right in the middle of our discourse. I’m heartened by the idea that we might be able to come together against a common foe, but I’m worried we might not learn the lessons of the past and retreat to our corners afterward. That’s what keeps me up at night.

From The Nation, “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)”:

Prior to the 2016 election, Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58-year-old African-American man, moved from Illinois to Wisconsin, which implemented a strict voter-ID law for the first time in 2016. He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin, but the DMV in Milwaukee rejected his application because the name on his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error when it was issued. Holloway ended up making seven trips to different public agencies in two states and spent over $200 in an attempt to correct his birth certificate, but he was never able to obtain a voter ID in Wisconsin. Before the election, his lawyer for the ACLU told me Holloway was so disgusted he left Wisconsin for Illinois.

And at Marie Claire, Sarah Kendzior dives into what Trump’s healthcare bill indicates about his administration’s agenda towards women.

Since taking office, Trump has displayed the signature traits of an aspiring autocrat: disregard for the constitution, the installation of unqualified family members in high-level positions, the abuse of executive power to enhance personal wealth, the scapegoating of ethnic minorities, and ongoing threats to free speech, free media, and public protest. His rule has been a continual test of checks and balances, and his biggest check, arguably, has been women.

The healthcare law is not only a sadistic assault on the sick and vulnerable, but a gendered attack meant to render his most forceful opponents, American women, helpless. Autocracy and patriarchy often go hand in hand; the countries with the highest levels of political freedom in general tend to prioritize women’s healthcare, education, and other basic rights.

More from us soon.

Weekend Reading: The Aspirational List

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So your weekend reading editor is currently doing battle with a nasty cold–not hers, but the rest of her family’s. What we are presenting, therefore, is a list not of things we’ve read, but of things that we would love to read, just as soon as the taking temperatures/getting orange juice/running out for popsicles eases up a bit.

If you haven’t yet encountered Brain Pickings, we will assume you haven’t been hanging out on the internet much. Go on over and check out her recent post on Ursula K. LeGuin’s thoughts on aging and beauty.

Beauty always has rules. It’s a game. I resent the beauty game when I see it controlled by people who grab fortunes from it and don’t care who they hurt. I hate it when I see it making people so self-dissatisfied that they starve and deform and poison themselves. Most of the time I just play the game myself in a very small way, buying a new lipstick, feeling happy about a pretty new silk shirt.

Essence covers a story that’s getting attention long-past due: missing black women and girls in Washington, D.C.

According to the latest FBI data, as of February 2017, there are a total of 13,591 active missing person records for African American women stored in its National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Of that total, 8,042 were of the ages of 18 and under; 1,419 were between the ages of 19 to 21.

The numbers trouble Natalie Wilson, 47, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., (BAM FI), a nonprofit she launched with her sister-in-law, Derrica Wilson, 38, back in 2008.

“Black women and girls are going missing and it’s not just in Washington D.C. It’s happening in Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and other urban areas around the country,” she said.

We missed this one when it was first published–if you did, too, make up for lost time and take a look. Over at Black Perspectives, there’s a great interview with Erica Armstrong Dunbar about her new book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital, after a brief stay in New York. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Happy reading, and here’s to a quick end to cold and flu season!