reaction to “having it all” shows need to vet our women leaders

So apparently I’m a cynic. I pointed out that Anne-Marie Slaughter is way too überly-educated to belatedly realize that the structure of the US economy prevents women from “having it all” and therefore needs to be changed. Ah well. No journalist minds being called a cynic. And as Nora Ephron advised, I certainly don’t prefer being nice over being frank. Slaughter’s sincerity or whether she meant well never factored into my reaction, nor should it. In fact, I don’t much care about her feelings; I care about her work-life politics. I prefer to know why they took so long to surface in a policymaker of all people. Gleaning that bright red unmentionable from Slaughter and similarly influential women is more instructive than the kajillionth complaint that work-life is less balance, more gauntlet.

Instead of joining the pity party, it should be pointed out regularly and often that the work-life conversation among women in 2012 is largely the same as it was in the mid-1990s. At least 15 years ago, says noted work-life researcher Sylvia Ann Hewlett, paid parenting leave was on the Democratic agenda. Not so this election year nor the one prior. Apparently commiseration, not policy, is what many American women–with the liberal media’s encouragement–do best. But passing misery like some white women’s grandmothers passed Tupperware is not my story. I come from a different tradition and mine compels me to caution that the conversation surrounding Slaughter’s article moves American women backwards. Advancing the conversation away from a 20-year-therapy session to organizing and advocating for changes in policy will require us to be more selective about who and what feminism is. Right now though, it seems anyone who has a vagina and talks at the same time gets a pass.

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r.i.p. nora ephron, although i hardly knew ye

If I were 22 and lonely in Kathmandu like Ariel Levy I’d never pull out a Nora Ephron book. Home alone on a wintry Saturday evening, yes, I’ll watch an Ephron movie on TBS–and that’s how I knew her, in that limited, younger-woman-browsing-entertainment-for-older-women way. I knew the name Ephron of course; you can’t move in literary circles in New York City, among Upper East Siders or in the magazine world and not know of her. But since I’d never read her work, I don’t know the true measure of her value to letters, the public sphere or to certain women. What I do know is that Ephron, who died this Tuesday at the age of 71, wrote well about life as she knew it. That’s my goal and daily struggle as a writer but she did it. Nuff respect.

I heard her speak once at an early morning invite only breakfast junket. The food was too good, the surroundings overdone. Another famous person–younger, more attractive, not yet needing a lot of Botox–was seated next to her but I only remember Ephron. Witty, sharp, irreverent and seemingly rating the morning’s event no higher than the next opportunity to nap or get her hair done. I understand why she’ll be missed.


anne-marie slaughter reveals that women still can’t have it all. shocker.

Of all my female friends only one is a stay-at-home mom and that’s probably because she has a twin. A significant majority are single (well, those living in New York City anyway) and most are elite school grads too busy kicking ass in their respective careers to play the e-mail forwarding game. However, one rising star at Popular Brand Name Organization recently made time to e-mail Anne-Marie Slaughter’s, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” to a shortlist of friends, with a sweet note: “…and you ladies make it seem (almost) effortless.” For the aspirational set, real girlfriends are a precious commodity and time with them, a meticulously planned thing. It struck me that Slaughter’s article had become a Hallmark card for the corner office-bound. “Just thinking of you,” it says. Hugs.

I’m not mad at love notes between girlfriends. No one else understands my career, love and family options better. I can’t help, however, but view the current fawning over Slaughter’s revelations as yet another pass given to the musings of one of the nation’s super elite women. They get the platform, a bullhorn, a standing army of microphones and zero critical resistance–especially if opining on “safe” women’s issues. Low expectations are at work on Olympus but here comes a reality check from the cheap seats.

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finding the white folks in First Lady Michelle Obama’s family tree

The word ‘rape’ appears four times in the recent NYT article, Meet your Cousin, The First Lady. Even before reading it, my first instinct was to count. Second instinct: get mad. No way a mainstream paper wasn’t going to pretty up sexual encounters between a female slave and her master for their majority white readers; the Times was already pushing it by introducing dark-skinned Michelle–whose image sometimes appears online as a monkey–as a cousin. And higher and faster I laid those bricks for a defensive wall all before even reading the article. I’m making the point of describing my initial reaction because after, I had to check myself.

First, stop expecting (demanding?) that white folks write and feel about slavery (or Jim Crow or the post Civil Rights period for that matter) in exactly the same way as you. That’s impossible given the historic gulf between black and white lives. And second, allow white folks to have their own conversations about race without me stupes-ing from the corner. (A caveat before I proceed,the audience for an article about white folks in a dark-skinned woman’s family tree is white folks. For blacks, that’s as much news as the sky is blue.)

All that to say, despite the criticism, read journalist Rachel Swarns’ article based on American Tapestry, her new book about the dark-skinned Obama-née-Robinson’s ancestors. If the book is like the article, it may help to open up a self-critical conversation about your own prejudices or assumptions. More important than the search for white folks in Obama’s family tree is our modern day reaction to that fact.

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heather mac donald vs weak liberal arguments for stop and frisk reform

Yesterday’s silent Father’s Day march against stop and frisk in New York City was well attended and, if you go by Twitter, life-changing. But if reformers are interested in change they should revisit some of their liberal arguments against the policy that notched 700,000 stops–nearly 90 percent innocent–of residents mainly in minority neighborhoods last year.

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complex magazine celebrates hot bi-racial women day, initiate gag reflex

I don’t know which annoys me more: the notion that we can fuck our way out of racism, or Complex magazine using the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1967 Loving decision to add legitimacy to a hit list of bi-racial chicks. The tragic mulatto’s happy now–ain’t ya heard?

Loving is the civil rights case, named for an interracial married couple, that struck down anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. It’s come into a certain prominence this century as more people tick off multiple race/ethnicity boxes on the Census and because Barack Obama is POTUS. The nasty undercurrent to these metrics of social acceptance however, is that for a certain swath of our society, people of indeterminate parentage are “in”–oddly enough, much like how they used to be, “out.” That these judgments are two sides of the same stank racist coin is apparently lost on Complex editors who’re too busy focusing on the erotic admixture of the African buttocks with the aquiline northern European nose.

The Loving’s would probably die again if they knew what their name was being attached to. Progress. Ain’t it grand.


thoughts on stop and frisk, criminals and the black community

(Photo: Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News)

Big city news this week is that ahead of an upcoming Father’s Day march that will likely be the largest public gathering against stop-and-frisk to date, mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD’s policy this past Sunday at a Brooklyn church. For non-NYC readers, data drives the criticism. Last year’s numbers showing the gap between all stops and guilty stops reflect a decade of growing concern: of roughly 700,000 stops in mainly black and Latino neighborhoods, 90 percent were innocent. I’ve been covering stop and frisk since last fall and while Bloomberg’s address was the news hook, a more inconspicuous quote–one typical of how race talk can undermine both the pro and con stop and frisk positions–caught my eye. The church’s pastor, pointing out that it is wrong that so many of those stopped are black, says,

“We’re not the only ones carrying guns.”

That’s a curious construction, “we,” as I’m willing to bet that 90-year-old Bishop A.D. Lyons’ weapon of choice is a Bible, not a Glock.

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