August 2007


So I wrote this whole Friday Five post whining about various things and I thought, phneffft.  Geez, even my problems are not interesting.  Seriously, who wants to hear me whine?

 Can you smell that whiff of self-pity?  Stinks, doesn’t it?  Pee-yuu.  Get a grip on yourself woman!

The last few days BB, a few days shy of entering kindergarten, has expressed interest in “talking cool” and “looking cool”.   I’m not sure where it came from, but what’s really funny is he has been asking mr. jolt and I “how to talk cool” and “how to look cool” – oh, the poor child, little does he know that one’s parents are never cool.

Because we the ‘rents are not up on the current slang, we referred him to one of his favorite shows – Kim Possible, which uses some self-referential slang that is not overly annoying.  BB’s current idea of what looks cool: purple toenail polish, and polish on the thumbs (ok, he wanted all 10 fingers and this was my compromise).  He also likes to wear his soccer socks pulled all the way up so they look like leggings underneath his soccer shorts.  And he wants a mohawk.   mr. jolt and I are still thinking about it – I figure that since school photos aren’t taken until spring, what’s the harm?  Besides, I think it might offset the potentially negative reaction he might get for the nail polish.

LB has really been acting out at bedtime lately and it’s incredibly frustrating because I like the end of the day, the last moments before we say good night, to be nice.  It may be too much for them to be calm, but tantrum free would be lovely.

Anyway, after mr. jolt had a short battle with LB, he came into BB’s room where BB and I were reading a book.  “LB is being such a twerp!” he exclaimed.

BB asked, “What’s a twerp?”

“Twerp is uh, someone being irritating. Twerp. T-W-I-R-P,” said mr. jolt.

“No, it’s T-W-E-R-P.” I replied.

Hot debate ensued.  I have since consulted dictionary.com and both versions are accepted, although t-w-i-r-p is described as a variant of twerp.  I think that means I win by a nose.  Disturbingly though, twerp is described as someone worthy of contempt, which is certainly a far harsher description than what I’ve usually used it for (and obviously far harsher than what mr. jolt meant under the circumstances).

All I can say is the kid can be very stubborn. 

The NYT had an interesting article in the Sunday magazine a few weeks back, “Family Leave Values” by Eyal Press (probably behind the wall, e-mail if you want the text)- exploring the question of whether workers have the right to care for their families and discussing a new type of work discrimination lawsuit.  The examples cited in the article are pretty extreme, and obviously extreme cases can make the best groundbreakers for a new area of law.  While strong facts don’t always make good law, strong facts can support pushing the envelope on the law.

Anyway, some of the examples are the story of a woman who was pregnant and had a very premature birth.  She talked to her employer over the phone about her need for time off due to the delicate condition of her preemie, everything seemed to be fine, but a few weeks later she found out during the refinancing of her home that she’d been fired.  The employer hadn’t even told her; the bank found out when checking her financial statements (i.e. salary). In another instance, a man asked his employer for thirty days off, available to primary caregivers under Maryland law.  He was told that unless his wife was in a coma or dead “you can’t be a primary care provider.”

One attorney and law professor, Joan Williams, describes the recent flood of lawsuits a result of the pressures as follows:

Williams has been racing across the country giving such speeches since 2000, the year her book “Unbending Gender” appeared. In the book, which set in motion the legal trend that now consumes much of her time, Williams argued that the growing tension between work and family was not simply a product of economic necessity. It stemmed, rather, from a marketplace structured around an increasingly outdated masculine norm: the “ideal worker” who can work full time for an entire career while enjoying “immunity from family work.” At a time when both adults in most families had come to participate in the labor force, Williams argued that this standard was unrealistic, especially for women, who remained the primary caregivers in most households.  

The article also highlights some of the extreme differences between the benefits given parents here in the U.S. and in Europe.  I do agree with the attorneys and advocates quoted in the article, though, that these lawsuits are at best a hatchet on a problem that would be better served with a more precision tool.  Lawsuits are not the best way to try and create public policy.  But they can serve as impetus for better public policy.   And there’s nothing like a million dollar verdict to catch some attention on a problem.

In my mind, some of the problem stems from the traditional undervaluing of care-taking.  It’s considered women’s work and whether or not the woman is working outside the home, there isn’t a lot of support for the time, effort, and patience (oh, god, the patience) it can take.  This plays out in reverse fashion for men who want or need to caretake for their children, partner, etc. 

And the men being faced with this in the workplace may, in fact, be the best plaintiffs.  Many of the biggest strides in gender equality in law in the 70s and 80s were made when advocates found sexist laws, intended to ‘benefit and protect’ women, were in fact harming men (i.e. widow pension benefits higher than widower benefits harming a single widowed dad, etc).  Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a nimble and savvy advocate and won many cases using this technique.  Perhaps the same will be true here.  We can hope.

And the right to caretake does not just involve parents.  That’s why I’m somewhat hopeful that this can be a rallying point across that line that sometimes separates parents and non-parents.  Whether or not you have kids, it is highly likely that at some point in your life you will have caretaking responsibilities, whether for a partner or an elderly or sick relative.

What’s clever is that the cases can be framed as not “just” discrimination cases, but as family values cases, which expands their political appeal if the issue can be pulled into the legislature to act on.

In my view, these types of cutting-edge cases can serve as canaries in the coal  mine, a sign that the system we have now of it being company v. employee as opposed to companies working with employees is simply not working.  I’d like to see the hatchet of litigation exchanged for a thread and needle of carefully crafted legislation to increase worker’s caretaking rights.

If in a contract you wish to require that all communications or notices between the parties will be valid only if “sent to the address for each party as indicated above”, it is a good idea to actually include the addresses of each party above the paragraph imposing that condition.

There are days when my job is more exciting than this.  Today was not one of those days.

So I was reading this post at this blog (so happy to have found it and I added it to the blogroll) and wondering why the types of verbal assaults that dizzy describes, such as that or this type of stuff, doesn’t happen to me more often.

No, seriously, I’m not looking for trouble, but I’m wondering if I have sunk so far into the muck of settled parenthood, getting along to go along with the dominant paradigm of working-outside-the-home-momhood and trying to get through the day with the shreds of my sanity intact that I’m only noticing 5% of the insulting things that happen to me on a regular basis.  And what happened to my anger?  I’d like to have it back.  It’s exhausting being angry all the time, but it’s exhilirating, too.  

I have definitely experienced all sorts of verbal harrasment, but not as frequently as I used to.   It may be that years of suffering these unwarranted intrusions have made me oblivious a lot of the time, worn down from the constant onslaught.  But I think it’s also that now I am in my late 30s I have moved from “potentially fuckable and thus subject to any and all pestering that any idiot male chooses to provide” to “eh, not old, but why bother.”

Part of me is really enjoying this slide into the invisibility of females over 35.  Part of me is just pissed off.  Look, I don’t need the hassle, but when even the lack  of hassle pulls you into the swirl of the patriarchy and assigns you your rank therein, it’s annoying as hell.

There’s just no escape from the assholes.

Why is it that I can bang out a five part (each with two or three subparts) legal argument with maybe a little tinkering and re-arranging for flow on re-read, but when it comes to explaining why something pisses me off I get incoherent and spluttery and do no more than type out some version of “so you’re all assholes and patriarchy sucks.” 

Where oh where does my little wit go, once the anger starts to flow?

Suggestions on how to increase coherence and effectiveness in communicating rage would be greatly appreciated.

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