Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Opt-out Revolution vs the MothersMovement.Org

Feminism failed? No that's not the implication of the Opt-Out Revolution. Corporate-parity feminism failed, is the implication. Remember all those variations of feminism that feminists claim are under the feminism umbrella? Let's be honest. Corporate-parity feminism did fail. If we can get past this mental block to dealing with the reality at hand, we may have a chance of preventing the whole liberation movement from going under.

The perpetually suggests the need to discuss -- although Judith Stadtman Tucker means 'debunk' -- the Opt-out revolution, so let's accept the invitation to dialog on the topic.

To begin, I should at once illustrate how empty are the promised 'intelligent commentaries', 'shrewd summations', and 'editorial deconstructions' which Tucker's opening article suggests were demolishing the NYT article by Louise Story.

Cupaiuolo's article at Ms, shrewd? The sum total of Christine's summation was 1) that the Story article was about wealthy women's choices -- which is not that amazing a conclusion given the title of the article as well as the content was about Ivy League women -- and 2) that the media doesn't focus much on the major problems of women attempting to pursue a career and motherhood so she added her own personal wishlist to the summation. Why doesn't she just say that this implies that corporate-parity feminism failed, and face it? That's the reason for the blinders on media focus that Tucker and Cupaiuolo both acknowledge. We've got to come to grips with our fears of failure.

And Jack Shafer's deconstruction at Slate is totally pathetic. First he makes an enormous issue of Story's choice of a predominately verbal characterization of her survey results rather than a more numerical presentation -- which lack of specificity he demonizes as 'weasel-words' -- then he writes a followup article to correct the factual errors in his original baseless assumptions about the writer and goes on to now criticize Story's occasional use of numeric specificity so that he can now demonize the survey as weak and not justifying holy numbers. What's his solution? Use another weasel word! But to top off that disastrous attack, someone clued him into a similar NYT article written in 1980 so he reports that he's located one of the women quoted in that article and crows that she feels she was misinterpreted then, that she was highly career oriented. But this actually adds proof to Story's contention without acknowleging that fact. By demonstrating that the interviewee in 1980 was more gung ho than today's group though she apparently said somewhat similar things to be misinterpreted in the article, is in fact adding 'one more anecdote' to show that today's group were 'more realistic' while still saying those sorts of similar things -- which it may be pointed out were confirmed as to the interpretation for this generation's intentions by Story doublechecking the survey's phrasing and comparing results. One might wonder whose side Jack was really on.

When those two promised rebuttals ended up supporting Story, I was beginning to doubt my excitement at finding a mothers' movement. You see, I've been promoting the opt-out concept for several years and experimenting in strategies with more effectiveness than I see around us. Working from the perspective of a mathematical decision analyst, I view the mothers' movement as the key to leveraging our collective future, provided we can recognize the real entanglement we're in. Fortunately entanglements are a mathematician's playtoy.

Although disagreement is the reason for dialog, we have also some fundamental common perceptions. For example, the observation that the 'organization of work' is totally ignored as the primary factor seems to me to be precisely on target. Let's keep that factor in focus.

Back when I entered the career world of the 1970s with my PhD in math in hand, there was an article in Ms that described a young mother, corporate lawyer in the investment world, who took her infant to the office along with the nanny. We had visions of those adjustments, those perks we wanted in order to maintain our connection to our children while being productive. Different perks than the ones that favored men's productivity but no more unjustifiable. If corporate-parity feminism had prevailed, would we have pursued our leadership goals like Winona LaDuke whose mother accompanied her on the Green Party's VP campaign trail in 2000 so that Winona could have her baby with her? But Winona is anti-corporate, an independent. We, who worked the corporate side, don't come anywhere close to that, after 30 years of corporate game playing. The handwriting is on the wall, just some women refuse to see it.

And we're in full agreement with Tucker about the impossibility of 'involved family life while devoting 60 to 80 hours a week to climbing the career ladder.' The 'maternal wall' as Tucker put it is real but the crux of the problem is more complex and depends on understanding the reason for the work week.

The corporate leadership has been groomed for the greed olympics and they are determined to keep women out. Our entire system of wealth is based on excessive consuming, the more we can be driven to consume the greater the apparent wealth. Not real wealth, of course, because this greed devours our infrastructure and progressively leaves our national treasure in quality of life ever more debased. But for media purposes, the appearance of wealth is convincing. And because corporate needs also buy research as well as political clout, the academy and the government both support and depend on greed's success. But even with this re-inforcement, the helm must be guided by a relentless vision sustaining this agenda or risk running aground or collapse. To perpetuate this wealth-generating process requires a stream of suitable leadership, namely individuals who willingly sell their lives, families, and souls for access to the top. To identify and groom that stream, top management has creatively developed an invinceable and unrecognized strategy, using ambitious women as pawns in the game.

Women, especially as caregivers and mothers, are viewed with suspicion anyway in the greed game and are openly discriminated against at top levels, dismissing Title VII as insupportable in such crucial areas as require CEO's undivided attention, lest profit for shareholders be compromised by distraction. Priorities for profit over parity are claimed justified, according to surveys of senior management done by Harlan and Weiss, sometime around 1998, when it was announced at a women's studies conference I was attending at my former alma mater.

To complete the leadership training and mobilize the process of blocking women's entry to the boardroom, a small number of ambitious young women are promoted earlier than their male peers, creating the appearance of favoring women when in reality they have made them, and any like them, targets of jealousy. In the book Why Men Earn More, there is an interesting statistic that confirms the pattern of this ploy. According to the author -- one Warren Farrell, PhD -- of the top women executives 21% are under 40, but of the top male executives, only 1% are under 40. Yes, I'm aware the author is using his data to justify and sanctify corporate human resource practices and either doesn't realize he's given away the game or else figures his spin can handle this tidbit that he finds useful for his ploys. We however are entitled to recognize that this tactic accounts for the abrupt isolation promising women have reported in their description of the glass ceilings, when prior to that invisible ceiling, inclusive team playing had been the pattern. Having thus isolated the more aggressive women from team playing, and sparked the ruthless competition, the rest are easily dealt with by the remaining dynamics. At that point the natural propensity in games, where servile competition for favor is the driving force, takes over making it easy to groom the males most willing to serve greed's agenda with 60-80 hour weeks.

Having seen the nature of the beast's game and knowing where the beast is driving us as a society, it should be apparent that corporate-parity feminism is a lost cause and the Opt-Out Revolution is our only ace in the hole. For the sake of family and women's liberation, we must focus on re-claiming and re-engineering the home to serve as our base of strength. Having done that we can provide re-inforcement for husbands who choose not to be made servile and thus stem the debasing of our national infrastructure and our quality of life.

What is newsworthy about these NYT surveys -- Belkin's and Story's -- is that there's been so little progress after more than a generation. Tucker's saying that four years of college results in more college women remaining in the workforce than women with less-than-college indoctrination only means that more education makes us more vulnerable to corporate ploys and less resistant to powering their blueprints, and *that* certainly merits stepping up the discussion of finding alternate leadership and strategies. Today's young women have been abused by the current women leaders in academia, who advised women students to pursue advanced degrees in areas where these 'leaders' knew the market for degrees was dwindling, figuring they could argue that the expanded pool of women in their specialties justified the promotion of more women academicians, namely themseslves. Using these young women as cannon fodder in the academicians' battles with university administrations is downright immoral, a clear indication of strategies of the impotent.

In order for the women's movement, in particular the mothers' segment to pull off the changes we need we must, right now, deal with some of the mind-viruses that corporate-agenda feminism has slipped into our midst, particularly in the politically ever-present 'accolades' to caregiving as not really bad for 'smart women'.

Tucker must stop the backhanded belittling of at-home motherhood and of spending time with children. I'm sure it's not intentional but this supposed need to acknowledge "menial and mind-numbing" as aspects of care-giving is so unfair. There are menial and mind-numbing chores in any profession, whether it's architecture or system design or law or medicine or real estate or for that matter, horticulture. Why is it de rigeur to label this as a deficiency of at-home motherhood? Properly done, when we settle our focus to those repetitive periods in the workflow, we find they are an amazing opportunity for creative machinations, from looking at problems from different angles to recognizing patterns, which Asian philosophies such as zen have always known.

On the other hand, we should acknowledge that the design of the conventional house, or apartment, is unsuitable for infants, for the elderly and for pets, with kitchen and cleaning and maintenance barely one step removed from frivolous waste and multitudes of servants, merely shrunken in size. And almost never suitable for the productive upheaval of creative endeavors. Complete system redesign is required for the current housing supply, yet women are expected to submit to this imposition and we allow these spaces to inhibit our creative management. Motherhood is not the problem, women's reluctance to wield hammer, saw, screwdriver and wrench is the pressing difficulty.

I'm however puzzled by why Tucker thinks she can claim that it should be a pressing problem that all sorts of economic and social factors need to be dealt with in order for a woman to succeed in arranging time with her child. This problem is ordinary to any species, not just messed up homo sapiens. That some neighborhoods are unsuitable for habitation by anyone is a problem, but not a motherhood problem. The fact that a disproportionate number of mothers appear on poverty lists is a problem of the advice women are given, not a motherhood problem.

Nor is it logical for Tucker to conclude that these young women opting-out in the survey are unaware that you can't be the best father and the best brass-ring pursuer at the same time merely because they recognize it in women. It didn't seem that the survey was structured to determine whether this connection had been made or even whether there was some perceived relativity in the importance of the roles. There are no points awarded fairly to those who claim the young women in the survey said things they never did. Tucker scores no points for this one either.

Although many of Tucker's assertions on conditions are accurate --
    -mothers have made no real inroads into power positions,
    -women have added heaps of academic credentials to their resumes,
    -prestigeous degrees are irrelevant to effective leadership,
    -cronyism is rampant in our US hierarchy with resulting demonstrations of 'deplorable performance' --,
Tucker's segment on solutions is however limited to occidentalism. In oriental martial arts, it is not necessarily the biggest and most powerful who can win the contests. Let's rethink the balance of economic energies and protected motions, recognizing that leadership is not limited to the powerful elite. There are strategies we can pursue that use the power elite's force against themselves. We need to recognize our strengths, re-build our base, and draw in our natural allies for mutual protection, while maintaining our vision of motherhood as primary.

We can and should cease channelling energy into frustrating exercises that corporate-parity women get into when they marry, squabbling over who should get to play brass-ring pursuer, because our goal is now for neither to be. By calmly staying on target you can avoid the running in illogical circles inherent in the debasing of caregiving roles. Otherwise you flip-flop, like Tucker, from accusing these young women of duping their intended husbands -- suggesting that their young men should complain about having to conform to the ideal worker regimen to support a wife -- to the equally undesirable accusation of being duped themselves -- the young men will be big reapers, presumeably at the young women's expense? Let's try to keep our vision straight here, we're all being led in circles for the benefit of the greedy. Let's stop allowing them to play us against one another. The only real target worth our efforts is undoing the seduction of the greedy.

But we must also not allow those who lead, or are led, in those circles to make our strategies and control our voices. In one of Tucker's positions, they have misled Tucker as well. Reconsider the following segment of Tucker's article.
      "A single-minded determination to claw one's way to the top may be tolerated in childless women, but in mothers that kind of thing is still viewed as an aberration -- and a blight on their children's futures. A University of Pennsylvania freshman quoted by the Times remarked, "I've seen the difference between kids who did have their mothers stay at home and kids who didn't, and it's kind of an obvious difference when you look at it." Well, no, it isn't, not after age four or so -- and studies show the behavioral variations of young children who spend more than 30 hours a week in day care fall well within the normal range of development. So what's going on here?"
Unfortunately the young woman is right, the difference is one of the noxious compromises corporate-parity feminists have made in "truth in research". Even before Belsky's research demonstrated that children subjected to more than halfday daycare exhibited significantly more violent aggression toward peers and toward their mothers, this charade by feminists in child psychology that daycare was producing academically and socially advanced children was in force, concealing the reality of their actual results under a twisted world of spin. How utterly despiccable to sacrifice children's wellbeing for 'the cause' of parity. That's "what's going on here". Tucker's confusion is palpable. So now they've conjured this subterfuge of focussing on age four and older, when children have learned to better conceal their feelings. "Behavioral variations", my foot. Tucker, nor the feminist researchers dare to name it. Significant differences in violent aggression is not *just* a behavioral variation. This is babies' anguish and anger. Nor does concealment mean it's gone, what explains the explosive violence against peers we see in places like Columbine. And more subtly but still ultimately destructive and painful, what explains the difficulty of our children's generation in intimacy skills, in forming families of their own, and the animosity between generations -- all these were differences identified by Israeli researchers comparing daycare children, now grown up, to their home cared peers. Don't let corporate-parity feminists in child psychology draw you into their fraud, driving you with embarassment over corporate-feminists' errors and hiding behind this latest coverup.

So how much is 'single-minded determination' in mothers the problem, and how much is immoral concealment by feminist researchers of the damages of daycare the problem? Those researchers actually showed that the women most satisfied with their daycare service were the women who knew the least about those arrangements and were least involved in them. The researchers spun that as 'enlightenment' on the part of those mothers in achieving freedom. (Children at Home and in Daycare by Clarke-Stewart, Gruber and Fitzgerald, all major spindoctors). That is not my idea of 'ensuring their children receive quality care' as Tucker defined mothering in her opening sentiments. That kind of 'clawing their way to the top' is more than a blight on their children's futures, and the vocal opposition is not *hyperparenting* because any definition of *normal* that describes violent aggression against peers as *behavior variations* is a reprehensible perversion of motherhood. I suggest Tucker reconsider hyperparenting as the natural normal because the corporate-parity feminists' definition is based on lies, as are the solemn declarations of the current elite in government in the service of the 'New American Century' cause.

Beware, too, of other related mind viruses that are perversions of motherhood, this time in the service of concealing the nature of corporate intentions. Corporations have little to gain in diverting women from their former 'smidgen of social power' but a great deal to gain in masquerading as mother-corporate, expert in best practices, claiming our trust. But as Tucker seems to suspect, this is surely a ruse.

Mothering adopted by corporations? In the face of downsizing, how can anyone even grant that idea credibility? What motherhood example is summoned by corporations abandoning their employees here to move operations in order to take advantage of cheaper labor and less environmental infrastructure regulation in some under-developed country? Oh yeah, the feminist-psychologically-researched-normal mother, clawing her way to the top. That's not motherhood, that's simply velvet gloves over an iron fist.

Tucker is rightly leery of something unsavory in the appearance of 'mothering' in corporate best practices, though for the wrong reason. Yet even that tangent reveals clear evidence that Tucker has succumbed to the errors in the corporate-parity feminists' perversion of motherhood.

I object to the dissociation of excellence and motherhood. Tucker's claim is untrue that it is merely an unfortunate complication of the infusion of mothering concepts into corporate shellgames, that these young women with elite opportunities would confuse mothering and the pursuit of excellence. Why shouldn't motherhood be entirely compatible with the desire to excel? Where's the confusion? Somehow the corporate-parity version of motherhood has again displaced the real thing, diminishing it to insignificance and menial tasks and all the rest of the unfair slurs about mind-numbing. There's the confusing twist.

Like the women who reformed public health in the early part of the last century, the corporate parity scheme has been stifled by thinking that women can make progress from positions within the structure. All the significant progress in public health reforms, which by the way occurred due to women's activism, occurred before women were offered inside positions in government. Ask women's historians. Once inside, the rate of progress stalled. We must reclaim our positions in the home, with determination, with new skills, with a clear vision of the playing field. There's the way to leveraging the changes in lifestyle that are needed, not the shellgames of one dime per generation.

Inching our way forward was the sort of thinking exhibited by the immoral generals on the western front in WWI. In the name of their futile strategies they sacrificed young men's lives as cannon fodder. This same immoral use of the younger generation to throw their lives at insurmountable difficulties for lack of a better plan is why feminists outside the corporate-parity agenda should pull the rug out from under the parity leaders. This generation is rightfully exhibiting a sense of the need for more flexibility and less trust of corporate parity dogma.

Tucker's favored disbelievers of this trend, which was correctly observed by Story, show an amazing lack of attention to the time variable. For example, Tucker's proposed time frame on the trend needs rethinking: the young women's mothers were also career women and as such their college attitudes were more than 25-30 years ago, not 10-20. Please, these were not teenage mothers.

But then Tucker's favored numbers slip in the other direction in the use of Hoffnung's work. That research is timewise irrelevant to critiquing Story's conclusion since Story's timeframe reaches 5-10 years *further* back than 1985's college students. No overlap, no cigar. Story's timeframe is closer to my cohort, described earlier as envisioning our children with us.

But think about Hoffnung's research on its own merits. What she's saying again amounts to the fact that corporate-parity feminism has failed. There has been no appreciable change in the conversion of college aged women into the likes of career-first women in a full 20 years of social 'change', one whole percentage point. Career-first will never fly.

But enough analysing of losing strategies. Forget Tucker grasping at academic straws about intersections and narratives and gender. That's just one more losing strategy. If Tucker intends to wait on the academic world for serious consideration of bringing equal power to women, Tucker is in for a long wait because academics are notorious for avoiding activism. Recall the connection between corporate money and research that drives the administration. That 'little' connection is why it's unhealthy for one's research to be "advocacy driven", the term used to restrain action and deny tenure to those who dare to consider activism, by diminishing the merit of advocacy topics and results as being temporary and ephemeral, as opposed to classic, worthy and valuable for credibility, promotion and tenure.

The Opt-Out Revolution is the answer that brings us equal power, if we're smart enough to make it work. Having been experimenting in its strategies for several years now, I believe it's potent, not some flaccid plan for progress in inches. Add them up, total housing redesign, multigenerational alliances, homebased businesses, sustainable consumption, appropriate technology, minimizing governance, natural medicine, progressively self-insuring independence, and unschooling. The pieces can be fitted together into a quality, satisfying lifestyle if you take your time, figure, then refigure your safety net, and gradually take your steps to opt-out and build your better future. And no, based on our results, I don't believe it's a strategy only for the elite wonder girls. Dialog is begun.

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