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Posts Tagged ‘Sonia Sotomayor’

So. How’s this for ridiculous? One of the most life-changing, loaded, and deeply personal choices a woman can face is that over whether or not to have children. Rather than listing them, let’s just acknowledge that the pros and cons could go on forever. Let’s also acknowledge that one of the most significant cons of having children might be the impact on a woman’s career; moms with young children are often passed over for promotions, while childless women of childbearing age are often passed over as well, on the grounds that they’ll likely have children soon. Despite the fact that fathers’ roles have begun to change as they’ve become more involved in child-rearing, work-life balance is still considered a women’s issue. And yet. A recent study by Lancaster University prof Dr. Caroline Gatrell found that some employers see their female employees who don’t want children as wanting in some “essential humanity,” and view them as

“cold, odd and somehow emotionally deficient in an almost dangerous way that leads to them being excluded from promotions that would place them in charge of others.”

Wow. It’s enough to make me think conspiracy.

It also makes me think of Barbara’s post from yesterday, about the obnoxious way in which Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was condescended to, and the equally obnoxious critiques Surgeon General nom Regina Benjamin has had to endure regarding her weight. But this is not a rant, I promise. Because the thing that strikes me about all of it has to do with choices, and why women in particular find them so difficult. I think often, when deep in the throes of a which-way-should-I-go, part of the angst is the knowledge that, no matter which way we go, we will be judged. In all sorts of ways. We’re judged in ways that men aren’t, and in ways that are often contradictory. And, the damnedest truth of all, we often do it to each other. But we can’t just take our ball (or lack of same) and go home — nor should we. So the question becomes, what do we do?

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imagesYou have to wonder if Nancy Drew was the first feminist role model for generations of young women.

She was smart, brave, confident: the leader of her pack who scooted around town to scary places — at night, no less — in her very own roadster, convertible top down, with sidekicks Bess and George, and sometimes asexual boyfriend Ned, all letting her call the shots.

And in the end, our Nancy always figured it out.

Apparently prompted by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s admission that she devoured Nancy Drew books as a child, Sunday’s New York Times featured a piece by Jan Hoffman who listed a Who’s Who of confident , accomplished and prominent women in their 40s, 50s and beyond who grew up with Nancy by their side: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Diane Sawyer, Laura Bush, Nancies Grace and Pelosi, and former ground-breaking Congresswoman Pat Shroeder, who was given a stack of Nancy Drew books after she failed Home Ec:

“I needed Nancy Drew,” said Ms. Schroeder. “She was smart and she didn’t have to hide it! She showed me there was another way to live,” added Ms. Schroeder, who would earn her pilot’s license at 15, and become a feminist politician from Colorado. For women like Ms. Schroeder and Judge Sotomayor, the acquisition of the books is central to their Nancy Drew narratives.

Clearly, as Hoffman suggests, Nancy Drew was an inspiration for many of us who came of age in pre-feminist times, supplying through fiction what we couldn’t find in real life. She made life — and choices — seem easy. And possible.

Of course the books were thoroughly unrealistic. Probably even silly. Certainly Nancy led the unexamined life. And, the ultimate deception, Nancy was created by a man. (Yes, Virginia, there is no Carolyn Keene.)

And yet. You have to wonder if the beauty of identifying with Nancy (as opposed to, say, Barbie) when you are young and impressionable is that, somehow, a lesson sticks: Maybe choices are easier when you’ve grown up believing in your own resilience, trusting that you can follow your gut wherever it leads, without second guessing, because in the end — somewhere around page 224 — things always work out.

For the record, I read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on when I was a kid, and still have a box of them out in our garage. Right next to my red roadster.

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