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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ariela Migdal on Feminism

Ariela Migdal writes in on feminism and legal academia:

So, how many male law grads are planning on dropping out of the workforce to be fathers and giving their children their wives' last names? For that matter, I'd be interested to know answers to the following (admittedly indulging in the feminism of the elite & overeducated):

How many of the young profs around here are men? How many are married (or in long-term hetero relationships)?  How many of the married men's wives followed them to places like Indiana or Georgia so that they could pursue their careers as hotshot profs? And, how many of the women profs here are married and have found a (male) partner willing to shlep around the country to facilitate their careers as hotshot "prawfesses"? Are there prof couples? Whose career wins (unless you both got tenure-track jobs at Columbia and Fordham at the same time)? Just curious....

I think the lady deserves answers.  As for me, part of why I chose a career in academia is precisely so that I could also devote much of my time to non-career, family-related activities.  And I suspect many men are attracted to the profession for that reason. 

My wife was very interested in leaving New York--and had a lot of input into where we chose to go: she has many more friends in San Francisco than I do.  On the other hand, if I had only gotten a job in Buffalo, she was willing to go with me (reserving the right to force me to leave the job or the profession if she got too miserable at any point down the road).  She kept her last name (though I admit that I insisted on it and threatened to change mine if she tried to adopt my name).  And if we have kids that aren't adopted in their teens (who would already have last names of their own), we are likely to give some of them my name and some of them hers.  At least that is the plan now.  Of course, her name is really her father's--but we have to start somewhere, right?

I confess that I'm very interested in what others have to say about this.  As you all know, this is a very White Male blawg, as so many are: e.g., Solum/Leiter/Bainbridge/VC (for the most part)/Right Coast (for the most part)/etc.  There are exceptions, of course.  Affirmative action anyone?

Dissemination had a debate about the naming issue here.

Posted by Ethan Leib on April 14, 2005 at 10:16 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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» Feminism and the Two-Body Problem from Letters of Marque
Over on Prawfsblawg, a blog of "young legal turkeys" that I might get around to adding to my blog roll when I stop being so darned lazy, they're talking about something that Ariela Migdal called "feminism and legal academia" and... [Read More]

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» Academics in Love from Discourse.net
PrawfsBlawg takes up a subject near and dear to my heart: job searches by legal academic couples. Or does it? The post is titled Ariela Migdal on Feminism and the comments veer in all sorts of directions…. Once upon a time it was next to impossib... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 8:05:01 AM

» Young Law Profs in Love from Red State Lawblog
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Ethan Leib responds to a feminist challenge to young male profs by providing his vita as a properly-gender-correct husband and father: [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 10:57:14 AM

» White Blawgs and Women in the Academy. from Dissemination.org
Interesting discussion on PrawfsBlawg (I know the name blows) on White Male Blawgs and Women in the Legal Academy here. The post that sparked this debate is here. I would urge interested readers to get in on the discussion there, which has generated so... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 15, 2005 2:37:31 PM


I'd like to respond to a few points, but will keep responses in separate posts so as not to run on interminably (hope that is not a problem).

Brian Leiter:
Actually, I find it rather significant that you ARE a white male (even if not of the political persuasion of Bainbridge et al.). Your blog reveals a deep-seated interest in, how shall I put it, the stats of academic legal hiring: who was hired where, what their law school affiliations are, how many have PhDs or other degrees, and so forth. It's like reading the Sons of Sam Horn page for rabid Red Sox fans (myself included, I confess): fascinating, if you really care about such stuff.

I don't mean that as an indictment, ok? I do think, however, that it is a huge predisposition in many males (how many women track stats on a regular, labor-intensive basis?); but it's one that perhaps we females should take note of, if not outright adopt. We should care about the numbers; and we should wield our stats when lobbying for change. Moreover, we should know the incontrovertible evidence of hiring patterns for our own sense of where we stand in the marketplace. (That just seems obvious - but not to everyone, I believe.)

Most academic women don't, from what I can see (and admittedly this is very limited/subjective anecdata), think carefully about the strategy of hiring, from the kind of calculated vantage that would get the stats on our side: for e.g., bartering an acceptance at one law review for a higher ranked one; fighting to be on panels in our field; maybe joining blogs with high hit rates, so our names become visible and recognizable (if Postrel and Althouse can do it, so can many more); etc. The old adage about a woman having to be twice as good as a man may, unnervingly (to some of us), still hold water. But there are more opportunities for us to do something about that - and I think you would agree.

I think your site does offer us a service, Brian. But it should also teach us a lesson in the savvy of many males in the academic world (ok, the "white" part may be tangential, but there just isn't a critical mass of we people of color even to be able to add that to the conversation, in my view). Volokh and Lessig, among others you name, are recognized as standing for something - and I bet that has some bearing on their reception, credibility, and standing in the legal world. You, too, have an important position, in part by virtue of your being a man who has a firm grip (and the only major one) on the ins and outs of legal academia. Women would do well to emulate your positioning; and I, for one, am trying to take the lesson to heart...

I like what you wrote, but while I am a fan of affirmative action at certain levels, I think at the academic hiring level we women (especially of color, perhaps) have to figure this stuff out. When you get to be as privileged and elite as we are (and no, I don't put those in scare quotes, as I really mean we are), we do for the most part have great choices before us. I think that's it's our job to figure out what those choices allow us, and then to plan how to get there.

Obviously, innate unfairnesses in the system may continue to thwart womens' progress. That should be challenged at every step. But it's about time we women assert our places in the professional sector by fighting to "measure up" to the men who have clearly figured it out.

Nothing I say is intended to undermine your excellent arguments, however. Men and male-dominated institutions have a key role in changing the hiring patterns, especially in the cases of women who have lined up their qualifications and are productive/contributing members of the academic community.

I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts/comments.

Posted by: Tiger | Apr 20, 2005 7:20:13 PM

Just to play AA2's advocate here (and yes, we are different corporate entites), Rob:

Everyone has family and loved ones to take care of. People with kids have more family and loved ones. So if you cater to them, you are necessarily preferencing them over those who do not have kids. That is, a childless person may have to tend to her partner should she become ill; but a spouse with a child may have to tend to her sick spouse AND her sick child.

So even your proposal still preferences employees with children, assuming it starts with their time demands as the starting point for determining policy.

I think there is little doubt that employers frequently cater to people with children. If I take paternity leave, someone else must pick up the slack; and the only person who will never take 'ternity leave is the childless employee.

I have heard one rationale for such preferential treatment: people with children tend to be more stable employees. That is, it is less likely that I am going to up and leave my job than my single co-worker in the cubicle next door. So my employer has to keep me happy. This, however, only gets you so far, and it depends on the particular job.

I think the real answer is this: most people do have, or plan to have, children. Employers must keep most of their employees happy. They must keep their employees happy, and thus they must cater--to some degree--to people with children.

So, in the end, if the people with children continue to make these demands, and if it is economically feasible, then employers will have to meet them.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 15, 2005 4:38:18 PM

This is a response to AA2.

I think that "family-friendliness" needs to be defined broadly--it should include not only consideration of the adjustments needed in people's professional lives for taking care of their children, but also for example situations where their partner might have a prolonged illness or other unusual needs, or where they are under special demands due to relatives or even non-relatives in some cases being dependent on them for caretaking. I would only be resentful of concessions to "procreating types" if those concessions were not extended to others who have analagous personal responsibilities and demands.

Posted by: rob howse | Apr 15, 2005 4:29:52 PM

I have an odd question. To what extent, if any, should we realize that this discussion is motivated by a bias in favor of persons or couples that raise children. I initially was going to say there's a heterosexist bias in the discussion: namely, that giving women special maternity rights (or men paternity rights) basically is a wealth transfer on the margins from gays on faculties to straights. Of course, nowadays, increasing gay families are emerging, so there's no need to assume a heterosexual bias for procreation and raising kids, so much as a bias for raising kids simpliciter. Should singles or couples who don't want kids be resentful of the suggestions here to give longer times or more leaves to the procreating types?
Or is a renunciation of "family-friendliness" something that is off the table altogether here?

Posted by: AA2 | Apr 15, 2005 12:45:29 PM

I teach at a top-tier law school that is considered to be (and really is) extremely family friendly: we do our best to make accommodate joint career couples, there are lots of faculty with young children, and on the whole people are warm and supportive to faculty of either gender struggling to balance family and career. That said, I can't help observing that of my many male colleagues with young children (under 6 or so), all but one is married to a stay-at-home mom. Needless to say, every single one of my female colleagues with young children has a husband with a full-time job.

Also unsurprisingly, the men with young children are, on average, somewhat more productive than the women with young children. As a result, they tend to get more recognition and perks.

No question, most women are rational actors and do what they think will be best for them. But they also are forced to make the best of a pretty crappy bargain.

I don't see any easy solution to this structural problem. But here are some things that would sure help:

1) Law schools should redouble their efforts to accommodate joint career couples
2) Law schools should have generous maternity leave policies, but should also grant leaves to men who wish to act as primary caregivers for their babies;
3) While it's inevitable that productivity will continue to matter (and it should), law schools should be somewhat flexible about tenure standards/hiring standards: one might consider "productivity per unit of time truly available" rather than productivity as such. Granted, that's pretty fuzzy-- but it would be nice to see hiring and promotion committees at least build into the process some recognition that people with significant family responsibilities may produce less per year, and that significant family responsibilities usually, though not always, fall more heavily on women.
4) Law schools should stop the idiotic practice of requiring visits prior to making lateral offers. There was a discussion of this on Brian Leiter's blog a while back. It sucks for all two-career couples and particularly for women, who, as Laura notes, find it hard to move around.
5) Law school appointments committees should recognize that people with children (and, again, women in particular) can't hobnob at conferences that much either: who's home with the kids? That means that appointments committess looking at laterals should make a concerted effort to do Lexis searches and find other ways of identifying up-and-coming young people. If you rely on the old "I met an interesting person at a conference who gave a great paper," you'll mainly come up with the names of men.
6) God day care on-site!!! I know some law schools have this. We don't. It would sure have made my life easier.

And, finally, MEN, nothing's gonna change as long as this is seen as a "women's" issue. You need to fight for your wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters... and for YOUR right to stay at home with the kids and spend more time in general on family.

Posted by: femaleprof | Apr 15, 2005 12:28:14 PM

I think that it is important to examine the expectations that women place on themselves with respect to their families.

I recently accepted a fellowship in a far-away city, where it looks like there are few professional opportunities for my very sucessful husband. Our current plan is for me to commute home whenever possible, and frankly that may be our best and only option.

Nonetheless, I can't tell you the guilt I feel about this decision. When we tell people what our living arrangements will be for next year, I've heard a number of not-so-subtle variations of "wow, so you are leaving your husband to pursue your career." Almost no one has asked why my husband is not moving with me. I definitely don't want him to have to put his career on hold so that I can follow my dream, but I also can't help but wonder whether, if the situation were reversed, I would be packing my things to accompany him.

Sorry this comment doesn't really advance the debate. Just thought I'd share :)

Posted by: wanna-teach | Apr 15, 2005 10:53:10 AM

My own experience of legal academia as a career is that is highly demanding both in time and energy. I regularly work 12-13 hour days and on the weekends as well, and I'm travelling 3 times a month on average for professional reasons, which means being away from home often for close to a third of the month. And it isn't as if I'm one of those people who doesn't have other interests--I'd love to be spending some of those "extra" hours writing fiction, and with my wife and dogs.

I don't think my experience is unique, as far as I can see from talking with colleagues, especially junior colleagues. I'm sure that there are folks who don't work so hard, but on the other hand they don't get many of the upsides of being a legal academic in the US, including the chance to make a real difference to the way a field of law is understood and/or taught.

At the same time, legal academia gives you a margin of freedom to organize and balance multiple commitments, to some extent according to your own priorities--for me, that freedom is REALLY important, even if the overall number of hours I work is enormous.


Posted by: Rob Howse | Apr 15, 2005 7:20:56 AM

I'm a young lawyer. Hope to be a prof someday.

I got married just out of law school. My wife and I both hyphenated our names.

My wife followed me to SF (where I clerked) after law school. Now she is starting law school at Minnesota, so I followed her here (let me tell you, moving from San Francisco to Minneapolis was not exactly a dream come true for me).

We have a daughter coming in a couple months. I haven't dropped out of the workforce, but I do work from home, in part so that I can take primary childcare responsibility when she's in school. (Will it work? Who knows...)

Incidentally, we also run a blog together. On women's basketball.

Posted by: ted | Apr 14, 2005 10:37:08 PM

No offense, but while you guys are arguing about personal, deeply-held opinions that aren't likely to change, the country is going to hell. Why can't the left focus on the real bad guys instead of cannibalizing itself?

Posted by: Jeff V. | Apr 14, 2005 10:08:57 PM

If you look at current law faculties right now, including junior faculty, I think it would be fair to say that perhaps 80% of all male professors have families with children, many of them assisted by a wife who works part-time to help care for younger children. Maybe 50% of all female law professors have families with children, and if they do, it is because the women are doing the "second shift" at home. Christine Hurt, you are fortunate that your husband is so supportive of your career; the reality is that legal academia is still the province of men.
Look at this blog--who are the contributors? Male professors (unless I'm undercounting the anonymous contributors). And the original phrase describing this blog, "young turks and turkeys" (which I note has been changed)--if that doesn't signify a male bias, I don't know what does.
I agree there are some great supportive husbands out there in legal academialand, but looking at the academy as a whole, it's much easier to have a family and be a hot young law prof if you're male. Wishes don't make horses, as my grandmother used to say.

Posted by: future femalelawprof | Apr 14, 2005 10:04:42 PM

To Ethan Leib:

Under *no* circumstances should you mix and match your children's last names. Just pick a last name and run with it--either yours, your wife's (which is her father's, as you point out), or a creative combination of the two.

You'll save yourselves (and your children) a lot of needless bother and explaining later on.

Posted by: snowball | Apr 14, 2005 9:52:52 PM

It seems to me that what is always missing in this type of discussion is the possibility that the above-mentioned women are simply rational actors and are pursuing a means to effect their life choices.

If a woman wants to have children and participate in a meaningful way in their upbringing during their formative years, it is very difficult to do and yet still have the financial means to live comfortably. That's a simple fact of economics and that raising a child is a full-time affair.

In choosing to have (or choosing to keep in the event of an unexpected pregnancy) children, a woman is making a choice, in the very same way that she might make the opposite choice to instead pursue a career. Neither choice is any more valid than the other and both have their benefits and their drawbacks.

Choosing a partner who can provide a financial means (or recognizing that having such a partner provides an opportunity) for her to support that choice is therefore rational. To attribute one choice (forgoing a career for a time to have and raise a child) as resulting from "false consciousness" seems entirely paternalistic in the same way attributing the opposite choice (forgoing having and raising a child to build a career) to feminist brain-washing would be.

Women who forego a career (or at least for a time forego a career) are no less rational actors than women who forego a family. Having a spouse/partner who can provide the financial means to facilitate that life decision looks to be not only rational, but choice-affirming. Unless one is arguing that woman are incapable of assessing the cost/benefits of stay-at-home motherhood vs. career, it is difficult to understand how the decision to stay-at-home is anything other than a choice - life is full of them.

Posted by: MJ | Apr 14, 2005 4:56:24 PM

I'm not taking anything personally. As for my cloak of anonymity, let's just say that it was thrown on top of me as I walked out the door. I didn't exactly pick it out at from the closet.

But when you claim that our wives aren't actualized because they choose to stay at home, and that we husbands are actualized because we get to go to work, I think it missed quite a bit of the bigger picture. I'd like a lot more flexibility both for us husbands and for them wives. And I think we are getting there--very, very, very slowly.

So no, it isn't personal at all. We've struggled with everything you say. The little rant about my own family was not to make it personal; but rather to highlight that things under the microscope are more complex than your points would suggest. Principles are easy; applying them to life is what is hard.

I believe I, like many men, walk around with a great deal of guilt for not having more time for our families and for operating within a patriarchical structure. I don't think we are letting ourselves off easy at all; I think we are all facing difficult options, and our choices are limited. All I can hope is that we are getting there, and that we are teaching values to our children even if we can't live up to them ourselves.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 4:26:20 PM

Not sure I really posed a solution anywhere or that I have an easy one that is a cure-all. What I've suggested is that it is a little easy on men to let themselves indulge the fiction that women will be fully actualized as mothers, so that men can be actualized through their work.

And I know it is paternalist to suggest that there may be some false consciousness in the minds of women brought up to assume their primary duties should be as mothers. But since we all agree that inherited cultural norms exert a lot of force on how we adapt our preferences, it seems a bit naive to put on our blinders all in the name of assuming that everyone "truly" wants what they say they want. As we all know, we rarely think we want an option that seems wholly impractical or unimaginable given the way norms are.

I really didn't want to make this personal--because I do respect that people have particular situations that should be respected. So please understand my point as a general one. You hide behind the cloak of anonymity, remember, so shouldn't get to take anything too personally.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Apr 14, 2005 4:08:15 PM

So what, pray tell, is your solution: that I rip the child from the breast and order the wife back to work? That'll teach the little buggers the right lesson: daddy and Ethan know what's best for mommy.

I'm not defending the patriarchical society in which we live. I'm simply suggesting that the solutions you offer (to the extent you offer any) are far too glib to be taken seriously.

And how is it, exactly, that you seem to know that the wife does not insist on staying home? Isn't that a wee bit paternalist, not to mention presumtuous? And, although you may not be in a position to know, I can also tell you that it is wrong.

As for our kids, I don't think it is a bad thing for them to see that a parent wants to stay home with them. It is too bad that they don't see their father getting that opportunity and taking that responsibility, but finances being what they are, it is the best they can get. Meanwhile, considering that the wife and all aunts, grandmothers, and at least one great-grandmother are professionals, with each generation progressing into the workforce at greater speed (and meanwhile, all of the males make sacrifices to be home as much as possible), I think we're moving in the right direction.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 3:56:21 PM

I suppose it is my role here to be the jerk. But aren't you letting yourself off a little easy, Amos, by not breaking the cycle of violence? Surely your wife isn't insisting that she be kept from work. We can't affirm all people's choices when they reproduce hierarchical structures that will continue to gender our society and reinforce the very stereotypes we all have hoped our children wouldn't have to confront. It matters when little boys and girls look out into the world and see the choices mommies and daddies made.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Apr 14, 2005 3:41:44 PM

Not old-fashioned feminist of you at all. In fact, absolutely correct. I'm not exactly certain what our future holds, but my family may fall into that model--and it isn't a model I like.

But telling my wife she's either anti-feminist or a victim surely isn't the answer.

I recommend reading the companion books "Bitch in the House" and "Bastard on the Couch," if you haven't yet. Many of the thoughts expressed in the essays rang true for us.

I also recommend "Little Children," a nice little satire on suburban white parenting.

Now: what were we disagreeing about again?

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 3:35:22 PM

We agree on (and our anecdotal experiences converge on) this: among working class and (truly) middle class families with one SAH parent (usually mom), the person staying at home often views that role as a great privilege, even a family consumption item. I see a lot of comments like "We did without cable and a bigger car this year because it's important for me to be at home with the kids, and I wouldn't have it any other way." And the dads often express regret about not being home more. In part, this is because the jobs that many of the people in question are leaving (or working) are just that -- jobs, not careers or passions. If I were a receptionist with a cranky boss, I would also relish the opportunity to be home full-time, and if I were a guy with an office job that I didn't love, I would be sad that I could not spend more time with my kids. My grandmother couldn't understand why I didn't want to be home full-time if I could afford it, but that's because she had to work in a dry-cleaning store when she would have preferred to be home with her children.

The issues among the "financially secure" tend to be different -- often you have two people in whose educations staggering amounts of money (or at least loans) have been invested, and one of them ends up pursuing an "alpha" career while the other sort of peters out. I think that's fine, but I get anxious when the alpha careers seem to fall disproportionately to the men while the petering falls to the women. Sorry if that's old-fashioned-feminist of me...

Posted by: Ariela | Apr 14, 2005 3:24:39 PM

Ariela, I think these are important questions, and questions that hopefully appointments committees are asking as well. I was just wondering from the lead-in "Ariela writes in on feminism and legal academia" whether there was an underlying argument connecting feminism (or its death) to women's experiences in legal academia. But definitely, being geographically mobile is a key to a teaching appointment, and people in two-career families are much less geographically mobile.

Posted by: Christine | Apr 14, 2005 3:14:45 PM

Ariela: First: not the exclusive province of the "law school" set; rather, that of the economically secure.

You say you often see families scaling back so that one person gets to stay home with the kids. My experience is precisely the opposite: couples choose to enter the workforce together in order to move into the "right" neighborhoods with the "best" schools for their kids.

But let us assume that you are correct, and you surely are in lots and lots of cases. People are making sacrifices for their children. You believe that the sacrifice usually falls on the mother, for she is the one who usually stays home. And in many cases, that is absolutely true and unfortunate. But in lots of cases, the sacrifice is the father's who wants to stay home, or it is borne by both--neither of whom is completely satisfied with the status quo, but both of whom believe they are doing the best they can for themselves, each other, and their family.

And so: YES. It would be wonderful if the choices and opportunities were available equally. The fact that they aren't isn't quite the fault of the individuals living their lives, nor are they deservant of the rhetoric that is lobbed their way.

I'll be honest with you: maybe you are right that rhetoric about the middle and lower classes is usually employed by secretly anti-feminist men who just love the status quo. I, however, was first introduced to it by a bona fide female feminist who has spent her life working to build grass-roots support for progressive legislation and employment policies that would allow for more choice at all strata of society; rather than worrying about whether my wealthy wife is a victim for wanting to stay home with her children.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 3:10:46 PM

"[H]it it on the head AGAIN?" Do tell, Joel.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 2:54:15 PM

In response to amosanon1's last comment (I am confused - are you the same person as Amos Anon?), I only partly agree with you that these decisions about how to balance and trade off careers and family care are the exclusive province of the law school set. Obviously, the truly poor are not taking turns having clerkships while their spouses stay home with the kids and work on their dissertations (my life last year -- my clerkship, my husband's dissertation; this year we switched and I moved to an insane place for his grad studies). But I've found, at least anecdotally, that a lot of working-class parents make significant sacrifices so that one of them (USUALLY but not always the wife) can be home with the kids, for the same reasons that your wife may choose to be home. Okay, I will admit that my sample comes from some of the "parenting" web sites and newsletters (does any of you subscribe to babycenter.com?), but you do see an awful lot of people on those sites who exert some control over their lives by moving to smaller houses or cheaper neighborhoods so that one parent can stay home. I've also found that when male elites (not you, of course) get annoyed with being questioned about the gender arrangements that facilitate their careers as leftist intellectuals, they sometimes try to change the subject by saying that the whole topic is of concern only to rich, overeducated white feminists ... it is a great way to shut down the examination of the practices that perpetuate the imbalances on law school faculties.

To Christine: the point of the questions was more to suggest that academia, while child-friendly in the ways Ethan suggests (namely, the flexible hours), is also still a career that often requires an entire family to move around to facilitate one person's advancement. I was supposing that the one person is still usually male (but maybe I'm wrong, haven't seen your blog yet), and that this may account for what seems to be an unbalanced readership/writership on these blogs. I didn't mean the questions as a personal interrogation of anyone; I was more interested to see if the numbers more or less break down the way I'm guessing they do.

Posted by: Ariela | Apr 14, 2005 2:53:54 PM

AA1, the legal gestalt he or she is, has again hit it on the head. We are products of our culture and that culture has primarily been patriarchal. That there is even a question of the proper balance between the home and job for either men or women demonstrates this. We are still working on the ideal world where gender and race don't matter and where the choice of who works and how much is there for all families. In the meantime, the psychology of development supports strong parental involvement in the formative stages of a child's life. Ethalogically speaking, the desire to be a "stay-at-home mom" or "stay-at-home dad" may be rooted in what it means to be human.
That it is predominantly women who make this choice, IMHO, goes to the socialization of the genders in our society. As to the data collection, I'm only a part-time prawf and single so I don't have useful data for Ms. Migdal.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 14, 2005 2:46:24 PM

I'm not sure what the point of answering the questions is. Is the assumption of the questions that feminism died? That it deserved to die? That it didn't deserve to die?

As readers of the Conglomerate know, our blog is 50% female, and I moved cross-country with my very supportive husband of a different name and our two small children. Small victories? Maybe, maybe not.

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Apr 14, 2005 1:49:07 PM

In an ideal world, each spouse/partner would be able to choose what kind of job heesh wants, how much time heesh will spend with the children, and so forth.

But we don't live in that ideal world. Indeed, the amazing thing is that this conversation only even applies to elites. Most people don't get to choose whether he'll work or whether she'll work; or get to live out their fantasy of achieving "balance" through taking up academic positions or paid bloggers. That isn't even on the radar for most.

The woman who cleans my office in the middle of the night would surely prefer a day job and good daycare for her kids; but just as surely, those aren't options for her. She's not elite enough to get to make those choices. The feminist revolution hasn't much impacted the life of this poor hispanic mother; unless you think that giving her the "opportunity" to scrub toilets at 2 A.M. is a real pleasant one for her. But who knows? Maybe it is better than whatever alternative she had before this oppotrunity was available to her.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have these choices, I sympathize with both Dan and Ethan. W

ho is Ethan to say that my wife's deep desire to stay home with a child for a few months or years--even when it means sacrificing some of her career goals, or at least delaying them--is somehow not worthy, or merely the product of a patriarchical society? And Ethan, why don't you step over to my house and suggest that to her; see what she has to say. She'd tell you (as she's told me when I've pointed out that there are other options) that having this time with her children is far more important to her at this stage of her life than whatever other options she has. Or is she just too dense to know any better?

And you know who is paying a price for this? Me. I frequently lament and have deep guilt about the fact that I do not have more time to spend with my family. It was never really a choice I could make.

On the other hand, Ethan is no doubt correct that we are products of our culture, a culture which obviously comes from, and still includes, deep patriarchical structure. It isn't just kismet that my wife wants to stay at home and that I feel that I couldn't make that choice. That didn't just happen for us, and it doesn't just happen for millions of others.

In the end, the question is not whether I should kick my wife out the door and rip the kid from her breast while I stay home with the bottle. Rather, the challenge is to affirm people's decisions, while still doing everything we can to increase everyone's choices: mine, my wife's, the pre-k teacher's, and the woman who cleans my office.

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 14, 2005 1:40:39 PM


Obviously anyone who reads these blogs knows that you are clearly not aligned with the right-wing echo chamber. But I think we just can't get around the fact that the blawgosphere is dominated by white men, who together, if not individually, must acknowledge that voices are missing here. Even if you are a powerful advocate for the left, it still matters that you are a white man. I could be wrong--and I hope one day gender and race don't matter.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Apr 14, 2005 12:55:29 PM

What light does my being a "white male" shed on my similarities in blogging with Bainbridge, Volokh, Bernstein, Smith, Rappaport, etc.? None, I should have thought--at least for anyone who had read these blogs--which might have given one pause before clustering bloggers that way.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Apr 14, 2005 12:44:50 PM

I give up.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Apr 14, 2005 12:14:25 PM

As you know, Dan, the "privacy" of the family unit is very often used as a cover to turn a blind eye to the domination that goes on therein. Of course, ideally, we shouldn't judge people's choices. But if the "women moving for their man prof" is routine, we have to scrutinize that social practice (at least with intermediate scrutiny!).

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Apr 14, 2005 11:43:33 AM

To answer Ariela's questions, I agree that, like Ethan, part of the reason that motivates the choice to abandon lucre in the marketplace to pursue academic life is the flexibility to spend more time (at different times) with your kids. That said, there are bad parents who are academics and good parents who are lawyers, to state the obvious. Each family dynamic requires attention and cultivation.

Michael Froomkin had actually asked Brian Leiter to set up a post on couples in the academic marketplace. We can start it here, I guess. Froomkin and his spouse are on the Miami faculty, Jerry Kang and his spouse (S. Kim I believe) were being considered in various places this year before they decided to stay in LA; Julie Suk and Jae Lee both got jobs in NY this year. I'm sure there are many "established" couples at various faculties: e.g., Martha Minow and Joe Singer at HLS. Among the junior set, I can also think of Sam Bagenstos and Margo Schlanger at Wash U., though they are no longer so junior since they lateraled over to Wash U as tenured profs.

FWIW, schools in places like T-town have a tougher time recruiting women notwithstanding the schools' mightiest efforts. But I think it's misguided to suggest that there's something "wrong" with women going to move to other cities to facilitate the husbands' careers and v-v. Each relationship is its own moral universe and any suggestion (and I'm not suggesting this is Ariela's point) that the compromises a couple works out is subject to external validation or opprobrium is itself subject to the strictest of scrutiny!

Posted by: Dan Markel | Apr 14, 2005 11:37:41 AM

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