Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Disenfranchised

I read an article the other day that made me really sad. It said young women are the biggest users of Facebook. That the first thing many young women do every morning, is log into Facebook.

The article said the survey-takers weren't sure why, and maybe it has something to do with young women feeling particularly disconnected, and Facebook is a way of trying to feel less disconnected.

But they didn't pursue why that would be.

Is it possible that there are a lot of women who are being deprived of careers now? I read another article that said most people in the world, including the US, believe that when jobs are scarce, it's more important for men to have them.

Among the many books I've been reading lately, one is a compendium of interviews that Bill Moyers did with a bunch of poets. Every once in a while, I happen upon something in there that really strikes a chord.

So I'm about halfway through the book and got to this interview with a Japanese American poet named Garrett Kaoru Hongo.

Bill asks him why he decided to write poetry and he says

I was experiencing a social and historical sadness

He says he wanted to connect with the history that was repressed.

Bill says "Repressed in what sense?"

He says I wanted the words I was reading to belong to me, but there were no words for me. He talks about how there wasn't anything in his high school textbooks about Japanese in America. That they weren't there when the US gained independence from Britain or during the Civil War.

This is something that always bothered me. Somehow we were supposed to be thrilled that Martha Washington sewed the flag? I never enjoyed history class until college. Before that, it was always taught as if the women weren't even around. The men were off having important conventions and signing important paperwork and the women were at home making butter. Anybody see John Adams?

Hongo says: I felt I didn't have an identity

Then there's this long story about how Hongo's grandfather told him about how he was treated by the American government and how angry he was. And so he was basically charged with telling his grandfather's story. Somehow, to speak for him.

I don't know about you, but my mother and my grandmother and great-grandmother always expressed disappointment that they didn't get to pursue their career dreams. That they were held back by their families, by society's expectations, by the men coming back from the war and taking all the jobs.

Hongo says: I was basically indoctrinated in a Western vision of articulation, of speaking to emotional and historical issues, but my experience was one of repression.

Lately I feel like even when I'm just expressing an opinion, just telling the story of my personal experience, I'm being told to shut up. That it's my imagination. That it can't be true. That it's dangerous to say what I think. Or that things will change on their own (!). Or that I'm just being too negative. Or that I'm discriminating against men if I say anything that implies women don't actually have equality.

It makes me sad.

For example, I know this guy who really feels a lot of frustration about being a white man these days. He feels like all the women and minorities get all these fellowships and clubs and opportunities and he's left out. He thinks his career is in jeopardy because of that.

So when he had a daughter I thought, "Oh good, maybe now he'll learn what it's like."

But I don't think so. He's a big fan of John Tierney's.

Now I'm just worried for that little girl. Even though she's not old enough for Facebook yet.

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18 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Blogger R.B. said...

I know where you're coming from, and you've got a right (and reason) to feel that way. Don't let anyone tell you there's not a point to your ideas and opinions. There IS still a problem with the way the world sees women.

 
At 2:53 PM, Blogger GMP said...

Very nice post! Definitely struck a cord with me.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Psycgirl said...

I don't particularly like Facebook, but is the fact that young women log into Facebook the most necessarily negative? It seems to me that women often value social connection more than men - is Facebook a way of remaining socially connected with more people? I think Facebook is not a problem if you have a strong face-to-face network to balance it out...

 
At 5:47 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Thanks, RB and GMP!

Psycgirl, I don't mean to imply I think FB is bad. I don't think it's bad. But I do think it's meaningful that these women do seem to be so lonely - because I feel the same way.

 
At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This recession has actually had a much larger impact on men than women. The major industries affected are male-dominated (construction, real estate, finances, and autos).

 
At 6:29 PM, Blogger Kea said...

I feel like even when I'm just expressing an opinion, just telling the story of my personal experience, I'm being told to shut up.

I have been made to feel that way my entire life. And it is a known phenomenon that when jobs are scarce, the men get them. That goes back many centuries. Look at the 1950s (post world war) ... look at the population spurt of the 15th century (professional guilds for men) ... and so on it goes. I heard today that, in the UK, there are 70 qualified graduates for every real research job. What is the chance that a lowly woman will get one?

I am thinking of going on a hunger strike. I will soon be homeless and hungry anyway, so I might as well go to the capital city and set myself up as a protester outside parliament.

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Female post-doc said...

I definitely check FB in the morning...mostly because I am trying my darndest not to check it in lab during the day. :-)

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger LabMom said...

Interesting post.

On the other side of the coin, The Atlantic just did a cover story about how women now outnumber men in the workforce and how they are going to become the dominant sex in the coming decades:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/

From the article:
Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women.[..]The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true. Women in poor parts of India are learning English faster than men to meet the demands of new global call centers. Women own more than 40 percent of private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs.

Maybe the future is not as bleak as it seems. At least I still have hope. The next generation of textbooks WILL have women in them, as women take their rightful place in history.

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger Dr.Girlfriend said...

It is not that women did not play a significant part in history, but that their contributions were not acknowledged. Women wielded power and influence via husbands and sons, who took credit.

In some circles the US founding fathers are given almost god-like status and idolized as such.

How many Americans can relate to the founding fathers and their vision of America? When they said "we the people" they men "us white men".

Given the version of history taught in schools, it is no wonder so many are turned off.

I think many women feel disconnected - like they are
being disloyal to their grandmothers portrayed ideal of a housekeeper and mother.

Women are still given more approval when they choose to be stay-at-home moms than when they aspire to be the primary provider.

 
At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no data for this other than anecdotal, but don't woman also talk on the phone, text message, and chat in person more than men too? I don't usually link a desire to be social with an inherent lonliness, but maybe i should rethink this.

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon said: This recession has actually had a much larger impact on men than women. The major industries affected are male-dominated (construction, real estate, finances, and autos).

Yes, that is what the news has been saying. But has anyone really considered the following:

a) why were those industries male-dominated to begin with (sexism)?

b) what about other male-dominated industries like science and academia?

c) what about the few women who do work in male-dominated industries? We're impacted too, but it's all "oh boo hoo it's a Manpression"

d) maybe it seems like men are more affected because so many women are urged out of the workforce to begin with? We never get a chance to get a job AT ALL, much less to lose one because of the Manpression!

Kea, Please don't go on a hunger strike. I keep hearing you say this and I will keep asking you not to.

LabMom, it's exactly these kinds of articles that are pissing me off. In my field, this is certainly NOT the case. There are still almost no women faculty. So where is this "domination" they're talking about? It just contributes even more to the feeling of being disconnected. Maybe women are dominating in other areas, but it hasn't helped me one bit. Not even slightly. So why is it supposed to make me feel better, if I still can't get a job?

Dr.Girlfriend, exactly.

Anon 8:22, Actually I think those are myths. Last I heard, the data don't support the stereotype that women talk or text more than men. But you're right, we should dig up those numbers.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Brandi Badass said...

I am a 27 year old woman- lost my job twice (both nice paying manager positions) and then decided to wrap up my chemistry degree..... BECAUSE I lost my job, I'm pursuing a PhD. Facebook is the only way anyone can know whats going on with me. I'm always too busy with homework to do any real human face-to-face networking. Being a woman sucks period but being one in the recession really sucks.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Brandi,

I think a lot of people are going back to grad school now, because a) career counselors advise it! (there's a special place in hell for those servants of satan) and b) in the sciences at least it's a salary with health benefits.

Ahh, health benefits. The main reason anyone takes a job they know will involve an abusive atmosphere, amirite? Because we're supposed to keep up with the cycle of stress -> medication to put up with stress -> more stress?

But, if i were you, I wouldn't finish my degree. Try to get some experience, maybe leave with a master's, but get a job BEFORE your degree becomes official (ideally, between when you defend and when they file the paperwork saying you've graduated).

That way, you MIGHT be able to get a position. Having a PhD makes you much less employable (wish I had an actual # to put there, but I don't know how much less employable. 4x? 10x? 400x?).

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Isabel said...

"When they said "we the people" they men "us white men". "

Actually they meant "us white male *landowners*"

 
At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow..Ms.PhD, I am a postdoc like you too... a poor struggling postdoc, with one big crucial difference...I happen to be male.

I am surprised at how much flak men get on your blog. Apparently, my life is a bed of roses. You wouldn't get that impression if you saw it. Anything...from the fact that women apparently check facebook more often to the fact that women give birth more often than men do...is an excuse to bash me... the male.

I am a hardworking, educated and honest person trying to make a living out of my passion for science. I am not a rogue, I am not sexist, I got whatever job I did because I busted my behind and not because of my anatomy. And I am not ashamed of being a man because I was born that way, it's something that's beyond my control.

Oh...and I do not feel responsible for your failures.

And as a side note: You might have noticed that the NYTimes article also pointed out that French women complain more about quality of life than Indian women. Perhaps this should give you a hint that the amount of bitching and moaning may not have that much to do with the reality of how much equality there is.

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous g said...

We can cut the world up in anyway that pleases us. In an increasingly disconnected world, the fact that women more likely interact via facebook may suggest that man are more lonely and disconnected. How we see many things just depends on our predilections . . .

You end on such a down note. This baby girl will grow up in a world that hasn't been written, that isn't yet dominated by men, etc. She will not even realize that she is standing on the shoulders of many champions of equality (both women and men). Hers is the brightest future.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

@g, oh yeah? See the comments above yours.

What the white male landowner-dominated world will never understand is that for them, how hard they work IS good enough.

For us, our hard work is still not seen for what it is, and will not get us as far as the EXACT SAME WORK if we had been men doing it. Because our hard work is always colored by the bias of knowing it was done by a woman.

And still, if we point this out, then we are somehow "bashing" men.

This little girl is not going to be a whole lot better off than we were unless things start changing a whole lot faster.

Sitting back and acting like things are already fine is exactly why we're still where we are - being seen as less deserving creatures just because we were born female.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger ELLY TRANNY said...

Erm, im sorry but you are bashing men unreasonably. There are plenty of greedy and selfish women who have well paid careers out there!

and so what if more women use facebook? more men play computer games? we are different, what is your problem with it?

What is making it (life) so frustrating is that the older generations are targeted for votes, have had an easier life, and are not considering or realising their offspring are now poorer and disadvantaged.

Now the young' are being furnished with uni debts, unaffordable housing, no jobs or dead end jobs. Regardless of what sex you are.

Alex

 

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