[Parentsgroup-list] last time, I swear :)

mmills at fas.harvard.edu mmills at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Aug 1 21:25:44 EDT 2005


Quoting Jesse Garrett Barnes <jbarnes at fas.harvard.edu>:
> Oppressed families of the U.S., unite!

In your previous e-mail, you marshalled the language of victimization with all
sincerity ("we have learned that while Harvard can be a lonely place for
parents it is an even lonelier place for those who do not share the predominant
political/social views"), and now, hours later, you seem to be mocking the same
type of rhetoric at the expense of Christine, and perhaps at the expense of all
those single-income families on this list who do not have the benefit of
stay-home wives. This is mean-spirited, and increases my gratitude for the many
efforts at conciliation and community-building by various mothers on the list
(the gender breakdown of these posts is predictable--pace Jean-Francois--so it
is with some compunction that I sit here at the end of the workday typing out
these blunt words).

Most of us agree that the Harvard environment is unwelcoming to graduate student
parents, but you seem to be suggesting, additionally, that there is a
conspiracy against traditional heterosexual families, at least in the Economics
Department. This could be newsworthy! Those of us in the sciences, as brought
to light by Larry Summers' faux pas (which, incidentally, was a major impetus
behind university support for this group; some of you may remember the failed
attempt to launch a similar support group a few years ago)  are very far from a
work environment where women have hiring parity, much less the choice to have
families+tenure, or the choice to work part-time. What this means is that, at
least in the two departments with which I am affiliated, the majority of the
permanent faculty are male, and the vast majority of these are heterosexual,
married with children, and have wives who either stay home or who at some point
took leave or worked part-time to raise their children. The picture you paint of
your experience makes Economics sound closer to Women's, Gender, and Sexuality
Studies. Unless you are simply offering us an affective reaction to a piece of
feminist literature that made you uncomfortable, I would like to hear more
about "the political/social views" and, more importantly, the _models_ set by
your faculty when it comes to heterosexual, two-parent families with male

> 1.  The overwhelming majority of American families disagree with you
> Christine.  In the last election Bush pulled 59% of those with children.
> Not that Kerry represents the policies you advocate below (Nader maybe?)
> but it seems strange to me that so many families would vote for someone
> who represents precisely what is "destroying" them more than anything.

Seems like a clear case of confusing correlation and causation.

> Oh and one more thing.

Yes, one more thing, with regards to the citations you offer us in your
subsequent e-mail. A chronic problem with research in the social sciences, as 
underlined by your choice of papers on infant mortality, is the leap to
universalization from case studies with numerous confounding
variables. So, why strut the claim to authority ("what's happening with infant
mortality is very simple"), when all of your subsequent facts are so uncertain
("they may not like the US system"---who precisely are 'they'?), as is the
language (all conditional clauses) with which you state them? Although it is
only too easy to offer rebuttals to each other's statistics, I think it is
absolutely crucial for us to query the facile red/blue litmus test you (and
Ryan) have proposed (even as you assail Christine for seeming to do the same!).
No one on this list, as far as I have read, has yet attacked the so-called "red
states," families, or your personal family values (much less called any of
these things "evil"), so it is unclear to me why you are lashing out (and, with
such faulty logic and "facts," that is all you are doing).

The much-discussed CDC divorce rates (highest in NV, OK, TN, and other parts of
"the bible belt" and lowest in MA, CT, NY, and NJ), are a good example of
demographic complexities beyond red/blue. Pointing this out should not suggest
hypocrisy on the parts of the individual residents of those states, but could
rather serve as an example of the constant co-existence of alternative family
structures _and_ "family values."


It is demeaning to all of us to be folded into your generalizations; each of our
lives is much too precarious and wonderful for that.


Depts. of the History of Science & Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Dept. of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Brown University

> On Sun, 31 Jul 2005, Christine Dianne Wenc wrote:
> >
> > I know I'm violating my own new ground rules, but this is the last speech,
> > I promise!!  I am enjoying the conversation.  Just delete if you don't
> > want to hear it.
> >
> > One comment on the military, which is hardly a left-wing institution--they
> > apparently have one of the best child-care services in the United
> > States--excellent, low-cost care for the kids of servicemen & women.
> >
> > And one comment on maternity leaves--This is just one part of the
> > picture as far as I'm concerned.  I think many more families
> > could be one-income families if we had a higher minimum wage, were far
> > more supportive of labor unions, and had national health insurance.  I
> > don't think many women put their babies in day care after 6 weeks because
> > they feel empty without their careers--they do it because their families
> > need the money.  (After all, most working women are
> > NOT lawyers and radical academics--they are secretaries & retail
> salespeople.)
> >
> > There was an article in the NYT recently about how many
> > American cities--including Boston--are losing their
> > children because families cannot afford to live there, only single people
> > & couples without children.  This seems so absurd and wrong, and to me
> > epitomizes the outcome of our economic policies that take as their normal
> > economic unit the individual unencumbered
> > adult, not families.  Dependents have no place in capitalism because they
> > cannot be productive, and capitalism wants everyone working to increase
> producers'
> > profits (and doesn't give a damn about ANY family structure as far as I
> > can see).  But this also happens simultanously with a culture that still
> > has a really hard time with women being something other than stay-at-home
> > mothers, and a feminist movement which has mostly been concerned with
> > increasing women's opportunity in our highly individualist economic
> > system.  (The last serious attempt at getting maternity leaves & child
> > care was in 1974--shot down by a Nixon veto.)
> >
> > So we have no maternity leaves and no child care, because these
> > support working mothers (conservative p.o.v.) or encourage the maternalist
> > idea that women are essentially mothers (feminist p.o.v.).  But at the
> > same time, due to our economic policies most families now can't survive on
> > one income, so many women--and some men--work outside the home whether or
> not
> > they really want to, and maternity leave/child care policy is set by the
> > market.  Capitalism is destroying the American family more than anything
> > else.
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> >
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