Where do our ideas of how the world works come from?

I recently re-read The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie and realized that the reason it was one of my very favorites growing up is that I could have stood in for the main character, Megan Hunter, at that age.

She’s a rather unfortunate girl caught between childhood and womanhood, and in a way both being refused the right to advance into womanhood (her family seems to think she’s about 10) and refusing to advance to womanhood (she refuses to admit that people might evaluate her AT ALL by the way she looks.  So she dresses as badly as possible, slouching about in old not very well kept clothes.  I suspect like me at 16 or 17 Megan believed that her “prince” would see through all that.  Of course in the book he does, though he doesn’t realize he does until the revealing incident.)

Now, at 53, I look back at that book, and smile a little and agree with Miss Marple that “Girls with brains are at such risk of becoming complete idiots.”

Part of it is the awareness that we don’t quite fit in.  Not quite.  It’s not that girls with brains fit in worse than boys with brains, but there is a …. ah, acceptable path for boys with brains, traditionally.  They are supposed to go on and make great discoveries, invent great things, forge ahead for humanity.

Oh, now girls are too, but they’re supposed to do it while being “beautiful” and sort of brainy sex pots.  At least if the TV has anything to say to that.  And because TV makes it look effortless, it’s all too easy for girls to think beauty just “comes.”

In the last few years I’ve neglected my “beauty.”  Mostly since the boys were born.  I feel a little guilty about it. My husband sort of had the right to expect me to keep some of the “beauty” stuff up, but we were doing child raising on extreme difficulty awrrif, without even a nearby grandparent we could offload the kids to for a couple of hours a week.  The closest we came was our friend Charles who would sometimes — innocently — drop by and get the kids offloaded onto him for an hour while we ran off and watched the first cheap movie, or sat in a pub drinking iced tea and talking.  But it wasn’t enough, and I lived for 20 years in a state of dropping-down exhaustion, particularly when you added the writing thing.  I still haven’t decided where this is going: whether I resume the beauty stuff or just concentrate on writing and let the rest slide.

Sure, beauty has a genetic component, but it’s not all genetic.  Or even mostly genetic. Beauty is buying flattering clothes, it’s a “beauty routine” every morning, it’s watching your diet.  It’s perfectly all right to say you can’t be arsed (I haven’t been arsed for the last 20 years) but then you shouldn’t expect the rewards of doing the work.  And you shouldn’t yell at women who do do the work. If — like me the last 20 years or so — you find you CAN’T lose weight and decide to let it all slide (until you find the medical cause, which unfortunately is not as easy as it seems in a world where overweight amounts to sinful) it’s still a choice.  Guys can forgive a ton of weight if it looks like you’re at least TRYING.

If this makes it sound like a woman’s role is more complex than a man’s — waggles hand — you’re half right.  It’s not exactly true, it’s more that a woman’s physical appearance stuff is different from a man’s.  A man is supposed to look strong, which is as difficult for those predestined to be 90 lbs soaking wet as for a woman who is born with a face only a mother could love to look “gorgeous.”

It’s just different work.

People like us tend to forget we have a body.  Which is why girls with brains are at risk for being complete idiots.  And boys with brains are at risk of becoming pajamas boy.

But that’s not exactly where I wanted to go with this.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of romances.  Regency romances, to be exact.  Why?  Because I can read them like popcorn, and even if I confuse the couples it sort of works.  And since I’m reading in twenty minute intervals between writing jags, that is fine.  I don’t want a book that will grab me and not let go, because Darkship Revenge is late enough.

I have picked these books by authors I read in the past and who are decent.  Some are excellent.

So it’s weird to find myself getting more and more peeved as I read.

It’s the main characters, you see.  One is an artist, the other is an art dealer, the other is a journalist, the other is a famous gambler.  All of them are society ladies in the regency.


I shouldn’t be annoyed by this.  I understand, better than most, what it takes to sell the past to the present.  I also remember talking to a fledgling who was writing a romance and who made her female character an extraordinary musician.  It seemed tacked on and it threw other parts of the story out of kilter, so I asked why.  “Well, I didn’t want her to just be a wife and mother, you know” (the character is widowed.)  “I mean, what would she do all day?”

She was a wife and mother in the regency.  Even in the upper classes, where all the physical work went to someone else, there were duties.  One was the “beauty stuff” though in those days it was more “class signaling stuff.”  She was supposed to dress a certain way to signal how well-born and (secondarily) wealthy her family was.  This took a lot of time.  Then there was managing employees.  Those servants weren’t just set pieces or robots.  They had to be managed, supervised, watched, taken care of.  Since a household might have anywhere from 5 to 50 employees working in it (or more for a few families) this was very much like running a small business.  It included, like a small business, making sure there were purchases made and supplies on hand.  Then there was the social networking.  In a society that depended on connections, both family and friendship, for advancement, being able to keep up those connections meant a lot for your future and that of your children.  The society I grew up in wasn’t so different.  If you kept up your friendship with your childhood friend who married a military man, you might hear first about that relatively cheaper commission for your youngest who is army mad.  If you continued corresponding with Marianne, who married the earl, they might have a living vacant and think of your second son who wants to take orders.

But to make this plausible for a modern audience, women have to have a “job” in the modern sense, or they’re thought of as these fifties housewives that never existed, sitting around eating bonbons.

I want to emphasize even in the modern era, running a household and raising children is a full time job.  It is a job we devalue to our own detriment.  All societies who outsourced child rearing to low-status paid employees collapsed shortly thereafter.  And none did it on the universal scale we do.

Part of it is a confusion of roles.  In my sitting around, writing, while Dan is watching TV, last week, I overheard a male character say “Women don’t understand how much men are defined by their profession” and I thought “poppycock. We do.”

This is because female “liberation” got confused somewhere along the line and decided there was one universal female role and that was being a man.

Purely female roles, like being a beautiful young woman, or wishing to run a household and have children, were devalued and considered low status.  (I think honestly because they’re not really easy to teach in a formal environment, so intellectual people think they denote stupidity.)  If you want to be a woman of high status, you work and define yourself by your profession.

This encourages women with brains to be true dolts, who wake up sometime in late middle age and think “I would have like to have a child” when it’s much too late.  Or who end up alone, not really out of choice, but because they never got the “beauty” thing.  And it encourages women with brains who try to “have it all” to be complete messes who blame themselves for not being able to achieve three different full time jobs at once.

All of which gets turned into hostility against men, whose roles look easy, since women have never had those roles.  (No, even if you are in a job, alongside a man, your role is not the same as his.  He’s inserted into a hierarchy of dominance and aggression which is none the less real for not being overt and which you won’t even understand.)

It should get turned into hostility against the current model of society which sold women (and men, to a less extent) a mess of pottage in return for their birthright and which, in the name of the state and the taxes it collects, is now trying to convince us there is no difference between the sexes and we all want the exact same thing (which is to be some sort of super-worker.)

I’m not saying it’s not possible to be a full time worker, and a mother.  I grew up expecting I’d have a job.  I suspect because my family was always composed of “girls with brains” accommodations were made over the centuries so the mother/wife wasn’t utterly miserable.  But accommodations were made for the children too, and they were made unapologeticly because “you can’t have everything.”

Most of the women in my family ran their business from home.  The only ones with professions outside the home were those who could call on a grandmother or aunt to look after the kids during the day.  I couldn’t call on anyone, and so I ran my business from home, and made it relatively small and unobtrusive while the kids were little.  Because the time I had the kids at home was relatively short.  And so, I must concentrate on it till they leave.  And then I could pursue the career better.  To try to do the two to the same intensity at the same time would probably have killed me.  Ramping up happened when they first went to school, and now, that they are almost independent, I’m struggling with internalizing that the house and family is no longer a priority, but writing is.  Struggling with giving myself permission.

This morning I remembered something my grandmother said, which shocked me.  She was quoting one of her influences, a Victorian feminist, who wrote a lot of books.  I no longer remember the exact wording, but it went something like this “I was a maiden, I was married, I’m a widow.  Of the three I like the third state the best.”

This shocked me because grandma REALLY loved her husband.  They had the sort of relationship where each wrote to the other while away.  They wrote to each other EVERY DAY.  Sometimes for years.

But it wasn’t grandad’s death she was referencing, but the ability to focus on HER.  On what interested her.  She went on to explain she could “Come and go” and “work on whatever I want” without hindrance as a widow.  In the village, and at that time, yeah.  IF your husband was still alive, he was supposed to be the center of your day, even if you were just the two of you.  My parents aren’t quite like that 30 years later.  They spend a lot of time sharing chores, go out to eat a lot, and generally are — both — more independent than couples were in the village back then.

What grandmother was saying was something like this, translated for modern ears “When I was young, I lived for my parents.  My actions and the way I presented myself affected them, so they were my priority.  When I was a wife-and-mother I lived for my husband and children.  My actions affected them most strongly, so I must consider them in all things.  Now I am a woman past the age of reproduction, I can pursue my own interests and live for myself.  What I do affects mostly me, so I can become who I want to be.”

I think the greatest difference between men and women is that.  Women are more cyclical.  We’re more ruled by our bodies.  Which means if we are women “with brains” who tend to ignore their bodies, we stand to try to jump roles or to flatten our entire role into “pursuit of personal excellence” and that leaves us feeling curiously flat and lopsided, and sometimes angry at men and the world in general.

It isn’t fair, of course, that women have these life cycles, or that we have to adapt to being at least three people in a lifetime.  But “fair” is a kindergarten thing.  Life isn’t fair, no one is like anyone else, and men and women have different challenges, but they both have challenges.  It took a sort of crazy naivete to view office life as easy and devoid of challenges or “freeing.”  It takes the same sort of naivete to view running a house and raising children as the hallmark of stupidity or backwardness.

A role is just that: a role.  A stereotype in people’s heads, that has certain characteristics attached.  You can play to the role or against the role.  Or you can take the role, as assigned, and play it as YOU.  Personalize it, improve on it, make the role yours.

You don’t need to steal someone’s role to be extraordinary.  Extraordinary is in the performance, not the role.

Understand what is required, what is optional, and what you really need or want to do.

Then stop fighting the role, or embracing the stereotype.  Instead, get out there, on stage, and steal the scene.

Break a leg.


168 responses to “Roles

  1. c4c

  2. “Girls with brains are at such risk of becoming complete idiots.”

    So it is with boys, as well, by my observations — although very few of them are thinking with their brains at that age.

    • I think the lure is that brainy boys at least have the option of thinking with another body part since the modern education environment doesn’t exercise the brains of either sex.
      Both, but especially the boys used to be able to get interested in programming, before the H1-B visas started rolling out faster than dollar bills.

      • How do the future H1-B visa holders become interested in programming earlier in life, and why can’t Americans do that?

        • Americans do. The problem (and I’m in IT so I see it) is that between the regulations and the fact that H1Bs are getting compensated by being brought to America means that actual citizens are automatically priced out of the market.

          • I’m also in IT. What I see is that H1B’s are willing to work for less $/hour, for more hours/week, live in denser housing arrangements, and be more cheerful about it than Americans. They’re simply outcompeting Americans, fair and square, and there’s no standing to complain about this. The urge to erect an iron curtain to infringe free movement of labor is not an improvement.

            So again, I don’t see many obstacles standing in the way of American boys homeschooling themselves in programming, which will make them able to compete with H1B’s.

            • Then you haven’t looked at the economics. They have to pay for more stuff for Americans than HB1.
              I have friends in IT and there’s often complaints on the training of foreign labor.
              As for there not being barriers on the movement of labor. VERY pretty. Do you know what they call a nation without borders? Invaded.
              If companies want to hire people abroad WHERE THEY LIVE that’s fine, but having them come in to work should be because they can’t find anyone in the country to do it, which is patently false.
              Also, and btw, yes, I do favor stopping the stupid regulations that make hiring Americans incredibly expensive. Doesn’t mean Americans aren’t learning IT or able to do it.
              Oh, and incidentally, you have 12 hours to assume a name. We don’t take Anonymous commenters. If you’re too chicken to have even a made up moniker, perhaps you shouldn’t be commenting.

              • Rather than delving into the topic and opining, I am dropping this puck for those informed to slap about: I have had the impression that the H1B visas effectively tie their “beneficiaries” to a single employer, thus constituting indentured servitude.

                Any arguments for or against that understanding?

                • That is my understanding, also.

                  • That’s accurate, although companies have been known to buy and sell the visa slots and effectively the people. Another tactic is to engage them through a subcontractor so you have plausible deniability when issues are found. That subcontractor could transfer them to another project for a different company.

              • foxfirefancies

                My husband’s always been in IT, and I spent five fascinating years as a secretary for an immigration lawyer. The amount of H1B chicanery that went on is mindboggling. Lots and LOTS of fine-tuning requirements at his job (“our position can only be filled by a left-handed 5’7″ guy with knowledge of an obscure dialect which he will never use in the actual performance of his job and DARN IT we can’t find an American programmer who is familiar with that dialect”) and dumping them in Canada for 18 months (made American visas much easier to get) in mine.

                • SheSellsSeashells

                  Also, the above is SUPPOSED to be SheSellsSeashells. Posner is a moron, nevermind WordPress.

            • ” What I see is that H1B’s are willing to work for less $/hour, for more hours/week, live in denser housing arrangements, and be more cheerful about it than Americans.”

              Libertarian Bullshit. On steroids. For all of it. What you want is a serf class.

              More hours? Yeah, right. I haven’t worked a 40 hour week in the 30 years I’ve been in this business.

              Less $/hour? Only as long as the company can dodge the regulations. And denser housing arrangements? So slums are good.

              And more cheerful? I guess if you can be deported for uttering a peep you could fake cheerful too.

              • And denser housing arrangements? So slums are good.

                Not even slums– illegal housing, which is also generally unsafe, too.

                It does no good to be willing to live in a bunkhouse if the laws against bunkhouses are enforced against you.

            • I’m also in IT. What I see is that H1B’s are willing to work for less $/hour, for more hours/week, live in denser housing arrangements, and be more cheerful about it than Americans. They’re simply outcompeting Americans, fair and square, and there’s no standing to complain about this.

              If this were true, then the fruit pickers wouldn’t be advertising for workers at the far end of the state to game the rules and be allowed to ship in pickers; they’d be advertising locally to establish the inability to get workers who can do the job.

              When the facts don’t fit your theory, you theory needs to adjust; from the incendiary rhetoric you chose, at least at some level you recognize a weakness.

      • Then you haven’t looked at the economics. They have to pay for more stuff for Americans than HB1.

        It is not leaving the world ruthlessly alone to rearrange other people’s work lives as if they were your toy soldiers. I know employers pay more for Americans than HB1. Employers are innovating by reducing production costs, and willing employees sign up to participate. Third parties have no moral standing to interfere.

        As for there not being barriers on the movement of labor. VERY pretty. Do you know what they call a nation without borders? Invaded.

        Have you noticed how pleasantly the Atheists and Christians in the homeschooling community get along, now that they don’t have to dominate the other to get the educational arrangements they prefer? Stop voting, and it will no longer matter who lives where. Stop believing in the divine right of whatever to rule, that’s just a computer virus for brains. It’s nobody’s business which side of a line on a map an employee lives.

        Also, and btw, yes, I do favor stopping the stupid regulations that make hiring Americans incredibly expensive.

        At a big picture level, politics doesn’t reform. Politics grows for 200 years, collapses in financial and military overcommitment, then the cycle repeats. The recent countries with “reserve currency status”, believed to have the most stable national currency, were, in order: Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Britain, US. Each but the US lost that status after about 100 years. Now the US is bankrupt, can’t pay Social Security and Medicare as promised due to the baby boom, and China seems positioned to be next.

        I have had the impression that the H1B visas effectively tie their “beneficiaries” to a single employer, thus constituting indentured servitude.

        It’s weaker than indentured servitude. The end goal of enforcement against “runaways” is to be deported, not dragged back to their “owners” in chains. I am not defending H1B as a good arrangement, yet since people of sound mind still pick it, I wouldn’t want to take away their top actual choice for employment. That would be me forcing them into an even worse situation.

        • You’ve never lived anywhere else, and don’t understand cultures, if you think that if you stop voting then nations can go away. “Imagine there’s not nations” … and war is everywhere.
          And NO I actually haven’t noticed Christians and Atheists in homeschooling being buddies, but then my sky isn’t made of green cheese, so I must make allowances for that.

          • *raises hand* I will vouch that there are all sorts of folks in homeschool communities who get along.

            That’s why they are… drum roll please… in the same homeschooling communities NOW.

            Although it’s awful hard to find someone who is an actual atheist who can and will deal with someone who’s an active Christian; agnostics are pretty thick on the ground, though, relatively speaking.

            I think it’s called a category error? Pick out traits on two sides of a discussion, find a different place where folks with that trait are not having the fight, and then make a theory that assumes that the traits you picked are WHY they were having the fight? Problem being that it requires ignoring that folks with the two traits will usually be having “differences” elsewhere, if you do a decent search.
            I know I’ve mentioned the issues we had among Christian groups when one of them broke the rule about not teaching the unshared doctrines…..

            • Heck, Fox, the year I was homeschooling, I had to do it alone, because the Christians in my area were a different FLAVOR from mine, and we were “heathens” and the Atheists were all “unschooling” hippies, while my kid was getting Greek, Latin and classical history. Eh.

        • I know they say the best defense is a good offense, but it’s got to be a good offense, not just attacking someone because they pointed out something you’d like to ignore.

          Pretending that subsidizing shipping in workers who are unable to quit without being removed from the country is “innovation” is nonsense on a pogo stick.

        • Do not H1B visas constitute a government bestowed preference? People employed under such visas are not equally participating in the free market of employees in that their negotiating power is constrained by the license under which the sell their services.

          Terming such objection to the government’s severing of employee rights a “divine right of whatever to rule” seems a peculiar logical inversion. The American government’s first duty is protection of liberty; such “protection” as you defend seems somewhat Orwellian in its logic.

          • Shud up, Wallaby, indenture is freedom!

          • ” The American government’s first duty is protection of liberty”

            For ALL its’ current CITIZENS, not for immigrants, legal or otherwise. When there’s an actual shortage of labor after employing those willing to work (and helping to generate that will by cutting the bennies for not working), then we can talk about importing more.

          • The American government’s first duty is protection of liberty

            In , President Washington led an army against Americans to impose taxation without representation, the same issue the revolutionary war was supposedly fought over. Thus I conclude the real purpose of the American government was to capture the tax stream going to the British aristocracy and deliver it to British traitors, who wanted to become an American aristocracy. Apparently their extortion racket story was good enough to convince lenders to loan them $54 million.

            Morality and culture are downstream of military balance of power, which is downstream of technological innovation. There won’t be nations or borders if financial privacy technology prevents the tax collection which funds governments. War is very expensive, and doesn’t occur larger than street gangs without tax funding. No money for organized criminal enterprises means no war, no matter if 99% of humans agitate for it, which historically they have.

            • They had representation.

              They just didn’t get what they wanted. So they decided to take their ball and go home.

              There’s a difference. It’s been beaten to death in the old comments, go look back there.

            • Your analogy fails in that the rebels did not lack representation in the Congress which levied the tax.

              • No American legislature with a tax-levying power existed at the time the bonds were sold. That the loans were made proves the lenders believed the founders had an ability to repay based on pledging the North American residents as collateral. Then the bond-holder families’ sons were officers in Washington’s debt collection army. The taxation-without-representation fix was in before the war. The later replacement of the articles with a constitution which could levy taxes, and the act of that congress to take over that debt, was just ex post facto for founder commitments made without representation.

                Jefferson didn’t ask Congress for appropriations to buy the Louisiana purchase, either, he just made the deal on his own authority as king.

                • That isn’t taxation without representation; that’s the group, which included representatives of those who had the rebellion, assuming debts of its predecessor.

                  • A summary of the representation in action, about five years before some of the farmers decided to attempt to murder an entire household because they objected to the situation.

                    It should be pretty freaking obvious that their tactics were not the same as those of the American Revolution. French, maybe.

                    • Foxfier: I think it fairly obvious by now that MikesMoniker is largely indifferent to facts as commonly recognized, preferring instead his somewhat tendentious interpretations. Clearly, whether we are talking about shoving little old ladies into the paths of buses or out of those paths, his focus is on the fact that little old ladies are being shoved about.

                      He is apparently a Son of Zinn.

                    • Honestly? I think by day he moves goal posts…

                    • Ah, but they do have some relation to the facts–specifically, seems to be as far off of the pop version as the pop version is from the facts.

                      So I can learn details I was never taught by researching the stuff. ^♡^

                • Your understanding of the Louisiana purchase is likewise screwed up– you missed that it was done via treaty, and that treaty was ratified; Jefferson himself struggled with there not being a specific permission in the Constitution to purchase land at all, actually arguing with his own advisors, which is a different issue.

            • Do you think that British bankers lent the Continental Congress and the various states the money to finance the rebellion?

              The Article of Confederation had not given the government the power to tax. The Whiskey Tax was passed by the new government formed under the Constitution.

              Both the central government and the states had incurred significant debt in financing the Revolution. These debts were primarily to the Dutch and French. The new Constitutional government, after extensive negotiations and deal making finally accepted the assumption of the remaining outstanding debts, both those issued to the prior central and continental governments and the states.

              The issue of requiring the payment by private citizens of outstanding debts to English bankers occurred during the debates surrounding a provision in the Jay Treaty which would require it.

    • In my case, and I believe some others, the dysfunction comes from thinking with your pants, while fervently believing you’re thinking with your head

    • “Girls with brains are at such risk of becoming complete idiots.”

      I have 2 daughters and would love any recommendations on how to avoid this? The eldest is now barely teen (US 8th grade) and has some learning difficulties (ADHD inattentive is the current thinking). She has brains but is weak in what they call “executive decision making”. Generally well liked by her classmates and teachers (as far as I can tell), the carb-craving issues associated with the ADHD have caused some weight problems. (Then again, neither my wife nor I are in a great position to throw stones on that issue.)

      My youngest is a tween (US 7th grade). She is also the one other students come to for help with their school work rather than going to the teacher. She has the ability to make another (male) student with mischief in his heart reconsider with just a look. She is also my heavy reader. My heart breaks given how similar she is to the way I was in certain respects – and middle school was really $!#@ to me. Prior to middle school, we actually made it a practice to tell every one of her teachers that the best way to handle her was to talk to her as if she was already an adult. (Stubborn with a little problem with authority – which is to say, no respect for teachers or adults without understanding more about their reasoning.)

      Before this last year, my wife worked full time (but 9-5 technically). I am a professional and have always worked very hard at my job. We arranged as good a set of daycare for them as we could – mostly home based daycare until a certain age and then primarily after-school type programs (which also had the virtue of offering homework help, etc.). Not idea, but we made it all work. At home, I was the primary cook and grocery shopper on the weekends. My wife stopped working outside the home at the beginning of the summer, so we’re shifting around responsibilities a bit these days and the new pattern isn’t stable. (Private school is $!#@ expensive, so her not earning any additional income is probably not a viable option longer term.)

      I think there are a couple things we’ve done right in terms of making them anti-fragile. They both do their own laundry and have for some years at this point. (The new washing machine with the see-through top where they could watch their clothes go around was a first rate incentive.) They both know how to cook, preparing meals not only for themselves but for the entire family (and yes, that includes knife skills) and, when prompted, will get the dishes rinsed and into the dishwasher and/or take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and put them away. They feed the dogs without too much prompting. They know how to get large amounts of homework done on their own over the weekend prior to it being due – and they are the ones who now tell us what subjects/topics they want/need adult help and/or review on in connection with that homework. We limited their exposure to social media growing up as best as we could – but they both now have phones/computers. as they are needed for pickup coordination/school work/etc which we try to monitor to some extent. They even have learned to shop by and for themselves at some of the local stores within easy walking distance of the house – though they’ve been caught making some not-so-great choices like candy in doing so.

      So, these are good girls – for certain values of good associated with middle school – and bright girls. I want the best for them. I just don’t know how to help them avoid some of the traps you describe. Any suggestions?

      • I wish there were simple steps to give you for this, but we all know that is not so. Given their ages — 7th & 8th grade — there is little that can be done to shape them further (as if parents can ever shape their kids!) so your primary task is to protect their individuality and encourage resilience.

        Spending time as a family, through trips to museums, zoos and such venues as Colonial Williamsburg can help in several ways: it reflects respect for knowledge, it offers opportunities for discussing our past and how our culture has been shaped by that past, and how many of the elements of human nature have been present since History began and it is only the ways in which such forces are permitted expression that change with the times. There is another, significant element to such family activities.

        As their father you model the adult relationship. You provide a lodestone, a pole star by which they can navigate as they make their own attempts to find their way in the stormy waters of modern culture. Your willingness to demonstrate respectful attention teaches them what that should look like, so they can learn to distinguish it from more basic desire. You can encourage them to remain in touch with and to trust their own instincts and values. You can provide perspective, as well, by offering them the insights that only come through age — when I was young I wanted nothing more than an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! — and understanding that this was not so much a desire for a particular object as for what that object represents (and how this is what his father’s winning of that absurd leg lamp also represented.)

        Most of all, you can model the quality of critical acceptance: do not simply accept uncritically that which is offered, but learn to examine it for the hidden barbs and meanings, to check it against what you already know about the world and its operation, so that they come to understand (for example) the true costs of “free” healthcare or college.

        Most of all, you can help your daughters learn to accept that being themselves is the best thing they can do, and that attempting to be somebody else is a sure route to misery.

  3. So I glance at the incoming title and my first thought is Robes? Is this this why it is so late to be posted, another sick day? I am so glad that it appears not to be.

    Now I will read on.

    • Eh. No, it was late because I was waiting for a delivery of a new desk-treadmill, which means I had to be where I was SURE of hearing the bell. So I did a lot of household stuff. Of course 8 to 11 turned out to be 11. Of course.

      • The symbolism of a desk-treadmill is rather potent.

        • In many ways, yes. But I found that used assiduously it not only allows me to lose weight (!) but more importantly allows me to feel 20 years younger. Unfortunately the thrift-store bought one broke, so a new one was ordered from Amazon and is now waiting both boys being home to be carried to my office and installed.

          • *expletive expletive*

            I did not know such a thing existed. Now I want one. I’ve been doing my running for years with mini notebooks in a pocket. You mean I can work and walk/run at the same time?

            *headdesk* Sometimes it’s the most obvious things that make me feel like I’m missing the part of my brain that goes “duh! That’s how it’s done.”

  4. Sarah, you have written some exquisite posts in the past, but this is one of the best ever. Well done.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    That’s Sexist!!!!! [Very Very Very Big Evil Grin]

  6. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    “I want to emphasize even in the modern era, running a household and raising children is a full time job. It is a job we devalue to our own detriment. All societies who outsourced child rearing to low-status paid employees collapsed shortly thereafter. And none did it on the universal scale we do.”
    The feminist movement has done so much to destroy the traditional value of motherhood that the country is in deep trouble. Yet, the upper crust is the only class left where mothers can be mother and don’t have to work at something else. I’m not sure if this was by design or just a consequence of the inflation and taxes of the 1970’s but the harm done to the family has been deep and may be irretrievable.

    • The upper class, or very stubborn idealists.

      Religious idealist is the most common, of course, but that’s because religion covers most of the common philosophies. We were doing it before my husband discovered that he really likes religion after all, it just needs some meaty philosophy.

      None of the homeschoolers I know are upper class, but they are (obviously) going to be homemakers as their job. There are a lot of gives and takes involved– we’re moving across the country to get to where we can better live on a salary my husband can bring in, and even then it’s a lot of stress because there has never been someone to watch the kids for us.

      The flat-out emotional abuse from their families that some of the ladies have mentioned, because they don’t have bill-paying jobs, is horrific. It comes up because the homeschooling group is a relatively safe place; as I’ve mentioned here before, it’s not that unusual for utter strangers to walk up to me and end up lecturing me about how I’m a failure as a woman because I have children instead of a “career,” especially if they figure out that I’m not as stupid as they originally assumed. Generally I’m rather obviously better educated, and at least shiny-surface-smarter, than them.

      (side note: My family is relatively supportive– I’ve always been weird, so I have that protection, and since demanding when I’ll get a “real job” resulted in a really boring explanation of exactly how much I’d have to make to break even even back when we only had one baby, only my mom asks that anymore. I’ve always been shiny surface smart– it’s just geeking out about “smart” stuff, like science, philosophy, theology, some bits of history. It doesn’t seem to connect all that well with actual ability to figure things out, but that’s how I got dinged with the “smart” label.)

      • For why my husband and I were doing the homemaker thing before religion was a factor:
        when he was growing up, his home was the real home for about a dozen of his sister’s friends, because his mom was at home all the time. Their parents all had full-time-plus careers; some very successful, at least if you don’t look at what it did to their 1.3 children. I gather a couple were traditional “broken” or “combined” homes, but the constant was that nobody was in charge of making the house a home. It was a glorified barracks, although better decorated.

        His sister had other friends, too, but the ones who called his mom, mom, because they didn’t really have one at home… that made a really big impact on him.

        Some of them have turned out very well, some haven’t, but they all still call his mom “mom” and acted almost exactly like his sister did when they were introduced to his wife-to-be. 😉

        • Aaron Peterson

          My ex was supposed to be doing the stay-at-home mom job; but every day the first thing I’d have to do getting home after work was change No. 1, and eventually No. 1 & No. 2, Son’s diaper. It was generally obvious that sometime an hour or two before I got home she decide that I’d be home soon and could do it so she wouldn’t have too.

          Then after changing the diaper(s) I would usually have to start dinner…

          • No. I gave fair value. When I wasn’t making much money from writing, I justified my existence by prioritizing not just the house but whatever Dan might need. So he really didn’t do anything around the house.
            CHANGING that now is difficult, and sometimes he needs to remind me “No, go work. I got this. You have a book due.”

          • Ugh. Yeah, that as a routine, sure sounds like a symptom of a serious issue that would find expression up in ANY situation. 😦

  7. Then there was managing employees.  Those servants weren’t just set pieces or robots.  They had to be managed, supervised, watched, taken care of.

    …When is the last time that you saw someone who had clue one about managing ANYTHING involving other people?

    A lot of folks get their ideas from school or jobs where you have folks of unknown mentality, where most of “managing” consists of “keep them from killing anybody or causing lawsuits, and keep broken or stolen stuff to a minimum.”
    The people are fairly low-value, high-cost resources, rather than individuals who are specialized tools; you use a screwdriver for a hammer, it won’t work very well, but it can work as a pry, *if* the situation is right, but using a screwdriver as a pry in the wrong situation breaks it….. It takes knowledge and judgment, both of the folks involved and the situation involved.

    Finding an office where the manager is actually *managing* his *people* is great– there’s a reason that it’s so popular on TV. Example: NCIS has Gibbs being the immediate manager, and there’s several stories where different ones come in and it demonstrates both bad, good and *different* management. Like the disaster when they forced Abby to dress properly, or when they gave Tony a role other than his usual.

    That takes a whole freaking LOT of work.

    • Currently dealing with that fustercluck at my full time. You have nominal managers but no responsibility between em

    • There’s a great “Parks and Rec” where Chris, the new city manager, tries out some management fads on the department. Eventually, the Great Ron Swanson has to set him right on how the new changes don’t work for the people in his department.

    • The thing is, you don’t *notice* the good managers if things are going right. You’ll notice the results of good management but when it’s done well, the managers kinda fade into the background until they’re needed.

      • This. A good manager knows his job- and those under him. And knows to get out of the way and let his people *do* those jobs.

        One of the most important things a good manager does is run interference for his people, so folks don’t interrupt them doing those jobs. Also, being a proper manager, he evaluates his people, and if a new hire is not performing to standard and cannot be trained to standard, fires them.

      • I coined a phrase when I was a system administrator. “Uptime is like air; nobody notices until it goes away.”

        Good management is similar…

      • Pretty much, yeah – it’s like formatting and layout of books. No one notices if it’s done well. But EVERYONE notices when it’s done badly.

      • I’ve said for a long time (early ’71) that the best example to learn from is a really good BAD example.

        • Oh yes. I’ve got a magnificent set of “Things Alma will never do to subordinates” from three people I’ve worked with/under/around/behind/as far away from as possible.

  8. I think the 3 phases of women has long been recognized. The three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos and/or the three witches of a triad, Maiden, Mother and Crone.
    According to Larry Niven, it predates Earth (child, breeder, protector). Of course, it was both sexes for them.

  9. Part of it is a confusion of roles. In my sitting around, writing, while Dan is watching TV, last week, I overheard a male character say “Women don’t understand how much men are defined by their profession” and I thought “poppycock. We do.”


    (No, even if you are in a job, alongside a man, your role is not the same as his. He’s inserted into a hierarchy of dominance and aggression which is none the less real for not being overt and which you won’t even understand.)

    Life is full of nuances and contradictions … 🙂

    People, being what they are, tend to be myopic in their view and understanding. The ability to move beyond self, or even how I would feel in their shoes, to how someone else actually perceives the world is difficult to master, and more often than not abandoned.

    (It becomes even more complicated when the world around you is screaming at you that those you are attempting to understand are not to be understood.)

    Not everyone comes with a variety of characters, even from their own time, in their brain — which can be seen by the lack of true character differentiation in all too many examples of bad writing.

  10. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t dislike the tale of the day the Farmer and his Wife swapped roles. You know the one — he stays in and minds the kids, prepares the meals, cleans the house, tends the garden and the chickens, etc. while she goes out and plows. Even as an ignorant child I recognized the unfairness of the descriptions.

    She had established habits and routine and knew where everything in the house was or ought to be, which kids needed close supervision and which could be given longer leashes and so on. His work day involved far more than simply walking behind an ox-drawn plow — not that even that is so very easy. She likely hadn’t developed the upper-body musculature to wrestle a plow or ox out of a mud wallow, nor is it likely she could harness up the beast near so easily as he. Nor, on most such farms, is it likely that his normal work day involved nothing more challenging than plowing.

    But whatever — it served no purpose to argue such trivial points. I understood the propaganda being sold and discounted what attention I paid accordingly. The essence is that we all tend to understand and appreciate our own roles too closely, and neither understand nor appreciate the roles imposed on others especially well. So as you describe the problems of writers, conveying an accurate depiction of other times to modern readers not equipped nor inclined to appreciate the complexities of other eras, constantly projecting their own prejudices into the past.

    • The best versions of that story, though, involve the farmer and the wife both realizing that they are each completely unsuited to to take the other’s role.

    • I saw a semi-modern version where the wife gets tired of her husband complaining that he didn’t understand why she said she was tired and wanted house help because she sat around doing nothing all day, since there was nothing to housekeeping. So a few days later he returned from the office to find chaos in the yard, the children running wild, a disaster in the kitchen, stuff strewn around the house, the dog sleeping on the sofa, and so on. He panics and runs upstairs, thinking his wife has suffered a terrible medical emergency, and discovers her in bed, eating chocolates and reading novels. “What’s going on?”
      She looks up. “All those things that you say I never do?”
      “Um, yes?”
      “Today I didn’t do them.”

      • I like that one, too– and the country song version that has the chorus “rewind Barney for the (umpteenth) time, breakfast at six, naps at nine.”

        Mostly because it doesn’t have as a matter of course that men are ungrateful idiots or that people are generally idiots, just pokes fun at the very human flaw of thinking stuff you don’t see isn’t there. Doing it that way makes it so you CAN fix the problem, at least partly.

      • My in-laws got an earful the two times they tried that. First, was when Julie and I were dot-bombed out of work, and s-i-l called and asked J to come over and do some scut work “because you don’t have anything to do”. That was the day we moved several yards of sand and gravel to get the patio work on the house (to be sold once things were finished). Julie invited them to come over and help move the 40,000 pounds of pavers, but they declined. Didn’t hear from them for several blissful (but strenuous) months.

        The next time was when b-i-l claimed he envied Julie because she “didn’t have anything to do” in the new house. That was the day we spent 6+ hours clearing snow. (I think you’d describe the ensuing comments as a thermonuclear tongue-lashing.)

        He threw out his back pulling weeds just after he retired. There’s a moral to that story somewhere…

  11. (No, even if you are in a job, alongside a man, your role is not the same as his. He’s inserted into a hierarchy of dominance and aggression which is none the less real for not being overt and which you won’t even understand.)

    This opens the arena for a discussion of why many women are not just bad managers, but very bad managers.

    It is not inherent — good female managers, while rare, tend to be extremely good managers. The problem is that many women attempt to “manage like a man” or worse, manage a mixed group with the tool set they would use to manage a man. It is one reason I suspect Hillary would be a disaster as president; she seems to think of “toughness” as she imagines a man does, rather than as, for example, Maggie Thatcher did. (Which may also be why so many Lefties despised Dame Maggie; she not only did a “man’s job” she did it as a woman, not as a man with boobs. Thatcher was comfortable as woman and leader; Hillary is comfortable as neither; “We came, we saw, he died!” indeed!

    I would have to ponder this extensively to provide more than this superficial suspicion, but it feels like a right insight.

    • sabrinachase

      In my experience it is a cultural vs. inherent ability thing. Which we seem to be losing for boys as well–i.e. how to fight within the rules. Now it is “no fighting” for boys, and it has *always* been “fighting is unladylike” for girls. If you don’t know how to channel aggression, the options are total surrender (seen as weak) or berserker fury and somebody gets hurt. I don’t have a problem with conflict in the workplace, going to bat for my opinion and backing it up with argument and data, and generally saying “No, YOU move” without getting personal. Without examples, without experience, that’s hard to do. Some women, I grant, will do the ballbuster routine. Some *men* do it for exactly the same reasons of ignorance.

      We are angry little tribal apes. We have to learn customs of ritualized conflict and have them enforced by others for it to work. Not pretend aggression doesn’t exist–learn how to channel and control it. Otherwise, it controls *you*.

    • Yep – when a woman is a good manager, she is a very, very good manager, I’ve always thought that the most comfortable style for a female manager is the subtle – team leader sort. In charge, but getting everyone to work as a team and paying attention to everyone’s input. In the leadership classes that I sat through, they often compared this to the Captain Picard leadership style. The two best military commanders I ever worked for utilized this style – but they were commanding skilled and knowledgeable technicians.

      The other style, BTW, is the Captain Kirk style, very top-down authoritarian. It is effective when used well by a certain personality type, who usually (but not always) is male. Offhand, I can’t think of any female commander/section chief who was comfortable and effective with this style. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there – but I suspect they are rare.

      • I believe TV Tropes has it under “team mom” and “team dad.”

      • The Captain Kirk style, or even better, the Commander Sheridan style, get my back up. A week of that, and I’d be building an IED wire to the door of their quarters.

        • What is it about Capt Sheridan’s command style that bothers you? I think it is an effective combat command style. It seriously wouldn’t work in a civilian, peacetime setting.

          • Yes, it’s an optimum style for combat commanders, especially at the very pointy end of the spear, or in the midst of a fast-developing crisis – but it is less effective when it comes to managing intelligent, experienced and self-driven people who are farther down along the edges of that spear,

            • Mmmm… No.

              It’s a style for combat leadership. Not an optimum one, at all, however. The guys who fall into the trap of modelling themselves on Patton, or Captain Kirk usually fail miserably the first time they turn their backs on a situation, and have to rely on their subordinates to to the right thing in the right way without prompting. You pull that one central node out of the system with one of these guys who “leads by cult of personality”, and you’re going to suffer a disaster of truly epic proportions.

              I’m of the opinion that ninety-nine percent of what we’ve been teaching, training, inculcating, and rewarding in the realm of leadership is just plain wrong, and antiethical to dealing with the complexities and shifting changes of the modern world, whether in combat or in civilian life. You cannot “lead” or “manage” what is an organic process that is entirely unamenable to control by one person, yet this is what we try for, and what most of our organizations are conceptually set up for.

              The discussion about “male” and “female” leadership is a perfect example–Much of the problem is that the people who decided it would be a brilliant idea to bring women into these roles decided to do it simply by having them emulate the males–Which ain’t gonna work. Period.

              You can have a male say something to another male that between the two of them is merely constructive criticism with a bit of a bite to it, and it will not have a lasting effect. Subject “B” of said criticism will take what was said as it was meant, and go on from there.

              Were a woman to try that same set of words, communicated in the same way…? Yeah. Congratulations, honey–You just created a life-long enemy who is going to take every opportunity to screw you over and destroy your career from beneath through sabotage, because of five minutes of speech you copied from “the boys”, and which when delivered by you as a woman becomes an emasculating verbal castration that will be remembered 10-15 years later when that now-retired NCO is a state cop that discovers you in the driver’s seat of the car he just pulled over for speeding. Don’t be real surprised when he decides to do a field sobriety test, discover you’re unfit to drive, and then does a search of your car where he finds the stash of oxycontin you’ve been hanging on to “just in case” from that overuse injury you suffered last year…

              I think the denouement from that one was one fast-track career expected to top out at Brigadier General getting somewhat sidetracked at Lieutenant Colonel, especially after the individual in question decided to turn her arrest for DUI into a “resisting arrest’ on the side of the road shitshow…

              It doesn’t have to be that way, either–One of the most effective leaders I was ever around in the Army was a woman, and she was effective enough that she’s one of two people from my career who could call me on the phone, out of the blue, tell me something needs to be done, and I’d be on a plane to go do it. Whatever it was. That’s a sadly rare commodity in today’s military.

              The notable thing about her was that she never did anything “like the boys” did. It was all her unique way of doing things, and if someone had asked me, I’d have told them to put her in a lab, figure out what the hell she was doing that was so ineffably different and effective, and then have what they distilled from that taught to the female leadership instead of the crap they hand out in the service schools.

              Things like that example lead me to think that we still don’t really know what the hell goes on with the complexities of leadership. It sure as hell isn’t something that can be taught via a Powerpoint deck and a few trite buzzwords. But, organizations try and try to make it work like that, wondering why they wind up run by sycophantic asses who get to the top via climbing over the backs of their peers and stabbing everyone in the back.

              I’m so burned out on the standard-issue organizational BS we have across our society that I’m about ready to head off to the Arctic Circle for a seventy-year sabbatical. Doesn’t matter where, what organization, or what level we’re talking about, the signs of dysfunction and incompetence are everywhere. If I had to say why, I think the biggest problem is that we no longer seem to give a damn about character or accountability. It’s like the Fast and Furious scandal–What concerns me there wasn’t that the political appointees did what they did, but that the organization behind it all didn’t raise a fuss or bother until someone had a crisis of conscience when another Federal agent, Bryan Terry, got killed. What the hell, people? What about all the Mexicans who were killed by those weapons?

              Or, the IRS: Good Lord, but that’s a study in poor leadership and a lack of accountability. Nixon tried doing some shady stuff with the IRS, and that was one of the counts on his impeachment–trying to misuse the power of the IRS. As I recall, the Republican who was running the agency about then shut him down, and there was no harassment of Nixon’s enemies. Now? Holy crap, it’s been three years of stonewalling and a never-ending trickle of actual evidence showing that the Obama administration effectively weaponized the IRS to go after grass-roots conservatives who opposed administration policy. And, not one damn person in the agency apparently saw fit to question the ethics of it all, either…

              This stuff didn’t happen in a vacuum, and it all flows from poor leadership. Period.

              • Except, of course, that Patton didn’t work that way. One of the secrets to his success, and he admitted it frequently, was the ability to find competent subordinates and then let them do their jobs.

              • In dogs, pack leaders (which is to say, true alphas) are born, not made. There may be a lesson in there somewhere.

                [Pro dog trainer here with ~3000 dogs worth of experience.]

              • I suspect you are on to something about part of the problem being that people are not encouraged to hold themselves accountable. If I tried to explain to my students why having a University department chair call me “the most honorable person” he’d ever met was one of the best moments in my grad school career . . . they’d still be staring at me like a pack of slightly befuddled but eager Lab puppies. A few might get it, at least in an intellectual sense, but not the visceral way I think of honor and duty.

                • It needs an example, because I don’t think it can be put into words very well. Well, words don’t convey the whole meaning.

                  Spend enough time around someone whose every habit and action is driven by a purpose, and duty will resonate (bad word for it, but close enough) in others who have the capacity for it. That accountability folds into honor and keeping your word, which drives duty and purpose. The whole of it is glued together with ethics and a sound moral code.

                  If you’re missing a piece of it, the whole is not a little bit weaker, but much weaker. Someone who has it all together is a good example. People say “she brings out the best in people,” or something similar. More like, she draws in the best of people, and the worst shear away. Folks with weak moral codes do not like being reminded of their deficiencies.

                  Leadership, accountability, honor, and duty do not spontaneously arise. They have to be taught, and largely taught by example. Learning and refining those qualities are a lifetime effort.

    • I would suggest that part of the reason may be that for hundreds of years the requirements of chivalry taught boys (at least boys likely to become managers of anything) that the powerful had responsibilities to those beneath them. Things like opening doors for girls provided a daily reminder of that. Give them that every day from when they were young boys until they become a manager and they are more likely to think of the good of their team (even if they aren’t inclined to do so consciously). That worked better when almost all leadership positions in gov’t, business, church, etc. were held by men. Take the girl that those boys have been holding doors open for her whole life and make her the manager instead now and she has different expectations (perhaps mostly even subconsciously) of how things work and what power is for.

  12. “You can play to the role or against the role. Or you can take the role, as assigned, and play it as YOU. Personalize it, improve on it, make the role yours.”

    Incisive as always, and particularly timely in my case– I was honored to give the lesson last week at my synagogue down in Pueblo, and this was very much the theme on which I focused, kicking it off with a mention of the despicable “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” shame-a-thon going on at that moment at Ft. Carson. We rebel endlessly against the natures we have been given– too short, wrong sex, wrong race, whatever– and we just as steadfastly refuse to rebel against the prisons we’ve built for ourselves– I can’t find a job but I don’t want to move, I’m a glutton but I don’t want to eat less, I make people miserable and drive them away but I’d rather complain than change my behavior.

    For heaven’s sake, just accept the immutable role and do what you like in the mutable ones!

  13. This essay is the best of yours that I have read to date. Keep it up please!

  14. Amen. I’ve noticed a tendency among women who rebel against their own biology and seek to fulfill Henry Higgin’s dream of women becoming “more like a man” to pick inferior masculine role models. There are few things more pitiful or disgusting than a bad woman trying to be a worse man.

    Also, it’s not just women that find themselves somewhat miscast in typical social roles. I’ll forego the pity-seeking stories and leave it at that.

    • I usually phrase it as something like women are told they’re supposed to become cads and a**holes, while guys are told they’re supposed to become manipulative, lying dishrags without a passion they’ll admit to.

    • Heheh, yet another way that The Incredibles worked– a natural born hero to the bone, shoved into the role that only an absolute soul-less b**** could love.

    • “When a woman acts like a man, why can’t she act like a gentleman?”

  15. Office jobs are “freeing” if you’ve been a student burdened with homework every night while living in your parent’s house or someplace temporary on your parent’s dime even if you’re accruing massive debt.

    Fun for a few years, but a bit on the empty side, long run.

    Modern parenting, with the modern sized family, generally amounts to seven or eight years where the kids are very dependent and time consuming, and another ten or twelve years of lessening time needs.

    Call it twenty years for parenthood, out of a life expectancy of 75-80 years. And it’s a pity that so many women can’t concentrate on that, and then get back to work. But they need the money, and if they quit, the career is toast. I understand that.

    But we need to fight for the respect the role ought to carry, even if we can’t do it ourselves.

    • Yup – you actually spend only about a quarter of your life, overall, as a hands-on mom. But it is intense, and one ought to be able to give it the time and concentration that it deserves, without getting dumped on.

      • Heck, how much ink has been spent in the last two or three decades about how communities are falling apart, and they can’t figure out why? Some of them have even figured out “oh, nobody is home on the entire block during the week during the day except for those with infants or who are retired or disabled.” But it goes a bit deeper than that….

        Even look at the local FOE or whatever men’s volunteer chapter– sure, they’re all guys. The guys go and do the stuff. The wives “only” make sure that the meetings happen…and the stuff gets ordered… and the money gets counted… and hall is cleaned… and that when George gets the flu when he’s supposed to be doing something, word gets out to all the other households until they find someone who isn’t busy that day and can take over.

        For a more individual example:
        A family friend has a husband who caters on the side– has a really awesome big BBQ, runs it like a pro. They do weddings and stuff.
        At one point she had a liiiiittle too much to drink in a safe location, and mentioned that it is a real pisser– she makes the 8 to 16 sides that go with the BBQ, buys the meat, mixes the marinade, gets the meat ready, fills his on-hand seasoning, orders the hardwood, packs stuff up…the only thing he does is put the boxes into his pickup, sets up the BBQ, cooks and serves the meat. He doesn’t even handle any of the clean-up of the BBQ, much less the rest– that’s her, too. But it’s all how awesome his catering is. She doesn’t mind doing it, he’s got a really demanding job and this is as much hobby as second job, but it’s annoying to do it and then be absolutely ignored. Especially when she works, too. ( #TeamMartha?)

        You need guys to coach the Little League team, or to teach some of the adult religious ed classes (seriously, there are some subjects where you need a dude to reach everyone), tons of stuff just works better with a guy. To get that guy, someone has to be supporting him– it’s like making an army that’s all front-line fighters, with no cooks, supply, dude-who-feeds-the-horses, nothing.

        It can’t all be the Widow Brigade, mighty though they are.

        By saying everyone’s supposed to have a career, we’re wiping out the volunteer community.

        • This is the dilemma I have no answer for, and probably a big reason why I’m single, because a large number of women have no choice but to have to do it all – homemaker and outside job, either because they’re divorced, or the family needs the additional income, or she’s crazy with the full-time home job (the 70s stereotype of the housewife overdosing on alcohol, valium or extra-marital affairs is absolutely true, from what I saw at the time).

          I have no solution for this. My parents have a wonderful marriage, with the traditional division of labor, so I have first-hand knowledge that when it works, it’s the ideal. But looking at all my friends and co-workers, the ideal is pretty rare these days. And yeah, our society loses.

          • But the stereotype of a woman drinking, drugging and sleeping around when she’s a career woman are quite real, too. (First functioning alcoholic I ever knew was the school secretary– she was a VERY high functioning alcoholic, but she’d also Done It All since… maybe the 50s? Her kids were nearly my folks’ age.)

            That’s a household issue, and possibly a personality issue, not a lifestyle issue.

            • Yes, it’s a personality thing. I wasn’t trying to imply that there’s anything wrong with the choice of being a full time keeper of hearth and home – quite the contrary. Just that some women are miserable with it, so an outside job is necessary for them.

              I have a friend who said she would have gone stir-crazy staying at home, so she ran her own little business. I, on the other hand, would have gone stir-crazy trying to do both home job and outside job. But for a lot of women, full time mom isn’t an option, even if that’s what they’d prefer.

              • This is why I wrote, even when it was squeezed into “before the kids wake up” and “nap time.”

              • Let’s just say I’m unlikely to become the beating social heart of my local clubs. 🙂
                The idea that homemaker is an only thing is pretty dang new– the problem is finding what adds to it to improve it.

                Both of my grandmothers had other jobs. Reporter and court stenographer. Just wasn’t their defining thing which kids and family was fit in around the edges.

      • Often that dumping is a form of sour grapes.

  16. I’m currently in the midst of transitioning from professional work to childcare with the first kid. I think it is a good thing to do, but it is nice to hear that others also think that way. As for money vs. kid… my conclusion is there is opportunity cost for each life choice. I value children more than money/status.

    • I gave up a very lucrative translation job when we had first son. He’s now in medschool. And meanwhile, I developed a writing career.
      More importantly, both boys are people we can be proud of, and we KNOW them. I wouldn’t trade all the years of reading, and arguing, and taking walks, and discussing for the world. It’s been the most fun anyone can have.
      Good luck.

  17. You know, I wasn’t kidding at LibertyCon when I said you looked like you were in your early 30s, and that under the right conditions I’d be tempted to card you.

    So you’re doing _something_ right in the beauty department(provided that Dan agrees with my assessment, of course!).

    • Can we pause for a moment and acknowledge that beauty has an inner component? This is not to say that “true beauty is inner” because we all know that a canard; Edna Mae Oliver was going too get very few ingenue roles, no matter how beautiful her interior self, just as Wally Cox only gets to play the macho hero in cartoons.

      But we’ve all known “that girl” whose features seemed plain as dirt until she opened up and her personality lit up and made her fascinating. Just as we’ve likely all known guys who seemed “meh” until called upon to display their character and who could master a room with a look.

      Presence is a beauty beyond symmetrical features, and over time meanness disqualifies all benefits of features.

      • My husband’s features are fine, but nothing to write home about.
        When he gets passionate about something, though? Be it “this is neat” or “I WILL do this”…. oh, my.

      • Ye gods and little fishes yes. Poise, character, charisma, presence, call it what you will. But While beauty might most often refer to merely physical things, the other kind endures and grows richer with time.

        I don’t believe it can be truly taught, per se, but it can be learned. It’s not the habits of courtesy, nor the motions of confidence. It’s what’s inside that amplifies what might have been overlooked before.

        It’s a powerful thing indeed. Much like genuine happiness makes you more attractive, genuine character (masculine or feminine) *will* garner attention. It’s what we in the single world might say makes a “catch.” *grin*

        • There are certain people I know whose personality lights up and glows — if you are around them, you are happier than if you are not around them. I’m not one of them. But, on the other hand, one comment I’ve gotten from visitors to my home is that it’s peaceful, and I like that. It’s probably a reflection of my own personality.

  18. I’ve been thinking about a lot of this recently myself – how much society loses without traditional women’s work. Too many (men and woman alike) only value labor that has a dollar sign attached.

    And on women’s beauty (and yeah, I’ve been slipping, too, not that I was ever the best about it) : I used to do the whole work dress-up bit – suit, make-up, hair, heels (it was really fun to go to my local comics shop after work just for the looks I’d get), but I always resented the amount of working RAM in my brain that had to be continually devoted to appearance maintenance, or even enduring physical pain. (And I HATE blow-drying my hair with a passion – it is so boring!) I forget how much better I feel when I make even a minimal effort.

    • Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’ve been eating our seed corn ever since women’s (anti-)lib took hold.

      Hmm . . . audiobook setup in the bathroom? (waterproofing needed, obviously)

      • Waterproof bluetooth speaker(s) and a Kindle (or such) safely out of water range?

        • Nah, the dryer’s too loud. And my hair gets damaged anyway, and then I have to cut it all off, and I do not have the bone structure for short hair (women with lovely cheekbones can do short hair. The rest of us, especially the (ahem) extra-curvy, it’s more problematic – some can, I’m not one of them).

          As my dad says, being female is complicated.

  19. Did your grandmother wear purple, by any chance?

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    On a very distantly related note, I see that the folks over at the Blog of Eternal Stench are once again harping on the idea that we Puppies are all a bunch of he-man woman-haters. That they just spent a few months denigrating Sarah, Amanda, Kate and Cedar for being part of Sad Puppies is just one of the many ironies lost on that bunch.

    • I thought everybody who was paying attention knew by now that Sarah, Amanda, Kate, and Cedar are white Mormon males. Mere biology in a discussion of political opinions doesn’t count for much.

      • How Politically Incorrect of the kickers. If Sarah, Amanda, Kate, and Cedar identify as women, they should be treated as such (that they are biologically is not relevant).

  21. Perhaps they would find it plausible for her to be Lady Bountiful. Which was a serious role in that era. Emma alludes to her work there — note that anyone below the status of farmer, she might be of assistance to. And Anne reflects that with the Crofts in Kellylynch, the poor will be perfectly well looked after.

    I’ve found it hard to research, though what little I’ve found points to its being very like Victorian home visiting.

  22. This is one of those posts that one could easily spend a few thousand words responding to, in a forlorn attempt to do it justice.

    Sarah has managed to put a finger right on the crux of a lot of our societies problems, which originate in the prosaic-yet-vitally-important ones of hearth and home.

    Much of the ills of modern society flow out from the home, whose internal dissatisfactions wind up expressed as social trends that are, quite bluntly, the root cause for the dissolution of the ground beneath the pillars of our civilization. The steady drip, drip, drip of these issues steadily erodes away the firm soil, creating massive sinkholes of pestilence and corruption where once we had shining edifices.

    All too much of this stems from the work of the so-called intellectuals and intelligentsia of our society over the last century-plus, setting out to “change things”, because they personally feel straight-jacketed by the rules and conventions developed over centuries. What isn’t paid attention to is that the sort of thing that an Emily Bronte or (fictional character, yet archetypical) Murphy Brown can get away with and manage… Becomes a disaster when emulated by the other 80% of the population that lacks their resources and intellectual gifts.

    We have, as a society, been sold a bill of goods by the people who are supposed to fill the “responsible thinker” roles for society as a whole. The theorists and geniuses have all proven to be signal lackwits (I want to use a pithier term more appropriate to the drill field, but I’ll refrain…), especially when it comes to the long-term society-wide effect of their idealism.

    Of course, you can’t ignore the possibility that these fools are trying to burn the whole damn thing down, but that’s something I hope isn’t actually true. What is true is that we’re in for a long, long period of fixing this crap, or we’re going to make an epic “splat” sound when we hit collective bottom.

    • When the Left decries growing wealth inequality in our society, they are decrying the easily foreseen consequences of their own policies. The mores and behaviours they advocate are only possible for the very wealthy and connected or the very poor and generously stipended (and it is ultimately disastrous for those) — which is the point Danny Quayle was making with his criticism of the standards modeled by Murphy Brown.

      It is possible to climb out of poverty, but only if there is a working class* to climb into, just as the working class offers a route to the professional class, from whence one can rise to the upper class. But the values being endorsed and promoted are destructive of the Middle Class, the Bourgeoisie, those who are the ballast of the social order, who provide the tone, the support, the “showing up” that makes society function. In the eyes of our developing society these are the “suckers” — the people who work hard, play by the rules, pay their taxes (in part because the cost of avoiding them exceeds the benefits) and who form the “Little Battalions” of Tocqueville and Burke. The US was founded as a society of yeomen but we’re turning into aristocrats and peasants.

      There is a bridge between the haves and the have-nots, and our elites are steadily removing the paving connecting the two shores. Before long you will find you can’t get there from here.

      *For purposes of this discussion, “class” is being used as if it had actual meaning instead of simply being Marxist claptrap; it serves as a convenient shorthand for those elements of culture and behaviour which are statistically represented by the false identity of “class.”

      • “When the Left decries growing wealth inequality in our society, they are decrying the easily foreseen consequences of their own policies.”

        In a nutshell. Yep.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Complaints of Income Inequality: The proposal that the difference between CEO jobs and unemployment can be fixed by more of the same regulation that let’s the politically connected charge a high price for their connections, and which drives up cost of less valuable work, meaning people do not get hired to do it. Either that, or a proposal to create a poorly educated underclass which lives on the dregs of the rents bureaucrats get for fostering them.

  23. Yeah, one of my problems is that I forget I have a body. It kind of irks me that I have to take care of it all the time, who has time for that? Turns out you have to make time. 🙂

    Another problem of mine is that between homeschooling, working some, and my innate difficulties with housekeeping, my real desire to make a good home gets short shrift. I just keep on hoping that someday I’ll figure this out. Probably after the actual children are gone!

    • I think we need a Hoydens Tidying Brigade. Once a month (twice?) all the area Hoydens show up a member’s house, get instructions, clean/tidy/help sort, and then get out of the way. Sort of a tactical housekeeping raid. 🙂 Help gets rotated among members, and everyone knows that once a month, help will arrive and you will have time to X [decorate, clean out that closet, finish projects, lay in hammock and dream].

  24. ” I still haven’t decided where this is going: whether I resume the beauty stuff or just concentrate on writing and let the rest slide.”

    Or you could do the third way: decide the time for beauty is passed and learn to cook really, really well.

  25. “Purely female roles, like being a beautiful young woman, or wishing to run a household and have children, were devalued and considered low status. (I think honestly because they’re not really easy to teach in a formal environment, so intellectual people think they denote stupidity.)”

    Or to put it another way, they’re not easy to reduce to a set of rules, therefore to a state that qualifies for Appeal to Authority. Same mindset that thinks “Leadership” can be reduced to a formula, but doesn’t get beyond the most superficial qualifications.

    • I think part of the problem is that “everyone” does it (sort of, theoretically). Or, “anyone could do that”.

      It’s like the difference between movie stars/rock stars/sports stars, and low-paid janitors, maids, cooks, etc. The former are non-essential, yet get paid huge amounts and are highly valued and highly esteemed (and probably at least somewhat with cause, as they do usually have skills above the general population).

      But what would happen to our society if nobody cleaned or cooked? So which is more essential? But the cooks and the cleaners don’t get valued because they are common. Anyone (or almost anyone) could do the work they do.

      It’s the same way with being a housewife. Theoretically half of the population *could* do their work, so it’s not valued, even though it’s one of the most important jobs there is. We are seeing the results of neglect of home responsibilities in our culture now, though of course the (Marxists/SJW’s/Feminists/whatever) won’t acknowledge the real cause of the problems.

  26. “You don’t need to steal someone’s role to be extraordinary. Extraordinary is in the performance, not the role.”


  27. Looks at available roles. Hmm. I’m going to go with Maiden Aunt who buys books for the nieces and nephews.