Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine

The Ottawa Citizen's official blogger, Tom Spears, makes some "fairly horrifying" leaps of hyperbole: Expecting the new generation to bring new and tolerant attitudes to working mothers? Guess again. The young up-and-comers now graduating from university think Mom belongs in the nursery, or maybe barefoot and in the kitchen. Certainly not at the office. Read on, however, and it's clear this isn't the case at all: In a fairly horrifying study, the Ohio State University asked a couple of hundred college kids to interview two actors posing as job candidates. "Kenneth Anderson" and "Katherine Anderson" were pretending to apply for jobs at a law office. When Ken told people he had two young kids, the interviewers reacted more favourably toward hiring him, and felt he’d be a strong candidate to climb the career ladder. But when Katherine said she had two young children, it sent a chill through the interview. She was offered the job less often. And the interviewers felt she would be a lousy candidate for promotion even if she did get in. Don’t blame the actor who played Katherine: She did fine in job interviews when she told people she was single and childless. Look, I like to think I'm gender-blind in such respects. But the reality is that children need raising by someone. Stay-at-home dads are, unfortunately, rare. It's not unreasonable for someone making hiring decisions to assume that a mother is going to get stuck - fairly or not - with taking care of traditional mom stuff: doctor's appointments, sports practice, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. It's rather arrogant of Spears to sacrifice all that on the altar of political correctness; how dare anyone assume, he seems to be saying, that in a two-parent, two-income family, someone is going to actually have to do some parenting, and that might reduce effectiveness at a full-time, high-stress professional position. Again, fairly or not, to imagine that a mother of two (without explicit evidence to the contrary, such as, say, mention that hubby plans to stay at home raising the kids) is going to be able to entirely avoid the primary caregiver role is just ignorant. I don't see any endorsement of the hackneyed old "barefoot and pregnant" line in the results of the study, just an acknowledgment of practical realities. "Sometimes gender stereotypes are manifested in very subtle ways," said Kathleen Fuegen, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology. "Even today, mothers are still expected to be caregivers first and fathers are still seen as the main breadwinners... "People are setting higher standards for mothers than for fathers because they expect that mothers will be less committed to their jobs and will need more time off to take care of their children." Dark Matter bets that many or most of these snotty college kids have working mothers helping to pay their way through school. Or, perhaps, as a generation of latchkey kids, they resent absentee parents in the general sense, and wouldn't want to visit that angst and alienation on others. Maybe they actually place the intangible value of a full-time parent over financial gain or PC ideals. I'm just, y'know, saying.

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