Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Juggling Act

Multi-tasking or scatter-brained?

I'm reading Warren Farrell's "Why Men Earn More" and he makes an excellent point about the "juggling act", which, along with the second shift is part of the women-as-victims popular culture nowadays.

Thousands of articles and cartoons focus only on the women's juggling act. These articles and cartoons play upon and reinforce society's failure to have equal compassion for men; in the process, it helps make us vulnerable to a second bias - that "women are better managers because women are better jugglers" of their dual role as mothers and workers.

In reality, men and women juggle in different ways. As a rule, moms do more juggling at home and dads do more at works.

Mom's juggling at home is well recognized: While the laundry and dinner are on, she's nursing her infant, answering a cell phone, and using eye contact and six fingers to give her seven-year-old permission to visit a friend next door but be back by six for dinner. Men are more likely to contribute to the home in some 50 different ways that are less predictable, more as-needed: repairing, assembling, remodeling; driving under dangerous conditions or when everyone is tired; working outdoors shoveling snow, raking leaves, mowing lawns, coaching kids; climbing ladders to paint or put up screens, check out a roof, or get something from the attic. These kinds of contribution go largely unrecognized because many of them, like driving, coaching, and assembling, are not measured by "housework" studies, so they don't make headlines and we think of only women as having a "second shift."

Men's juggling, though, is more likely to occur at work than at home. For example, although women today are as likely as men to win public office when they seek it, men are still much more likely to seek it. Yet every politician is a walking, talking juggling act - expected to juggle hundreds of conflicting interests yet avoid conflict-of-interest. Governors, for example, juggle the taxpayers' demand for the best education systems and highways; they try to attract companies to their state to pay those taxes by keeping down the taxes companies pay. They cannot stay elected unless they speak and listen most every night to another constituency, yet they are accused by their family of spending every night taking care of everyone except the family. If they don't juggle well, they will soon find themselves praising family values and watching their own family fall apart. The juggle winning with losing-even-if-they-win.

Its a good summary, because everyone recognizes the contributions of women, especially managers who then go on to hold those women to a lower standard and are more flexible with letting the women go home early or come in late or have erratic hours.

If a manager doesn't let women act as they please, either he or the company is accused of being archaic, inflexible and insensitive to women's needs. Basically what this means is that feminists don't give a shit about men's needs, but women's needs are elevated to this-must-be-resolved status. Of course, chivalry then kicks in, and kicks men in the balls.

1 comment:

  1. You may be able to say that both juggling at home and at work are "juggling" but the two are essentially different. Just because she can juggle diaper-changing and cooking pasta and answering phone call all at the same time doesn't necessarily means that she can juggle acing presentation, supervising subordinates, and negotiating deals with competitiors, while keeping eyes on stock market. I think there is naive and feminine misunderstanding or underestimate of the kind of skills needed in competitive working environment.