The War on Mommies

Hilary Rosen vs. Ann Romney

CNN contributor Hilary Rosen set off a faux firestorm Wednesday when she accused her celebrity look-alike Ann Romney of having not worked a day in her life.

The RNC, on behalf of all stay-at-home moms (who have recently been placed on the Endangered Species List anyway), is outraged, outraged I tell you!  Romney’s response was a bit more nuanced, saying, “Motherhood is the most important job there is.” —which is somewhat akin to responding to the question, “What time is it?” with the answer, “Morning is my favorite part of the day.”

I’m sure that managing multiple households and the staffs of servants therein has its challenges.  Hell, I’m sure driving a couple of Cadillacs can be more than a little confounding all on its own. Which is really more the point Rosen was trying to make.  She was saying that Romney can’t relate to the problems of women who are not so well off.

The expression “You’ve never worked a day in your life” is often hurled at the well to do by those less fortunate.  I’m sure there’s more than a couple of coal miners who would claim I’ve never worked a day in my life. Hell, I’m pretty tempted to say the same of Mitt.  And I’d even bet there’s a fair number of stay-at-home moms who would second Rosen’s assertion that Ann Romney hasn’t.  It’s all relative.

To read the attack on Ann Romney as an attack on all stay-at-home moms is to buy into the notion that somehow Ann is just Harriet Nelson, if only Ozzie had owned a mansion.  I’m not buying it.

Would any of you ladies out there care to sign up for an episode of “Wife Swap” with Ann Romney?  I’ll bet you cope with her life a lot better than she copes with yours.


Why aren’t there more women in tech?

techiegirlCNet’s Benn Parr tackles the question of why the tech field is still short of women after all these years.  He says, “The lack of women in technology is disturbing. To fix it, we need to re-engineer the industry’s male-dominated culture.”

Certainly, the number of women in tech is not on par with the number of men. Although, there are way more of them now than when I entered the field 30 years ago, and it’s continuing to trend up. Yet parity remains a ways off and it’s quite reasonable to question why a field with lots of open jobs is having trouble attracting and keeping women in this economy.

Parr cites some examples of highly insensitive actions and downright hostile workplace issues as his reason for concluding that the male dominated field is simply not a welcoming place for women.  While I agree those issues exist to varying degrees at different employers and schools, I do not agree that this is the core issue.

In full recognition that I’m treading way out on a politically incorrect limb here, I think the core issue is that while women are every bit as capable as men in the tech field, far too few of them have it in their blood.  And in the tech field, that blood passion makes a difference.

A critical minority of the tech field is made up of tech geeks—people who live and breathe tech.  These are people who leave work and go home to their other tech projects.  They fix computers, create apps, build crazy gadgets, put up websites, and learn new languages and tools just for fun.  They own spudgers and Arduino boards and they don’t know why you can’t wire a simple TTL circuit to access the firmware controller on your hard drive.  And yes, they are almost exclusively guys.

I don’t know why they are almost all guys, but it starts early.  When my son was a toddler, I recall taking him to a friend’s house who had a daughter the same age. Both children were the offspring of two parents with engineering degrees. Yet while my friend’s daughter was excited that she would get to play with someone new, my son was looking forward to a whole house full of different toys.

In school, there were girls who were excellent engineering students. But when their hair dryers died, they called on the guys to fix it.  If repairing a hair dryer was a lab project, I have no doubt that any and all of them would have aced the assignment.  But this was not something they had to do, and they seemed to lack the innate drive many of the guys had to dive in and figure it out for fun.

This is in no way to suggest that girls aren’t capable of doing tech jobs. They absolutely are.  But there’s a motivational tech spark that, while not present in all guys, is almost exclusively present in guys.  Yes, I have known the occasional female tech geek, but they are few and far between.

What complicates the tech field is that it evolves at such a rapid pace.  Tools and techniques you learn in school are often obsolete before you graduate.  It’s virtually impossible to stay abreast of the field if you only work at it during business hours. One answer is to be a workaholic, and those come in both genders.  But the easier answer is to be a geek. Then you’re not working after hours, you’re playing.  Same result; less stress.

Over time, the demands of this rapidly changing field result in a large number of non-geeks migrating to management, support, or other tech-adjacent jobs.  Those are valuable jobs that need to get done, but the women in those jobs don’t contribute to the number of women in tech.  And so, over the years, the non-geeks tend to self-select out of the field.  As a result, the number of senior level non-management tech jobs filled by women is very small.

I will grant up-front that I have no scientific evidence or data to back this up.  It’s based entirely upon having spent decades in the tech field, where I worked with, and went to school with, lots of different men and women.  Perhaps my experience is unusual, but I suspect it’s not.  (Just in case I’m going to put on my flame-retardant underwear before I hit the Publish button.)

The American War on Sex

NoSexOur culture has a curious relationship with sex.  Judging by our television programming, Internet habits, and even news coverage, it would seem we are obsessed with it.  Yet judging by our politics, we are terrified anyone is actually doing it.

Reruns of Two and a Half Men run almost constantly, and the content is almost entirely sexual.  ABC’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager was wildly popular amongst teen girls, and dealt almost non-stop with teen girls having sex.  The E! network is awash in pixelated boobs.  And what self-respecting primetime crime drama wouldn’t feature sexual depravity and violence as a major theme?

Meanwhile, Janet Jackson’s “accidental” exposure of a nipple for 8 seconds on TV warranted the attention of the Supreme Court.

The hot-button issues emerging in the 2012 election are turning out to be topics like contraception, gay marriage, and defunding Planned Parenthood.  In the 21st century, we are still committed to teaching abstinence to kids.  The same kids to whom we market an unending stream of sexualized clothing, music, and media are then being told by politicians that sex is just for making babies within the context of a marriage.  Is it any wonder kids think politicians are out of touch?

Ironically, the Muslim countries have this right.  If you’re really committed as a culture to sexual repression, then drape your women in burkas, censor the Internet, and restrict TV broadcasts to G-rated content.  At least it’s a consistent policy

Alternatively, maybe it’s time to embrace sex as a natural human function rather than some weird necessary ritual that must be performed 2.2 times in order to produce the requisite number of children.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places sex at the same level as breathing, food, water, and sleep.  We are hard-wired for sex at very fundamental and physiological level.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for hedonism.  Just because you enjoy eating doesn’t mean you’re into gluttony or dumpster diving. And just as the government plays a role in the food you eat, it has a role to play in sex as well.  The government works to make sure the food supply is safe.  It even encourages good nutritional habits.  But there is very little support for the government regulating what you can eat and when.  Maybe a similar approach should be taken with sex.  The government can work to ensure that sex is safe.  That might include disease prevention and control, sexual product testing, and access to sexually related health care.

But maybe people should be as resistant to the government regulating when, where, and whom you can have sex with as they are to the notion that the government will take away their soda-pop and Twinkies.

Government regulation of morality rarely goes well.