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Jewish World Review April 18, 2000/ 13 Nissan, 5760

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports


Womyn who want it both ways -- MY KINDLY EMPLOYER put together the Work/life Taskforce to "evaluate a wide range of quality issues affecting employees." The Taskforce did what leaders do these days: take a poll. So appeared a 6-page survey inquiring of the serfs if they need the following (thirty of the 99 questions deal with child-care issues): child care subsidies; emergency child care; evening child care; drop-in child care; summer camps for school-age children; child-care reimbursement for out-of-town assignments; sick child care; child care referral counseling (whatever that is) and a lactation program.

What exactly happens in an employer-sponsored lactation program? Women play bridge at lunch but are generally clothed. Lactating mothers might benefit from an employer-furnished kindly Lawrence Welk type with a baton, "And a one and a two and a . . . now pump!"? A support group format featuring confessions on the oddest place I've nursed? Psychotherapy to cope with lactating sans infant?

Why does my employer need to know that I am lactating let alone whether I need help? This odd sense of entitlement has consumed the workplace and turned employers into nannies for their helplessly inept employees.

Employers violate the law when they make employment decisions on the basis of gender or family circumstances but must respond to every employee whim based on gender or family circumstances.

Women want it both ways. The right to work and equal pay aren't good enough. They want vet leave, parent leave and manicure leave to fit their jobs somewhere between children and the lactation that frequently accompanies them. That giant rustling sound is bosses slipping on aprons for female employees who want executive positions despite the fact that they can't manage their own lives. Jane Swift, the Lt. Gov of Massachusetts, used the state staff to help with her baby. Perhaps being an effective Lt. Gov and mother of a toddler are mutually exclusive. But, Ms. Swift demanded (took) subsidies from her taxpayer employers for child care.

Want to work, but don't want the hassles of working. Want to have children, but don't want children interfering with work. Want you to nurture my child while I work. I am woman, hear me roar. The roar is just incessant whining.

Lt. General Claudia Kennedy, the Army's highest ranking female officer, has filed a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow officer, accusing him of "inappropriate touching" in 1996. A woman trained to lead troops into battle can't handle a fresh co-worker? Military strategy would suggest a little hand-to-face combat. No wonder Saddam Hussein defies us , this sort of general may not carry the punch necessary to quell Scud launches. Woman to armed enemy: "One false move and the EEOC awaits!" Wait until women and men are passing each other frontally on subs. The testosterone-charged who brought us Tail Hook may not be the best crowd to be sealed under water with women for six weeks. Navy Seals will be executing harassers. Fit for battle but incapable of fending off a pass? Can't have both.

Today's woman is as fickle as Mae West, in less flattering shoes. Erin Brockovich, a woman who combines Dolly Parton's gifts with Jennifer Lopez's wardrobe is offended when co-workers stare. It's a law of nature that when a leopard-skin bra peeks through your sequined tank top, humans, male and female, can't avert their eyes. If you want the regard Miss Hathaway of Beverly Hillbillies commanded, then stick to oxfords and Playtex, not spikes and Frederick's.

Ms. Brockovich is the feminist success story with a $2 million bonus for her investigation work on a lawsuit, a hit movie with Julia Roberts playing her, and two of her three children in boarding schools following their bouts with truancy and drugs. Can't have it both ways. You can solve the mystery of bad water with 15-hour work days, and all the accolades and cash that brings, but you probably won't have an intact family. It's a trade-off.

Increasingly the trade-off is gnawing at women and all the employer programs a Taskforce can muster won't ease the pain. Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House has brought many an epiphany. How-to books generally sell about 20,000 copies, yet, Dr. Mendelson, Esq. (A lawyer with a Ph.D. who prefers housekeeping over careers) has sold 660,000 books and counting. Not since Mrs. Beeton's 1861 book on household management tricks has such a book done so well. Perhaps its success comes from its own epiphany: keeping a clean, comfortable house requires time and effort. It's a trade-off , you can't practice the art of housekeeping if you aren't at the house.

Cherie Blair, 41, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is expecting their fourth child. She wants hubby to hole up at #10 Downing Street on a parliamentarian paternity leave because she's an important barrister. Mrs. Blair wants it both ways -- a prime minister for a husband and a father at home. Should Northern Ireland erupt, Mr. Blair will be at home pushing the pram, but not lactating. Sometimes, Taskforces aside, you can't have it both ways.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
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06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings