Geoff with a G

So there I was minding my own business, eating my breakfast, my kid glommed on to the TV for the two hours I allow her every week, and I’m reading the NYer while listening with half an ear to Jeff with a J maundering on about the soul of his car like it’s 1975 and he had a dream with Pirsig and figured they were soulmates or something after that, even though he hadn’t actually read the book cause it was, y’know, a lot of pages. I’d figured him for a flake and wasn’t paying much attention until he got a little worked up and demanded to know whether he’d change the soul of his car if he put in a new engine, like something from – oh horrors – a minivan that some housewife in Topeka had driven her – oh horrors – kids to daycare in.

A message to Jeff with a J: And, incidentally, your father got it wrong. You’re Geoff with a G.

I am a mother. Not just a housewife, but a single mom, in Iowa, which isn’t too far from Topeka. I drive my kid to school (in my wonderful if rusting Volvo 245). Ol’ Geoff there wants soul? Tell him to come over here, I’ll give him soul right in the nose. He doesn’t have the capacity to do what I do before noon every day. Neither can he compete with that Topeka lady, who, if she’s taking multiple kids to daycare, is almost certainly working, making money, while knocking herself out raising little children and doing husband maintenance and running a household, and she’d better hope she’s got a better guy than Geoff. Because if she’s married to as dumb and dismissive a flake as Geoff is, she’s almost certainly wondering how she can lose this goon without harming her kids, who’re too young to notice what a misogynist louse their daddy is.

Incidentally, Geoff, you owe your mom an apology. I’m sure it’s not her fault you turned out as ugly-minded about what women do as you have. But you just trashed all the work she did for you for decades, for no money, and clearly for no thanks.

A housewife in Topeka. Get a freaking grip and be grateful if your car runs at all. What a turd.

With all the sincerity I got,

Amy in Iowa City

Wow, pretty judgmental there. I think the guy knows how to spell his name.

The guy thinks women driving children around are a horror who’re going to ruin the soul of his precious car, and I’m the judgmental one? Think again.

The name thing was a deal on the show, how he had the manly form, with a J.

Hmmm…apparently hostility levels are running very high in Iowa City nowadays.

Have you considered reducing your caffeine intake, Sara?

He doesn’t want an engine from a minivan. You assume it is because he has something against women, moms in particular. You just don’t understand the aversion that men have for minivans. It’s about the minivan, not the mom.

You assume that Jeff:

can’t read,
can’t spell,
hates women, moms in particular,
is unemployed,
is lazy
and dumb.

Yeah, I think you are the judgmental one, a little bit anyway.

Did you hear the show, keith? He didn’t say he didn’t want an engine from a minivan; he said he didn’t want an engine from a minivan that had been driven by some housewife from Topeka taking her kids to daycare. Try substituting “driven by some Latino guy” or “driven by some black guy” and or “driven by some Catholic” and see if you still find it inoffensive. He seemed to feel his car might be polluted by the vibe.

-Geoff demonstrates amply that he’s got a bad attitude towards women.
-I said nothing about his employment status. Apparently he doesn’t know what daycare’s for, though. Stay-home moms don’t generally use it, because it’s freaking expensive and justifiable mainly by work.
-Is he dumb? Well, the man’s worried about the soul of his engine; you figure it out.
-Lazy? I don’t know. I do know that guys who don’t respect the work that mothers do generally cry like little girls when the responsibility of raising children plus earning a living suddenly falls on them and find out how much they were taking for granted.
-The name spelling: You missed the joke, it’s done.

@VDCdriver: Yeah, I’m hostile when men are dismissive of women who raise children. Around here I see women who’ve taken major hits to career – doctors, a White House economist, scholars, scientists, writers – in order to devote time to raising children well and supporting their husbands’ careers in the meantime. They’re the ones driving the kids around in the minivans. And because creeps like Geoff figure mothers for something that’ll shrivel up all your cool, they get treated badly. I see it all over the place here and so do those women. Women who don’t spend their early adulthood in careers, as honorary men, just expect the bad treatment and shrug about it. I call that BS.

“A housewife in Topeka. Get a freaking grip and be grateful if your car runs at all. What a turd.”

You allow your daughter two hours of tv a week and you can’t confine yourself to using indoor language? Disappointing. I’m new here, but this is not what I expected from this board.

I did hear the show and I got your joke.

I’m sure that you have seen one of those e-mails that goes around (and around, and around…) about a comment a guy makes to his girlfriend. A million thoughts go through her mind about the deep meaning that is hidden in his remark, what’s he really trying to say, etc. He never goes any deeper than the words he said, no deep meanings.

It’s the difference between how men think and how women think. I think you are over thinking it. If Jeff can feel the soul in his car, he may well be a very sensitive guy who treats his wife and kids with dignity and respect. He may even have a minivan in his family and shares the duty of driving the kids around in it. We don’t know this.

Perhaps, then, he should change his phrasing, and think more carefully about how he talks. The jocular “omg housewife minivan, the horror” talk supports a world of subtle and consequential discrimination.

It’s a serious problem in the sciences, for instance, where scientists sit scratching their heads about why they can’t keep women “in the pipeline” – that is, on the path to tenure and senior-scientist status. It’s not exactly a mystery, as most any 40something female scientist can tell you. Women wind up forced to choose: family or career. It’s not a choice the men force themselves to make. But women who take time off for kids, or even slacken the pace for a few years, are regarded as unserious, and often demoted to Minivan Sally, all fresh-faced in their LL Bean and wellies and happier driving the kids around (aren’t women mostly?). If they’re in academe and they’ve waited to have kids till tenured, then sprung into reproductive action at the last moment, they’re often resented for having children, precisely because childrearing isn’t regarded as serious work; rather, it’s regarded as a distraction from serious work. Once out of favor, they’re loaded up with teaching duties, which makes it even harder for them to get and keep grants. Next thing you know they’ve got no lab. I watch women knock themselves out to the point of exhaustion trying to handle this discrimination. Last winter I watched a young, untenured biochemist – mother of an infant and a toddler – ill, exhausted, and hanging onto the lectern, trying not to collapse. The last thing she could afford to show was any weakness. Eventually she wobbled and sat down, and finally excused herself.

And do you know what? The women who’re given a shove off the track aren’t in the end treated very nicely. They’re demoted to (house)wife, and treated at parties as though they’re somewhat mentally deficient – how charming when it turns out they’re smart! Ah, what a shame. But they’re good for raising children and making life pleasant and that’s about all, and in the end it’s best for their children, isn’t it, etc. All very satisfying for the men, gives them a nice warm family glow. The women can have a stack of PhDs and it doesn’t matter.

I can tell you similar stories about women in other fields, all of whom get kicked wholly unnecessarily by creeps like Jeff who think they’re being funny. They’re not funny. That kind of disrespect translates to lost career, lost income, lost satisfaction in life. If he’s a wonderful respectful guy, which I don’t believe – because wonderful respectful guys don’t talk like that – then he needs to give more thought to what comes out of his mouth.

Sara, you sound bitter. This may not be the best place to air or attempt to resolve your issues. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on, after all how many people can say they know a White House economist in Iowa? Your examples seem to come from academia. What’s your field? Anyway, just maybe dial back the bitterness.

I hope Jeff reads far enough to get this message. I had a 1988 Isuzu Trooper that I drove from 1995 to 2004. It was four wheel drive, stick shift, and had next to no amenities. It had a soul when I bought it. Over the years, I replaced the clutch twice, the transmission once, and the engine was rebuilt once, among other things. It did not lose its soul. I even saw it driving around town after I finally (and tearfully) gave it up in light of a second transmission (over 200,000 miles), and probably scared an old toothless man who was probably driving it when his car was in the shop when I jumped out of my car and ran up to his window to tell him he was driving my car. The soul is definitely more than one, or even the sum, of a car’s parts.

OK, Jeff made an insensitive remark. Don’t we all from time to time, including women. You never know who is listening and what things they have suffered in their lifetime.

Women do have it tough in the workplace, but guess what, so do men. Its a competitive world out there and any show of weakness will sideline a career.

One of the most important things you need for a successful career is a mentor. This is where women are at their biggest disadvantage. There are not that many women at the top to mentor the new women coming into the workplace. That is because historically, there were few women in the workplace.

You mentioned something about the importance of a wife in a mans career. I can agree with you on the, both to his success and his downfalls. I had a career in the Navy for 20 years. During this time I saw the integration of women into the fleet. I remember when I was an instructor in a training command, we had women students, but no women instructors as women hadn’t been working in the field long enough to qualify for instructor duty at that time.

As an instructor, I was also assigned to a barracks on my duty nights to serve as a counselor for any students who needed advice or help with studies. I was never assigned to a women’s barracks, but I knew some guys who were. Helping the women with academic questions was not difficult for them, but few women wanted to ask for help with their personal problems, and those who did, overwhelmed the instructors. They simply did not have the knowledge to help these women.

Few women in those days had long term success, but those who did are now mentoring the newer women, and the newer women are finding much more success. Its a process the Navy had to go through in order to finally have a fleet where a women has an equal chance.

As for a wife affecting her husbands career. I have seen more than a few careers held back because the man could not perform his duties because of having to take care of a wife or children. I’m not necessarily blaming the wife, sometimes this is due to a debilitating disease suffered by the wife or a child that requires his presence at home, for at time at least.

In twenty years in a civilian career, I have seen the same thing as well. I noticed a trend lately though where family issues are more forgiven. Men are taking more time off to help their wives through difficult times and not fearing for their careers as much, and as a result, these men are more forgiving of women who have to do the same thing. I’m guessing that the same maybe happening in the Navy, but I’ve been retired for more than 20 years now so I have lost touch.

But i still think you were overly judgmental of Jeff.

keith, if Jeff had said he didn’t want an engine from a car driven by some n-word, would you still be painting this as no big deal, something to let pass, we all slip up? (I can’t even write out the n-word here, because I’m pretty sure it’d be edited out, and rightly so.)

You’re dismissing the impact of remarks like Jeff’s because you, personally, do not see discrimination against women as a big deal, or as socially dangerous – or perhaps you don’t want to. Look at all the armaments you’ve dragged in here to try to counter the idea that it is: Men have problems too. Some men help their wives. Some wives harm their husbands’ careers.

On balance, though, the trends are very clear. Women suffer disproportionately, in their careers and in earning power, when they have children. Men, on the other hand, are rewarded in their careers when they have children. If you look at how things stack up today – not twenty years ago, but today – the order of success goes: Men with families; single men; single women; women with families. And part of the reason that is so is the way we routinely disrespect women who have children: mothers. A recent large psych survey found that people rate mothers’ competence somewhere alongside the competence of the mentally retarded. If you think that has no effect in the conference room, in the interviews, or in the salary negotiations, you’re deeply mistaken. Every year I hear from young academics in a panic: they’ve got all-day campus interviews, but they’re breastfeeding. How can they get through the day? How can they arrange for breaks so that they can go pump, what do they do when their hosts ignore the scheduled break, and how can they avoid pumping in a car or some nasty bathroom? Because the reality is that it’s points off, in an interview, to be – overtly – a mother. Forget the dissertations, forget the decade of work. Breastfeeding is a liability on the job. Why? Because of bad attitudes people have about women and mothers in particular.

You mention that men do some family care now. Yes. They do some, and they’re often punished badly for it. “At-home dad” is still synonymous with “bum who can’t find a job and leeches off his wife,” which is why even dads who’re waving a banner for fatherhood seldom stay out of the game more than a year or two. It torpedoes their CVs. Even when everyone is sympathetic – the wife has MS, whatever – ask them how it’s affected their careers. Maybe nobody’s making rude remarks. But these guys are marginalized. Guy down the street from me’s a physics professor, has a severely autistic son. Could he afford to stay home with the boy and help his wife? Not on your life, man. The cost: the woman’s sanity and the marriage.

The fact – and if you want stats I got 'em – the fact is that it’s overwhelmingly women who take the hit to support the men’s careers, and to care for the children. Even when the marriages start out as marriages of equals, same education, same career goals, same love of their work – it’s overwhelmingly the women who go mommy-track, and it kicks them in the nuts the rest of their lives. Not the men. When the women are successful and the men can’t get it together, the men tend to take it out on the women, giving them one more burden to carry.

As for men having it rough: Yeah, I know. On the other hand, cry me a river. Fathers still make far more than mothers do long after kids are grown; I still see salaries and bonuses handed out to men, but not women, on account of “you have a family to support”. (I’ve been on the receiving end of that one myself, and got the bonus, but did it make me any friends? Nope; in retrospect, I should’ve sued.) And something I haven’t been able to avoid noticing in dating 50somethings, and talking to other women dating middle-aged men: Men go nuts when women aren’t dependent on them. Yeah, they complain, they’re strung out, the world’s so hard – but they’ll fight any woman who makes it unnecessary for them to get out there and play local hero. Find me the most sensitive, right-thinking fella, and he’ll still be this way.

At this point, some genius will say: So you’re mad at men for being men. No. I’m mad at Jeff – and at the guys for not shutting him down – because he carries and expresses such a miserable, harmful attitude towards the people who do the work of growing babies and turning them into good adults. For free. And who, frankly, have enough to deal with without putting up with this, too.

I’m also taking you to task for seriously minimizing the struggles and barriers that women face because of people like Jeff – and you, apparently. Because pretending those barriers aren’t so serious, or that they apply anything like equally to men, is also damaging. “Get over it, honey. Move on.” I’m very grateful that a lot of women won’t.

Did you see 60 minutes last Sunday? This is my last post on this subject.

Sara, your bad language is offensive. Please.

No, I don’t watch 60 Minutes. At 7 pm on a Sunday night (I’m assuming it’s still on then) I’m cleaning up from supper and helping my daughter with her homework; she was reading me the book on Isaac Newton I took her to the library to get. Over the next few weeks I’ll be helping her put together a costume and report for her class. At 8 we were watching a show about the history of British science and I was explaining to her why Alan Turing’s codebreaking work was important.

I doubt the Van Gogh story was what you were after – I don’t have time to watch the show now – so I assume you’re pointing to heroism in Afghanistan. If that’s so:

What is your point, that people sign up voluntarily to fight a stupid war? That negates none of what I’ve said about how men routinely disrespect women. (In the military, too, but I will step around the rape conversation.) If you’re reaching for the “men die to defend our liberty” point, I’ll point out that a) those soldiers came from somewhere, and did not hatch from eggs at the age of 18; and b) in no way does this war defend our liberty. It was a stupid war from go, and I could’ve told you that in 2002. So could the former Soviets. (And who, may I ask, started the war? Was it women? I don’t think so. In fact I cannot think of a single military war started by women.) Good luck waging war in Afghanistan.

Routinely, btw, men like to point to some form of momentary heroism as justification of how they treat women: the “men have it just as bad” line. Sociologists have been all over the point. You see it in household affairs as well as global ones. When the work is measured, it turns out that women do far more of the work of maintaining the home and raising children, even in egalitarian marriages. The men tend to take the “you can see immediate results” jobs – fix something, mow a lawn, take the car in --which are done infrequently, rather than the jobs that have to be done every day. They also need managing, which means the woman has to play boss, make up the honey-do list, etc. Management is also work. As a single mom I do both the mommy and the daddy jobs, and I can tell you that the big-man jobs are a cakewalk. Mow a lawn every couple of weeks? Sure. It’s nothing compared to having the running tally of what’s got to be bought and made for lunch and scheduling playdates and keeping up with flu shots and scheduling and schlepping to lessons etc. etc. etc., not to mention all the housecleaning and laundry. If there were two people here, frankly, I’d be ashamed to do the “guy jobs” and leave the rest to someone else.

Bub, you’re in the wrong, and so was Jeff, but you won’t admit it. Instead you dig in and try to defend both Jeff and yourself, minimizing and dismissing the inequalities, and pointing – entirely without logic – to the fact that men suffer too, without being willing to compare how men and women actually fare in the world, on average. And that’s why I’m glad there’s still a women’s movement, despite its excesses.

The 60 minutes show also had an interview with the CEOs of two large corporations, Cambells soup was one, I forget the other. Both are women.

I had a dear old car (a 1970 Maverick) that my mom bought when I was 4 years old. It became mine when I was 15, and I drove it for eleven more years. In 1988, when the car was a ripe old 18 years of age, I cracked the block.

To keep a long story short, I put in a new engine, and I would say the “soul” of the car was very much intact. I enjoyed driving it more than ever, and it never felt like a different car (though occasionally that would have been nice!).

I’ll conclude by addressing the rest of this thread with a joke I learned a few years back.

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: (must be stated with snippy tone) “That’s not funny!”

@keith: Again, so what? Condi Rice and Obama are black, does that mean blacks are doing great in this country? No, of course not. And my guess is that if you got into a frank conversation with either of those CEOs you’d find out what kind of battles they had to wage in order to get where they are today: they had to do more than the men did. Here’s an excerpt from BW story on Morrison, the Campbell’s CEO (you’ll note that it’s still news that they’ve got a woman as CEO – why do you figure that is?):

"“Doug shows his emotions a lot more. " [the former director of investor services] says. “Denise is more on guard. She knew she needed to project a certain image.” When it came to analyst meetings, he notes, “She did not want to say the wrong thing or say too much.” She was, in Griehs’s view, “very well coached” and “very careful.””

Right. Because a woman executive who shows she’s angry is immediately cast as a harpy; she’s not going to be CEO. People hate her in ways they won’t hate a male exec who pounds the table. So yes, Morrison had better be careful. Very bland, very amiable and can-do, very johnny-on-the-spot. More careful than the men. I’m sure she was very careful about how often she referred to her children. Again, this is well-studied, and I can direct you to the studies if you like. Clerical staff are allowed to have children, lots of photos up, lots of talk about what their children are doing. It’s fine for them to be moms, because they aren’t taken seriously to begin with and their careers are going nowhere. They’re no threat to a man. For men, it’s a big plus to have pix of the family on the desk. That shows they’re responsible, solid. Executive women? No, that’s not safe for them to do. Once they start putting family pix around the office, they risk becoming Mom, and then they’re not seen as being so effective and competent. Do you hear the echo of Jeff’s “ew housewives”? It damages women’s careers.

Morrison’s kids are grown, now, so it’s safe for her to refer to them fondly – though not too often, lest she be the doting grandma.

@kyrasdad: You’d be surprised. No, actually I’m not all that friendly with the academic feminists; that stuff comes straight out of marxism. But I am right there with the ones who fought the bottom-pinchers and actually use the sexual harassment and discrimination laws, and who made it possible for women to own property, get credit, and get abortions without their husbands’ permission. A lot of that happened within my lifetime. 1980, I believe, was when women were allowed to get credit in their own names. Roe, of course was in the 1970s. I fight now to protect those rights for my daughter, and you should fight for them for your Kyra. When men disrespect women on the radio, and it’s a joke, it’s not a long path to erosion of those rights. It’s not like they were ever universally welcomed in the first place.

@littlemouse: I appreciate the offense. However, I use the language intentionally. Damaging, thoughtless behavior like Jeff’s – and whitewashing like keith’s – deserves strong language, stronger than I’ve used here. They do real harm to real people, and no, I don’t see any reason at all to be polite about that.

Yes I read Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, Even did motorcycle trips, and perhaps a better hyperbole would have been a tea party member getting a heart transplant from an organ donor union leader being afraid because of the transplant he might develop a social consciousness. There was no slight intended to soccer moms, or all the things you do. He has a bond with his car. Irrational as it sounds Triskaidekaphobia influences many people. If he thinks a new engine will change his feelings about the car that is all it means. Glad he is not attached to his engine oil, but please do not take this as a personal crusade, as it was not intended to offend you I believe.