“Sisterhood” in the Legal Profession

Reader Cassandra sent us a link to this article about “the end of sisterhood” amongst women lawyers. Among other things, it states that

Last year, in an American Bar Association survey, a majority of female lawyers under 40 expressed a preference for male bosses (the 1,400 respondents gave men higher marks for constructive criticism and keeping confidences). Moreover, in a University of Toronto study of U.S. workers released last fall, women who reported to a female boss claimed greater depression, anxiety, headaches, and other ailments than those who worked for a man.

I can’t help but think–and the author seems (I think?) to agree with me–that this sort of phenomenon isn’t so much proof of the ‘end of sisterhood’ as it is proof of the problem with the notion of sisterhood. Full disclosure: the term “sisterhood” makes me want to barf. I don’t need to have a love-in with random strangers in order to fight for what’s right. It’s not about bonding with my fellow women like family; it’s about justice. And this article illustrates the problem with thinking otherwise.

“As postfeminists, we are told that women are nurturers and that we are all in it together,” says California-based consultant Peggy Klaus, who conducts workshops for women in corporations and firms. “Women can accept hierarchy from men, they can tolerate their yelling and bad behavior.” But when women bosses cross the line, Klaus says, women take it very personally.

And of course we do…so long as we’re expecting our boss to act like our sister. It’s out-and-out sexism to expect a lawyer (for god’s sake!) to be a nurturer simply because she is a woman. “Sisterhood” should end. Down with it, I say.

Thanks, Cassandra!

Bad Parents Running Amok

The bad parents are running amok! They’re everywhere you turn, talking about postpartum depression, confessing that their kids are addicted to SpongeBob, throwing their breast pumps in the garbage!

That’s the word from Salon.com. The author looks at two bad-parent books that have just hit the shelves: one by a mother (Ayelet Waldman), and one by a father (Michael Lewis) and notes the distinct similarity between the two. Tho Lewis claims to revel in his badness, while Waldman seems to agonise over it, the author concludes that the similarities in each of their experiences just go to show that parenting needs to be de-gendered. Probably right. But what struck me is that, even in this openly-bad-parent crazy, the edicts of the cult of the perfect mummy (which, I know, I bang on about; I shall continue until everyone sees what I see or somebody shuts me up) are still being respected; still being revelled in, even. It’s as if these “bad” mums are so very committed to perfect mummihood that they’re even willing to flog themselves publicly for their own shortcomings. After first thinking ‘oh goodie, fun and honest mum literature, at last!’ I now wonder whether “bad mums” aren’t just uber-competitive perfect mums, too perfect even to admit to their own perfection, lest they should appear to be finished striving. Ugh.

For contrast, if you’re in Britain (sorry, my American friends!), do catch this quite interesting documentary entitled “Kimberly: Young Mum Ten Years On” about a 24-year-old welfare mum in London who is struggling to keep custody of her second child, her first (born when she was 14) having been taken away from her by the state.