Careers and choices

Apparently, according to a recent study of Harvard Business School graduates, ‘it’s not kids that hold women back, it’s husbands‘. The study shows that high-flying women’s careers suffer in comparison to those of their male peers because the women are more likely to end up permitting their spouse’s career to take precedence over theirs – even though this is not something they expected would happen. According to the article, this supports Linda Hirshman’s advice to ambitious women that they should marry men who have less money or social capital than they do.

This article bothered me a bit. I’m not querying the research, but framing the finding in terms of suggesting to women than they ‘choose’ to ‘marry down’ strikes an off note, and I think there are three reasons for this. First, the idea of ‘marrying down’ evokes such a hierarchical way of looking at social relations in general and at marriage in particular that it makes me feel like I’ve dropped in on a Jane Austen novel. Second, it makes finding a partner sound like a matter of calculated choice, which I don’t think it is. Third, and most importantly, it places the onus on women to choose male partners who don’t have the option of having an equivalently demanding career. This takes the focus away from men actually choosing to support their female partner’s career by giving it equal importance to theirs. (It also rather skims over the option of women finding male partners who are genuinely committed to equality – which would still place the onus on women, but is slightly less depressing.) The problem is then presented as being women’s choices (to marry the ‘wrong’ men) rather than men’s choices (not to support their female partner’s careers) – sound familiar?

Northwestern suspends plans to mediate, and a statement

Huffington Post has the story here. 

And a statement from the student who is being sued:

“There has been so much in the news lately about the many and horrifying failings of university administrations’ dealing with Title IX issues. We are all familiar with these catastrophic miscarriages of justice, and frankly, we are all worn weary with worry and heartache. Today however, the Northwestern community has taken a real step in the direction of modeling what it’s like for a university to be an ally in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Today, in response to criticism from the student population, who were in turn vocalizing my objections as the graduate student named in Peter Ludlow’s lawsuit, Northwestern’s administration has agreed to halt all mediation proceedings with Ludlow’s attorneys. To be clear: I voiced my concerns, the broader Northwestern community mobilized on my behalf (in only 24 hours), and the administration heard our cry, in turn responding appropriately by suspending all mediation proceedings — this, while ordering hot chocolate for the student protestors, and helping them to put up their protest signs outside the president’s office.  The administration and I are now engaged in further discussions about my wishes and needs throughout this process.

Putting the victim first should not be such an uncommonly outstanding occasion. Yet in this moment, I feel compelled to sing loudly the praises of Northwestern’s administration. Let this be a message to all universities: Stand by your students, stand by your victims. Protect their voices. Together, let’s make Northwestern a model.”

Seduction, Assault, and Consent in Western Art via The Toast

If you are not already aware of The Toast’s captioning of pictures from Western art history, it is a thing, and it is entertaining. You can find all the articles in the series here.

In one of the most recent posts, Mallory Ortberg pokes fun at what Wikimedia Commons has labeled instances of “seduction in art.”  She pulls out examples and describes how many of these cannot possibly be instances of “seduction,” unless by seduction we mean assault or harassment.

The piece does a good job of bringing out the cognitive dissonance from accepting “seduction” as aggressively pursuing someone for sex without their explicit consent, thinking that sex requires consent, and accepting seduction as a legitimate part of sex.

If you are not familiar with Ortberg’s series of posts on Western art history, you should note that some of these examples are more hyperbolic than others. She is framing many of these scenes as non-consensual where consent seems ambiguous. (Though part of her point may be, shouldn’t sex and seduction only involve people who are unambiguously excited about engaging in it?) Underneath the hyperbole and satire, Ortberg is posing a serious question: “Why does seduction look a lot like assault and not seem to require any real degree of consent? What kind of thing is seduction if these are what count as examples of it?”

She suggests, “Perhaps you have confused “pushing someone away from you” with “getting seduced.””

You can read the post here:

“Paintings That Wikimedia Commons Has Inaccurately Categorized As “Seduction In Art””

*A few of the pictures contain nudity.

Sit-In at Northwestern Today

From the Organisers’ FB page.

It has come to our attention that Northwestern is looking to quickly mediate in their lawsuit with Peter Ludlow–a lawsuit in which they are not the only defendant (a graduate student who filed a Title IX complaint against him, and a professor who assisted her, are also named as well, and accused of defamation). NU is planning to mediate, regardless of the desires of their co-defendants.

While we admire Northwestern’s intention to mitigate the stressful nature of the legal situation for all involved, Northwestern should stand by their actions rather than agree to write a check now to avoid potential litigation costs later. Sexual violence is an epidemic on college campuses that persists, in part, because perpetrators are shielded by universities’ interests in avoiding public relations scandals and protecting their bottom line, and by the damage caused to victims’ credibility when universities do mistreat perpetrators.If Ludlow has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior, he should not be rewarded just for the sake of avoiding the costs of litigation, nor should he be able to walk away with plausible deniability. If he has not, the university should be responsible for their mistreatment of him; not only for his sake, but for the sake of victims everywhere who have a vested interest in universities properly handling Title IX complaints. Negotiating in this way, before both sides can be heard, would also simultaneously send a chilling message to victims on campuses everywhere, that if they come forward, they will need to consider the legal and financial costs given this new precedent, and deny an alleged victim, and the faculty member who assisted in bringing her complaint forward, any chance of vindicating their credibility that they have.