Women and politics

I hadn’t heard of Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic senator from New York, until recently. She was appointed to finish Hillary Clinton’s term in January 2009, when Clinton became Secretary of State. Gillibrand won the special election earlier this month, and she feels strongly that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell should be repealed. She’s the youngest person elected to the U.S. Senate, and she’s a mother of two boys.

When I read a recent Vogue article about Gillibrand, I was struck by what she told an interviewer:

“Very few women want to be in a profession where you will have an opponent who says mean things about you every day, where the news may not be fair on a given day. It’s such an adversarial profession… Many women don’t want to expose their family or their children to something so rough and so aggressive and unfair and not honest.”

It illustrates an interesting difference between the baby-boomers and later generations. Although baby-boomers (my mother’s generation) and their parents (my grandmothers’ generation) paved the way for women to work outside the home, women in their 40s (and 30s and 20s) are still forging ahead in male-dominated areas today, including careers that aren’t conducive to having families. At some point, are all women faced with prioritizing their careers or their families? Or are women faced with that decision every day, after they get married or have kids?

In 2007, several traditionally male-dominated sectors (law enforcement, civil engineering) were seeing huge increases of women. CNN predicted by 2014, men would be about half the workforce. In February 2010 The New York Times reported the milestone had been reached, possibly due to the recession hitting male-dominated industries, such as construction and manufacturing, harder than industries women are more likely to work in, like health care and education. (Now that I think about it, my dentist and my doctor are women, as were most of my teachers until college.)

Politics is pretty much still a man’s world. Take a look at the U.S. Senate and the House — mostly middle-class white men. Gillibrand has a family history in New York politics. She knew how difficult politics would be, because she grew up with a political family.

I thought about the fine line women in politics (and probably any male-dominated profession) still walk, despite being about half of the workforce, and the majority on college campuses. Vogue focused on a PR rep’s take on the different standards for fashion in New York and Washington, DC. “You know, skirt length, heel height, cleavage. Let’s just say there are different . . . rules. Such a time warp in Washington.”

Are women judged more harshly than their male counterparts? During the last presidential campaign, no one commented on Obama’s or McCain’s suits. But Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Sarah Palin all drew media attention for what they were wearing on the campaign trail.

So women have made impressive gains in the last 30 years, but, in politics at least, women are seemingly still held to a different standard than men. I wonder, is this true in every profession?

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Guest Post on Brazen Careerist

On Friday, my guest post was published on Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. I read about it in the dentist’s office, waiting for a cleaning at 7 AM. I’m not a morning person, but I booked the earliest appointment I could get, because I wouldn’t have to take unpaid time off from my job.

I’ve read Penelope’s blog for more than a year, and I like that she is direct. She writes about things that are relevant, and provocative. And I enjoy the posts about farm life, since it’s something I relate to, after growing up in a small rural town in the Midwest.

The guest post illustrated three things for me:

1. The power of Twitter.

2. Ideas, not a long resume with years of experience, are what matter to my generation. This is essentially what Brazen Careerist is about. Your ideas are your resume. If you have a good idea, despite having only a few years of experience, you can still make a positive contribution — to your company, your family, your friends, your community, etc. The guest post was a good idea from an unknown 20-something.

2. Writers need thick skins. I hadn’t written for an audience larger than 10 people since 2006, when I graduated from college. When I wrote the guest post, I wanted to write well, since it would be seen by presumably thousands of people. I thought about being clear and concise. I didn’t consider if the comments would be positive or negative. They were mostly positive.

And really, it doesn’t matter what the comments were. I was interested to read from other people who had worked as temporary employees, or became consultants, or considered internships or temp jobs, because they weren’t satisfied with their stable, full-time jobs. My generation changes job every two years. We are willing to take calculated risks. If we’re not happy, we will look elsewhere for better opportunities. We’ll take initiative — and that might mean taking a different job, and maybe for less money, if we enjoy the work more.

I was just excited to write, and to have this opportunity from a blogger than I respect. Writing has been a hobby of mine since I was eight years old, writing short stories in pencil on wide-rule notebook paper for my third grade teacher, Mrs. Koehn. I started a blog as a creative outlet, and I was flattered to write for a larger audience.

Thank you, Penelope, for running my guest post.

On a related note, my contract was extended. I’ll be temporary employed through Christmas, and hopefully in 2011.

Fall

Fall Leaves

I’m missing the summer sunsets at 8 pm, especially since the sun now sets around 4:30 every afternoon. When I leave work around 6, the city is illuminated with the grid of traffic lights between skyscrapers, but the sky is pitch black. When it’s so dark that early, I want to come home, curl up on the couch, watch old episodes of Mad Men and make tapioca pudding, a remnant from my childhood.

We carved pumpkins for Halloween, I splurged on an expensive new pair of boots (they were on sale, but still a splurge) last weekend, and the leaves are falling. It’s fall and very, very soon, it will be winter.

Pumpkins

Restating the obvious: We’re Mac people.

 

Fall is beautiful, but I’ve always hated winter. Even though “winter” in Seattle means rain and 40 degrees, (instead of my Midwestern memories of snow, below-zero windchill, snow plows, mittens, blizzards, and three different ice scrapers) I’m not looking forward to it.

Winter in Seattle

Winter in Seattle

Midwest Winter

Winter in the Midwest

 

My dislike for the season isn’t helped by predictions of a harsh winter — that, and I live on a very steep hill, and Seattle drivers don’t know what to do in snow. Every morning I jaywalk across 4 lanes of traffic to the bus stop. When it snows for the first time, my morning commute will be interesting, assuming the buses are running that morning. Luckily, I still have a pair of snow boots. I bought them my last winter in South Dakota, on sale at Cabela’s, and I’ve worn them exactly twice. They are not fashionable, but they are warm, even in several inches (or feet) of snow.