Work-life balance: people have been talking about it.
Wait, that's not right. Women have been talking about it. And have been talked at about it, by some people. Doc Free-Ride has a good round-up of a most recent skirmish of opinions on the topic in the sciencey blogosphere. If you have not been following this, please do give Doc Free-Ride's post a read.
Where to begin?
Science Careers says all you married ladies with kids should hire housekeepers. And get over it already, will you?
Last year, when Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, learned that she had won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, she was folding the laundry. It was a seemingly trivial detail, unrelated to her science, but it got plenty of play in the press. "Is it true that you were doing laundry when you got that early morning call from Stockholm?" The New York Times interviewer asked the Nobel laureate in a conversational Q&A. That opening question underscored the fact that women researchers -- even the nation's top women -- have domestic responsibilities.
No, I don't think so. It underscores the fact that the media feel an overwhelming tingly urge they can't resist to portray scientists who are women as DON'T WORRY THEY'RE WOMEN!! THEY DO HOUSEHOLD CHORES! AND ARE STILL PRETTY! NOT THREATENING TO THE NATION'S MASCULINITY, AT ALL!!!!!!!! ahhhhh! yeah! that's better.
Anyway, Science Careers is urging you - yes, you, little lady! - to hire yourself a housekeeper. "No doubt some women scientists put a high priority on housework, but they are almost certainly few. For the rest, it might make sense to employ a maid, or whatever you call the male equivalent, to help with the housework." Maybe you don't put a priority on housework, but the world does, and will surely judge you as a failure if your house is dirty, or laundry unfolded, no matter what prize you win. The important thing is, your Nigel is off working as if he has a wife at home to take care of the housework, and if you want to succeed in science, that's the model you are going to have to adopt. So you'd best hire yourself a wife sooner rather than later. And yes, it's on your shoulders, because just as the housework is your responsibility, so too is the outsourcing of it. You can't expect Nigel to help with that, either. No point in trying to critique any of that, or even in trying to talk to Nigel about it.
Well, this incredibly positive message was not universally welcomed. Resulting in a Very Special Message
To You Whiny Bitchez For Men, about how I Really Thought All This Was So Obvious I Didn't Have To Bother Saying Any Of It But Since You Nagged Me Into It, Here's A Blog Post With A Non-Pology In Which I Explain How I Totes Get Everything About Gender.
"Special" messages for men, in my opinion, mean something like this: In the normal course of events, you would not have to divert your manly attention from important topics to something so trivial as work-life balance, with all its estrogenic whiff. But on this very special occasion, when the little misses have got their knickers all in a knot, perhaps we can, in our manly magnitude, agree that it might be nice to at least look as if we thought this issue had something to do with us.
The goal is for those choices to be freely made and not coerced. So men, and women: It's up to you and your partner to set the terms, but please make sure those decisions are made as freely as can be achieved...you can ease those pressures by being supportive of your partner and helping them to choose -- or, rather, to negotiate with you, from a position of strength, a domestic arrangement that works well for both partners.
This is very odd phrasing indeed. Be supportive of your partner and "help them" choose? "Help them" negotiate an arrangement? Like, when he "helps her" with the laundry and the dishes, which are her jobs? In a really equal arrangement, you'd be choosing and negotiating together. I completely respect the fact that Mr. Austin does not wish to be in the business of giving specific relationship advice to anyone - lord, who does, if they aren't getting paid by the hour to do so! But how hard is it to write a sentence in which you at least pretend that two people in a relationship ought to be equally responsible for the domestic arrangements? Otherwise, that paragraph above is just a fancy rewriting of "it's her responsibility to choose and negotiate domestic arrangements, and your responsibility to look soulfully at her and say 'honey, I totally support whatever you choose to do' and then maybe give her a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day."
Well, I'll tell you what I choose. I choose not to read one more dumbfuck article about how you, little lady, fortunate to have enough disposable income, need to pay some poorer lady to do stuff for you so that you can work the crazy husband-with-a-wife-at-home schedule that corporate America and academic science deems minimally acceptable, and get over the guilt already that society dumps on your head each and every day, and don't even think of challenging the patriarchal norms of family and institution because we sure as hell aren't going to acknowledge in the slightest that they exist in this article.
Next up: what's the difference between criticizing how the media deals with the work-life balance issue versus asking/demanding that some particular man, or all male science bloggers, blog about how they handle work-life balance issues at home?
The third and final post in this series can be found here.