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Gender Gap in Silicon Valley…

So the other day I was reading The New Yorker — the actual magazine, not the tablet version. I hate reading magazines electronically. They force me to read chronologically, when for me some of the joy of reading a magazine is flipping through the pages and reading whatever I want, in whichever order. Yes, that means I’m always about two weeks behind, but hey — if you want to know what the hot restaurants were in late October, I’m totally your gal.

Anyway. So the other day, there was a short article about the gender gap in Silicon Valley, written by James Surowiecki.  Titled “Valley Boys,” the article described what we all already know: the leadership in the digital world is overwhelmingly male. Sorry Sheryl, it seems that leaning in isn’t getting the job done. Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 10.17.25 AMThe article sketched out some of what is being done in an attempt to change this problem, which is, in fact a problem.  At the end of the article, Surowiecki cites an oft-cited study by McKinsey, which found that “organizations with the most diverse executive teams had dramatically higher returns on equity and earnings performance than those with the least diverse teams.”

Want a higher return on your investments? Invest with the company whose board doesn’t look like a poster for the Old White Guys society. Wait, what’s that you say? That’s what most of the Republican party looks like?  Er… well, ‘Murrica, hope you’re not expecting a quality return on that particular mid-term investment.

But I digress.

The next article in the magazine was titled “The Programmer’s Price,” by Lizzy Widdicombe, and focused on an agency whose specialty is hiring out computer programmers and techies.  Here’s the photo that ran with the article:

The agency 10x has nearly eighty clients, mostly in North America, though one codes from India and one from beaches in Thailand.

Nice-looking bunch of fellows, aren’t they? Especially the lad with the gingery tresses in the front.

So here’s my question: did the editors at the magazine intend for this piece to be a visual commentary on the “there are no women in tech” article? Or are we witnessing unintentional editorial irony?  There are no women in that picture and the only mention of women in the article is the fact that this digital talent agency only has three women on its roster, a fact that one of the agency’s owners says he is “bummed” about. Yeah. I’m sure the gender inequity is, like, totally a drag for him.  I’m sure that the  the women trying to break through the ranks of coding machismo in order to land one of the plum coding jobs (or should we say Apple jobs?)  are bummed about it too.

It’s no surprise to find irony in the pages of The New Yorker; I’m just not used to seeing the articles silently comment on one another in this fashion. I appreciate the irony–and realized too that if I had a daughter, she’d be learning to code.

 

 

 

Continue Reading · on November 29, 2014 in Children, Education, Feminism, tech life, Uncategorized

Gardens of Guilt

I have a garden, which I’ve wanted for years. In New York I had to be satisfied with window boxes and urban tomatoes (they look pretty but oh, those airborne carcinogens, especially if the tomatoes in question grew fourteen stories above a 14th street bus stop).  Now I’ve got jasmine and bougainvillea (a word I cannot spell correctly on the first try, ever), and desert rose, and even a few tiny pots of herbs: lemon mint, peppermint, basil.

Caught up in quasi-tropical fantasies, I also planted miniature lemon trees–one in the corner of the backyard, and two in big pots in the front.  I imagined myself in someone else’s life or a magazine as a lady of leisure, sitting on the patio sipping coffee while the sweet smell of lemon blossoms wafted around my head.  It’s a pretty picture, right?

Would you like to know what happened to my pretty picture?

GREEN WORMS OF LEMONTREE DEATH, that’s what happened.

caterpillars

I had a dilemma. Because of course, the eco-gal I want to be thought, “gosh better get some kind of non-toxic spray, or some soapy water, or….”

But the person who wanted to sip coffee and smell lemon blossoms was chanting DIE DIE DIE.

Here’s the thing (rationalization coming up, be warned): it’s hard to find organic, non-toxic stuff in Abu Dhabi.  And I tried the simple “flick ’em off” manuever,but those green bastards were attacked with millions of tiny caterpillar feet.

Yes, people, I know. But it’s one thing to read your adorable toddler Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and another thing to see those voracious mofos munching down your defenseless little tree.  I mean, where is the tree in all this, amirite?

I went toxic. I went full-bore spray on those green gobblers and the next day they were gone. Of course, so were most of the leaves on my poor plant.

But at least the plants in front were safe, I thought, and then I saw the tell-tale signs on those leaves, too: small, not-yet grown caterpillars. I resisted toxins and instead flicked, and flicked, and flicked. If one of those little grubs landed on a happy patch of dirt, great; if its caterpillar brains were dashed against the pavement, well, sorry dude, karma’s a bitch. Eat my tree, you’re gonna eat pavement.

Now every day when I walk out my front door, I get a whiff of delicate blossoms:

lemontree

It’s the sweet smell of my life-of-leisure fantasies, which will remain with me even as I am driving to school drop-off, to work, to the grocery store, to soccer practice.

I walk right past those dessicated caterpillar corpses. Don’t even see ’em. I figure I’ve created a buffet for birds, right? It’s all the great circle of life.

But I think that when I’m in the States over the holidays, I’m going to buy a few cans of non-toxic, environmentally friendly caterpillar killer.

Continue Reading · on November 16, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Books, environment, NaBloPoMo, UAE, Uncategorized, urban nature

The F word

“You’re a feminist? But you’re so…calm!”

A male college student of mine said that to me years ago, when we were discussing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s brilliant novella The Yellow Wallpaper, in which the female narrator slowly goes mad, due in large degree to the misogyny of the world around her.

I’ve never forgotten that comment, for several reasons, not the least of which is that no one has ever, before or since, accused me of being calm.  But his shock about the f-word has stayed with me too, because you’d have thought that by 1994, when I was teaching that class, “feminism” would no longer be associated with hysteria.

If it weren’t so sad, it would be almost funny, the way in which the stereotypes of feminists have remained the same for more than a century: a feminist is a shrill, man-hating, emasculating, humorless, ugly bitch with no fashion sense.

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Wouldn’t you think we’d have come just a little further, baby?

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And yet clearly, we haven’t come that far at all. My female students say “I’m not a feminist but….”  And then they say they expect equal pay for equal work; that they want to choose when, how, and who they want to marry; that they have control over their own bodies; and that they have a say in the government.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, my students from non-western countries where women cannot rely on being in charge of their own destiny are far more likely to define themselves as feminists.

As Grace Hwang Lynch wrote a few days ago, even people like Susan Sarandon and Marisa Mayer distance themselves from the term “feminist.” Mayer said that she’s not “militant” enough and doesn’t have “the chip on her shoulder” that feminists do; Sarandon said that people think feminists “are a load of strident bitches.”  Et tu, Louise?

thelmalouise

Really? Strident bitches? I know that the history of feminism in the US has its ugly moments, such as the cynical calculus done by the white leaders of the suffrage movement to jettison the needs of immigrant women and African American women, in order to woo Southern Senators to vote for the 19th Amendment. And no less than Betty Friedan, in the concluding pages of The Feminine Mystique, ranted about the dangers of “the lesbians” who were going to destroy feminism.

Clearly, then, feminists are not angels and clearly the feminist movement has made some mistakes. But to be a feminist is not to want this:

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What then, as Freud asked, do women want? Well, in the early 20th century, when women were all, you know, uncalm about suffrage, they had a list that looked like this:

Suffrage 3

Hmm.  Education, healthy food supply, workers’ rights…That’s absolutely a list compiled by a complete man-hater. I mean, only a strident bitch with a chip on her shoulder would make these sorts of outrageous claims, right?

Sarandon says she wants to call herself a “humanist,” and that’s all fine and hunky-dory because hey, humans are great. Everyone should be able to be a human, don’t you think?   The problem is, though, that gender matters. Just ask Malala, or Wendy Davis, or Lily Ledbetter. Malala wasn’t shot because she was a human trying to go to school but because she was a girl; Wendy Davis stood for eleven hours in the Texas capitol because someone had to speak for all the women whose autonomy has just been squashed by the (mostly male) Texas state legislature; Lily wasn’t underpaid because she was human but because she was a woman.

Two other less serious examples: Entertainment Weekly just put out an issue of the “100 All-Time Greatest” in movies, books, TV shows.  Of the 100 Best films? 97 were directed by men and of those men, all but two were white. The same ratio applies, more or less to the list of TV shows. Women fare slightly better on the list of authors: 29 (although Toni Morrison appears twice so really it’s only 28).  Forbes just put out its list of top earners in comedy: not one woman is on the list.

And for an all-time dispiriting–enraging–list, see the VIDA list of women in the literary arts. You’ll want to cancel your subscriptions to…well, to almost everything.

Okay. I can hear what you’re about to say: calling ourselves feminists isn’t going to change anything; it’s not going to fix these problems. But I think it’s important to see that these problems are not individual isolated cases but instead create a picture of a society in which women are consistently, constantly overlooked and unheard. And is that a society, or a world, in which we–men and women–want to live?

Here is an assessment of what might happen if women remain unheard for too long:

Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

Abigail Adams wrote that to her husband John, in 1776.

I wonder if she’d be disappointed at our relative lack of progress?

The F word hadn’t been invented yet, but if it had been, she would have used it.

Calmly, of course.

Continue Reading · on July 13, 2013 in Education, Feminism, Gender, Politics, ranting, Uncategorized

Day 1: Pitching

To pitch implies that someone will catch, don’t you think? So to pitch, from the very get-go, is itself a hopeful act.

And yet of course–as thousands of Hollywood wannabes could tell you–the hope of “pitch” almost always ends in despair, with the “not for us at the moment,” or “mmmm…we were thinking of going more with a JosswhedonjjabramsNOTYOU type” …

Or the plain “nope, hated it, don’t turn in your waitressing apron just yet, toots.”

To write a pitch for a piece of writing–to take alllll those words and boil them down to some kind of nugget–a nugget that someone will want to catch? Brutally hard.  You try it. Distill something you wrote into a sentence. Or take the sentence and boil it into three words.

I’ve embarked on the yeahwrite 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: at the end of July, this blog will be bionic, I swear, leaping tall buildings, ripping phone books in half with its bare hands; it’s going to be a lean, mean, blogging machine.

But first I need a pitch.

The tagline for this blog is “perpetually ambivalent New Yorker…now living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.”  I’m going to drop the UAE because let’s face it, no one really knows what the hell those letters stand for anyway, and everyone already thinks that Abu Dhabi is Dubai, so whatever.  I can’t drop “ambivalent” because that pretty much structures my entire psyche and while, yes okay, maybe I should work on that, July is about blogwork, not selfwork. So hands off my ambivalence.

But then we get to the whole “yeah, but what the hell is a mannahattamamma, anyway?”  No one wants to hear the story of finding the name for this blog, which involves long detours into Walt Whitman’s poetry (the opening lines from his beautiful poem “Mannahatta” were originally on the masthead of the blog), so that’s out. (Yes, originally I wanted Manhattanmamma, but someone had already bought the domain name, dammit.)

Okay, so I have sort of a tagline (perpetually ambivalent New Yorker … now living in Abu Dhabi) but I need that nugget-y bit.  Gist, pith, boiled-down essence,whatever you want to call it.

How about this:

Just after Arab Spring, a Manhattan mom left New York with her two young sons, her husband, several soccer balls, and eight thousand lego pieces in order to work as a literature professor in Abu Dhabi, on the edge of the Arabian Gulf.  As a New Yorker, Mannahattamamma chronicled the complications and comedy that emerged as she and her husband negotiated jobs, children, and New York’s public schools. In Abu Dhabi, Mannahattamamma still writes about family, politics,culture, and education, but her observations are filtered through the frequently absurdist lens of expat life in in a desert city where gold-plated cars and camels are equally common sights. Lawrence of Arabia it ain’t…but even so, life here still sometimes borders on epic.

That’s about 110 words. Might not be grabby enough, or funny enough. Might not be…enough enough.

What do you think? Comments in comments please? Be nice but be tough. And if your eyes have glazed over somewhere in the second paragraph…let me know (when you wake up).

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 man at a festival a few months ago

Continue Reading · on July 2, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, NYC, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

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