Work-Life Balance und Gender

Sonntag genießen (Leon Wyczółkowski 1852-1936)
Genießen oder Hausarbeit angesagt? (Public Domain) (Suzanne E Franks)

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.