Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Monday, February 28, 2005

I'd like to thank the Academy...

A few thoughts on the Oscars:

1. Chris Rock didn't do a bad job. He wasn't particularly great, either, but he did have his moments -- the best one being when he interviewed people at a nearby Magic Johnson theater and asked them whether they'd seen any of the Oscar nominees (most hadn't) and what their favorite movie of 2004 was ("White Chicks," "The Chronicles of Riddick"). It was nice to see someone make the point on an Oscar telecast that, yes, sometimes Hollywood is out of touch with mainstream America -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing!

2. Chances are, the conservative crowd will be griping about Rock's quips about Bush, but I got a kick out of it. And it was nice to see something of a balance in the humor (there was at least one Kerry joke), as well as a round of applause for our servicemen and women abroad.

3. Robin Williams, in one short introductory segment, showed why he is still the funniest comedian around.

Postscript on the Summers saga: Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post, makes an excellent point when she says that the scrutiny of Larry Summers is out of focus. Applebaum notes that of the three reasons posited by Summers for women's underrepresentation in the sciences -- the 80-hour workweek demanded by a science career, the infamous intrinsic-differences proposal, and the equally infamous discrimination-but-not-enough-discrimination-as-has-been-claimed proposal -- we are focusing too much attention on claims two and three and not enough attention on the first claim: If a woman wants to raise children and have a family, how difficult will it be for her to also advance in her career?

This is not the first time that this question has surfaced. The Katharine Hepburn film "Woman of the Year" raised the issue in 1942: Can Hepburn's Tess balance her journalism work with her marriage to Spencer Tracy's Sam? Fifty years later, Hillary Clinton stirred conservative outrage when she said she did not stay home and bake cookies, but instead pursued her legal career as a mother.

Ironically, in 1990, these issues also arose and were answered -- quite well, I think -- by Barbara Bush at the Wellesley College commencement. Bush suggested that women can both excel in the workplace and at raising a family, but that parents should never forget the importance of successful families. She said that "whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children -- they must come first."

Want to bring social class into the debate? Chances are, women from relatively affluent backgrounds will be more able to afford child care than women from less affluent backgrounds. And if those women from less affluent backgrounds take time off from their careers to take care of their children, they will lose potential Social Security income as a result (although if you listen to what the conservative crowd says, in 20 years or so, everyone is going to lose those benefits). If we're going to have this debate, we might as well make the most of it.


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