Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet Me At The Fence

My facebook friend Ann E.W. Stone encourages political dialogue over the left and the right sides of the political fence. To paraphrase another facebooker Michael Feeney, it makes for good neighbors.  Ann is on the opposite side of the fence from me on most political issues, so it initially surprised me to find that we agree about a number of things. In a first stab here, I described Ann as a right-leaning centrist, but a mutual friend pointed out that my description was too convenient.  In fact, she is simply complicated.  She would be called downright liberal by some right-wing factions on certain issues, but is clearly far to my right on others. I hope Ann will show up here and post her own self-description.

By contrast, I consider myself a pragmatist with a left-lean, but some of my "pure left" friends occasionally shake their heads.  They think they spot me leaning right.  I attribute that to my pragmatistic bent.  I like to think I lean forward, and that means being realistic.  Realism and Leftism don't always look the same to me. 

Anyway.  The point is, regardless of Ann's personal ideology, she has a healthy urge to stimulate conversation across the great divide.  Sometimes these conversations lead to common ground.  Common ground is a first step on the journey forward.  And as I said, I lean forward.

I lifted a thread from Ann's facebook wall (I hope this is legal) because her wall is public and so I didn't think she'd mind. Although this particular dialogue isn't all that far-reaching, it's a good example of the left and right scaling the fence with open-minded dialogue. 

I have to say, this particular thread is calmer than many.  Perhaps that is because the topic is feminism and women's issues, and women of differing political persuasions generally still share some experiences, maybe have more commonality on this topic.  Occasionally Ann's threads get so bogged down in extremist rhetoric that I steer clear of them, although she has plenty of friends on each side who are willing to enter the fray.  And not everyone minds their manners.  The rhetoric has, at times, included insults, anti-semitic remarks, personal attacks.  As a general rule, Ann handles these with aplomb, although I've had it out with her privately a couple of times about her tolerance for what I deemed to be truly offensive behavior.  To her credit, she acknowledged my point and rode the rude mouths into submission.  I tell you this because I want you to know that not all dialogue on Ann's facebook wall is easy or nice like the selection below.  But she provides a much needed and little-offered service - a forum for people to come together and explore their differences.  In the process, participants often - sometimes to our surprise - discover our similarities.  I applaud Ann E.W. Stone, even though we often agree to disagree, for building a bridge across the political divide that is tearing this nation to shreds. 

I wish some TV station would "discover" Ann and give her a larger forum for what she does so well.  Hmm...what kind of show might that be?  Probably a round-table talk show.  Wouldn't it be fun if she invited people in, served them coffee and tea, and set them off and running with a provocative question?    While it doesn't sound like the next American Idol, it still might foster a bit of reconciliation.  We are, after all, all Americans.  I think we should call the show, "Meet Me at the Fence."

Grab a cup of coffee and check out the conversation at the fence.  If you're not on facebook, this is a great opportunity to see what goes down there. 

CAUTION I:   Link to Jonah Goldberg article below.  If the mere mention of his name sends you running, just do not bother to read the article, although the article is not his normal fare. 

CAUTION II:  If you are a lover of Bill Clinton, you might not like me anymore after you read this thread. 

And although none of you will believe this, I don't always participate as vociferously as I have in this thread.  That's because women's rights was my very first political issue (when I was in seventh grade, I fought my school's policy of making girls wear skirts to school in the cold Kansas winters).  Raising daughters has just reinforced the importance of these issues to me.

Ann E W Stone: Thank you are right! Where Feminists Get It Right - Jonah Goldberg - National Review Online,, National Review Online

Andrea Kent:  He's right up to a point. The point is that you can strain your ears but you will hear very few left-leaning feminists complaining about the sort of mistreatment Jonah mentions in his article. It's far easier for them to kvetch about imagined injustices in the US; criticizing a different culture would be uncomfortable, smacking of racism.

Michael Feeney: Thank you Ann and Jonah. At the base level, men not trained to be chivalrous will default to testosterone and brute force.

Sandy Price:  andrea, i beg to differ. wow. why turn Goldberg's really important statement about the barbaric way some cultures continue to treat their females into an attack on left-leaning women? i am a left-leaning woman and i know LOTS of left-leaning women and NONE of them think it's PC to keep their mouths shut about these issues. there are a lot of things left- and right-leaning women can differ about, but let's keep it together on these women's issues, please. together we stand.

Sandy Price:  actually, one of the strongest left-leaning women i know travels around the world doing empowerment work with women in third-world cultures, helping them find the voice to object to oppressive cultural practices. i won't name her, but she is a d.c. & fb friend of ann's.

Michael Feeney: Ms. Price do you think left-leaning feminists stay quite about many issues, like Bill Clinton's rough treatment of women?

Sandy Price:  are you kidding?  i think clinton is a rat.  i make no bones about it. and almost my entire shpiel on it has to do with his treatment of women.  i do not believe that a man who holds himself out to be the moral compass of the nation should be allowed to hold that position when he behaves the way clinton did. and i know many left-leaning women who agree with me. does that answer your question?

Sandy Price:  in fact, i supported hillary, and when i sent the first check, i got a thank you note from bill. i promptly wrote the campaign a letter saying the only thing wrong with hillary is bill, and if i ever get another email from him, they've seen the last check out of me. it was a hard decision to support her, given that she stayed with him, but ultimately that was my choice.

Michael Feeney: Good for you Ms. Price. You stand by your principles.

I found it shabby of the left to not take Bill's treatment of Juanita Broddrick more seriously. Lisa Meyers hid the story to protect Bill. That is how media and politics go I suppose.

Sandy Price:  I argue about this with my younger daughter. Her perspective is that we should ignore these indiscretions, not because they are morally acceptable, but because they waste so much of the nation's time on insubstantial matters. I accept her argument, but still think he's a rat.

Sandy Price: This entire conversation bothers me because it highlights the way we project total differentiation onto people who do not share SOME of our ideology. In this case, andrea and perhaps you, "Mr Feeney" (since we're being so formal), have pigeon-holed left-leaning women into perspectives that do not serve women's welfare at all, and that does not comport to what my left-leaning friends and i discuss or believe. Is this projection? Is it a manifestation of a notion that we must see "the other" as diametrically opposed on ALL things, if we are to maintain an oppositional stature? If we get to know each other better, find the areas of commonality, could we begin to reach agreements on at least a few things? could we begin to see ourselves as one nation again? wouldn't that be nice?

Andrea Kent:  Sandy, I'm pleased to learn that there are some women's rights workers who are reaching out to female victims of oppressive cultural practices. I can only say that we hear very little of their commendable work, and I can only attribute that near-silence to cultural sensitivities, or over-sensitivitites. Is there another explanation?

No one likes to be the recipient of anyone else's projection. I urge you also not to assume that my own reaction is due to "a manifestation of a notion that we must see 'the other' as diametrically opposed on ALL things." On the contrary, I do not view left-leaning women that way; but I have certainly noticed little in the press about work against the really hideous forms of female oppression and brutalization that take place in the Third World or in immigrants from those countries, while I do see much concentration in the West on issues that are nowhere near so important, if indeed they have any validity or statistical substantiation at all.

Sandy Price: Well, you pose a good question, Andrea. I don't know the answer. Perhaps it's because the press, like most of us, might be rather U.S.-centric, to coin a phrase. It's easy to ignore what's going on around the world. And look at what does interest viewers. I guess these women's work doesn't pull attention like teams of fat people competing to lose weight or mormon men with multiple wives. I have a friend who moved to Prague to fight human trafficking, but for most of us, human trafficking is just something we see on the occasional TV show. It doesn't seem real and we rarely give it a second thought. The friend I mentioned has been around the world training a number of times, but no journalist even knows of or follows her work. And trust me, it's not because these people are shy about talking about what they are doing. They talk about it every chance they get.

Erin Grant: The difference is most (I think) left leaning women genuinely care about and often support with their time or money, helping curb atrocities against women abroad. But the groups like NOW and Feminist Majority who claim to represent them instead focus their resources on whining about the 'wage gap', getting absurbly long paid pregnancy leave, wanting women to be the exact same as men, etc... Things that really don't matter in the grand scheme of "women's rights" which are simply human rights. THEY should be talking ad nauseum about those fighting for what we take for granted here!

Ann E W Stone:  Andrea and Erin...on this IMHO, my more liberal friend Sandy is correct (I would never say she is "right")...the feminist groups do a great deal overseas as do many individual feminists who spend time and their own money to help...I have seen it in the many trainings I have done with women's groups around the world (now 60 countries!)... The reason we don't hear about it is that it is good news that the MSM chooses to ignore and I for one do think it is part of the ongoing narrative that still portrays women as victims and therefore women helping women messes up their World view. Do I think some feminist groups can't get past the past and accept that things in the US have in fact improved...SURE...but also know that we do still have our problems some industries there is still strong anti-female bias and women struggle to get treated equitably...but since now 60% or so of new college grads are female and the majority of lawyers and doctors graduating today are women...many professions will now evolve...however the manufacturing and of course the financial sectors still lag way behind, way way behind... I am sure you know what most experts acknowledge...if the financial sector had more women managers and bosses...we would not have had the financial meltdown...;-) ...and then there is STILL the problem with Domestic Violence that continues to be a blight on our country and worldwide...but that is a whole other post for another time...

Erin Grant: agree Ann! just saying that there are huge groups out there who, IMHO, should focus their resources on how best to help all women prosper rather than on playing the victim card so much that it loses its meaning for true victims of violence, discrimination, etc.... Here's a great article that shows how good we have it here, and how IMHO, we have a moral obligation to help other women less fortunate than we.

Sandy Price: Not the post for it, but I totally disagree that attempts to bridge the gender wage gap is "whining." And on top of the still-existing wage gap, women still take on, by choice or family agreement, the majority of child and elder care, so that along with a wage gap, there exists an across-career earnings gap that leaves women less-well off and less able to pay their expenses at the end of their lives. if i didn't have to run, i would pull the studies for you, but they are there. Not whining at all.

Thomas Lipscomb: The gender wage gap is nonsense. For a corrective take a look at the % of beneficiaries by sex of insurance and inheritance. The problem is that young women haven't a clue how to use their sexual advantage when they have it, and then complain when they don't.

Andrea Kent:  Erin, I think your explanation is perfect, just what I wanted to/should have said (had I not been posting at a time of night when I'm having trouble finding my fingers and triggering brain cells).

Sandy Price:  "The problem is that young women haven't a clue how to use their sexual advantage when they have it, and then complain when they don't."  ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.... that struck my funny bone way beyond anything appropriate.

Thomas Lipscomb: Sandy... a sense of humour? A truly wonderful thing to have on THIS issue :-)

Andrea Kent: Sandy, I agree with Thomas that at this point we have rectified any real wage gap. Now companies are actively recruiting female employees and executives, and it is the males who are discriminated against in the hiring process, as any of my job-hunting male friends could tell you.

I have the same or better qualifications, experience, training, and skills as the men in my office, but I make less money--even though I work at an organization with principally female executives. Why? Well, last Friday I took the afternoon off because my child was ill. On Monday I took a morning off to take him to the doctor. This morning I'm posting at 10 a.m. because he has an orthodontist appointment. Next week it will doubtless be something else. As a divorced mother I will rarely stay late at the office or come in on Saturday; I never put in the hours a man in the office does because none of the men have the same childcare responsibilities I do, even though some of them are fathers.

And why is that? Well, in divorces the vast majority of women will fight tooth and nail to retain sole physical custody of the children and will receive compensatory child support. Men typically contribute half of their after-tax income to child support and may not have the freedom to take time off of work to sit in a doctor's office. When you want custody of children there may be some consequences. But there is no way for even the most fair-minded judge to order more hours in the day or more money to be made. Yes, we women do most of the housework and childcare still, and perhaps we will raise our sons to be more helpful (as I am raising my teenage son to be), but this is not something the law can mandate.
Andrea Kent: Ann, I'm delighted to hear about the work of your friends. God bless them. I absolutely support their work and thank them for their courage and resolve.

Sandy Price: and and and

Michael Feeney: Great points Sandy, I did not want to assume you wanted to be referred to by first name. I try not to pigeon hole, but the left and right should admit their bias. All humans have a bias.

You made a good point that the right lumps all left-leaners into one mind set. The right should not do this. I do see from my left-leaning FB and real friends a tendency to assume all right-leaners are evil, greedy, insensitive, and the like. Most folks on the right do not oppose communal sharing, but they like a fence in the yard, so neighbors can help each other, but respect private property.

Thanks Ann, Sandy, Andrea, Erin, and Thomas....
What do you think?

Sandy Price: Michael, you are obviously onto something. The sadness to me is in the fact that building these fences keep us from seeing the similarities - and that keeps us from acting well together as a nation. Today I smiled when Ann (in a different thread) said that she agrees with me about 80% of the time (although she was agreeing to disagree at that moment). Of course Ann is (and I would like to think I am also) enlightened, e.g. she is open to dialogue, which some of the most vociferous folks on either side seem clearly not to be. As Americans, dialoguing with an open mind - not lumping all left- or right-leaners into categories and walling oneself off from them intellectually - and truly listening - not shouting each other down, as we experienced at the health care town halls - make a fine culture for growing collaborative agreements. The problem, as I see it, is that those who want to grab and hold power find that polarizing us is more productive to their purposes, while proceding as Ann mostly encourages us all to do here is less so.

Sandy Price:  Andrea, I owe you an apology. I was so busy reacting to the idea that we've rectified any real wage gap that I did not even focus on your story. You and I have more in common than you know. I, too, am a single parent. I did all the leg work raising my two daughters. I went to law school around parenting two toddlers. My first year out of law school (I graduated three years after my divorce) I negotiated a 3/5ths pay. I worked full time and then some (comparing my billable hours to my peers') but I knew from all my interviews with an assortment of firms and the women working in them that there would be "talk" if I didn't have the same presence as people with a different parenting arrangement. I took the pay cut so that I could avoid the politics involved in defending my hours in the face of my parenting duties. Eventually, I left the firm, and for awhile worked part time, to see my children through a very trying adolescence. We could argue about the necessity of that decision (my ex certainly did, not that he ever offered an extra penny - or an extra hour - to assist), but we all make the best decisions we can under the circumstances, and I won't judge anyone else's decisions and hope for the same in return. Even so, Andrea, a society that socializes women to take on the majority of the burden of childrearing, and later elder care, but "blames them" for choosing the lifestyle (e.g. fighting for sole custody - something I don't experience much in the southwest, although I know is more common in the midwest) is basically a society that is setting women up to be poor. Women continue to undertake the roles that you and I undertook for a multitude of reasons, including a hormonally-induced maternal instinct that only the most die-hard left-wingers still refuse to acknowledge, and a society that is mostly set up to encourage mothers to be mothers, even if they must or choose to work. I think we have to value this contribution to society one way or the other beyond lip service. We have to make sure that elderly women are not suffering financially because of these realities. I don't have the answers here and now. But I cannot simply acquiesce to your statement that "we've rectified any real wage gap."

Sandy Price: I'm sorry for being so verbose, but...I just got out of the shower, where I tend to think. It dawned on me that perhaps Andrea was simply saying that women get paid less because they put in less hours, and if so, then perhaps implied in that statement is the belief that businesses should not have to pay for work they are not getting. My question then becomes, who does have to pay? The nurturing of the next generation and caretaking of the oldsters is a societal benefit that currently "costs" money and quality of life to the women who undertake to provide the benefit. Right now it's an externalized cost, being born by women individually, even though society says it values this work and clearly we would not be as productive or successful a nation without it. Since I would wager that my right-leaning friends do not think taxpayers should pick up the tab (e.g. tax credit for proof of nurturing duties), I would ask who should.


  1. Thank you Sandy for your kind comments... You asked how I would describe myself? A center- right libertarian leaning Republican...I am a conservative on economic and defense issues but a social issue moderate...thanks for asking for the clarification.
    I believe when folks of good will really want to make progress they can find common ground without sacrificing isn't the same as compromising... There is a great group called Search for Common Ground that trains folks on how to look past their differences and treat each other respectfully while they work to find real areas of agreement... One of their ground rules is that you can't try to get the other person to change their values...but you actively listen to see if there are overlaps of agreement... I wish Congress would use their services...

  2. I will check out the organization. Sounds made for me! Thanks for self-description, and also for your forward-looking perspective.