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A Call for More Visible Parenting

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Paul Tudor Jones, a billionaire hedge funder, spoke on a panel of investors at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce in April; although the attendees were asked not to record the proceedings, the Washington Post retrieved a copy of the event from the university, who taped it as part of their official records. In the recording, Jones is heard telling the audience that women cannot succeed in the macro trading industry once they become parents. In talking about a woman who started at E.F. Hutton with him in the 1970s, he said:

“[…] as soon as that baby’s lips touched that girls bosom, forget it, [audience laughter] every single investment idea, every desire to understand, every desire to understand what’s going to go up, what’s going to go down, is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience which a man will never understand but the emotion between that mother and that baby. And I’ve just seen it happen over and over again.” (qtd. in Dries para. 7) 

While most newspapers and blogs that have reported on the incident have lashed out at Jones’s sexist comments, and while I don’t disagree with that reading of this, I want to focus in on something else: the visibility of parenting. What Jones said, while extreme, is true, considering the ways American capitalist patriarchal society is structured: once a woman has a baby or adopts a child, the pressure to conform to the dominant ideology can be overwhelming. According to Jones, in global macro trading, an unforgiving profession that requires “a high degree of skill, focus, and repetition […] life events, such as birth, divorce, death of a loved one and other emotional highs and lows are obstacles to success in this specific field of finance”  (Dries para. 14). When faced with birth or adoption, even  in careers that aren’t as demanding, our constructions of American masculinity and femininity tell us that we should make a choice: men are socialized to sacrifice family and women are socialized to sacrifice the job.

One way that we can all challenge this is through making parenthood more visible in our work lives. Here are a couple of pictures that I have found inspiring and moving:

European Parliament member, Licia Ronzulli (an Italian representative), brought her six-week old daughter, Vittoria Cerioli, to work with her.

Vittoria, now 2 years old, is still a frequent visitor to the European Parliament.

While not all jobs allow this type of on-the-job parenting, I think it’s a wonderful thing to see. I’ve brought my daughter to a couple of work events – one meeting when I went back to work 4 weeks after she was born (she slept in her carseat next to the table), and for production pictures and the start of the set strike when the play I recently directed closed. I try to talk about her and life as a parent when talking with students (not too much – but often to make my existence as parent visible). For me, this is most important for the students. I want them all to see that these parts of my life are connected, and that you don’t always have to give up one side or the other. I’m fortunate to work at an academic institution where everyone, mothers and fathers, make parenthood visible; I hope the students will challenge mindsets like the one Jones represents.

By rendering our families and our identities as parents largely invisible, save for the photos on the desk and the occasional stories about our child’s latest recital or spelling bee or illness, we give in to our work obsessed culture. Let’s stop doing that and make our identities as parents more visible. It will provide us with more happiness and challenge the voices that say we can’t have it all.

Sources:

Kate Dries: “Billionaire Investor Blames Boobs, Babies for Lack of Female Traders”

KJ Dell’Antonia: “A Billionaire on Working Mothers: Babies Kill Women’s Focus.”

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