Anna Quindlen, Jodi Kantor and the 92 St Y

17 Dec

Tonight I participated in an intergenerational panel discussion prior to my Temple’s showing of the 92nd St Y broadcast of Anna Quindlen and Jodi Kantor’s discussion of “21st Century Womanhood.”  My favorite part of our panel discussion was getting to learn things about the histories and careers of fellow congregants.  I know these women from sitting on the Temple board, and from sharing cookies after Temple, and from them fussing over my little one, but I didn’t know about their backgrounds and the things they have overcome in their careers.  My co-panelists have such interesting backgrounds, and have done so much, and I relished this opportunity to get to know them better.

In the 92nd St Y Broadcast, Quindlen and Kantor covered a broad array of topics.  They spent a lot of time talking about Michelle Obama, and focused on one issue that has particularly intrigued me about Mrs. Obama– the role of First Lady comes with certain expectations of nurturing, and motherliness, and mild personality.  Mrs. Obama is a highly educated and highly opinionated woman.  I am interested in learning about how it felt to her to make a transition into an identity of femininity that the public is more comfortable with?  I don’t doubt for a minute that her motivations between the Military Families and Lets Move campaigns are genuine, but what I’d give to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and discuss the process of selecting and cultivating a public persona in these circumstances.

Quindlen and Kantor also discussed Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, and brought a new angle to it that I hadn’t much considered.  Quindlen pointed out that Slaughter switched from a career in academia to a high stress position in government hundreds of miles away from home, and hundreds of miles away from her relatively young children.  Regardless of how dedicated a worker or a mother any woman is, in that mix of factors, there is no formula for total satisfaction.

Quindlen poigniantly stated, and I’m paraphrasing: When I signed up to be a feminist, I signed up for more opportunities. I didn’t think I was signing up to get to do everything.  Everything we do is a choice.  A man who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with his children, just like a woman who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with her children.  We all make choices.

Maybe I should focus more on making those choices that bring the most happiness to me and my family, instead of expecting satisfaction to come from doing all the things all the time all at once.

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