Tuesday, February 28, 2012

mommy wars

Since I am a psychology major I had to take a one-credit course titled “Science, Practice, and Policy.” The basic premise of the course is that we learn about the different fields of psychology and what careers we can pursue with a psychology major. The two final assignments for the class are a journal reflecting on all of the different speakers and how they relate to a career we may want to pursue and a résumé that we would give to potential employers. I knew beforehand that I want to be a clinical psychologist, so this is what I focused on in my journal and résumé. Yet this career path poses some potential issues for me, and it has to do with what gender studies refers to as the “Mommy Wars,” or the seemingly opposing goals of devotion to motherhood and a professional career.

I am a very driven individual, and I worked and continue to work hard in school so that I can earn my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and practice as a clinician. The work of psychologists corresponds well with my personal values, and I feel like I will be able to achieve my personal and professional goals through this career. Yet it involves a lot of training. Graduate programs range anywhere from 5-7 years depending on how disciplined I am in writing my dissertation. So that puts me between 27 and 29 years old upon graduation, and that is if I go to graduate school right after I am finished with undergrad. And of course this is not the advised thing to do. Graduate programs stress experience, both in the lab and life in general. Not to mention I would love to take a break for a year or two to do service. When else am I going to be free to do this? So let’s say I take off two years between undergraduate and graduate school. Now I am between 29 to 31 years old by the time I graduate. For those who are okay with immense amounts of schooling, this seems perfectly fine. After all, I’ll have 30-40 more years practicing my career. So where is the problem?

Kids. Though my career is important to me, I feel like my true calling is motherhood. And I’m not talking one or two kids—I’m thinking four to six. Of course I am speaking before having a child of my own, but as of now this is what I want. And as long as I am physically able, I would like kids that share my DNA. So here’s where the profession vs. family issue comes in. I could start having kids in graduate school, but a grad student’s earnings are not incredibly sufficient for raising a family, and then I would be in school even longer because I most likely could not attend full time, since I would have (and would want) to take care of my children. So what about waiting until after I graduate? After all, I would probably have a stable job. But once a woman hits 35, the risk of Down syndrome and pregnancy complications rise. So if I started having kids at 31 upon graduation, I would, theoretically, have four promising years for childbearing. Four years, four kids. All is good, right? Wrong. If I had four kids in four years, I would always be pregnant or nursing. Not to mention when would I be able to work? I would be a new psychologist, and I could not establish credibility and a reputation if I am unable to practice.

So what do I choose? The family that will bring me joy and fulfillment, or the career that I prepared for for more than a decade? Do I necessarily have to choose? Perhaps all of my plans will change or will be thwarted when I reach this age, who knows, but the question is still an important one. Do women always have to compromise at least part of their dream, whether it be related to family or work? It seems that men don’t have to do so. They aren’t the ones knocked out of commission by pregnancy, and they certainly can produce lots of little healthy babies past the age of 35. I’m not trying to throw a man-hating party here. I’m just trying to look at the facts, to examine whether they even are facts.

So, the ultimate question, can a woman really not have it all?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

notre dating

Next week Legends is hosting Kerry Cronin, labeled the “BC Date Doctor,” who will come to speak about friendship and dating relationships at Notre Dame. The event is called Notre Dating: The Lost Art of Friendship and Romance. I will not be able to attend the event because of another commitment, but I am curious as to what Cronin has to say. One thing I want to know is what classifies her as a “dating expert”? I am not doubting her tips or knowledge, as I have not yet heard what she has to say, but I do not see how anyone can be an expert when it comes to dating. We all know that things like communication, trust, and openness are important aspects of relationships, but how can we develop a “how-to guide to dating” or “how-to guide for moving from friendship to romance,” as Cronin claims to have? Everyone is different, and what works for one couple will not necessarily work for the next! I am curious as to whether Cronin will be offering more of a humorous commentary on the dating world and gender relations at Notre Dame, as we all know are quite unique, or if she really thinks that there is one, foolproof way to approach dating. Furthermore, I am curious if she will acknowledge lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships in addition to heterosexual ones. I noticed that one of the sponsors is Campus Ministry, so I wonder if this will be an attempt to promote conservative dating styles of the past and serve as an endorsement of heterosexual relationships. Again, I am not accusing Cronin or Campus Ministry of any particular agenda. I also realize that this post does not really offer insights, but rather is a source of questions. I wish I could attend this event myself to answer my questions, but since I cannot I would love to hear feedback if anyone goes!  

Here’s the link: http://grc.nd.edu/calendar/notre-dating/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

bring back the vaginas

As a caller in the Development Phone Center, I hear a lot of reasons/excuses/whatever you want to call them as to why people will not donate to the University. I would have to say, however, that one I heard during my most recent shift is rather unique. I was calling a relatively young graduate to talk about one of our giving societies, and she immediately told me that she would not give until Notre Dame reinstated Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. I told her about Loyal Daughters and Sons before she stated that the two are nothing alike and that she just was not going to give unless we brought back The Vagina Monologues. I told her that I would forward her complaint, but I knew immediately that we lost her as a donor. I highly doubt that The Vagina Monologues are coming back to Notre Dame. This response came to me instantly, but I had to take a moment to think, “Why?”
I am familiar with The Vagina Monologues in text, as I read the book and wrote a paper about it senior year of high school. However, I have never seen the show. I do know, however, that its showing has a controversial history. In fact, when The Vagina Monologues first came out as a play, advertisements, tickets, and venues simply referred to it as “Monologues” or “V. Monologues” (Ensler xli). They did not want to mention the word “vagina” in public because of the controversy it could invoke. On the contrary, Ensler states, “‘Vagina’ is not a pornographic word; it’s actually a medical word, a term for a body part, like ‘elbow,’ ‘hand,’ or ‘rib’” (Ensler xlii). It is the culture that has deemed this word as “unfit” for conversation. However, if women cannot openly discuss an essential root of their womanhood, it is hard for them to feel completely welcome in society. If a woman thinks about vaginas or desires to speak about them, she may feel dirty or improper. Dialogue is crucial when defining oneself. When a person is able to openly discuss opinions, feelings, and shared experiences, he or she is forced to articulate these thoughts and ultimately grasps a fuller sense of self. Though the performance of The Vagina Monologues allows for greater thought and communication, I can see why the University would be opposed to showing it. The monologues endorse masturbation, fornication, and giving in to female base desires—all of which the Catholic Church, and thus a Catholic University—speak out against. However, I was curious why the monologues were allowed to be seen in the first place. Here is a link to a biased reflection of a bishop’s disagreement with the showing of the Vagina monologues on campus http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8075. Though it talks about why Notre Dame should not show The Vagina Monologues, it does shed some light on why President Jenkins allowed its showing initially. I am not sure if he alone decided to stop showing it or if he faced too much pressure from donors, parents, colleagues, or what, but I nevertheless think that The Vagina Monologues is an interesting text to read and consider in light of feminine sexuality, whether or not one agrees with everything it supports.
Work Cited: Ensler, Eve. The Vagina Monologues. 10th Anniversary ed. New York: Villard, 2008.

Click here to see a monologue!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

why sexuality?

Have you ever thought about why we pay so much attention to people’s sexuality? Here is a thought experiment: you are sitting in a large lecture class and make small talk with your neighbor before the class begins. This person has a picture of a chicken on her shirt and mentions that she’s not a huge fan of meat. You also spot a PETA folder sticking out of her backpack. Then the realization hits you. You are sitting next to a…GASP!...vegetarian. You are proud of yourself for putting the clues together and feel a sense of hyper-awareness, curiosity, perhaps even unease or disgust. This person is no longer the friendly New Yorker who lives in Welsh Family Hall who would like to be a pediatrician. She is a vegetarian, and this trumps all the rest…
Now this example may seem silly, but I would venture to say that it is not that uncommon—not for vegetarians, per se, but for gay students. As I initially asked, why is so much attention given to the sexuality of others? Why aren’t we defined, instead, by our preference for meat or the color of our hair? You probably counter that to define ourselves according to these things is ridiculous. I don’t disagree. But why is the fact that we place so much attention on sexuality any less ridiculous? And I am not just talking about homosexuality. Our culture seems to be hyper aware of whether a person defines him or herself as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. But why? Certainly society has conditioned us to pay extra attention to these things, and as a result our sexuality often does play a large role in who we are. But how did society get to be this way in the first place? There is so much more to a person than the gender of those he or she is attracted to. Now I’m not saying that we should just forget about all our differences and blow bubbles and eat cotton candy and slide down rainbows. People do consider their sexuality, among other divisive traits, as part of their identities. But what if society was constructed in such a way that these “issues” never divided people in the first place, and people didn’t have to constantly reassert their pride and capabilities? We can consider this in light of our discussion of “othering.” Why is it that heterosexuality is the insignificant “norm” and gay individuals are socially marked, othered, in the first place? What if everyone was assumed to be gay or lesbian and you had to come out and declare that you are, in fact, a heterosexual? One can only wonder so much in lieu of actually looking at reality and saying, “Well, this is how things are. And this is what I’m going to do to try to make a change.”  This came to mind when I was reading today’s Observer and saw that the student senate has tabled the gay-straight alliance debate for next week. It is important to add that a Notre Dame GSA has been denied 15 times. Despite the reason why LGBTQ individuals are othered in the first place, the fact is that they are. It’s important to look at the reasons in order to change people’s conceptions, but it’s also important to deal with the facts that shouldn’t have to be dealt with in the first place. Society has chosen to other those who are not heterosexual, so it is society’s responsibility to make sure that they still have the same rights and protections as all people, because, essentially, we are all people. As a Catholic institution, or any institution for that matter, Notre Dame bears the responsibility to acknowledge equality in protection and consideration. Allowing the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance and passing the all-inclusive anti-discrimination clause voices such support. Let’s hope the 16th time is a charm.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

first comes love, then comes marriage...

“Johnny and Janie sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!” If you are anything like me, you could repeat this little rhyme before you reached double digits. You may have even used it to tease your friends on the playground and, though you didn’t tell anyone, got some secret pleasure when your friends teased you with it because they noticed that someone liked you—yes you! But what you didn’t think of, I presume, is the very specific “love approach” that this rhyme advocates. By reading the events backwards, we can recognize society’s expectations. Do you want children? Then you better be married. Do you want to get married? Then surely you will be in love. Whether or not this all begins in a tree is up for debate. But aside from the tree situation, there is no room to deviate from the norm. We could write an entire how-to manual based on the assumptions packed into this little diddy, though I’m afraid it would have to be titled “How to Live and Love According to Narrow Convention, Even Though You Are Probably Different.” To make myself clear, there is nothing wrong with following this convention. I, too, want to fall in love with a man, get married, and have kids. But I recognize that this is the path for me, and perhaps many others, but surely not for everyone. And this is what is key to recognize.
Another interesting tidbit that we can pick up from this rhyme is the notion of marriage and the conception that marriage is completely normal, expected even. Natalie Angier considers this idea, and questions it, in her chapter titled “Of Hoggamus and Hogwash: Putting Evolutionary Psychology on the Couch.” Angier puts forth the question, “Are we the marrying kind?” She remarks that she does not know the answer, but then nobody else does either. Where she goes on to tackle this question, and the faults of evolutionary psychology, I would like to offer up an argument in light of Christian tradition.
Now some people might question my decision to use Christianity to approach this question. Surely Christianity hasn’t always existed, and not everyone believes in God, so why even bother? And why do I need to bring in religion in the first place? To answer the last question, religion and faith are not things that you can compartmentalize. Christianity is not something to indulge in from time to time, but rather a comprehensive way of life. Furthermore, as a Catholic, I believe that I am right in believing in God. People may be wary of those who claim to be right in a modern “live-and-let-live society,” but it would be pointless for me to identify with a faith if I did not think I was right. It is impossible for both believers and nonbelievers to be right. I identify with theists, hence I think I’m right. Furthermore, just because Christianity has not always existed, and people may not have forever recognized God, does not mean that God has not always existed. And this existence of God, and his plans for us, is how I substantiate my claims. I would argue that humans are the marrying kind, in general, but I would not argue that marriage is for everyone. Priests are technically married to the Church, but what about those who pursue the single life? Those who are called to be sisters? Who are not legally allowed to marry? There is nothing wrong with these people simply because they are not married. I would argue, however, that humans are designed for lasting pair bonds. Marriage is the public recognition of these pair bonds, usually between men and women but between woman and woman or man and man in some of the more liberal states. Nevertheless, God created us for love and out of love. It is the human desire to want to be loved and to give love. The formation of a pure pair bond with another human is the closest we will get to the union we will have with God after earthly death—a union of utter love. This love will fulfill us and bring us complete happiness, thus it only makes sense that we try to imitate it on Earth. One may argue that atheists get married, which is obviously true, so how can I say they seek to imitate their future union with God? I would argue that just because they don’t believe in God does not mean that God does not exist. Despite their disbelief, God endowed them with the same human desires as everyone else. So, to get at the heart of the question, I do believe that two people can fall in love and stay in love for the entirety of their lives, happily (at least most of the time) remaining lifelong companions. Given the rate of divorce we can see that this is not always the case, but there is still a remaining hope.