So this isn't about cowgirls, even though it is about Sandra Day O'Connor, and she was once a cowgirl. And it isn't about Tom Robbins's novel, although I remember this book fondly as one of Gene Magill's favorites (more about him in a future post). It's about getting the blues about how complicated it is to have a gender neutral working experience in this day and age.
The Slate article that triggered this is by Dahlia Lithwick, who is almost always a hilarious writer. (She explains why here.) But Justice Girls caught my attention because she wasn't even remotely funny in this one. And there really isn't anything remotely funny about the women who reached the pinnacle of the legal profession by being appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States feeling that that the all-eyes-upon-you pressure of being the only woman on the high court is isolating. Or feeling that they were pressured into retiring early to save their boss's ego.
And yet my rant is not that we should get equal representation in institutions of power and influence so that people like Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wouldn't have cause to express these sentiments. I suppose there are options, including mandates of some sort, but I don't think it would work here, and frankly I doubt most American women would feel comfortable with it--I wouldn't, and I'm not even American.
My rant really is really about how intractable it all seems, these asymmetries and the resulting isolation and grief they cause. From a continent away and perhaps worlds away, here's another story about gender asymmetries and isolation and grief. A couple of weeks ago, I was horrified to learn about tsunami survivors who are now reduced to selling their kidneys, and now Meredith, my colleague just back from Chennai reports that when she met with a women’s “self-help” group of isherman’s wives, she asked them why it was just women who sold their kidneys. The answer? Because only women’s kidneys were any good. Alcohol has destroyed the men's kidneys. It's horrifying enough that women are going under the knife to have 50% of a vital organ sold off to keep their families alive, with all the risks that it entails, and under suboptimal medical conditions (let alone after care). It's equally horrifying to think that the men of these households have been so disempowered by the disaster and what has followed to be poisoning themselves with alcohol.
Maybe Tora-san had it right--the hero of long-running Japanese movie series: 男はつらいよ. (Life's hard for a guy.)