June 24, 2014

"If I had an ambitious spirit, I'd write a whole book on this topic."

"Instead, I am stranding this insight here."

So I wrote, just now, in the comments to last night's thread about the inhibitions and obstacles faced by a woman born in 1951, i.e., me.

Yes, now I'm throwing a lifeline to the stranded comment by making it a front-page post. My reason for doing that is that I feel that I've found the psychic key to my favorite tag: "unsaid things."

And now, I feel I've found the psychic key to my 10 years of blogging 10 (about 10) posts a day: The format forces me to say one thing after another, and that liberates me to say many things I'd leave unsaid otherwise.

Did you know that before I started blogging I believed myself to be a person without political opinions? I used to read the New York Times every day and feel that I had no opinion. It was such a distinctive feeling — no opinion was my opinion — that for a while, to counteract it, I challenged myself, upon reading at least one article a day, to arrive at an opinion. What do I think of that?

In blogging, early on, I had to tell myself to stop before moving to the next item and write one more sentence. You have to say something about that. I had to make it a discipline: To write one more thing... in that post... not just to go on and write the one more thing that is the next post.

And now this post needs one more sentence, and yet the old resistance, the old Spirit of Unsaid Things still has its grip on me.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Spirit of Unsaid Things says:

There is much that I remember and much that I have lost. Too often I remember what I held briefly, and I forget what was once a dim moment's victory. To leave unsaid is a choice, a decision: the room left behind is never truly empty and the door never truly closes. So says The Spirit of Unsaid Things.

CStanley said...

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to comment on this here or in the other thread, but here goes.

I think the commenters there who pointed out the word "chose" about your career path have an important point. So why did you make the choices you made?

As a woman who similarly excelled in academics (I wasn't valedictorian only because I made one "B" in PE!) I too look back and realize I could have aimed much higher. I mostly make that observation without regret though and certainly without resentment because I know it was all a result of choices I made along the way. I think I made those choices for two reasons: soft rather than hard ambition, and a recognition that my husband had stronger career ambition and one of us had to focus more on the home front. I believe that I, and a lot of women, just don't have the same fire in the belly. YMMV, but I think it's more honest to look within ourselves rather than examining societal influences,

The Crack Emcee said...

"Did you know that before I started blogging I believed myself to be a person without political opinions? I used to read the New York Times every day and feel that I had no opinion. It was such a distinctive feeling — no opinion was my opinion — that for a while, to counteract it, I challenged myself, upon reading at least one article a day, to arrive at an opinion. What do I think of that?"

Betcha you were proud of yourself, then, too,...

Michael said...

The ambitious spirit is an excellent phrase, Professor. And in it lies the key to a lot of life's decisions and our regrets and triumphs.

I hope that you dedicate a post to what it was like as a female associate in a white shoe NY firm during the era you were there. I expect that it was gruesome in more than the usual ways.

carrie said...

That is the great deception that many NYT readers share--that they have no opinions and that everything they think is fact. Kids come out of liberal colleges thinking like that too and it takes about 20 years for them to realize that they were just taught a POV in college.

Curious George said...

Your dad never said he proud of you. Guess what, neither did mine. I'll bet a lot of men can say that about their fathers. So it's not because of you are, a girl. It's because who they are.

I also knew he was.

surfed said...

You always leave much unsaid. It's part and parcel of your writing when it turns inward/personal. That said, the unsaid is always more interesting than the said. Your jaunt back to 18 years old, the peninsula and the night out was quite evocative for the complete and lack of any narrative other than the picture of the bridge in the late afternoon sun. But that says more about me than you. I think I've circled back here...

Ann Althouse said...

@Crack

Why are you perceiving pride?

I did not come from a background where pride was even thought good. Maybe you did.

rhhardin said...

Philippe Sollers Women is an amusing novel of a French guy dealing with feminism. There are lots of good lines.

"So very quickly Flora became an expert in passion ... As earnest as if she were engaged in some special kind of ascesis ... In a political or even a military campaign ... Bravely into the breash ... She started buying enticing underwear, which I imagine she tracked down through specialist magazines ... She went to see films; she did research; she systematically set out to make up for lost time ... I was the sorcerer's apprentice ... The conductor unable to control his crazed orchestra ..."

...'s in original.

The Althouse commenter control reminded me of the crazed orchestra line.

Anonymous said...

The Spirit of Unsaid Things says:

There is much that I choose not to say because I choose not to put such memories into words. The words then give confining definition to the memory, and the memory is constrained by the limits of vocabulary. Sometimes a thought is left unsaid simply because there is not an appropriate word. So says The Spirit of Unsaid Things .

CStanley said...

Adding something to my 8:23 comment:

There is a difference between my situation and Prof Althouse's: I am 10 or 12 years younger.

I did not feel externally constrained from ambition, in fact perhaps the opposite. My high school was an excellent (ranked in top ten in the country) college prep school. I was encouraged to take AP courses, including Calculus, which I did, and enjoyed, and excelled at. I was recruited by universities, including some Ivy Leagues. The only external constraints I remember feeling were financial and social class ones. We couldn't afford it (some offered scholarships but it wouldn't have been enough) and I wasn't socially adept enough to feel comfortable in an environment with wealthy people.

So, I will acknowledge there was a difference, and that perhaps it's easier for me to see my decisions as ones that were made with my own agency (or hampered by circumstances that had nothing to do with gender.)

John said...

I think you are self-refuting on this, Ann.

In the other post you talked about how women were supposed to have careers in nursing, teaching and other motherhood friendly jobs.

But you went out and became a lawyer. Then law professor (another motherhood friendly job)

So I really don't understand what you are talking about.

If you are saying that it was harder for a woman to become a lawyer in the 60's, OK, I'll go along with that. Hardly impossible though. As you demonstrate.

Perhaps you could elaborate?

John Henry

Ann Althouse said...

"Your dad never said he proud of you. Guess what, neither did mine. I'll bet a lot of men can say that about their fathers. So it's not because of you are, a girl. It's because who they are."

I know, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

Why did you read me to be saying that? That bothers me.

Ann Althouse said...

rhhardin said… "Philippe Sollers Women is an amusing novel of a French guy dealing with feminism… 'Bravely into the breash'…."

The breash, eh? Don't do a google image search on that word while you are at work.

wildswan said...

I too grew up in the Fifties and I wanted to work in electronics, to work with tubes. But that was closed to women (at least I thought so) and I did history and literature instead. Then the women's movement gave me a second chance and I did end up working with computers and I loved it though tubes were gone. All this transitioning between arts and technology gave a point of view I don't often find in literature or TV shows which are supposedly about me and my generation. And from talking to others of my age I've concluded that there's vast numbers of people like me whose entire life experience simply doesn't show up anywhere on the media. And this absence has allowed widespread acceptance of the political lie that one becomes a Republican or a Tea Party supporter because one is racist or sexist or a stupid pawn of the patriarchy.

The real harm done to real people by the feminazi aspect of the women's movement, the struggles within the Catholic Church wherein prolifers reported the abuses of the clerical gay culture over and over and were disregarded because the abusers had risen so high in the hierarchy, the efforts made by prolifers to get people to understand that African-Americans as a group were being targeted for extinction by the abortion machine and that the family was collapsing among all races - these are real stories, real issues. And there are reasons, coming out of life histories, why Republicans can see these problems and Democrats can only see how bad Nixon and George Wallace were compared to themselves. This is the stuff of literature but these days we just have liberal sermonizing and liberal self-simonizing.

Ann Althouse said...

But do a google image search on that word when you are not at work, and you may get some insight into rh's vision of men's ability to fixate.

Ann Althouse said...

"Perhaps you could elaborate?"

Did you read the post title?

CStanley said...

"Your dad never said he proud of you. Guess what, neither did mine. I'll bet a lot of men can say that about their fathers. So it's not because of you are, a girl. It's because who they are."

I know, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

Why did you read me to be saying that? That bothers me.


I read it that way too, or at least that you felt your Dad could have done more to counter these other forces that you felt constrained by. Sort of a 'sin of omission' even though you don't seem to fault him for it, presumably because you see it as part of an overall Laissez-faire parenting strategy.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

"Why are you perceiving pride?"

No opinion WAS your opinion? That's a prideful statement in itself. Plus whites always pridefully parade their ignorance - they don't even THINK about race, remember?

"I did not come from a background where pride was even thought good. Maybe you did."

Oh - you know I did. Since whites were always trying to convince blacks of our ugliness, our sense of pride is off-the-charts. (Gays look stupid trying to compete in that department.) Where I came from, we were "stupid" until we wised up, and that included children.

There's none of that "no opinion" nonsense when your life's on the line,...

Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...
I know, and I did not mean to imply otherwise.

Why did you read me to be saying that? That bothers me."

Seriously? It was originally stated in your Mad Men post, which clearly was about sexism. This comment came right before it:

"You guys can minimize the inhibitions and limitations that were imposed on women, but, to paraphrase Rush, I was there. I lived it.

I could give you many, many examples of how my ambition was stunted."

And then next came the stuff about your father.

If it was a parallel thought, fine. But that's why I thought what I thought.

John Christopher said...

I'm not trying to be teacher's pet, but I followed the Neil Young tag from the most recent post (I was curious to see if you'd commented on his 2012 memoir) straight to another Unsaid Thing:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2008/08/things-said-and-unsaid-in-record-store.html

n.n said...

Enigmatic Althouse is the topic.

Witness said...

Post title may be accidentally informative.

rhhardin said...

breash is a typo.

You can't proofread in the same frame you typed in. You just read what you thought as you typed.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Can you manage a chapter?

John said...

Yes, I did read the post title.

OK, I guess you just want to leave your, clearly false, statement about women's careers hanging out there.

Its your blog, you can do what you want.

John Henry

Lem said...

Inside Althouse baseball...

Lem said...

Reading that poor me post last night and reading Crack today I thought an Althouse like tag Althouse is like Crack.

For the record, however, let me unequivocally say that is not my opinion. My opinion is not my own. That was just snark.

Just Mike said...

People project onto other's written communications often seeing unintended emotions, inflections and so forth. Mostly I am surprised when people can successfully communicate at all. I think you do a great job.

Ann Althouse said...

"I read it that way too, or at least that you felt your Dad could have done more to counter these other forces that you felt constrained by. Sort of a 'sin of omission' even though you don't seem to fault him for it, presumably because you see it as part of an overall Laissez-faire parenting strategy."

If I wrote this book, I would go into a lot of detail about the kind of parenting they provided. I think they were, in fact, very modern, ahead of a curve that ended up not being where our culture went… in part because of the women's movement, which led to an effort to help everybody win.

I think there is good reason to let competitiveness spring from the individual and to let people find and pursue their own interests. The authorities, including teachers, should get out of the way and mostly help to equip young people with the general set of skills (like literacy) and access to participating in other things that suit them.

But that's not what the authorities were doing in my time. I was assigned to learn to cook and sew when I would have liked to learn what was the boys-only class: mechanical drawing and shop.

I wanted to be on the lighting crew in theater and it was forbidden to girls.

I was instructed by an English teacher that there was no place for females in broadcasting because of our voices!

Meade said...

Lem is back. And he brought his levity.

About time.

John said...

Ann said:

I wanted to be on the lighting crew in theater and it was forbidden to girls.

as late as the early 80's state law here forbade women from working any job that required climbing ladders more than 3'(?) off the ground.

They were also forbidden to work in any job requiring them to lift more than 30#.

They were also forbidden to work 3rd shift (overnight) jobs in factories.

Other states had similar protections.

Might it be that you could not work in lighting because of NY state law? As opposed to employer policy.

I think employers might have hired women for more jobs absent the laws. I was always encouraged to hire women in the maintenance dept but was limited in what jobs I could consider them for without running afoul of the law.

John Henry

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Just Mike. And I agree about the impossibility of communication.

Freeman Hunt said...

People project onto other's written communications often seeing unintended emotions, inflections and so forth.

I've spent a good deal of time despairing about this. I don't think despairing is too strong a word. I think I'm mostly over it though because there's not much that can be done about it. Que sera sera.

Naut Right said...

Like a rope, cut at both ends, never whipped. The center looks tightly wound but it's really unraveling. Put on that finishing touch.

carrie said...

Pride being good is class thing. I'm from the working class and pride in supporting your family is what made monotonous factory/agricultural/service/etc bearable and something to be proud of, an was a very good thing.

Basil said...

Thank you, professor, for providing this forum. Other than you inexplicable tolerance for Crack, this is a wonderful thing you have created.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I think they were, in fact, very modern, ahead of a curve that ended up not being where our culture went

Intriguing, 'modern' but not 'where our culture went.' So what modernity were they going to?

CStanley said...

I think they were, in fact, very modern, ahead of a curve that ended up not being where our culture went

Intriguing, 'modern' but not 'where our culture went.' So what modernity were they going to?


I thought this was an interesting comment too. It made me think about that point in emerging trends, when the status quo is changing but the direction of change is still up for grabs. In turn, this made think about the feminist movement. I think there were a lot of missed opportunities.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Maybe Prof. Althouse's father thought pride/shame are both overrated emotions. Shame is an emotion that can cause one to behave contrary to one's other feelings as regards what one has become ashamed of. Pride, on the other hand, makes one want to be true to all internal feelings. I'd say the best basis for determining the proper sphere of shame/pride would be to understand when feelings are unlikely to be natural. Feelings that are caused directly by external chemicals such as alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, etc., are unnatural in the sense that they are caused directly by consumption of external, adventitiously introduced chemicals. This is different form when the body consumes nutrients, the natural tendencies of the brain using reflection and sensation to determine what brain chemicals are to be produced from the nutrients according to the situation. I argue that pride/shame are properly about chemical addiction.

It is true that there is another way to produce unnatural feelings in someone, namely to deceive a person into thinking a situation is contrary to what it is, which would cause someone to have feelings that he would not have if he had not been subject to the deception. But there is a simple more palatable remedy in this situation, namely using reason to convince the confused person of the truth. Feelings are shaped by our understandings. An appeal to reason is more effective in this situation than shaming, because when unpolluted, feelings almost always tend to suggest some truth or another or to cause some behavior that it is adaptive to naturally want to do (not "adaptive to do": a behavior can be adaptive to naturally want to do even if it is sacrificial to do it, because people will tend to love you more if you are the sort of person who naturally wants to do the right thing), so people normally want to go by feelings.

Finally, it is true that people can manipulate to create shame or pride when neither is appropriate. People tend to be more conformist about what is worthy of pride and shame than about most anything. It is such a disaster to be screwed-up that children rarely think for themselves about the matter until they are quite old. Mostly I think it is a good thing that girls, especially young girls, rely on their parents and other elder close relatives to decide whether young sexual relationships they are contemplating would be screwed-up or not. It's excessively letting girls not be themselves for parents to decide whether a person who all agree would not screw up their daughter is the sort of person whom their daughter should have sex with. The extent of the love the daughter feels should more largely determine whether she should have sex if her parents feel that the relationship would not be screwed-up. Parents are most properly there to protect from the big mistakes, not to otherwise control or arrange their daughters' matings. About big mistakes, ideally girls would more tend to be led by parents than by general opinion. Still, since not making big mistakes in mating is something more often determined by parents of girls than girls, and since parents only have half the genetic stake in the matter, people haven't evolved to be as non-conformist about what constitutes a big mating mistake. Personally, I think the key to not being manipulated is to be clear that pride/shame are properly about chemical addictions. (And to be clear what the chemical addictions are.)

Not wanting to work at Sullivan and Cromwell could have been what was right rather than (or in addition to) "copping out" to avoid feeling shame from peers. Formerly, America's foreign policy often failed by putting John F. Dulles's law firm's interests ahead of the country's and what was right.