A Rolling Crone

A blog about travel, art, photography and crone power

joanpgage

joanpgage
Location
North Grafton, Massachusetts, USA
Birthday
February 04
Bio
After 40 years as a journalist, I turned 60 and decided to return to my first love--painting, especially portraits of people encountered in my travels to Greece, Mexico, India & Nicaragua. I’ve exhibited my watercolors and photographs in Massachusetts and have some of them on my web site: www.joanpgage.com. My photo book “The Secret Life of Greek Cats” can be purchased on the web site, or on Amazon. I collect antique photographs, including daguerreotypes, and write about how they have introduced me to some fascinating historic figures, such as Elizabeth Keckley, a slave who became Mary Lincoln's dressmaker and confidante. Last year I attended my 50th high school reunion in Edina, Minnesota and I've just turned 70. My husband and I recently reached our 40th anniversary. We have 3 children, now amazing adults, who keep me up to date on technology--although I still haven't mastered texting. It's been a marvelous journey since I was born in 1941, and I can't wait for the next chapter.

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NOVEMBER 18, 2011 1:32PM

Does The New York Times Scorn Women?

Rate: 6 Flag



If you read the New York Times announcement of my daughter Eleni’s wedding last year, you might think the mother of the bride was dead, hidden away in the attic, non-existent or had never held a job in her life.  The New York Times (free-lance!) writer, Devan Sipher, who wrote the announcement cited the professions of the mother and father of the groom and the father of the bride, but refused to mention the fifty years I had spent writing for national newspapers and magazines, even though 21 of the articles I’d written had appeared in The New York Times.

(You may remember Devan Sipher as the writer of the notorious “Vows” column in the Times celebrating a couple who dumped their spouses for each other after they met at their kids’ pre-kindergarten classrooms.)                                 .

While the snub was painful, I put it aside until yesterday, when I read a new post on my daughter’s blog “The Liminal Stage” called “Nice Work if You Kin Get It.” Eleni studied folk lore and mythology in college and will publish her second book “Other Waters” in February.  She usually writes in her blog about “psychological thresholds, times of transition…The biggies are birth, marriage, death.”The subject of yesterday’s post was “kin work” which she explains as  “the term anthropologists use to describe the ‘conception, maintenance, and ritual celebration of cross boundary kin ties’” –in other words, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, remembering birthdays, sending Christmas cards…you get the idea.

Eleni went on to say that it’s usually women who do kin work and their work is usually unpaid and therefore undervalued. She continues:

“I also think it’s a question of identity. If someone goes into an office every day, society knows how to define him or her–by his or her title or job description. The fact that a person goes somewhere and does something that someone else pays them to do renders them, inherently, worthwhile. Those of us who work at home, juggling work that pays us along with kin work, are considered dilettantes.

“This was brought into high relief for me during my wedding, by the writer who wrote up our New York Times’ wedding announcement

“The reporter asked where my mother, a writer, had been published in the past year. I said Vogue and Budget Travel. 

‘If that’s it, that’s exactly what the Times is trying to avoid–-part-time work,’ said the man, a freelancer himself.

“This angered me for any number of reasons: First, who gets to decide how many publications per year make one a full-time freelancer versus a part-timer? What if your sole publication is a groundbreaking article or book? (I mean, if my mother had been Harper Lee, would he have said, ‘And what has she published in the last 51 years since To Kill A Mockingbird?’)

“And second, what’s wrong with part-time work anyway? In an economy such as ours, and a world in which technology enables us to work from home, more and more people in any number of fields are going freelance. Does the fact that they don’t go into an office every day mean that they don’t really work?

“But what angered me most was the misogyny of it all. My mom had gone into an office before she started raising kids. As did I. And the fact that she re-shaped her career to make room for kin work, as well as paid work, had rendered her so unimportant in the eyes of a paper she had contributed to well over a dozen times, that she was omitted from the graph describing the jobs of the parents of the bride and groom in the wedding announcement of one of the children she’d made time to raised. So yes, as Mary Elizabeth Williamspointed out in Salon today, the New York Times does have female trouble.”

Eleni’s right. I did go into an office for many years—working first for Ladies Home Journal, then in London, editing a small magazine called “Homemaker’s Digest”, then, after returning to New York and marrying a reporter for the New York Times, I worked for a syndicated features service that published my articles around the world.  By the time the second of our three children was born, I only went into the office a few days a week, working at home on other days.

When our third child was born in 1977, our family was moved by the New York Times to Athens, Greece, where I raised the children while my husband spent most of his time in Turkey and Iran covering revolutions and war as the Times’ foreign correspondent for the Middle East. (He usually made it home for Christmas.)  During the five years in Greece, I wrote a number of articles for the Times about entertainers, politicians, artists, travel and archeology.

Among the journalistic gigs I’m proudest of is the series of essays I wrote for the Times “Hers” column in 1979.  People born since 1970 cannot imagine what a journalistic milestone it was for the Old Gray Lady to launch a weekly essay written by women about women’s issues.

During the 1980s I wrote a monthly column called “Kids in the Country” for  Country Living, and have continued to publish free-lance articles everywhere I can, including several in Vogue, as well as writing a number of movie scripts with my husband (which have been optioned but so far not made it to the screen.) So, from my point of view, it feels like I never stopped working

Daughter Eleni ends her blog post with a thought about her baby daughter Amalía: “This attitude towards women–and work–this idea that any work done at home is irrelevant, is something I struggle with now that I am doing more kin work than ever. How can I raise my daughter not to think that her father’s work is more valuable than mine because papi gets dressed and drives off to the office, and mama stays home and writes in between loads of laundry…Maybe by the time Amalía does kin work of her own, we’ll have figured out a way to reward it, beyond just giving it a name.”

I share that wish, and I hope that when Amalía gets married some 30 years from now, her mother will be included in the New York Times announcement, acknowledged as a real person who had a real career.


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perhaps we should report paid accomplishments as well as/rather than employers.
Somewhat off topic, but those of us not on the coasts are generally perplexed by the entire idea of including a pedigree in a wedding announcement. The Times is long overdue for a discussion about why and how anyone thinks those details are relevant. Is that tradition a vestige of the idea that a daughter belonged to her father up to the minute she was handed over to her husband? As a journalist myself, I'm actually somewhat perplexed at the idea of wedding announcements in the 21st century. Why is that news?

If it's published, certainly it should be complete, and I agree that the Times has snobbish, if outdated, criteria for determining what's newsworthy. Couples whose parents work at Walmart aren't going to get their pictures in the Times. I'm sorry you were left out; I'm glad Eleni understands the issues, and I admire her for valuing kin work.
It's not clear whether whether that was the standards of the NYT or a misinterpretation, purposeful or not, by the part-timer writing the announcement.

I'm with HighLonesome in that I don't understand the value or reason of having the accomplishments of the parent being part of a wedding announcement.
Great piece your daughter wrote, but I agree with High Lonesome and Traveller. Outside of a somewhat rarified NYC *elite* circle, who the hell does wedding announcements?
To those who asks who, outside the rarified world of the NYT Society Pages, does wedding/engagement announcements anymore: small-town papers. And these couples are anything BUT rarified. And the announcements go into excruciating detail.

And yes, the mother's profession should be included on the wedding announcement, even if she does not work for pay. In the olden days, she would have been listed as a "homemaker." In your case, calling you a "freelance writer" would not have cost the Times anything in terms of journalistic standards.
This is all kind of insulting to you as a woman. I wonder if you considered any kind of litigation to the times, or a letter to the editor or some kind of outcry, retraction, complaint, etc. I don't know what you might have done, but it is never to late to register your disgust and bewilderment with what occurred. As Leeandra noted, it was not done properly and should have been included. The Times by including the article in their paper is responsible for its content. Just a thought.
During the five years in Greece, I wrote a number of articles for the Times about entertainers, politicians, artists, travel and archeology.Nefla Teen Relationships Court