Unemployment may be at record levels but academics are doing their level best to diversify a dwindling work force. “Work-family conflict is really a conflict over masculinity,” Joan C. Williams of the University of California posited at the Center for American Progress on September 16, 2010.
The founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the UC-Hastings College of the Law bemoaned the “breadwinner ideal” that she claims Americans still cling to. We have “this habit of measuring masculinity by paycheck,” she claimed at CAP, and “measuring masculinity by hours worked.”
“He’s a real man,” Williams said, describing the ethos she outlined. “He works 90 hours a week.”
“You become a man biologically at a certain age,” she admitted. Sonograms show that this distinction is noticeable in the womb.
“In the 1990s, men’s working hours increased,” she said. “Men’s household contributions dropped.”
“So did women’s labor force participation. So how do we jump start this gender revolution?” She admitted that it would be difficult in the middle of economic turmoil although not necessarily because of the economy.
She lamented that the current “political” situation would make her two recommended reforms difficult to achieve. Namely, she said:
- “We need new social subsidies” and
- “We need new worker’s rights.”
“We need to get men more involved in the homework to free women for other things like labor participation,” Williams co-panelist Michael Selmi of George Washington Law school agreed, at least “until we get men to change their behavior.”
“Prof. Selmi is the toughest grader I had as a 1L,” Selmi’s one reviewer  on ratemyprofessors.com remembers. “He doesn’t care much about how cases were actually decided, but would prefer you focus on issues of fairness and equity.”
“This might be great for some people, particularly at GW, but it was definitely not my cup of tea.” The reviewer alleges that Selmi “also said that 85% of mortgages are unconscionable.”
“American politics have shifted because of a disconnect between the 13 percent managerial class and the working class,” Williams argued. “We lost the working class.”
“Sixty percent of the working class used to vote Democratic. Now it’s 40 percent.” There seems to be a “disconnect” between Williams and her students as well, if not an even wider chasm between the professor’s interests and the subject matter of her course.
Here is a sampling :
- “One of the worst professors I have ever had. Learned nothing about property. Be prepared for a class focused entirely on how women, minorities and homosexuals have been shunned by property law. This might have been interesting had she actually incorporated property law into the lectures. Gives minimum amount of As. BEWARE.”
- “Want to learn a very common and generally-accepted perspective on sociology? Take Property with JW. Want to learn the law of property? Take Property with anyone else. She compiles her own book, which makes perfect sense because there are no property textbooks available, anywhere. Unfortunately, her textbook is god awful.”
- “Too much emphasis on theory and public policy. Overall, she is a pretty good professor, but plan on finding the rule of law yourself.”
- “My least favorite law school class by far. Prof. Williams is nice and approachable, but her lectures were unclear, and there were some complete sections of material she didn’t seem to understand very well. She might be great for Fem Theory, but for Property she was horrid.”
A final note: Williams told her audience at CAP of the “class culture gap” that exists between elites and workers. The latter are “more focused on religion” and have “more respect for the military.”
“This is American progress,” she told the crowd at CAP. “That is American politics.” Williams is also the author of Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.
“Do you know what the favorite restaurant of the white working class is?” she asked. “Red Lobster.”
“Raise your hand if that is your favorite restaurant.” One hand went up. If you guessed that it belonged to this correspondent, you would be right.
“I think that most of us prefer Chez Panisse in Berkeley,” Williams said. “People can’t understand why we would pay a lot of money for little food.”
Put me down for the endless shrimp.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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