Experience and Women

(I'm off to the doctor's for antibiotics, but I'm doing a quick post in a feverish haze. I hope this makes sense.)

Lisa Belkin defends Caroline Kennedy saying that she has a great deal of experience. Many women take 'mom sabbaticals" and they shouldn't be penalized for it. She argues for a new untraditional definition of experience.

While I'm all in favor of untraditional definitions of experience and I firmly agree that mom sabbaticals should not count against you, I am a little uncomfortable with Belkin's argument. How do we measure merit if not by experience?

I don't think that experience should mean years of uninterrupted, 9 to 5 work, but it should mean some work in the field. I don't think that a mom sabbatical should mean you are never allowed to get on the line where they are handing out professional success. I think you be able to get back on that line, though you should not be allowed to cut to the front.

Whenever someone uses the phrase "paying one's dues," I hear "only men need apply." However, I think that some dues need to be paid. Belkin did not make the case that Kennedy had the minimum amount of experience. I have to have something. Or how else am I going to fairly judge the difference between a Palin and a Kennedy?

20 thoughts on “Experience and Women

  1. She tries to make out that Caroline Kennedy is being subject to scrutiny in a way that, for example (her example) Fred Grandy was not. But Grandy had been politically active before his acting career (eg, serving as a speechwriter) and, of course, RAN FOR OFFICE, which Kennedy is not proposing to do until she is already an incumbent. This is also, for me, the difference between Kennedy and Palin — Palin was running for office, inviting voters to make their own judgment about whether or not she should be elected, Kennedy is not, and never has.

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  2. Oh come now. Of course Kennedy is “running for office.” She is asking to be appointed — and then she will run for re-election (as an incumbent, without the burden of serious primary opposition).
    Kennedy clearly has less experience, by any reasonable measure, than Palin. If Kennedy wanted to be on the New York City School Board, I’d say great. But US Senate? Give me a break. Her *only* “qualification” is her last name. That just doesn’t cut it in my book.

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  3. If she had been a practicing surgeon, or an interior decorator, for the past 30 years, she would still not be qualified. She would only be qualified to be appointed to the position if she had held elective office.

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  4. How to distinguish appropriate experience: Kennedy is pleasant and seems malleable; never contradicts the common wisdom of the Upper East Side, and has been a very special friend of Pinch Sulzberger’s. She went to all the right schools. Putting her in the seat would keep Cuomo out. Of course she is qualified! Palin on the other hand went to the wrong schools, has the wrong opinions, and seems to take church seriously. Not qualified!

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  5. stranger,
    But if she’d successfully run a medium-sized to largish company, been a school superintendent, a general, or the head of a hospital, CK would have a reasonably good case. An accountant would be good, too, actually.

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  6. Bloomberg took over running the city of NY with no prior experience in government. The new trend in education is to make a business leader the chancellor. Governor Terminator didn’t have any prior experience in elected office before he took over CA. CK seems to have enough experience for a house seat, but I expect a bit more from a senator.

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  7. Laura, If CK had a fraction of the managerial experience that Bloomberg had before running, I’d feel differently. Oh, and Governor Terminator is not exactly the poster boy for being able to handle a governorship with no previous adminisrative experience! Sure, CK could — I mean, will — manage to hire a staff, cast votes, give speeches. But will the State of New York get the best that they might get? Not even close.

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  8. There’s no reason why Caroline Kennedy shouldn’t get the Senate seat, and yet it still irks me. I just can’t defend her, but I also won’t lose any sleep if she’s appointed. I know she has enough money/contacts to hire a good staff and do the job right.

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  9. I think Kennedy should be appointed Senator from Illinois. They need somebody honest and not connected to Blago. Nobody is paying that much attention to anything else.
    That would free NY for me. Though I am not technically a Democrat, I’d be willing to switch parties. I’d also be willing to move to the upstate places that are most skeptical of Kennedy (not excluding even Binghamton) and to stop referring the public sector unions “legal organized crime”.
    Also, other than gender and wealth, I have a great deal in common with Caroline Kennedy. Irish father who was in the Navy and went on to public office. Check. Non-Irish mother who wore funny head-gear in the 60s and had a crush on JFK. Check. Also, my family uses pretty much the same set of first names as the Kennedy family. After a couple of months, I don’t think anybody would notice the difference.

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  10. Amy P,
    If, If, If. If she’d done any of that, she wouldn’t be part of the New York socialite set. I’m more concerned about the appointment of an aristocrat to a senatorial seat.
    I would guess that pressure is coming from other senators. There seems to me to be a desire on the part of politicians to erect dynasties. Senator Kennedy’s grave illness may play a part in an emotional desire to have a “Senator Kennedy,” but being a President’s daughter, or a Senator’s niece, doesn’t qualify you for one of the most powerful jobs in government.
    If she wants to enter politics, let her run for city councilwoman. I’m very leery of an aristocrat appointed to the highest levels, without the tempering process of interacting with The People.

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  11. My dad’s theory is that Caroline doesn’t want the position and that she’s being guilted into going for it. She certainly doesn’t look that enthusiastic on her listening tour. (Gee, I really hate that term.)
    “I’m more concerned about the appointment of an aristocrat to a senatorial seat.” I appreciate that sentiment, but I’m not really sure how many plebs are currently in the senate. Being the daughter of a President shouldn’t qualify you for anything, but in reality there are a lot of sons of presidents who have gotten jobs that they didn’t deserve.

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  12. “If she wants to enter politics, let her run for city councilwoman.”
    Amen. Or school board, or train commissioner, or state legislature, or whatever.
    (I should confess that one of my fantasies is a televised all-Kennedy Upper Class Twit of the Year contest, complete with specially adapted American events.)

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  13. There are also many relatives of crooks who are treated in a way they don’t deserve. I don’t think anyone with the last name Madoff will be trusted for a good long while.
    The pressure to appoint Caroline Kennedy may come from a desire to preserve Senator Kennedy’s staff. The staff has been in place for a long time, and must have a great deal of institutional knowledge. They also may be able to call in a lot of debts, and they certainly know where the (rhetorical) bodies are buried.
    I can’t conceive of anyone who’s not a Kennedy agreeing to take them on [i]en masse[/i], but I could easily see Caroline Kennedy assuming them.
    Judging from the listening tour, I don’t think appointing her is a wise move for the NY Democratic party. Even with incumbency, her off-script verbal skills are, er, not inspiring, and the depth of her inarticulateness leads me to believe that she would be a sitting duck in any election contest.

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  14. “I’m more concerned about the appointment of an aristocrat to a senatorial seat.” I appreciate that sentiment, but I’m not really sure how many plebs are currently in the senate. Being the daughter of a President shouldn’t qualify you for anything, but in reality there are a lot of sons of presidents who have gotten jobs that they didn’t deserve.
    All the more reason to oppose those instances of more or less obvious hereditary politics when and where we can. Will family connections (and especially wealthy family connections) always matter in democratic politics? Sure; even if we were somehow able to actually impose some of sort of real, general equality upon the fundraising, advertising/campaigning, and networking processes, the simple weight of a famous name (Kennedy!) will always move votes, and party leaders and political insiders know that, and hence the constant desire to recruit from the same pool.
    We can’t pretend that the senate–like the nation’s governor’s mansions, etc.–isn’t filled with well-connected, wealthy men, but acknowledging that isn’t a good enough argument, I think, to allow yet one more instance of aristocracy (even if it is one which benefits a woman) to slip by without critique. Not wanting to perpetuate the same old blood was a good enough reason to oppose Hillary Clinton, in my book; it’s a good enough reason to oppose Caroline.

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  15. stranger — if you’re right about her staff, and knowing what we know about both the money that will follow her and the viciousness of the Kennedy’s against their opponents, her inarticulateness should be no problem in an election.
    If the Democratic Party were a left wing party, or anything like one, it would be up in arms against this possibility. But, then, I’d be a monkey’s uncle, and I’m not.

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  16. It is outrageous that Kennedy is going to get this position and I’m 99% with you, Harry. But 1% of me says that this happens to rich men all the time, so why make a fuss now?

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  17. Harry, no bootlegger or Nazi ancestors. But I have personally violated alcohol laws on hundreds of occassions.

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  18. I think that is Belkin’s point. In fact, the sexism is not in making a fuss about this, but in the fact that women play a different role. A male Kennedy who had done what CK has done would be very unlikely to be in this position. Now, JFK jr was much less engaged in any kind of productive activity than CK, and if he’d lived its probably him we’d be talking about. But he would have seemed to have had some experience. I would be just as scandalised as I am by CK (maybe more so, because I would have ample evidence of his lack of suitability, whereas I just have no evidence of her suitability).
    Note, I’m not making a fuss myself, just making a comment in a blog post…

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  19. She is wealthy and dull. She won’t make any waves, and she can inherit the swell staff which made wealthy, dull Teddy something of a success. She is another Max Baucus. Not dreadful.

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