Choice and Feminism


There's an interesting article on the web edition of The American Prospect: Homeward Bound, by Linda Hirschman. The broad thesis is that a large number of women with successful careers are opting out of them early in favor of home life. There've been a number of articles on this recently, in the New York Times most notably, and to an extent it's been overblown. Nonetheless, the phenomenon is real. The take-away point in a lot of the earlier articles has been something to the effect of "Gee whiz! I guess after all that feminism, women just want to be mommies after all!" or, in Maureen Dowd's alternate-but-no-less-troubling take, "This is a lesson to all the feminists: Choosing a career means turning down motherhood and relationships, and vice versa. You can't have it all."

This article derives a different message from the trend: the problem is not that feminism has gone too far, forcing careers on women who don't want them. Rather, feminism has not gone far enough. It has established, in general, equal opportunities in the work place, but it has left alone structural inequalities in home life that force women to choose between work and family. The task for feminism, therefore, is to turn its attention to restructuring home life.

I've got a lot of thoughts on this, and they're pretty much all in agreement with this article. To start, one of the most irritating things I hear is the wistful warning "you can't have it all." That is, women can have a career or a family, but not both. The unspoken, but implied, second clause of that is "you can't have it all, because you're a woman," or, alternatively, "you can't have it all, because you're not a man." Men, in case you haven't noticed, can have it all. ABA studies have shown that men who are married are likely to be more successful in their careers than single men. Contrariwise, single women are more successful than married women (This is in terms of salary and in terms of promotion to Partnerships, the upper rank of private practice lawyers. The studies also control for age). The reason is simple. When men and women are single, they have to work at their careers and also take care of themselves. When they marry, suddenly the man only has to work, while the woman has to take care of herself and the man. And that's before kids enter the picture. (This, of course, is under the classic marriage partnership agreement that "the woman does all the housework," which, as the article points out, is surprisingly common to this day). So marriage lifts a burden from the man and shifts that burden onto the woman.

There's also a lot of societal pressure to become a homemaker. Men go their entire lives being told that it's their duty to marry, have kids, and have a productive career that supports that family. Women have been told for thousands of years that it's their job to marry, have kids, and care for the family at home using the money the husband brings in. Now, in the last 40 years, women have been told "try to have a career, but if that doesn't work out you can always quit and become a homemaker." So men are told they have no option but a career, while women are told that they're free to try out a career, but if things aren't easy they can always give up. Further, there's subtle pressure that not only is giving up a career to become a homemaker acceptable, but all things considered it's preferable. Careers are great and all, but the purpose of a woman is to have kids and make the home. If you want a career, that's nice, but family must come first.

I've encountered some of this in law school. For starters, it raises my hackles when I talk to a woman in law school who prefaces a comment with "I'm no feminist." Oh really? You're not a feminist, yet you go to law school? You're in a place where there were precisely 0 women 40 years ago, at an institution, Columbia University, that only began accepting women to their undergraduate program after you were born (1983), and you don't consider yourself a feminist? So you've chosen to stand on the shoulders of feminists and kick them in the face? But of course, that's not fair. What they mean is not "I don't believe in any species of feminism at all." What they mean is "I like what feminism's done so far, but I have no desire to go any farther." But a surprising number of the women I've talked to here have already accepted their eventual economic inferiority to men. They plan to graduate, work a few years in a big firm to pay off debt, then marry and leave their job to raise kids, maybe do some part time work for a non-profit if they can find the time. I don't mind when people are unambitious. But are they being unambitious because they lack ambition, or are they unambitious because society has told them that that's how a woman should be?

Essentially, the problem is that feminism has opened up a lot of choices for women, and they keep making the wrong ones. Or, rather, they now choose to do what they were forced to do 40 years ago. This is one of those problems that can't be solved with a big government program. You can't pass a law forcing women to stay in the workplace, or forcing married men to do 50% of the dishes. The only solution is to build a movement and convince women (and men) to make the right choices. Part of that is building institutions that attempt to educate women and get them to make choices according to what they actually want, not what society wants. Another part would be attempting to change the message society sends to women, to emphasize autonomy and de-emphasize motherhood. The author proposes a few solutions, but they're pretty small beans compared to the task at hand (don't get a liberal arts degree, focus on your career, don't have more than one kid).

I'd be interested in hearing others thoughts on the subject. I have a tough time outright condemning women who decide to stay home for a living because, frankly, I wouldn't mind doing it myself. I'm not particularly ambitious and have no great sweeping career plans, so if I had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home husband, I'd probably leap at it. Hence the trouble in distinguishing between women who would stay home regardless (as I would) and women who stay home due to societal pressure to do so.


Now hang on. A liberal arts degree is antagonistic to a successful and satisfying career? I'm going to guess that you mean something like, "give yourself the best chance of getting and keeping a job by getting a degree in a field where there's a great deal of demand and a large number of positions, which is not the liberal arts and humanities." Is that right? If so, while it's a decent point, I have to argue for two reasons.

One, you're kind of kicking academia in general in the face -- that's where the majority of the careers in the liberal arts and humanities are, and you, overeducated as you are, have a great deal for which to thank those will-o-the-wisp teaching jobs and the people who hold them.

Two, I have to believe that getting and keeping a satisfying job has a lot to do with being in a field and subject about which you care. If you passionately love rhetoric, a degree in engineering is not going to make you a happy, ambitious, motivated worker, and it may make you even more inclined to drop your engineering job and stay at home.

Jeez. You can't even try to start one argument without me hauling out a completely different one with which to abuse you. It's only because I'm unwilling to let myself go into full rant mode and spend the rest of the afternoon discussing feminism instead of working, which will assuredly happen as soon as I address your actual point.

Oh. OH. That was the author's suggestion, I now see, not yours. My error in reading. I apologize; please redirect my rant to the author of the piece.

Indeed. The liberal arts degree point is one that seems a bit specious, though I ought to have made my objection more clear than my simple dismissal on the grounds that it seems inconsequential. That along with the author's failure to address the point that some people really don't want big careers are my major problems with the piece, though I agree with its general thrust.

And you are preaching to the choir on liberal arts. My degree's in History, which is only marginally less of a liberal art than, for instance, English or Art History. The one loophole is that History happens to train you in a skill set which is also used in law (research, argumentation, and lots of writing). But before I decided on law I wanted to go into history academia, and, were I a woman, I think I would be quite skeptical if you called me a traitor to my sex for choosing a liberal arts degree.

To play devil's advocate, though: As to the first point, to her broad "no liberal arts" mandate, she attaches the caveat "except if you're planning to go into academia." I can see the point, here: There aren't very many jobs in liberal arts academia, and there are probably a hell of a lot more people getting liberal arts degrees than there are jobs that are specifically for liberal arts graduates.

The trouble with this line of argument, I think, is that I'm not entirely sure how much liberal arts study is a gendered phenomenon. Perhaps it is, but I know lots of male philosophy, english, art history, sociology, etc. majors. Further, most everyone I knew in college, male or female, who got a liberal arts degree now has a job. Maybe not their ideal job, but a job.

The author's point seems to be that women are currently picking majors based on intellectual tastes and not out of pragmatic concerns while men choose their major based on what career they want. First, I don't think that's neccessarily true, though I don't have any statistics for it. Second, as I recall most guidance counsellors at college fall over themselves telling students that their choice of major doesn't really matter for what job they get. Unless they're entering a specialized field, like the sciences, they can major in whatever they want and have the same career prospects. Now, if this isn't true it wouldn't be the first time guidance counselors have sold their guidees a bill of goods, but it seems to have been borne out in my experience.

I think, though she doesn't state it explicitly, that her implied argument is that women need to stop doing what they want to do and start doing what's good for womankind as a whole. Thus, even if you'd rather not be a doctor/lawyer/politician/economist/whatever, it's your duty to pick an important field, stick with it, and become successful, not for yourself, but for the cause of advancing feminism. Hence: Even if you prefer the liberal arts, you need to suck it up and go to business school.

This is one of those comments that's going through so many revisions that if I don't just post something I'm going to give up and never post at all. So. First post: my personal position on the staying home of women, which is such a philosophical sticking point for me that I've run out of other-hands and need to use fingers instead.

On the thumb, when thinking of my own future I am definitely of the prickly fuck-your-gender-roles school. I do not plan to have children. I do not like children. I have no desire to stay home and keep a tidy house. While I may be biased on this matter I believe firmly that archaeology and libraries are more interesting than squalling infants and lace curtains, and I will violently defend my right to pursue the one and not the other.

On the index finger, my own mother spent several years as a stay-at-home mom; she had my sister and me before finishing college and went back to school only when I was a toddler. Because she did so, I had a fantastic early childhood and learned young, and well, that my mom loved me and was always around for me (I may have learned that one too well, but that's another matter). I have nothing but respect, okay, respect and gratitude, for her for doing that.

On the second finger, she didn't fall into domesticness and never go back. She finished her bachelor's degree, continued for a master's, and a dozen years later is now happily teaching at the university from which she graduated. That's a perfectly acceptable Feminist Thing. If she had fallen off the face of the non-domestic world I might perhaps feel differently about her having taken time out to Be The Mom.

On the ring finger, if she had stayed The Mom, who the hell am I to argue it isn't a valid choice? Hirschman's rhetoric of "choice is a euphemism for slavery" makes my hackles rise; I've built a philosophical shrine to free will that is independent of my various feminist leanings, so how can I go back and say it doesn't apply here? I have to grit my teeth and acknowledge that the wife-and-mother life can be a valid choice made with full intelligent deliberation, even though...

On the pinky finger, despite everything I have said above, when I think of women with options aplenty quitting work, having babies, and never going back to out-of-the-house careers, I cringe. I sneer. I may indeed get angry. It's a reflexive rebellion against the very idea; she's giving in, someone must have talked her into it, she can't possibly want that, this is not (I tell myself) something that educated and liberated women have any reason to desire.

So there are the five fingers of feminist frustration. All I really have to add at this point that's coherent is what I've already mentioned but want to say again upon having read the article itself, which is that Hirschman is full of SHIT about education. Shit, I tell you. You already know that, but I will say it again. You (meaning she) want to fucking tell me what to study and what to do with my life, and to justify it by saying it's the only way for me to be free? Load of garbage. Leave me and my goddamn musty arcane academic gibberish alone and you can go out and work on Wall Street if it's so fucking important to you.

I'm in a vaguely similar boat with respect to my mother and work, though it is different in important respects. Both of my parents worked through my infancy and childhood until I was in third grade, about 9 or 10, when my mother left her job. But, unlike your mother, she never went back to work.

Let me start by saying that, contra a lot of conservative rhetoric, my two working parents (who were doing medical residencies, which are extraordinarily time consuming) did a fine job of nurturing my sisters and me. We spent a lot of time in day care and with au pairs, but I don't recall ever feeling alienated from my parents because of it.

A large part of my mom's justification was that she just didn't like the work she was doing and wanted to get out. On the one hand, that's exactly the sort of thing Hirschman is railing against, women on successful career tracks who opt out to become stay at home moms. This is particularly relevant since, while both my parents are doctors, my mom was in a notably more lucrative specialty that my dad (they were both in the Navy, so I'm not sure that either had higher pay at the time she left).

Still, it's hard to say she didn't give it a fair shot. She spent four years in med school, a year in internship, five or six years in residency, then a few years in full-on practice before she decided it wasn't for her. At that point, I find it pretty hard not to respect her decision to leave.

The free will point is interesting. It strikes me, first off, that Hirschman's argument isn't really that we should force women to make the choices Hirschman wants them to make. Rather, I see two implied arguments, what I would argue are the weak and the strong coercive solutions. The weak coercive solution is that we need institutions that facilitate women's decisions to enter professions and stick with their careers by providing information, support, suggestions, etc. on a largely voluntary basis. The stronger coercive solution, the solution that the article itself is a part of, is to engage in the shaming of women who decide to opt out.

I have no objection whatsoever to the weak coercive solution, so let's move to the strong one. It seems problematic, but is it unjustifiable? Right now you can argue that there are strong forces of shame in society directed against women who fail to put family and children first. Hirschman would seem to want to create a countervailing force against women who decide to opt out.

I would argue that Hirschman's solution, in that respect, is an evil, particularly given that it creates a "shamed if you do, shamed if you don't" society for women, which is likely to only make things more confused. But is the other position, unilateral disarmament because the Family Forces got on the shame wagon first, materially better? Obviously it'd be better to eliminate the pressure from both sides, but since that isn't going to happen is it better to fight back with dirty tactics or to leave things as they are?

I don't really have an answer, and, since I'm a guy, I feel awkward advocating the shaming of women for anything. I'll happily shame a fellow guy for acting like a pig, though.

Huh. Curious about where she comes from in making her anti-liberal arts argument, I looked Linda Hirshman up on Google. Turns out she's a lawyer and law professor.

Problem: I'm not convinced that it is the business of feminism to make sure that fewer women are homemakers and mothers. I suspect we will both agree that it is the business of feminism to inform women they do not have to be homemakers and mothers. But both of the coercive solutions you're talking about (and I can't quite tell to what degree you agree and to what degree you're merely summarizing) assume that if a lot of women are at home with children, it is a situation that should be remedied somehow.

Here's a sort of hypothetical question. Consider a group of 100 young, impressionable girls who are all planning, by default, to get married, have three children, and not work outside the home. Place these girls under the tutelage of some ambitious, educated, fantastic-role-model feminists who teach them all about career options and the freedom to define ones lifestyle and family as one sees fit without regard to traditional gender roles. Assume for the sake of argument that all 100 girls get it; they leave with the absolute certainty that they can do anything, they can be anything, they are not limited by their gender in any way whatsoever. They all sit down and think quite clearly and freely about the many possibilities open to them.

Now suppose that all 100 girls decide, upon informed consideration, to get married, have 3 kids, and not work outside the home. Have their feminist educators failed? What if 90 out of 100 girls decide to do that? 75? 50? 30? At what point can their feminist education be said to be a success?

I'm curious what your answer to that is.


I think I see a couple of goals for feminism. The first goal, which has broadly speaking been attained, is equality of opportunity. Women have the opportunity to go to colleges and professional schools, and they can enter careers that had previously been structurally barred to them. The other goal I perceive, which not all feminists subscribe to, is an effort to create broad economic parity between men and women. The trouble is that, the way things stand now, the move towards parity has slowed down thanks to the large number of women who choose to opt out.

So I feel like "less homemakers and mothers" isn't so much an end as a means. The goal is economic parity, and convincing more women to stay in the work force is the means to getting it.

I perceive something of a Marxist/communist utopian mode of thinking here: There are the goals and tactics for the revolutionary phaze, like pushing women to stay in the work force and doing that by shaming women, and those goals and tactics can be abandoned once we attain the feminist utopia, because once that happens women will choose on their own to stay in the workforce in equal numbers to men without coercion.

As for myself: I feel I'm something of a fellow traveler, to borrow the communist terminology, with the Economic parity. I agree broadly with the goal of economic parity, but I'm in favor of gentle persuasion and non-coercive institution building to attain those goals. I tend to feel that, noble though your goals may be, you can't use immoral ends to attain them.

As for your hypothetical, I don't know. I'd say, generally, if they really were well-apprised of their options, the education can be said to have been successful in a certain sense...

Gah, I need to get to class. More on the hypothetical later.

Gah is my thought exactly. It's what I keep coming back to on this issue.

Economic parity as an end, rather than lifestyle homogenization for women as an end, makes sense. I approve of it. That's not too surprising, though; economic parity is a somewhat more vague and shiny concept than, say, what Woman X or Woman Y is going to do with her life. It's always easier to approve of vague shiny concepts than immediate solutions -- the immediate solutions are subject to scrutiny in a way that shiny concepts are not. I don't need to tell you this; what am I doing?


In any case, you and I seem to agree on the hypothetical, more or less -- accept it as success with some hesitation, some qualification, and little or no enthusiasm. I mean... eh... I guess? If you're really sure? It's not what I'd do, but, you know, you swear you thought about this? Egh? This is where much of the "gah" comes in, I feel.

Alright, here's a formulation I can get behind. The broad form, though not the content, is borrowed from John Rawls. What you have are two lexically ordered maxims.

Maxim 1: Work to maximize freedom of choice for women, and treat them always with the utmost dignity deserved by a rational decision maker.

Maxim 2: Work to maximize economic parity between men and women.

The trick is that they're lexically ordered: Maxim 1 always, always, always comes before Maxim 2. Given a choice between maximizing dignity/freedom of choice and maximizing economic parity, you choose dignity/freedom of choice first.

This also means that you can never, ever sacrifice Maxim 1 for Maxim 2. You never treat women with less than the dignity they deserve, even if it's just a little bit, and even if it gets you a big increase in economic parity.

In light of that formulation, the hypothetical becomes a bit less thorny: It is a success according to the (more important) Maxim 1. It treats women with the full dignity they deserve as rational choosers. It fails to accomplish Maxim 2, however, insofar as it has failed to advance economic parity. It is thus a heavily qualified success.

OK, I'm in over my head, but I'll point out one thing. In your original post you said:

"Essentially, the problem is that feminism has opened up a lot of choices for women, and they keep making the wrong ones. Or, rather, they now choose to do what they were forced to do 40 years ago. This is one of those problems that can't be solved with a big government program. You can't pass a law forcing women to stay in the workplace, or forcing married men to do 50% of the dishes. The only solution is to build a movement and convince women (and men) to make the right choices."

I think you corrected yourself after you commented on their choices - "they keep making the wrong ones." Who says they are wrong? Feminists? Who says feminists are right? I see the benefit of feminism as providing women the opportunity to pursue their dreams, not telling them what their dreams should be. Shaming them for wanting to be a mom is just as bad as society shaming career-oriented women.

But I think you guys have already said this (in a more sophisticated manner) so I'll just check out.

I will say that feminism is not done - there are areas that are still "closed off" to women. As a construction manager, I see the way contractors shift gears the second a woman tries to wield authority. Most of the time there is a reason why the woman is given that authority - she earned it.

I think you're right, Ted. I think the article's biggest weakness is that it essentially does the same thing that it accuses the enemies of feminism of doing, but in the opposite direction. So rather than saying "You're a bad woman if you don't stay at home with your kids" it says to women "You're a bad woman if you leave your job to stay at home with your kids." They're both denying women their ability to choose (to an extent; they're not literally forcing them to stay home or barring them from leaving work, but they're giving them the business for making whatever decision they don't like).

Speaking of construction work, walking around New York (where there is both a lot of construction and a lot of sidewalk traffic around construction sites) I've discovered that the fine art of cat-calling women is alive and well, and many of its great practitioners reside in the greater New York metropolitan area. I was amazed to find that this sort of thing still happens. So lest anyone think that failing-to-treat-women-as-human-beings is a phenomenon reserved to the country's more rural portions, here you go. Dehumanizing behavior right in the middle of the self-appointed Capital of the World.

I've read a number of articles on the so-called "mommy-track" as well, most notably an article by Lisa Belkin entitled "The Opt-Out Revolution." (I wrote an essay challenging her argument that women can’t have it all, and have to make a definite choice between having either a career or a family.)
In her article, she interviewed several Caucasian women who were highly educated, yet made the decision to give up successful careers in order to become fulltime homemakers/mothers. When questioned, most of these women cited female biological predispositions to caring for children, as well as increasingly stressful jobs that did not allow them to balance family and work. I believe this “biological predisposition” is mere cultural propaganda.

Now of course, you bring up the point that married men with children have still managed to hold high-paying jobs. This is made possible not only because their wives have taken on the brunt of housework and child rearing, but also because the workplace is hostile to women. Sure, we need female secretaries, data entry clerks, and receptionists (cue sardonic ring). But any woman who tries to climb the corporate/academic/political/etc. ladder faces the following challenges: not enough paid maternity leave (and for the affluent woman who can afford to take unpaid maternity leave, she risks losing her position due to her extended absence), lack of onsite company daycare programs, a Western abhorrence for public breast-feeding, and a society where 60+ hour work weeks are considered necessary for successful business.

Our current American society does not place a high value on children. This can be readily verified by the quality of our public schools. Generally, child rearing has been relegated to the private sphere of family. Within this private sphere, the responsibility of childcare has fallen on women. The workplace, seen as a public, “masculine” sphere, does not accommodate mothers, or their children.

The ideal workplace for both fathers and mothers – PEOPLE IN GENERAL - would have a healthy 30-40 hour a week work schedule with plenty of vacation time and sick leave. Women who give birth should be allowed up to a year of maternity leave, as the first year of life for any infant is crucial. Furthermore, men should be given this same option as paternity leave so they can bond with their newborn. Corporations, floating in money, should have the common sense to provide funding for onsite daycare programs. These programs allow for greater productivity. Parents won’t have to get out of work early to pick up children. In addition, their feelings of anxiety would be lessened as they would know that their offspring are nearby, and they could use their breaks/lunches for quality time with the family. No more guilt about neglecting one’s child. The key here is balance between work and family – for both men and women.

On a side note, generally usually only elite, successful women, who have partners with substantial salaries, can afford to reject the workplace. Many minorities, especially black women, are forced to work insane hours to provide for their children. To “opt-out of a successful career” is never an option for them.

I could go on and on, but this should suffice for now.

Yeah, I figured that NYC would be a tolerant, accepting place (moreso than rural areas) but I've heard and seen (especially among construction and related fields) even MORE derogatory terms toward women and homosexuals than I hear in my town of 15,000...

Oooh. To what to respond first?

To Zach and Ted: It surprises me very little to learn that NYC is a haven of disrespect to women, queer people*, etc. I tend to associate that kind of thing as much (if not more) with urban areas as with rural. Maybe it's something to do with feedback; the closer the proximity in which you have a large number of people, the more antisocial behaviors feed off of each other? Or perhaps it's purely a matter of multiplication; more people means more assholes. But I'd enter my neighborhood (South Berkeley, more or less suburban) in the Abuse To Women competition against pretty much any other place, rural or urban, that you can name. I've been called "bitch" and told things like "woman, you do NOT ignore me when I'm talking to you" by total strangers of every age between 10 and 40. Gah. It makes my goddamn blood boil.

Ahem. Allow me to move on.

Elaine, it strikes me that if one could scare up the funding to extend the time period of California's Paid Family Leave program it would go a long way toward addressing the insufficient workplace accommodation that you're talking about. As it stands, at least where kids are concerned, it's a six-week bonding period that any new parent can take, regardless of gender, regardles of what the other parent(s) has taken, regardless of whether the child has just been born or just been adopted. The terms are the same as disability leave; you get paid at a substantial fraction of your working salary and your employer is required to hold your job for you until you come back. It's a good start, I think, and if it could be made, say, six months instead of six weeks, it would be a great start.

But, of course, there will never be enough state money for a program like that. It would have to be employer-funded, and here's the problem. There are corporations which are swimming in money and could afford to pay newly-parental employees a year of paid leave, but they're not the entire hiring force. Take my employer, for example, a small business with fewer than 20 employees. This company cannot pay year-long maternity (or paternity) leave. It has nowhere near the resources. So the choices become: 1) require generous maternity leave and fund it with state money, which doesn't exist, 2) require generous maternity leave and fund it with employer money, which only exists for some employers, or 3) make providing generous maternity leave optional and watch the very companies that can afford to do it decline to do so. I'm stumped.

*Usage note on the term "queer": here, an umbrella term encompassing anyone and everyone who is homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or gender dysphoric, intersexed, questioning, and/or a member, regardless of personal orientation, of the LGBTQIAOMGLOLWTF community, the BDSM community, and/or any other group of "not-straight" individuals. "Queer" takes 265 fewer keystrokes than the foregoing description and is therefore preferable to my mind.

NYC seems to magnify everything. While there is abundant "discrimination" there is also a lot more "support" for alternative lifestyles, foreigners, etc... than found in my little town of 15,000.

One of the charms of the area. I wonder how Zach compares the West Coast to the East. Having spent time on both sides of the country, I have my own ideas as well...

I dunno. It's tough, because I didn't do a lot of walking around with female friends in Berkeley/San Francisco, so I never really encountered the cat-calling until I got here. But a lot of friends there did complain about it, so I don't at all doubt that it happened. On the other hand, when you move to New York, and particularly Manhattan, you have humanity mashed into your face. You can't avoid contact with people because there are so many crammed into such a small area. So encountering that sort of behavior is kind of inevitable.

I feel like the Bay Area is slightly more... heterogeneous in its mixture. That is to say, I feel like different races, cultures, etc. are far more mixed together within a given neighborhood in New York than they are in the Bay Area, and that gives rise both to more acceptance on one end and more tension on the other.

Wait, Zach, I'm confused by your last paragraph. Which one are you saying is more mixed?

I thought that might happen. I was thinking of including an explanation of what I meant by "heterogeneous," but it seemed like a metaphor that needs a whole paragraph to explain it loses the point.

My point was: Assume you have two beakers full of a bunch of liquids, with each liquid representing different races, cultures, sexual prefences, kinks, etc. You shake Beaker A up, resulting in a mixture where the liquids are somewhat, though not entirely, mixed together. You only shake Beaker B a little. Beaker A, which I feel is the New York beaker, is a more homogeneous mixture than Beaker B, the Bay Area Beaker. NOT more homogeneous in the sense of all one race/culture/whatever, but more homogeneous in the sense of a set of groups that's more mixed together and integrated.

I think I follow. NY has areas. An asian area, an italian area, etc...

Don't get me wrong, LA had areas as well, but to me they didn't seem as defined or exclusive as the ones out here. Partly because of how spread out the LA area is, compared to the crammed NY area, like you mentioned.

There is more flow between the areas in LA. Its not strange to see a Mexican walk through the asian town in LA. But a black person walking through Little Italy isn't as common.

My limited thoughts, though. About 2 cents worth.

Really? I was kind of trying to say the opposite, but it could be that I just live in a very mixed neighborhood. Morningside Heights is between the Upper West Side (A yuppieish place) and Harlem, with Columbia University in the middle, drawing in students from all over, so that might create an artificial impression of diversity.

I think that academia in general will have a higher instance of diversity than "real life".

As a matter of opinion, academia is nothing like "real life" despite what they tell you in high school guidance.

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