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BOTH SIDES NOW: Are Gays and Women Winning the Culture War?

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By Mark Green

Cotton Mather, Anthony Comstock, Pat Buchanan and Antonin Scalia -- all cranky old men who have tried to hold women and gays down -- based on high-minded reasons of course. Morality. Tradition. Religion. But the tides of history are wearing down the cliffs of inequality. Here are two measures of change: while 14 percent of women with children worked in 1960, today it's 70 percent; and while the public opposed same-sex marriage by nearly two-to-one eight years ago, now it's 58 percent-36 percent in favor, including 81 percent of those under 30.


Arianna and Mary debate such shifts in light of this week's news: Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In; Rob Portman's change of heart; Bill and Hillary Clinton's pronouncements on DOMA and marriage -- not to mention two Supreme Court arguments next week on both issues.

*On Sandberg and Mayer -- Women at Work. Women got the vote in 1920 and in effect the freedom to work after the Pill in 1960 -- is there now a third stage feminism where women not only can go to work, but run things at work? What do Arianna and Mary think of the Facebook COO's thesis that women find excuses not to ambitiously compete in executive suites?

Arianna agrees, in part: "I've written about the 'obnoxious roommate' in our heads who make us feel not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. But we can't let our fears get in our way." She adds that women should be wary of defining success as only men have. "We shouldn't just try to conquer the world of work but change it. Yes 'Lean In' but then 'lean back' so you can seek wisdom, happiness, service, everything that makes life worthwhile." Is that contrary to Sandberg's plea to women to be more ambitious in boardrooms and contrary to Arianna's famous reputation for leaning in, speaking up and being driven? "No! I had my wake-up call when I fainted and broke my cheekbone. When I slept more and had a better balanced life, I made better decisions at work."

Mary agrees, focusing more on a working woman's inner peace than external success. What about the example of the 37-year-old Yahoo CEO, Marissa Meyer, who just gave birth, went back to work two weeks later, built a nursery next to her office... and then ended her company's policy of allowing people to work from home? Mary comments that it's impossible to have one policy for all firms on working from home because a journalist may be different "from tech firms where group creativity is needed to answer questions" -- i.e., bumping into each other at water coolers and kitchens made famous at Rte 128 and Silicon Valley.

Arianna adds that we have to be flexible about flexibility. "At HuffPo we allow people to work from home if they have an ill child or other emergencies but usually we expect people to be in the office. Ultimately you have to trust your people or let them go. Yahoo! had a morale problem that she had to fix."

Host: Fear of Flying and Fearless -- by Erica Jong and A. Huffington, respectively -- have previously visited the issue of women holding themselves back. And according to Anne-Marie Slaughter last year, young women often have to choose between child-rearing and career (until men ovulate). Conclusion: women and men do face personal choices during their child-rearing years but so does society collectively: if we truly think that years 0-6 are critical to becoming whole and healthy adults, why can countries less wealthy than ours have Pre-K education, day care at work, and some paid leave? Once we again have significant economic growth, why not America too?

*On Gays at the Altar. Was it an aberration or harbinger when Senator Portman switched to support gay marriage after his son came out? Mary admires his courage since "as a Catholic it must have been tough" to go against millenia of tradition. "I just don't think it useful that these personal, religious decisions have to be played out in our politics and courts." But since they are, how would a Justice Matalin vote as the Court decides whether to uphold the Prop 8 referendum banning gay marriage? "With the democratic process" that saw a 52 percent-48 percent vote in California to ban it, she replies.

We listen to Senator Marco Rubio say at CPAC that such contentious public debates require mutual respect and calling someone a bigot for opposing marriage equality is not respectful. Does Arianna respect Rubio's opinion? She then asks to elevate the discussion, stressing the sea change that really started when Ted Olson and David Boies "framed this as a civil rights issue."

Host: That odd-couple breakthrough -- plus TV images from Ellen to Modern Family and people courageously coming out so families all over America understood it better personally -- explain why it's gone from impossible to inevitable so quickly. As for the Supreme Court's consideration of marriage equality, we listen to the audio of 12-year-old Daniel Martinez Lefew pleading with Chief Justice Roberts to allow his adopting fathers to marry since Roberts too adopted children and understands that blood alone cannot define a 'family'. So the Chief should rule against bans if a) he looks at a bench that looks like America with an interracial marriage, a single woman, a widow, a birth father of eight, an adopting father or b) he reads the Prop 8 trial transcript showing no reason at all -- and therefore no rational or compelling reason -- to overturn the 'fundamental' constitutional right to marry.

And then there's the entertainment value of Wednesday's arguments: What ideological provocation will again emanate from a justice both protected by life-time tenure and with a lust for argument by metaphor and resentment -- the market for broccoli refutes regulation of a $4 trillion health care marketplace; stopping racial discrimination is a "racial entitlement"?

Two political questions: First, can the GOP be persuaded by standard Republican arguments that marriage equality is pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-equality, and pro-freedom or will its southern Evangelical base not entertain such an analysis? Mary reiterates that this won't continue to be a political question for her party. Second, should liberals just take yes for an answer from Portman or snark that he and Cheney only show empathy when their children come out (so they'd be for the safety net only if their children lacked food or health care)? Arianna chides liberals for questioning the motives and consistency of converts: "I love inconsistencies. If you change your mind in the right direction, great! Consistency for its own sake is absurd."

*On Syria, Obama, and Chemical Weapons: If reports that the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas are true, should Obama alter his policy of non-intervention in that deadly civil war? Mary hopes that the U.S. could then figure out how to attack and destroy such stockpiles, implying an Entebbe-like surgical raid. On the 10th anniversary of of a preventive war based on the "certainty" of WMD, Arianna is very skeptical. How can you truly "confirm it" but also "how is even a chemical attack so different from the current slaughter?" Her implication: no more Iraqs.

*On GMOs.Consensus alert: both women strongly approve of the decision by national food company Whole Foods to move toward the labeling of genetically modified food by 2017. "If they did it in response to consumer demand, count me as part of that," says Arianna, discounting California's anti-labeling referendum vote. "The referendum process is so dominated by special interests that it's completely unreliable reflection of popular will." Mary urges that we treat the domestic labeling of such food differently from the development and delivery of genetically modified foods that can help alleviate hunger in fourth world nations.

*On Traditional vs. Digital Media. With a fourth of all newspapers going under -- and Newsweek in January -- as well as Pew's report that reporters, revenue and viewers are sharply down on TV -- is the evolution to digital news a normal economic shift or worrisome? "The Queen of Digital," as Radio Ink called Ms. Huffington, thinks the shift of readers and therefore ad dollars is natural and is taking even longer than she expected. "The sooner that magazines recognize this and focus on their iPad and digital versions, the better off they'll be. They need innovative ways to reach their readers digitally. The best magazines will survive."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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