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A note on sources; or, the story behind the Story

When we first saw Louise Story‘s front-page story in the NYT, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” we were skeptical (read all about it here). So we asked Fishtern Maureen Miller, a senior at Yale, what the reaction on campus was (incidentally, we had Maureen in mind when we wondered where the “media junkies at the school paper” were in the article).

Maureen, of course, was already on it, and pointed us to Louise Story’s questionnaire. She also summed up the reaction at Yale thusly: “People are furious. Girls and guys.”

Furious? That’s a strong reaction. Could it be possible that this MEL-topping (still!) front-page New York Times article had misrepresented the state of affairs on campus? Selectively quoted from its sources? Left out a few salient points, like, say, the entirely other side of the story?

It could indeed. Maureen contacted one of the main sources in the article to ask about her reaction, catching her after a long day of explaining herself on campus. She said she was “very disappointed in the way my quotes/views were framed and portrayed in the article” and though she would prefer not to be named specifically, she was happy to go on the record with a few clarifications:

It saddens me that I am portrayed as an insensitive and unambitious person in the article, and really did not know that Louise was only going to quote those of us who wanted to stay at home if/when we had kids. She in fact did interview my other suitemates who answered the survey as either not wanting to have children at all, or would continue working as a mother. I am somewhat shocked that she did not include ANY of their ideas or views in the article.

We’ve quoted selectively here; the student did say more, and we’ve included her comments in full after the jump.


From a source for “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” Sept. 20, 2005 in the NYT:

Hi Maureen,

I appreciate your email to ask about the questions of the survey, but I don’t have them saved anywhere, and I really don’t remember the
questions. In fact, I don’t remember saying the quotes that were
attributed to me in the article. The survey and interviews were
conducted more than 4, 5, or even 6 months ago (the time frame is vague because Louise Story interviewed me multiple times, and even followed me around classes one day to “get an idea of who I was”), and of the many things that I do remember saying to her, she did not include in the article. The things I told her about fighting against stereotypes that people had of me as an immigrant, and how I overcame obstacles to get where I am today never appeared in the article, and what did in fact appear is a quote about “status quo” that I do not mean in that context. I appreciate all the fighting and work that other women and people have led before us to get us to the situation of women’s rights today, and I believe that if I am ever dissatisfied with the situation I am in, I will fight against it. It saddens me that I am portrayed as an insensitive and unambitious person in the article, and really did not know that Louise was only going to quote those of us who wanted to stay at home if/when we had kids. She in fact did interview my other suitemates who answered the survey as either not wanting to have children at all, or would continue working as a mother. I am somewhat shocked that she did not include ANY of their ideas or views in the article.

I don’t deny that I want to stop working if/when I became a mother, but I definitely don’t believe that this is the right choice for every female out there! I believe that my education here at Yale is precious and I would still like to pursue my career goals, and I believe that I have every right to experience working in the fields I want to as any man would. Because of my own life experiences, I simply hold the personal attitude that I would be willing to stop my career for children if/when I have them. I hoped that my views would show how women have the equal right to decide what they want to do with their life no matter what others believed.

I’m sorry if my email seems very incoherent and I don’t really articulate my thoughts well, but it’s been a long day, and many people have asked me about the article amidst all the everyday responsibilities I have to deal with. I sincerely hope that this helps clarify my views, and am very disappointed in the way my quotes/views were framed and portrayed in the article.

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