'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
June 22, 2014
Guest: Marc Hudson, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Annabelle Gurwitch, Dalton Conley,
Tanya Selvaratnam, Jessye Norman, Jonathan Metzl; Jill Greenlee; Ellen
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, do you
really need to buy your baby so much stuff?
Plus, the director of "Obvious Child," voted as buzz (ph) of the year comes
to Nerdland. And opera legend, Jessie Norman is here.
But first, the politics of parenting.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Tomorrow, American families and the workplace will be the talk of the town
in the nation`s capital as the White House summit on working families gets
under way in Washington. The summit will bring together people from across
the country, business owners, economists, labor leaders, activists and
ordinary citizens all of whom have a stake in how work places better
support working families.
Mothers who work will be the special focus of the summit reflecting the
expanding role in the economic security of families. President Obama
convened the summit with the goal of identifying policy solutions to help
Americans find balance between work and family. And as he told a group of
small business owners this week, it`s a struggle with which even the Obama
household has been very familiar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michelle talks about how
when she worked that University of Chicago hospital, her first interview
she actually brought Sasha into the meeting with the CEO. She just wanted
to kind to see her and see how he would respond. Sasha was still in the
bassinet, the car seat thing. And because her point to her employer was,
this is who I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Back in 2007, when the Obamas sat down for an interview with
"60 Minutes," it was clear that for soon to be first lady Obama, bouncing
family and her husband`s job was no picnic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Obama had to persuade his wife to let him run.
Political campaigns make her feel like a single mother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Has it put strains on the marriage from time
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, no.
B. OBAMA: Absolutely it has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As the first family, the Obamas continue to be an example of
how working families make it work. Most conspicuously by making rule in
the White House for the first granny, Michelle Obama`s mother, Mary Ann
Robinson who cared for Sasha and Malia while their parents were
campaigning. She moved in to help maintain a sense of normalcy while the
girls transitioned into their new lives.
Supporting working parents was at the forefront of first lady Obama`s mind
during his first year in the White House when she made advocating for paid
sick leave, maternity leave, and flexible work schedule, one of her top
And just two days ago, President Obama expanded the federal government`s
protections for paid leave to be inclusive of all families by extending the
family medical leave act or FMLA benefits to married same-sex couples. The
new rules would allow FMLA eligible workers in same-sex marriages to take
time off of work to care for a spouse, even if they don`t live in a state
that recognizes their marriages.
Joining me today is Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at
Work, Carmen Wong Ulrich, assistant industry professor at NYU Polytech
School of engineering, Jonathan Metzl, director of the program in medicine,
health and society and professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and
Joy Reid, mu buddy and host of MSNBC`s "the Reid Report."
Thank you, all, for being here. IT is the "Reid Report" not "the Reid
Rapor" in this kind --
So, Ellen, let me start with you. I know you will actually be speaking at
the summit tomorrow, apparently quite vision in between the president and
Maria Shriver, which is extraordinary. What would you say in that moment
about the state of working families today?
ELLEN BRAVO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAMILY VALUES AT WORK: Well, we know that
many more women are working and many more men want to be involved fathers.
But the truth is the very thing that makes you a good parent can cost you
your paycheck or your job. Forty percent of the workforce doesn`t have a
single paid sick day, much higher for little wage workers, only 12 percent
get paid leave.
So, if you want an economy who works for everyone, then we have to
guarantee at least minimum standards for everyone and that means policies
like paid sick leave and family leave insurance.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I want to underline that so people don`t think you`re
overselling that point the thinks that could make you a good parent can
actually cost you your job.
I want to listen to someone who -- I understand this is someone who view
back actually what we are talking about her experience of losing her job as
a result of her child being out of school in Chicago because of the cold.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a shift that was on one of those days where it
was really cold and the Chicago public schools decided to close the
schools. And so I had to exhaust all my resources that I had for child
care that day. The night before I called and let them know. I literally
had no one to watch my son or pay to watch my son. And I couldn`t make my
shift and the next day they called me and told me that I abused the
attendance policy and so they let me go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Carmen, how do we make a difference in that? I mean, we
talk about work/family balance like it is some kind of -- no, no,
seriously. Either I stay at home with my child or I go to work.
CARMEN WONG ULRICH, ASSISTANT INDUSTRY PROFESSOR, NYU POLYTECH SCHOOL OF
ENGINEERING: Child care is one of those issues that, again, in other
countries and even some companies know the value of the economic value of
taking care of children and providing child care when you have women.
Majority of women now in this country who work and you can support them and
they don`t maybe have a partner at home who can help.
If you put some money into taking care of children, and again, I know we`re
going to hear all of this, how can we put up another entitlement program,
but we`re not a pack of wolves that leave the runts out to die, right? It
is really about how can we sustain our economy?
If women are such a big part of the economy and growing and education, in
terms of education, we have to support the ability to have families and
provide for those families. If costs you a lot more to find another
employee and it is going to cost you to take care of that child if there`s
a sick day or there is a snow day.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, having worked in circumstances of great privilege,
right? So, for example, when I was at Princeton University, we had a
coverage system so if you woke up and your child was sick and you had a
class that day, you could actually call and they would send someone over as
short-term care. Even if you were elder, if your parent was ill in another
state, so we know that it works but it tends to only be available a safety
net for those of most privileged.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, THE REID REPORT: And got exactly to the point that I
wanted to make that it is -- there`s this thing in the suburbs where the
parent -- where there be a teaching planning day and all of this sort of
benefits a suburban life where there are days off from school which for
lower income parents are the most stressful thing ever because you have to
then figure out what to do with your child.
If you leave your child home alone, like when I was a kid, like me were
(INAUDIBLE) when I was a kid, will be home on our own. You can get in huge
trouble. You can get arrested. You can get in a major trouble. But if
you try to take a day off and your job doesn`t allow it, this is
particularly at the lower income scale, you could lose your job.
So, I mean, I think that we`re structuring a system where only privileged
parents have the latitude to ever take a day off, even when a child is
sick. I remember growing up with a single mother, we would try to go to
school anyway because we didn`t want my mom to get in trouble at work. So
we would go to school, but at that time, you had a nurse in school.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then there`s epidemical logical consequences to that.
I wonder, you know, as I was kind of thinking, Jonathan, about sort of what
would a policy agenda for working families and women look like and I was
write down a lot of minimum wage, gun control because of the issue of
domestic violence, immigration reform because of the need to keep working
families together, labor union organizing capacity and none of those are
like traditional women`s issues. How do we get that discourse into our
JONATHAN METZL, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, it seems like a
tremendous need and a tremendous desire for it. I just want to mirror what
everybody else is saying that a lot of laws governing laws and employment
come out of a kind of Don Draper economy of the 1950s or something like
that in which men were the primary bread winners and women stayed at home.
And it turns out the nature of work has changed dramatically in the last 50
years or 60 years, but our labor laws have not changed at all.
And so in a way, it turns out that societies that make that shift better
that allow for flexibility, for co-parenting, for gender equity do a lot
better than we`re doing right now by a whole host of indicators, everything
from children who are in poverty, much better in Scandinavia, issues like
that. So in a way, this is not just about nostalgia for the great man. It
is also that our society will do a lot better and our children will do a
lot better if we can change these laws.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me, when we come back we`ll talk about the fact
that politicians often target groups like moms and dads. And so, how can
we get those targets to end up getting the policies they need, when we`re
HARRIS-PERRY: So we know the political world loves to target parents as
parents as we start thinking about politics. Remember, 1996, soccer moms.
Soccer moms are going to tell the story of why Clinton is going to get
backing. Remember 2003 was security moms, this story from "Time" magazine
saying good-bye soccer mom, hello security mom.
2004, it switch over the papa. Nascar dads, ESPN telling us that NASCAR
dads could provide the swing vote.
And as recently as 2012 waitress moms, the idea that waitress moms, working
class moms, working for minimum wage would be the key to that year`s
elections. So we know that they target moms and dads as moms and dads but
can we get the policies that we actually need.
BRAVO: So if this is the good news, we`re winning in the cities and
states. And the people, we`re bringing a bunch of worker leaders tomorrow.
They`re been winning. They have been turning their pain and hardship of
their own experiences into the power of wins. And some politicians are
smart enough to realize that these are not just good policies. They`re
good politics. Because across the political spectrum, even Republicans and
certainly independents and way high numbers of unmarried women, of moms, of
African-Americans, Latinos, et cetera, you want to get elected. You want
to keep your job.
And the good news is that we have some stories to tell, like in New York
city, where a person who was a shoo-in for mayor but blocked paid sick days
for three years got, 15 percent of the vote and the guy that said not only
do I support this, I am going to make it better, he`s the one who won.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that language of universal pre-k was clearly
relevant to New York parents. And yet, I wonder because universal pre-k
sounds like a parent issue, right? but I`m wondering, Joy, like when will
parents, for example, in Republican-led states that has denied the ACA
Medicaid expansion recognize, we are talking about sick days as though we
are just talking about the normal illnesses of childhood, which is part of
it. But I mean, Medicaid expansion is the more critical aspect of
parenting ill children.
REID: And the real irony here is that the states that are denying the
Medicaid expansion are the poorest states, states with the most need, the
state where rural hospitals are going to close. And this sort of ideology
-- this is that point where you have to choose between your ideology and
survival. And you are starting to see in states like Georgia where you had
the Republican mayor -- I`m sorry, North Carolina where you had that
Republican mayor stand up, needs the moral Mondays leader and say, you
know, what, we do need to expand where actually you have now in Louisiana,
David Vitter of all people saying, I might consider expanding Medicaid
because now this is literally an issue of dollars and cents where working
families who are paying their FICO taxes not able to get health care and
domino effect that will shut down hospitals.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan (INAUDIBLE).
METZL: I live in Tennessee. I get that a lot of people are just anti-
government. This is a place I completely agree with Joy`s point where this
-- the notion that you`re just kind of left to fend for yourself. This is
a place where government is actually helpful, set, you know, setting kind
of policies that protect families. Standing up and enabling business but
standing up to business and setting limits, worker voice. This is also a
place where unions are very helpful.
And so, the institutions that are have been traditionally helpful for
family are the ones that are being undercut particularly in states in a way
need the most. And I think it`s creating a lot of anxiety about people who
just feel like they are left to fend for themselves and for their families.
ULRICH: And to Joy`s point of ideology. I mean, here is the difference
here is that we`re at a time where we are so, so apart and set apart by
these beliefs in government or nongovernment, right? That it cuts across
the fact of being a parent, being a mom. So, if you are trying to address
a group of waitresses, a lot is going to depend on where they live, where
they wait tables, what if (INAUDIBLE). So, there`s all this kind of
carving out of nocuous (ph).
If somebody can come in and really just make it about that issue, not
necessarily about government or no government, just really, this is the
reality of being a parent and cut across all the ideology. I think that
will be like the pre-k. That will be a success.
HARRIS-PERRY: We got more on this. It is going to feel like that all day.
There is a lot to say.
But seriously, coming up, because I do want to think about how babies are
making it rain for corporate America to the tune of $23 billion.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you followed along with us when MHP show launched our
first ever Nerdland scholar challenge, do you remember we investigated this
historical and contemporary ways that women have mothers merged motherhood
with social and political action.
You might recall names like Candy Lightner, the woman whose tragic loss of
the child to a drunk driver motivated her in 1980 to found mothers against
Or Shannon Watts, the mother of five, who the day after the school
shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, started a facebook page now known as
moms demand action for gun sense in America which has grown to a national
nonprofit with tens of thousands of members and more than more than 80
chapters across the country.
Here in MHP show, I have spoken with the national spokesperson for that
organization, Lucia McBath since the shooting death of her son, Jordan
Davis. She has taken her mission to end gun violence all the way to
Capitol Hill. And she has been joined in that mission by another one of my
previous guests, Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin who started a
foundation in his name to push for the repeal of stand your ground laws.
All of these women are examples as someone that is through the role as
mothers and sometimes their loss of that role discover their political
identities and the power to push their government for change.
Joining us now from Boston is assistant professor of politics at Brandeis
University, Jill Greenlee. She literally wrote the book on this topic,
"the political consequences of motherhood."
Nice to have you, Jill.
JILL GREENLEE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having
HARRIS-PERRY: So tell me, in your research what changes politically for
women when they become mothers?
GREENLEE: Well, I identify two different dynamics that take place. So
first, when women become mothers, there is kind of a liberal tug on some
issues. And these issues are specifically things connected to social
welfare. So, for example, when women become mothers, they often become
more of the role on things like funding, for food stamp programs or funding
for job programs.
On the other hand, however, I also find that there`s a conservative tug, as
well. So, on issues that are connected to kind of moral issues and things
are often linked to children in politics we see women becoming slightly
more conservative. So, for example, women become more supportive of school
prayer when they become mothers and women become less supportive of
legalizing marijuana when they become mothers.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder, do you find that the women are, themselves, aware
of this change or you just sort of tracking it in their public opinion
GREENLEE: That`s a great question. The results that I just shared with
you come from public opinion responses. So, people are just telling us how
they feel about these issues. When I actually went out and spoke to
mothers about how motherhood may have changed their political views, they,
they actually told me a very different thing, which is, many of them said
that even though they felt their attitudes didn`t necessarily change their
perspective on politics changed.
So, for example, they thought more about political out comes in the long
terms. So, thinking about generations from now, what will the environment
be like or what will the national debt be like?
Women also said things, for example, that they thought more about local
issues. And this is something that in the political science research we
see great evidence of that when women become mothers, they become more
connected to local politics. They are more concerned about schools and
they tend to engage more politically at that level, as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jill, hold for me for just one second.
Ellen, I want to come to you because so much of your work around organizing
is parents seeing themselves in the role of parents and demanding policy
change. What are the key policy changes that you see parents and
particularly moms asking for?
BRAVO: Well, in our case, it things like paid sick days and family medical
leave insurance, but also living wage and predictable schedules.
(INAUDIBLE), the Chicago woman whose tape you showed, she said at the end
of the tape which people can see in our web site, I`m doing this so my son
will be proud of me. And I`m doing this so other single moms feel like,
yes, we can stand up and do something.
I also want to say, though, before, if this isn`t about workers versus
business. We have business partners and everyone of our coalition. And
they do this because it`s the right, as well as the smart thing to do.
But, also, they know that it`s not about what size government, but whose
side government is on and these mothers want government to be on their
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, on this idea of government being on your side, I
want to play for you, Jill, because I don`t want to leave dads out here
that for me one of the most powerful moments recently came from a father
who just lost his son in that recent California massacre. Let`s take a
listen to him for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven,
irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What
about Chris` right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will
enough people say stop this madness?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Jill, the level of emotion occurring there, it`s hard
to imagine both in that context and in post-Newtown that we have parents
activated as parents on this issue and yet so little has happened in terms
of actual legislation action. Does that sort of role of parent, work
basically as a political strategy?
GREENLEE: Well, I mean, that`s a great question. I think when it comes to
looking at successful activist efforts, there`s no empirical evidence that
shows that, you know, framing an issue in terms of parenthood versus not is
more persuasive or powerful or brings about better outcomes.
But we can look at a long history of political activism and see that again
and again parenthood is used as a way of framing public policy concerns and
activists efforts and I think the longevity of that frame, particularly
women invoking motherhood and making political claims, I think that has got
to say something about how effective it is.
And, of course, my work is looking at every day citizens and their
political attitudes. And the other issue is how parenthood affects people
as activists and how it engages people to engage in politics that are
extraordinary. So, not just voting, but marching. And that`s sort of a
HARRIS-PERRY: Jill Greenlee in Boston, I thank you for joining us and
also, thank you for writing the book because I`m going to teach a parenting
and politics class in the spring and now I have a book for it. Thank you.
Also, thank you to Ellen Bravo here in New York. And thank you for going
tomorrow to the White House and for being a voice there. Everyone else is
And when we come back, what Kerri Washington can teach us about the
pressures of being a new mom, me and Carmen, we got all the word.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are well acquainted with the social pressure on women to
conform to narrow standards of beauty. Standards that elevate long legs
and tiny waist and perfect chest inside-like free bottoms to iconic status,
perhaps there was once a time when becoming a new mom offered some reprieve
from the pressure to slip easily to a single-digit size. But that time is
gone. Replaced by celebrity called (INAUDIBLE) with how quickly women can
eliminate any trace of pregnancy from their figures.
Nerdland was very excited last week when Kerry Washington made her first
official public appearance since giving birth to her daughter,
predictability the first responses were all about how stunning she looked
But Washington pushed back a bit, telling "US" magazine about being a
working mom and saying I think we desire to live really full lives. I
think we have to honor that as best we can, whatever shape that takes.
This past Sunday was the first birthday of Kanye baby, North, and one paper
couldn`t help but point out that Kim Kardashian`s 56-pound weight loss was
as much a reason to celebrate as her daughter`s birthday.
And the perfect mom is not only meant to instantaneously fit into a small
dress, she is also effortlessly meant to balance parenting, work,
partnership and community service. Thank goodness some are speaking up on
how unrealistic that expectation is.
This is scandal creator Shonda Rhimes who is the mother of three young
daughters discussing work and motherhood during her recent commencement
address at her alma mater, Dartmouth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHONDA RHIMES, SCREENWRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Shonda, how do you do it
all? Answer is, I don`t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one
area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area
of my life. If I am killing it on a "Scandals" script for work, I am
probably missing bath and story time at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The whole table is here saying amen up in here.
Joining the panel is Annabelle Gurwitch, an actor and a humorous who is
also the author of "I see you made an effort, compliments, indignities, and
survival stories from the edge of 50."
All right, for real, how is this meant to be what we have to do?
ULRICH: Come on, stop. And you know this because of the whole television
thing, right? So, when I had my daughter a year and a half after I got my
show on CNBC and all I heard was the buzz from the background, she lose ten
pounds. Guess what, she`s 7 1/2, the ten pounds are still here and they`re
not going anywhere and I work out with a trainer three times a week. So, I
am strong and healthy.
However, I got priorities. I`m a single parent raising a daughter with a
business. This is the way it is. And for me, I have to say, this is a
very much a cultural issue and it makes me kind of nuts. There`s a real
assumption you can go like this, all the time.
However, in the culture that I was raised, (INAUDIBLE) culture, Latino
culture, this is what happens when you have a baby because we are women.
And we`re not seemly or we are not grizzly and all of that stuff and means
that we take care of our family and it doesn`t mean that you`re bad women
if you shrink back into whatever you`re wearing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s a real thing, like even when you talk about the
working out. I`m writing a column for "Essence" on parenting. And in my
July column on newsstands the stands right now, I talked about that
expectations to have shed the pounds. Of course, I didn`t actually have my
kid. And yet, that notion that we`re meant to go back into the pre-
pregnancy clothes claimed that breast feeding made the pound fall off and
this kind of self-inflicted pressure, it turns out the gaining weight
bothers me because it is an outward manifestation of my imperfection going
up a dress size is a crude reminder that balancing work, travel, parenting
and marriage is hard and it feels embarrassing in the hard show. It is
like the fact that it is hard is embarrassing to me.
ANNABELLE GURWITCH, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. I love what Shonda Rhimes
said. Because, you know, I always say is if I can`t have it all, I can
have it some. That did I am looking for because I know that every part of
my life is interconnected. So, you are always is going to something is
going to be sacrificed. Now, I never had a waist to begin with. So, I
never like got my waist back. My son is 16. I still have that extra
weight. But I have a different idea of whether it`s media driven or
So, I know, after I had my son, I went on the zone diet, right, because I
was hosting dinner and a movie at that time. And so, what happened was the
very first week, the first day I called them after I ate my meals and I
said, I think you haven`t delivered the rest of the day`s meals. They said
no, I ate everything for breakfast. The snack they gave me was a peanut
and a half. I was like, what? This is it?
It wasn`t, I don`t think, the media driving me, my own idea. It is what
you said, the internalization, I think, that has to do with, this is what I
think my theory is second way feminism that told us that we could do it
HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan, I want you to jump in on that one because you have
some research around that one idea.
METZL: Well, my first book, Prozac on the Couch," looked at how it`s not
just internal that actually are business practices that play to the
anxieties that we`re talking about. And I looked that the pharmaceutical
industry for example perpetuating this kind of psychology of attacking
parents and playing to the politics of motherhood in a particular way.
So for example, in the 1960s and 1970s when first way feminism was coming
out, there were a host of advertisements and psychiatric journals that said
if you`re a protesting feminist or you are being a bad mother, here`s some
valium that your doctor can prescribe to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: You sent us this one about being 35 and single was
representative that you clearly need balance. It was literally you have
two positions saying if you got one of these clients, this 35 and single
woman, make sure you get her some valium.
METZL: And that ad actually comes from the leading psychiatric journal in
the world and it comes right out after the kind of, you know, a woman needs
a man like a fish needs a bicycle, woman were protesting, trying to set up
actually the same things we`re talking about on the show today.
GURWITCH: You internalize this message. In my book "I see you made an
effort," which is about aging. I talk about how I grew up from a message
from Clariol. You are not getting older. You are getting better. It
turns out, I might not be getting older, I`m getting better.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it does feel like part of it is if you are doing that,
so you know, because we should always listen to Beyonce for a moment. Let
me just listen to Beyonce for one moment immediately after a May concert.
Let`s listen for a second.
I`m sorry, we don`t have Beyonce. But what she said, she said, you all
have no idea how hard I worked. I had to lose 60 pounds. They had me on
the treadmill. I ate lettuce. Now tonight I`m going to get chocolate
But if you`re on a treadmill all day and eating lettuce, do you know how
hard it is to be politically -- what you are actually hungry and tired and
it does feel like it`s connected to the idea of, let`s keep women worried
about their dress size and not about their politics.
REID: Well, and the people that are said, my oldest child is 19. I have
been blaming my weight on my kid for 19 years.
REID: And you know why I can`t lose it? Because I have three kids and a
job. I have a trainer and I haven`t seen him in months.
ULRICH: But how much of is it kind of like child slip -- I mean, Chinese
foot-binding (ph). I just have to say. This is very much to the point of
pharmaceuticals, this is a multi-billion dollar industry that is selling
you on the same page that showing Kim Kardashian losing all that weight.
Moms, here`s the new weight loss tea that you can have and that this is a
way of keeping us under control.
REID: There -- it is unrealistic. If you measure your weight lose and
your ability to lose weight after a baby by a celebrity who has a chef and
who has a nutritionist and who has a trainer and who has the time, you`re
literally making your life -- exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, also, sometimes it`s not even that. But sometimes some
women, but sometimes, some women simply have different body type. So some
folks may just, in fact, sort of display something different. But I think
part of the question is the extent to which that then becomes the inherit
norm of what causes a valuable parent.
Up next, there is a billion dollar business in bringing up baby. Just how
much is that stroller in the window? Yes, that one. We are going to talk
about it when we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Something magical happens when you become a new mom, you
become a target, a target for a $23 billion baby product industry. Now,
there are some items you`ll actually need, diapers and a car seat. I mean,
depending on your income a car seat that can range from $50 to $350 and
diapers that could cost upwards of $100 a month can be pretty pricy. But
let`s face it, you`ll just have to have them.
What worries me is all those items which fallen in to a category that Eric,
my executive producer and dad to 3-year-old Lucy, calls the no, you don`t
need that category. The diaper bag, you it is just a bag, right? I mean,
you probably already have some bags that carried things other than diapers.
I mean, I know, I know, it has compartments. But whether it`s the $29.99
version from the big box store or the $500 version from a fancy designer,
your baby don`t need that.
OK, fancy brain building toys. U.S. baby toy sales exceed $487 billion
sales last year. But, you know, what babies are going to be they love, the
boxes in which the toys arrive and the best brain builder is you. Research
shows that face time with engaging parents and caretakers is the key to
social intellectual development. So leave most of that stuff in the store.
Your baby don`t need that.
Baby shoes. Now, if you have plenty of extra income. Feel free to
purchase baby shoes for decorations for your nursery. But babies don`t
walk. So your baby don`t need shoes, I mean, at least not right away.
And finally, $800 phone charging self-folding strollers. Yes. I didn`t
know such things existed until recently. Spending my weekend in Manhattan
has been a real education in designer`s strollers. I take my daughter out
in her car seat just snapped to a simple frame of plastic wheels and I
swear some New Yorkers have given me the side eye as to why that I`m
abusing the child. Yes, the upscale stroller path, aerodynamic designs and
jaw-dropping accessories, but your baby don`t need that.
Listen moms and dads. If you have big dollars, and you want to spend them
on these items for yourself or your little ones, you`ll get no judgment
from Nerdland. I just don`t want you to think that you must have them in
order to be a good parent.
At this moment I am going to demonstrate the $850 origami by four 4moms.
If you look this is D.J., our intern, and with the one shot --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like a Bentley.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not that it`s not amazing. It`s amazing. It`s
beautiful. I want one and I don`t even have a baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I want a baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s amazing.
REID: But can I tell you, I did the shoes. I bought my daughter, who is
now 19, I bought her Moschino shoes that she wore literally after I could
only squeeze the foot in there. By the time the third one came along, they
were lucky to be in a 1C because you learn over the course of the three
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. That your baby don`t need that, right?
But I wonder because, you know, I certainly spent a lot of time in
anticipation of A.J.`s birth on what to expect when you`re expecting boards
and other kind of new parent orbits, and there is a lot -- I mean, you feel
very vulnerable as a parent because they`re telling you, your baby needs
this or you`re not a good parent.
ULRICH: Listen. Speaking books, so it might, the real cost of living, I
talked about the real cost of parenting, right? We`re talking about in
general, you know, $200,000, the cost of raising a child, the first couple
years, f course, in the tens of thousands, let`s be realistic. This is not
about the baby, it is about us.
We are buying status. We are being good consumers because we`re getting
pushed on. We really have pushers here. These are folks that really want
to make some dime off of us. Do we need that stroller? No. It is the
same thing I gave advice to everybody when it comes to spending money. Do
you need it or do you want it? When it comes to the child --
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, but it`s legitimately hard to hold the baby in one
arm and fold the stroller. And this is designed by four women who are
themselves engineers who know that if you can push the button and it goes
ULRICH: Let me tell you that is fabulous. However, however, yes, no, it
is uncomfortable. And you know what, innovation and ingenuity, this is
what consumers are trying so we can have more and more and buy more. It`s
great. But if you do not shop around and use coupon codes and find
something that`s lesser, even like I used to do, you end up donating, you
sell, you swap in your neighborhood, you`re on neighborhood message boards.
There is a million different ways. I love my shoes, too. And I want my
kid to look good. And I want to look good while I`m pushing her down the
stroller. So, I do my research and find out what to get and I also can get
things second hand. You have to do that.
METZL: I just say that, I mean, absolutely, I think we can all empathize
with the desire to do the best thing, you know. And there is a message
your children -- child will be more healthy, more psychologically random
(ph). I think we all want one of those things. But I think there are two
problems with this that I think this discussion is illustrating. And one
is really that, you know, I think that, you know, there is this idea that
if you don`t buy this thing, it is going to be bad for your child. It is
going to be some kind of bad health effect or something like that. And in
a way, we`re making this very individual. At the same time as we talked
about earlier in the show, we`re undercutting the social structure to help
parenting on a communal level.
And so, it is like you spend more of your individual money. But we`re
going to cut away from childcare, universal health, all these kinds of
supports at some. Those are where we should be investing.
REID: At the same time, we`re judging low-income mothers because of the
judgment on them if their children don`t have these things.
GURWITCH: You know, when I think about that in terms of low-income
mothers, so one of the most pernicious things, that I think is out there,
are these apps for babies, right? So we know that --
HARRIS-PERRY: You mean the screen times for the babies themselves.
GURWITCH: Even big companies like Fisher Price now has like zero to two
apps for them, right? And they`re being sold at this keeps their baby
engaged. And we really know what that means is that when you`re in a
restaurant or any time your baby is crying, just put them in front of the
Now, the truth is, right, who is going to do that? Of course, I`m like, my
God, that is so horrible. We know it`s horrible. But you know if you`re
less advantaged, you don`t have anyone, you`re a single mom and you`re
there with your kid and you can`t control your kid. You don`t have the
time to soothe your kid, you put him in front.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I`m not even convinced that it is horrible. I mean, I
guess what I would say is I think that notion of what constitutes horrible
or not is part of the problem, right? Because the idea is --
GURWITCH: We don`t need that for their brain health.
ULRICH: They need that to sell these things to us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Being good parent.
ULRICH: Everything needs to be black and white. Kids see black and white
better. So, there is always going to be some research or something that is
going to say, this is why your kid needs to be put this way or shown these
things. You have to be an informed parent and think about one thing. This
is your money, your hard-earned money that you`ll put into someone else`s
GURWITCH: But I have to disagree with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to give you the last word on this one.
METZL: Well, the other part for me is that, quite obviously, it also
targets mothers very disproportionately. But my pharmaceutical book and I
kept seeing ads about, you know, take a fixer or Prozac because you can
balance. I kept thinking, let`s have a drug for fathers that is not
Viagra, let`s have a drug for fathers that helps them balance gender equity
or something like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take this pharmaceutical and be a good, feminine dad.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Jonathan Metzl and to Joy Reid. Please be sure
to watch "the Reid Report" weekdays at 2:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC.
And coming up, some called her movie and abortion comedy but the director
of "Obvious Child" rejects that label. Writer, Gillian Robespierre, the
creative force behind one of the most talked about movies of the summer is
at the table, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: My next guest says don`t call it an abortion comedy. The
new film "Obvious Child" is about much more than that and the most
certainly does not make fun of termination. The official Sundance film
festival selection "Obvious Child" follows the unapologetic 20-something
comedian Donna Stern as she navigates the ups and downs of life in a very
real and raw fashion, especially when it comes to dealing with a breakup.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Ryan. I don`t know if you`re getting my
messages, but, I really would need to talk. Sorry, I didn`t hear the -- I
don`t care about the beep. I am also sorry that you cannot get to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now on the table is Gillian Robespierre, the
writer and director of "Obvious Child" which is now playing in select
theaters nationwide and this everywhere on June 27th.
OK. So, in this whole two hours of conversation about parenting, I wanted
to pause and make the point that the choice to be a parent has got to
remain a choice. How is telling the abortion story this way a compelling
way to do it?
GILLIAN ROBESPIERRE, WRITER/DIRECTOR, OBVIOUS CHILD: Well, we just wanted
to tell it this way because we wanted to humanize choice and we wanted to
do it through humor. And Jenny Slate is a very funny person in real life
and the character Donna Stern that we created for her is someone who is
naturally funny. And whatever she goes through, big or small, whether it`s
being broken up with and humiliated in a public restroom or facing
unplanned pregnancy, she`s always going to inject herself and see her life
with a little bit through a comedic lens.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, to talk about something as serious as life altering
as abortion, this terminations services, something that we tend to take so
very seriously, is there kind of a critique of the notion of using comedy?
You know, the film is itself funny, but also dark and uncomfortable in a
lot of ways.
ROBESPIERRE: Yes, we took time crafting the voices as Donna, my co-
creators, Ana Bean and Karen Maine and Elizabeth Holm and I were very
thoughtful on how we wanted Donna`s voice to look and sound and she`s not
glib about abortion. She is not sarcastic on or offstage. She plays a
comedian in the movie. So, we were very, not careful, but we wanted the
voice of Donna to be somebody who was thoughtful. And when she had moments
of, she wasn`t just telling jokes over, you know, like through the whole
movie. I think there was some really nice, quiet moments where she`s
thinking about her life.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like on one of the issues that you all really
drive home in this film is the idea that women`s bodies and sexuality and
pregnancy are all connected and it seems crazy to have to say that, but
somehow just being able to talk in a fourth right way of one`s bodily
functions and how one`s body operates and you realize how much the issue of
abortion is in part because we do not feel comfortable talking about
women`s bodies in those ways.
ROBESPIERRE: No, we don`t. And the first time I saw Jenny perform standup
she was talking about her formative years and what our bodies are like when
we`re little girls and seeing her masturbation my co-creators and I were
just so excited about what she was saying on that stage.
We really related to it and I don`t think it needs to be taboo. I think we
can talk about our bodies in a very funny and realistic way. And I think I
really, you know, it`s not scary to connect to an audience through humor.
I think it`s very natural.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I was thinking about it a lot in part of the mom
to daughters. Because part of the role of parenting is you have to bring
your girls along and understanding what their bodies are so they are more
familiar with their bodies than any partner later in life might be. You
have to know yourself first.
But I wonder if, in fact, parents often don`t want to have conversations
about this because of their fear what adult women`s sexuality looks like
and the idea of their daughters being there. Does a narrative, humorous
kind of complicate film like that potentially even operate as a tool for
moms and daughters to have conversations they might not otherwise have?
ROBESPIERRE: My mom was great about it. She drew me ea diagram of my
fallopian tubes to ovaries and then she laminated it because everything was
laminated to my bus path to the diagram of my vagina. And we were really
open about it. And I think that`s the starting point, for at least for my
mom and me and our story which was to not shy away from those moments
where, you know, the moment where you have to tell your daughter that she
has to wear deodorant for the first time. That was really embarrassing to
me. And so was the idea of having to wear a bra. But we talked about. We
made jokes about it and there was no shame.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`m one of the shame-free moms as well. She wrote a
book in graduate school called "how to have intercourse without getting
screwed, all about contraception." So, you grow up with that kind of mom,
you have a laminated.
HARRIS-PERRY: So thank you for the film "Obvious Child." It is really
fantastic. And thank you for coming to chat with me about it.
ROBESPIERRE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up next, the changing role of fathers. The author of
the popular book, "Parenthology," Dalton Conley is coming to Nerdland. And
the 21st century version of where babies come from, including mine.
No laminated uteruses, I promise. More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we`ve been talking about the White House summit, starting tomorrow on
the challenges facing working families. If there`s one thing the president
has made clear throughout his time in office, is that fatherhood, his own
and that of other men of color, has been extremely important to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made a decision in young
adulthood that it was going to be important for me to make sure that I was
there for my kids. I`ve really tried to make sure that I didn`t miss
parent/teacher conferences, that I didn`t miss the ballet recitals or the
soccer games. I tried to be disciplined about if I`m in town being home
for dinner every single night, and I think it`s made a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The definition of a good father is changing. Gone are the
days when fathers were assumed to be the soul financial providers and
little else. But in this period of broad social change, the role of the
father can be fuzzy and fraught.
Take our guest, MSNBC contributor T.J. Holmes, wrote recently in a column
for "The Root", in the form of a letter to his daughter, born when T.J. was
just 18 years old. He wrote, "I could barely provide food, much less
provide the kind of home or nurturing you needed at the time. I tried to
be a good daddy, I promise. I know I didn`t try hard enough. My
immaturity, selfishness and stupidity were too much to overcome."
A perspective he has gained to being more grownup as a father to his second
daughter Sabine, who was born a year and a half ago, and the question of
how fatherhood is valued is most starkly on displayed when a mother and
father do not live together. More than 80 percent of the time, whether by
court order, mutual agreement or otherwise, it`s the mothers who have
primarily, physical custody of their children.
Joining us now in New York is MSNBC contributor T.J. Holmes, also still,
Carmen Wong Ulrich, assistant industry professor at NYU Polytechnic School
of Engineering. Also still with us, Annabelle Gurwitch, an actress and
humorist, who is also the author of "I See You Made an Effort: Compliments,
Indignities and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50."
And joining us today from Atlanta is Marc Hudson, a father of one who is
inspired by his own experience of trying to be a good noncustodial dad
after divorce and is working on a documentary film telling the stories of
other noncustodial fathers and the challenges they face.
Nice to have you, Marc.
MARC HUDSON, "100 CONVERSATIONS": Thanks, Melissa, for having me on the
show. It`s really a privilege and honor to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
Talk to me briefly about why you wanted to give noncustodial fathers an
opportunity to talk about what it meant for them to be good dads?
HUDSON: Well, I just wanted to give them a voice. Like I said, I was
married. We had a child. During the marriage one of the primary
caregivers, I was waking them up for school, giving them a bath, taking
them to the park and things like that.
And then after the divorce, all of a sudden, I couldn`t do that any more.
Basically a judge told me that I could see him two weekends out of the
month and I felt something was wrong with that.
So, I -- again, you can imagine the feelings that come with not being able
to see your child when you want to. So, I started thinking of other
people, other fathers who felt this way and that kind of spawned this whole
interview thing with them talking to different fathers and we`re feeling
the same way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Marc, stick with us.
Because I thought that was so valuable, T.J., and, you know, I read your
piece in advance of Father`s Day and I chatted with you about it last week.
And it just feels so important to me to sort of make public the ways in
which father`s emotional connections to their children are at least as and
potentially much more important than their financial contribution.
T.J. HOLMES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Just as the problem in my case I didn`t
realize how bad of a dad I was until I realized how great of a dad I could
be. At that age, 18, and so much of the issues we do talk about with dads
and issues with fathers not being there is because they are 18, 19, 20, 25,
whatever it may be, they`re too young, they`re too immature to really
understand what they`re supposed to be doing.
And we talk about fatherhood. That`s an extension of manhood. We have an
extorted view I think in this country of what manhood is in the first
place. So, as he`s talking about there, I`m shock as people -- I say I put
my daughter to sleep last night or I say I gave her a bath or woke her up
and you change those diapers. You`re the dad, I`m not supposed to do that.
That`s what mom does and dad does these other things.
So, we have distorted view.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, even when you say that, Carmen, I was thinking, one
of my best friends in the world, her father -- her husband has been the dad
who does the bath time every night. I mean, forever, right?
Every time we tell that story, oh, my God, he`s the best father. And I`m
thinking when I bathe my child no one thinks that makes me a good mother.
They think that`s ordinary.
CARMEN WONG ULRICH, NYU POLYTECHNIC: Right!
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s almost a way when fathers participate, it`s
almost as though there`s a one-plus that they give for that.
ULRICH: Well, Chris Rock has that joke where if a man and he can stay out
of jail, he wants a medal. It`s the same thing with -- listen, fathers and
parents, you`re a good parent whether you`re a father or a mother. We have
this huge changing demographic. We have to shift our mentality around the
fact that a parent is a parent and a person that it`s not necessarily tied
If you are a good father, you`re a good parent and then you should be there
you should be supportive and all those sort of things. But to really make
it this kind of father, mother gender issue. To your point, yes, I sat
there and I gave the baths. That`s being a dad. That`s being a parent,
ANNABELLE GURWITCH, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: I want to say something
kind of transgressive, though. We see so many changing roles in society
right now. So, for instance, in my family and, Melissa, I think you relate
to this, too. My husband and I, two working family, which means we`re both
exhausted at same time.
There are times when I`m the primary earner, right? And my husband is
doing all the dad stuff. He`s a fantastic dad. So, this is a little
embarrassing, but the more daddying he does, the less sexy I find him. He
got a job recently and in one second I, the minute he told me, I was like,
oh, I want --
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, quite the opposite. If I see James loading the
dishwasher, I`m like I would that, baby. Take them dishes out.
Marc, let me come to you for a second, because part of what your work is
also around the policy here and your sense that, Marc, that the courts are
part of this. Now, I don`t want you -- you know, obviously, each case is
its own think. But what would you from your own experience or from the
experience of the men you talk to, what would you have courts and public
policy do differently as we think about the role of dads?
HUDSON: Just what you just said. Just think differently about the role of
fathers. I think that traditional definition of fatherhood is what we see
is the father who`s there, who takes their kids to school, who feeds them
and puts them to bed at night. The fathers who I talk to, they don`t have
the opportunities to do that. And say, you know, during visitation when
the other parent doesn`t show up and you don`t get your child for that
weekend, the only recourse you have is to call the police to have that
But then when you call the police, they say, we can`t handle that because
of civil case. So, your only recourse is to go file a motion in court, but
that doesn`t resolve the issue of you don`t have your child for that
weekend. So, I think the court system needs to make a concerted effort to
realize and recognize that the fathers do go through this on almost a daily
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me back out a little bit, too. Even when you`re not in
a consensus situation and I get it. I have both been a divorced single mom
and I`m in the circumstance with a great dad who was you know, my husband
who is now really the primary child care provider.
Even when you`re not in a contentious situation, T.J., you can`t be there
to do that if you don`t have parental leave. So, we remember when Dan
Murphy took parental leave. I want to see Dan Murphy talking to Willie
Geist on "Today" show about how important that was for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN MURPHY: One of the first solo diapers I had was day off in New York.
I text Tory and I said it`s boy`s day, no girls allowed and that was just
me and him, wandering the streets of New York.
WILLIE GEIST: How did you do?
MURPHY: He`s still breathing.
GEIST: Did you have any second thoughts of leaving and go and be at the
side of your son and your wife?
MURPHY: No, that never crossed my mind or her mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know it was a reminder, though, when all of that
blew up. Dads often don`t get parental leave to go and change that first
diaper and have a boys` day in New York.
HOLMES: But as Marc is talking about, the way the court system sees it
oftentimes, it defers to the mother as being -- you know, it should be in a
lot of ways, but a dad doesn`t get paternal leave. So, a dad doesn`t get
these things that a mother does get. So, we have a system set up that a
guy who maybe wants to be the good dad that he wants to be isn`t allowed to
In every situation, of course, is different but you, the part that I wrote
about in that piece is so difficult. You want to be this good dad but in
certain situations like that, you can`t be a good dad no matter what you
do. My mom always told me you do all that you do, but no one helps you and
consoles you when you realize that actually, it`s still not enough.
HOLMES: All you can do. You`re doing everything, but that`s not enough.
My daughter and I haven`t lived in the same city since I was in college.
Skype, iPhone, constant contact, but that`s still not enough, no matter
what. No matter what happens and what, it`s not enough, and that`s very,
very difficult for a lot of men.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you`re holding babies is when you feel that.
Stick with us, everybody. As we go out, I am going to play one of my
favorite good dad moments. It is the moment of President Obama doing his
Marc Hudson in Atlanta, I want to say, thank you so much for your work. I
hope you get that Kickstarter started so you can finish up your documentary
and I appreciate you bringing a different perspective for us.
And let`s take a look at President Obama being his baby whisperer self.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You OK, baby? Oh, no. Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I get a quick picture?
OBAMA: Come on, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, there`s the girl.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our next guest is a father of two and a sociologist who
decided it put his training to work in raising his two kids.
By, for example, giving them unique names, partly because according to
studies, it would make them more likely to have impulse control and impulse
control is a great predictor of socioeconomic success. His daughter`s name
is E, just the letter E, his son`s name, Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner
Alexander Weiser Knuckles. His book "Parentology: Everything You Wanted to
Know About the Science of Raising Children but were Too Exhausted to Ask".
It describes all the ways he brought sociology to bear in raising his kids.
Like bribing his children to pass their math test or exposing them to raw
sewage and a monkey to build up their immune systems.
Joining us live from Los Angeles is author of "Parentology" and professor
of sociology and medicine in New York University, Dalton Conley.
Dalton, so nice to have you.
DALTON CONLEY, AUTHOR, PARENTOLOGY: Thanks for having me, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know your work really in terms of the kind of sociological
and reading this book has been so much fun in part because I feel like I`ve
seen you using those same skills, those experimental skills on your kids.
So, just how bad have you messed your kids up?
CONLEY: You have to have them on to answer that. I`m sure they would say
a lot since they are teenagers now.
But I totally agree with all the comments of your panelists earlier that I
really the message of the book is, you know, keep trying try out different
things and, most important, really kids in today`s technical economy, where
there`s increasing inequality and hollowing out of the middle, they really
need every advantage they can get. They need both parents, co-resident or
non-co-resident, deeply involve, reading to them from day one, you know,
bribing them to do math or whatever it takes, because we live in a
different economy than you and I grew up in where we can turn out OK, I
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that feels like such an important point to me because
that happens all the time in this kind of inner generational moment were
like, we didn`t have car seats, we (INAUDIBLE) kids, everything was fine.
Stop helicopter parenting.
And yet, it seems like beyond any sort of specific parenting
recommendation, what your book is saying is the inequality is so troubling
that the only thing our kids have is us pushing like crazy, but then that
really worries me because that feels like that gap will be even more so for
kids who don`t have parents with the resources to push, push, push.
GURWITCH: I`m living that story right now. What is the answer, Dalton?
What do you say?
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell us, Dalton.
CONLEY: Well, we know some of the answers, for example, you already
mentioned a couple of them that we`re the only rich industrialized nation
that does not have mandated, paid parental leave for either parent for that
matter. You know, we don`t have a lot of policies that other countries
have that do support this kind of involved parenting. That`s the big
picture. You know, we also are the most unequal country in the entire
You know, those are not easy things to fix. Also small fixes, so, for
example, out here in L.A., there was an experiment where they just
something that was totally free. They just had a text message come to
parents. This was in a very low-income disadvantaged community, mostly of
immigrants where they inform parents when their kid was missing, in
Immediately, if they didn`t hand it in that day, they got a text message,
your kid didn`t do their homework. And that increased the kid`s
performance, the kid`s attendance, the kid`s everything with no cost. And,
you know, there`s a lot of little fixes but I think we need big fixes in
our economy and public policies as well.
GURWITCH: I would love to know, Dalton, have your kids petitioned to
change their names yet? When is that going to happen? I predict -- has it
CONLEY: I actually --
GURWITCH: Your son made that name up, right?
CONLEY: My son added the more crazy names himself, he was 4. My daughter,
I thought she could choose what it stood for. I figured, by now, she`s 16,
she`d be so embarrassed by us that she would have picked Ellen, my mother`s
name, or Elizabeth or Elaine or something very traditional and instead
she`s embraced it. In fact, she wants to drop her last name.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, T.J., I just want to come for a moment to T.J., because
T.J., your name is not T.J., it also is not like Thomas James --
HOLMES: Not at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you have an interesting --
HOLMES: People don`t know this. The T and J stand for nothing. I don`t
think I have ever said this on the air anywhere throughout my career. But
my full name is Loutelious Holmes Jr.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did that give you impulse control?
HOLMES: You know, what it did, I didn`t get a chance to use it until I was
18 and got to college, because they call me T, or Little T growing up. So,
T. Jr. is my family name.
My first three times on TV, I signed off the first story as Loutelious
Holmes. The second time, it was Lou Holmes. The third time, it was T.J.
Holmes. And here I am.
But I`ve also hated I had a cool first name that I never got to use. But
now, after hearing what he named his kids, I`m not so pissed at my parents.
GURWITCH: I`m curious about this impulse control issue. I thought I read
recently that a child that had an easy to pronounce name had a better
chance of success. So, I`m a little confused what the impulse control link
is and what about this issue of having an easy to pronounce name. Clearly,
T.J. has been easier.
ULRICH: No one can pronounce my name.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I`ll just say, there`s an intersection with ethnicity
here, right? One thing to have a difficult name and it`s another thing to
have a name that signals blackness or Latino identity.
URLICH: Or Chinese and Germen and what are you and all of that.
GRUWITCH: What is the impulse control, Dalton? What is that about?
CONLEY: The idea, this is a theory, but they do have data that shows that
a kid, I think you`re right that we have to distinguish between names that
mark you as a racial or ethnic other versus names that are just weird. And
in terms of the weird names, kids get teased -- probably less than when we
were kids, but they still get teased and they have to learn how to deal
That`s an important skill in life and that`s the theory, at least, because
they do show that kids with unusual names, these days, at least, tend to --
you know, it`s a very small effect, but they tend to have a small advantage
over kids who have typical or normal names.
What I notice with my own kids give them a sense of notoriety in their own
schools. Everyone knows who they are.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Dalton Conley in L.A., I hope when you`re back in New
York, you will join our panel here in Nerdland.
CONLEY: Happy to. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Luticious (ph) Holmes.
HOLMES: Loutelious. Oh.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m helping you recover impulse control.
Loutelious Holmes and Anna Gurwitch, thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: For everyone at home who wants to get a little more T.J. in
their life and who doesn`t, he`ll be back just a little bit later to anchor
the 3:00 hour right here on MSNBC.
Also this programming note, be sure to tune in to MSNBC tomorrow morning
for "MORNING JOE", where you will see Mika Brzezinski`s interview with
President Obama, all about the White House summit on working families.
Up next for us, more than 1,000 women want to ask the White House one
specific thing about the president`s My Brother`s Keeper initiative.
HARRIS-PERRY: The dad we mentioned a lot today, President Obama, speaks
often about the pain he experienced as a result of his own father`s absence
that makes him acutely aware of the impact that absence can have on young
men of color.
In a recent interview for the "Today" show, President Obama told Jenna Bush
Hager that`s part of why he launched My Brother`s Keeper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The truth is that a lot of young men of color aren`t doing well
partly because they don`t have dads in their lives, partly because they
don`t have networks of support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As laudable as the intentions of the program are, My
Brother`s Keeper has come under severe criticism, including right here on
Two weeks ago we told you about a letter from 200 African-American men to
President Obama, describing the need for us to be our sister`s keeper, too.
Now, women and more specifically women of color are asking what about our
Their call is for the administration`s program to be more inclusive. More
than 1,000 women have written their own letter. Among the more
recognizable signatures, Alice Walker, Rosario Dawson and Anita Hill.
Their point: the need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come
at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live
in the same households and suffer in the same schools and struggle to
overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms
The White House and specifically the head of the White House Council on
Women and Girls, Valerie Jarrett, cites the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
and the creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls as proof of
the administration paying attention to women of color.
But for those whose scholarship and organizing has long emphasized the
unique intersections of race, gender and class, it may not be enough to
point to a gender specific race program for boys and a race neutral gender
program for girls. Women and girls of color face unique circumstances and
challenges, and while we are keeping our brothers, it is worth asking what
about our daughters?
Up next, more talk about our daughters, in particular, my daughters and how
they entered this world and the complicated billion dollar business of baby
HARRIS-PERRY: These are my daughters. Parker and A.J., born 12 years
apart, both girls are biologically mine but their birth stories are very
different. I had Parker at 28 and was pregnant within a month of deciding
to try and even manage an entire natural labor.
A.J.`s story is very different. Shortly after A.J. was born, my husband
and I tweeted this picture of our first moments together, there it is just
minutes after her birth and I`m standing in the hospital hallway in blue
jeans and t-shirt, which, of course, led the Internet to do what it does
There were tons of well-wishing headlines about my adoption and even a
hilarious Twitter exchange in which a few loyal show watchers swore I had
been pregnant and simply carried it well.
No, I`m not sure -- thanks for that, MHPers -- but I`m not sure that I ever
plan to share our whole story, but when we saw the misinformation online, I
knew I wanted to explain that A.J. had come to us through surrogacy. Like
all women, I, of course, have a right to privacy and not owe anyone an
explanation for how I`m making my family.
But to ignore that surrogacy was the pathway to this new life would mean
writing A.J.`s gestational carrier out of the story and that`s not just
acceptable for us. As I wrote about it for MSNBC.com, in 2008, after
suffering from uterine fibroids, I decided to have my uterus removed. So,
when James and I decided to expand our family, we knew that I couldn`t
carry a child. So, we turned to surrogacy.
James and I refer to A.J. as our miracle and she is, but there was plenty
of science involved in this pregnancy. There were months of medications to
suppress ovulation and sync cycles. There were rounds of powerful
medications, weeks of belly and hip injections, daily doctor visits to
track progress and the less than fun experience of harvesting my eggs.
Then, fertilization in the lab and days to see how many potential Perrys
were suitable for transfer and then the transfer and then the dreaded two-
week wake who every women who has endured an IVF cycle understands, the
longest 14 days of your life as you wait to see if that second line
In the cases of surrogacy, the medical process is accompanied by an
extensive legal process full of papers and court appearances and lawyers.
The bottom line, when successful, assisted reproductive technology feels
miraculous. But whether it ends in happiness or frustration, reproductive
technology is always expensive.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the average
price of an IVF cycle is $12,400 and that does not even include the pricy
medication. According to Circle Surrogates, a reputable agency, but not
the one that handled my own experience, the anticipated cost of gestational
surrogacy can range from $100,000 to $150,000. And only a tiny fraction
compensates the woman who carries the pregnancy, most is spent on lawyers,
doctors and insurance.
And since few insurance plans actually cover the cost of fertility
procedures, paying for them is a real challenge. Take Brandi and Shelton
Koskie who in 2006 babyorbust.com to raise money for their IVF procedures
via blog. In `09, they had a beautiful baby girl. You can still follow
their parenting adventures online.
So, here we are in a brave new world where science seems to make impossible
dreams come true, but always at a cost, both emotional and financial.
Joining me now is Tanya Selvaratnam, author of "The Big Lie: Motherhood,
Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock."
And still with us, Carmen Wong Ulrich, who`s the author of "The Real Cost
What is the big lie?
TANYA SELVARATNAM, AUTHOR, "THE BIG LIE": There are many big lies. One is
that we can do things on our own timetable. Another big lie is that we can
manipulate evolution. Another big lie is that we don`t have to choose
between work and family.
And a big lie that I talk a lot about in the book that we don`t need
feminism any more.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me -- start with the time table one. When you say
that`s a lie, this notion that we can just sort of have kids whenever we
want, what is it we`re being misinformed about?
SELVARATNAM: Not that the information isn`t out there, except there are so
many confusing and conflicting messages out there.
And also, we have a crisis of sex education in this country. You know,
there are only 22 states in the country that mandate sex education and of
those only 12 require that the information be medically accurate, that we
have kids being taught abstinence only behavior, and that they have sex
before marriage, they will die.
You coupled that with a lot of fertility awareness, and we have a lot of
people, even though they might know after 35, their fertility decreases
they don`t know how steeply and I`m guilty of that. I didn`t know. You
know, I didn`t educate myself and nobody told me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, on the one hand, I -- you know, sharing the story
for me was important. I want people to know how our daughter was born
because we`re not ashamed of how it happened.
On the other hand, Carmen, I recognize that our ability to engage in this
was, first of all, that it worked is still -- this is why we call it a
miracle even though a ton of science involved, but also the financial costs
are enormous and that not every family has the same set of options, the
same menu available to them and it does seem, almost like, oh, you can do
it whenever. But, in fact, it`s brutally expensive.
ULRICH: Which is why more and more women in their early 30s are now
freezing their eggs. I mean, here`s the thing, is that women that I know -
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is expensive by itself.
ULRICH: It is expensive, too. But don`t forget too, like in our cohort is
that most of the women that I know who had IVF, their parents were able to
help them pay for these procedures.
Insurance, you mentioned, is not going to cover this. What about the
complications of that? I had a wonderful dear friend who thankfully has a
beautiful baby now, but her ovary exploded because of the hormone
injections. So, she ends up in the emergency room.
So, there are many costs involved in what if, but as mothers we know not a
lot of rationalization when it comes to wanting a baby. So, you can
jeopardize your finances. You brought up a good point in the break here
about chances. What are the chances this is going to happen?
There is still -- not to be completely crass here, this is another consumer
issue because insurance does not cover. This is almost like, I`m not
belittling it at all, plastic surgery in terms of a business with doctors,
because they are compensated directly. So, you are mentioning over the age
of 40, what are the odds of an IVF pregnancy?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. In fact, let me show you, under 35, an IVF success
rate result in 40 percent under 35. But at over 44, an IVF cycle success
rate is about 1.1 percent. And when you are writing a check --
ULRICH: Twenty grand, there you go.
HARRIS-PERRY: For $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 if you know it is 1 percent,
you may make different choices.
SELVARATNAM: Well, if you hear those are your odds of surviving cancer,
you would be very, very depressed. (INAUDIBLE) amazing writer for the
"Time" said that, made that statement about IVF.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we talk about, I want to talk about same-sex couples in
a moment. But, first, I want you to go back to feminism. Why is it we
still need feminism? Because part of what I hear and what I can imagine
some folks saying is, oh, this is one of those scare tactics to get women
to go have their babies in their 20s right because all of a sudden you`re
not going to be able to.
SELVARATNAM: Well, people mistakenly blame feminism for the phenomenon of
delaying motherhood. But really, it was that nobody is to blame. Advances
in feminism dovetail perfectly with advances in reproductive medicine. The
first IVF baby was born in 1978. In 1970s, when I was growing up, that`s
when feminism was really coming into its own. I feel like women were
encouraged to delay motherhood and pursue their careers and ambitions, but
it`s not feminism`s fault.
But I feel like we`re at this critical juncture where women of my
generation who really were the guinea pigs for testing the limits of our
reproductivity, we`re hitting our 40s and realizing that maybe some of us,
well, some of us are successful and some of us may be delayed too long.
And it`s not going to work out for us.
URLICH: Can we not blame our ambition either because the social support is
not there for us as mothers. So, for example, mothers putting off. I
don`t have enough money. I will continue working because I know that if I
get sick what`s going to happen. So, if the social support was there, I
don`t think as many women would delay pregnancy.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just also want to point out, we`re talking about it almost
exclusively as a matter of choice. Delaying and making choices and, you
know, it struck me in the process of surrogacy and IVF that we were in a
relationship with lots and lots of same-sex couples because for those
couples, there isn`t a choice, you`re going to need assisted reproductive
technology of some kind. And it does feel to me like if we can move
towards a policy that makes it, for example, covered under insurance for
both same-sex and heterosexual couples, then we might be able to ease some
ULRICH: Viagra is covered by insurance, OK? So, that`s all I need to say.
SELVARATNAM: Well, covered under insurance and also that we have better
education. I feel like there is a lot to gain by keeping women and men in
the dark about what their chances actually are with these reproductive
technologies. We need more awareness.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s also important to know, one not be a parent to
fully have a wonderful, inclusive, fabulous life, but we do want to be
making it as a choice as much as we possibly can as opposed to
SELVARATNAM: Yes, because right now, we have in America a situation where,
where you live and how much you make determines whether you can think it`s
feasible to pursue having a child. And I feel that that`s an injustice
because only 15 states in the country mandate some form of fertility
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, I love that idea that -- we talk about reproductive
rights. It is on both sides, not only the right to terminate, which is an
important right, but also the notion of a right to, in fact, reproduce.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Tanya and to Carmen.
Still to come this morning, opera great, Jessye Norman. But, next, we`re
going to nerd out in a whole new way over patents. Yes, change the R in
parents to T, patents. The Nerdland team would down a deep rabbit hole on
this one. We even made a new graphic. Nerding out, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I`ll admit to one really bad parenting behavior. I kind
of love to watch TV with my daughter. It`s one of the ways that we spend
some quality mother/daughter time and one of our favorite shows is not so
much a traditional family sitcom that you might think of parents and kids
bonding over. In our house, Friday night is all about "Shark Tank".
Now, I know it`s not your typical family show but it`s a great way to teach
kids about how to be creative and industrious and apply their creative ides
to the real world. This show where hopeful entrepreneurs pinch ideas to a
group of discerning self-made tycoons, aka, the sharks, who use their
collective business to decide which ideas and innovations have what it
takes to make it big.
And one of the most important questions that they almost always ask to a
new inventor is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going to ask you the natural question. Is it
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s cleared. The patent`s cleared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No patent, of course, yes? Do you have a patent on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Just why is that question so important? Because in today`s
economy there is a lot of money in something called intellectual property.
That is the patents and trademarks granted by the U.S. government that give
companies exclusive rights to the use of their ideas and brands.
In America, you can patent or trademark just about anything. Whether it`s
something simple like a crustless PBJ sandwich, or something as strange as
a shirt that doubles as a habitat for live gerbils. Yes, there are actual
patents for these things.
You can even trademark popular phrases like "That`s Hot", owner Paris
Hilton, or three-peat, which is owned by Pat Riley.
Of all these things can be protected because they`re someone`s intellectual
property. But apparently, there`s one thing that can`t be patented or
This week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark announced its decision to cancel
the Washington, D.C. football team`s trademark on the grounds that the name
is disparaging to Native Americans. A charge the team`s owner has
consistently denied. This is the second time in the past 15 years that
that the same entity has attempted to strip the Washington football team of
its federal trademark protections and there will likely be a long appeals
process before the team`s owner starts to feel any financial impact.
But this decision comes at a time when a growing course of individuals and
institutions are stepping up and calling for the Washington team owner Dan
Snyder to change the name of his team. For years, groups like the National
Congress of American Indians, a group that represents more than 250 tribes
nationwide, have implored the D.C. football team and other sports
franchises to abandon the use of offensive names and icons.
And in recent months, those groups have made tremendous headway in drawing
attention to their cause, 50 members of the U.S. Senate, including Majority
Leader Harry Reid, and even the president of the United States are now
saying publicly that the team should change its name.
Yet, Dan Snyder has stubbornly refused to rename the team famously telling
one newspaper, quote, "We`ll never change the name. It`s that simple.
Never. You can use caps."
It seems there`s little hopes left in appealing to Mr. Snyder`s sense of
reason or ethical concern for the prospective of those harmed, but maybe he
should consider this -- when the part of our government that approves
things like three-legged panty hose, things you`ve gone too far, maybe it`s
time to have a seat.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jessye Norman, the Grammy Award winning soprano superstar,
with one of the most celebrated and recognizable voices that have grace the
rarefied art of opera, has just released a memoir. In "Stand Up Straight
and Sing", Norman tells the tale of how she grew up into the iconic
performer and person she is today.
She takes reader in a journey in operatic style from the prelude of her
life as a child growing up in Augusta, Georgia, to the storied concert
halls in Germany and England and Austria -- just to name a few of the many
places that her legendary career has led her. (INAUDIBLE) like energy, she
brings us with her to the metropolitan opera. And then to her then to her
role as Judith in a rendition of "Bluebeard`s Castle" and to her
performance in the metropolitan opera`s production of Wagner`s "Parsifal".
And even to our nation`s capitol where she performed a stunning patriotic
medley at the 1997 inauguration of President Clinton.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: And Norman`s legacy extends beyond music. Last year, she
joined a host of civil rights icons, and she was presented with the NAACP`s
2013 Spingarn Medal, the NAACP`s highest honor.
Joining me now to share her story with all of us is legendary Jessye
So lovely to have you here.
JESSYE NORMAN, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING OPERA SINGER: I`m delighted to be
here. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just before we went on air, you were talking about the
difference of being on a book tour and having people relate to you from
what they now know about you from what you`ve written.
NORMAN: Yes. It`s been interesting and I find very different from being
on a performance tour. The questions that I am asked have so much do-to-do
with my growing up years in Augusta rather than whether or not Sieglinde or
Ariadne is my favorite role or something.
And I found that to be really interesting. People need to understand that
in spite of my growing up in the Jim Crow laws of the segregated South,
that we had communities and families and extended families that made sure
that we understood that we were people, that we were worth something, and
that we were loved. More than anything, that we were loved.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is so important to why we wanted you here at the close
of our show about parenting, because we talk about parenting because we
talk a lot about parenting, and so, it just these sort of two individuals
in a household, but it is a whole process of community.
NORMAN: It really is a whole process of community. And I know as we come
cliched that it takes a village to raise a child, but I know from my own
experience and those of my siblings and those of my friends growing up in
Augusta, Georgia, that it truly does take a village to raise children.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s the obvious aspect of music in your childhood.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not necessarily the music that you end up being the date
performer of. Tell me how music operated in your childhood.
NORMAN: Well, I had been singing since I`ve been speaking. I always say
that because that`s what my parents had told me. So, I don`t have any
memory of not singing. And not being interested in music.
And as young children, we were all sent off to piano lessons with the local
piano teacher in the neighborhood. And so, that was something that we all
did and took for granted, really. And of course, we were lucky in that
period that we had arts education in the schools. And that is something
for which I really am fighting because to allow another generation of
children to come through public school education without the benefits of
arts education is something of which we really should be uncomfortable.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me that that language of stand up and sing --
NORMAN: Yes, absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- is in part about that sense of racial pride --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- of family pride, of community pride.
NORMAN: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: In addition to what happens to your voice, your political
voice, your singing voice.
NORMAN: Of course, your social voice, your speaking voice, your everything
voice, your ability to express yourself, whether that`s in singing or
playing the piano or writing poetry or being a graphic artist, but being
able to understand that you can speak from the inside out. That is what
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a moment in the text where you devote some
conversation about Marian Anderson.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you write, "Ms. Anderson had never considered herself to
be an activist but in fact on that Sunday morning she was. When I think
about despite the pervasive prejudice she experienced, she did not allow
hatred to dampen the song from within. I can only be grateful just by
lifting her voice, she opened the doors and turned on the lights so the
rest of us would be able to see our way more clearly."
NORMAN: Absolutely. And that`s what she did. She wasn`t thinking of
herself that Easter Sunday morning, I`m sure, as being perhaps the first
music protest ever, but it really was. Because she had been denied, as we
all know, singing in Constitution Hall by the daughters of the American
And Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband decided that perhaps that wouldn`t be
something they would allow, that instead of singing for perhaps nearly
4,000 people in Constitution Hall, she would sing for 75,000 people on the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
And, of course, being Marian Anderson and this majestic, graceful woman,
the first words out of her mouth, "My country `tis of thee, sweet land of
liberty, of thee we sing."
HARRIS-PERRY: When African-Americans sing the song of America --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- sing the patriotic song --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- is it different? Does it sound different? Is it
resonating with something that is specific to the black experience?
NORMAN: I think it has to because we know that the black experience is
different from the other experiences that other immigrants in this country
might have had and might experienced on a daily basis. And I think that we
need to sing these songs because we are a part of this country, and we need
to say that loudly to ourselves and to anybody that`s listening, that we,
too, are Americans. And we are as American as anybody that came over on
the Mayflower because actually we came first.
HARRIS-PERRY: If Marian Anderson turned on the lights for so many, you
continue to turn on those lights, even for those of us who cannot carry a
tune even a bit, but your presence, your internationalism, your language,
you talked about the arts but also language, I just love the book.
NORMAN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I love what it tells us about what a life can be.
NORMAN: Oh, you`re so very kind. Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you`re not even close to done. There`s so much more.
NORMAN: Oh, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jessye Norman, again, the book is called "Stand Up Straight
and Sing." And when you read it, it will make you want to stand a little
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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