Bloggers Speak Out On Frat Life, Michelle Obama

Tell Me More bloggers respond to the program's recent stories on Asian-American fraternity life, host Michel Martin's commentary on First Lady Michelle Obama and how the economy is making some stay-at-home moms return to the workplace.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. We get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. It's been a minute. It feels good to team up with you again.

MARTIN: Likewise.

HILL: Well listen, on Monday, we took listeners Behind Closed Doors to report on Asian-American fraternity life on college campuses, and we talked about the appeal of the fraternity experience, but we also talked about some serious hazing incidents.

We heard the tragic story of Jack Phoummarath, who died from alcohol poisoning while pledging for Lambda Phi Epsilon at the University of Texas.

Now, one of our guests, fraternity official Brian Gee, talked to us about the influence of black Greek like on the Asian-American pledge culture.

Mr. BRIAN GEE (Fraternity Official): People see what black Greeks are doing, and they try and emulate that, although they don't necessarily have that cultural understanding. Or you watch a movie like "School Daze," and you just copy that. And I have seen, and I've talked to members who have said yeah, we got that from this group.

MARTIN: Lee, I understand that didn't sit too well with blogger Joe. He writes: I wish to challenge the idea that hazing is something that comes from black Greek fraternities. Why not say the group in question made some terrible choices, not that their rituals were brought in from black people?

Yes, and I have to say a lot of people had that reaction. Thank you, Joe. Lee?

HILL: And shifting gears, Michel, your commentary this week focused on First Lady Michelle Obama and how the way she is tackling the role of first lady resonated with you.

And you took notice of her do-good spirit, her work so far around the Washington, D.C., area, including how she invited area youngsters to help her plant the White House garden.

Well, that touched off a serious debate online about the new first lady and whether she's helping or hurting the image of progressive women. Here's a comment from blogger Kat(ph). Let's listen.

KAT (Blogger): Yeah, yeah. It's great that Michelle Obama is able to prove that she can be a good little wifey wife. I guess I'm still bitter that Hillary gets such a bad rap because she was unwilling to be the pretty flower in her powerful husband's vase and wanted to actually make policy rather than hug kids and plant veggies.

It might just be the way that she is reported. I hope so. But Michelle feels to this working woman like another privileged, white housewife, supporting the idea that a wife's chief role is domestic.

HILL: And that's for your comments, Kat.

MARTIN: And speaking of working mothers, this week's parenting segment featured a conversation with a group that Time magazine called economommies. These are moms who had chosen to stay at home but who are reentering the workforce because of economic pressures. It reminded our listener Laura of her own mom.

LAURA (Blogger): I am a young, white woman who was raised by two working parents. My mom ran her own small business, a law firm, for 12 years of my childhood. When I was in kindergarten, a boy in my class made me cry because he said that if my mom really loved me, she would have stayed home from work to be with me. But my mom did love me, and she showed it by demonstrating to me that having a job and a relationship and kids isn't easy, but that the rewards are just as great as the effort.

MARTIN: Thank you, Laura. You know, I hate that term mommy wars, but this debate we had online about both of these stories makes me think as if the mommy wars are alive and well. Anyway, Lee, any updates?

HILL: Yes. Well, folks might remember Joanne P. McCauley, head coach of Duke women's basketball team. Now, the team was a number-one seed in the NCAA tournament. Coach P., as she's called, was on the program last week with her game face on. She was looking for March Madness glory.

But sadly, it didn't work out that way. On Tuesday, McCauley's team was taken to school by Michigan State, the team she used to coach before she was lured away by Duke.

The score was 63 to 49. Now Michel, some call it defeat, others just call it payback. But that's all I'm going to say on that.

MARTIN: That's all I'm saying. Yup. Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. We've been talking a lot lately about how the recession's affecting the country and how it's affecting you. Next week, we're having a conversation with one of our Culture Coaches about how to prepare for a possible layoff.

And we'd like your questions about how to look into options before that pink slip comes.

If you have questions, call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That's 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. Or go online to npr.org, click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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