Male Panic!: Women Get Jobs, Men Get Depressed?

by roxythekiller

costya1

From first glance at recent covers of Newsweek, Time, and The Atlantic, it appears a gender war has erupted— instead of coddling men, women are taking their jobs! And beating them at their own game! Oh no!

A slew of magazines published this year claim that times are a-changin’. Newsweek sensationally trumpeted the arrival of a “war on boys,” in which men must adapt by “embracing girly jobs” such as nursing and modeling themselves after Brad Pitt. In a later edition, conservative journalist George F. Will decried equal pay for women as sexist discrimination against the “weaker sex” (huh?) The article featured this zinger of a quote, from conservative scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth: “contrary to what feminist lobbyists would have Congress believe, girls and women are doing well.” It appears Will included her on the popular notion that any commentator with a vagina cannot possibly be sexist, and can act as an authority on all women. To top things off, Time magazine waxed poetic about how “for the first time in history the majority of workers in the U.S. will be women — largely because the downturn has hit men so hard.” The Atlantic chimed in with “The End of Men,” a cover-story which claimed, “Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed.”

As with recent waves of racism, Islamophobia, and Anti-Semitism, paranoid beliefs about women’s boardroom conquests emerged as a symptom of the economic downturn, which brought back many traditional and sexist attitudes towards women. Among them is the glorification of 50s housewives and pinup-girls as sex symbols, the creeping emergence of anti-female Wal-Mart as an standard-setting industrial giant, and, of course, the single-minded obsession with Michelle Obama’s fashion sense, Hilary Clinton’s lack-therof, and repeated emphasis on the “hotness” of Conservative women. These social, political, and economic trends reinforce old beliefs that a woman is only as useful as she is good-looking or entertaining to men. These cultural beliefs nostalgically associate social and economic “good times” with female submission.

Unlike these more blatant forms of sexism, the pay-gap panic has a polite, statistical pretext: the increase in women’s salaries between 2000 and 2010. Female managers currently earn 81 cents on every dollar earned by their male counterparts, compared to 79 cents before 2000. In other words, this much-hyped gain is only two cents on the dollar. And we still earn 19% less than men do!

This raise does not effect all women equally— manager-moms still earn 79 cents on every dollar manager-dads earn. And some industries, notably technology-based ones, are reluctant to hire women women (unless an extra booth babe is needed!) Some companies, notably Wal-Mart, create uncomfortable and demeaning atmospheres for female employees, furthering a hateful “boy’s club” mentality.

This mentality is not new. For hundreds of years, the work of my, and your, female relatives was routinely undervalued, underpaid, and under-the-radar. Many of our mothers and grandmothers were (and still are) homemakers, secretaries, nurses, activists, librarians, members of the armed forces, athletes, performers, artists, and, occasionally, physicians (as of 2006, only 27.8% of physicians are women) Not CEOs or managers. Few of them had any realistic hope of becoming President of the United States.

Meanwhile, fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, and male peers made their fortune and their career on the backs of women. Whether they were “nice guys” or not, our forefathers unfairly profited from the rights and opportunities their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters were denied.

Not all men benefited from sexism; some were discriminated against for being “too feminine.” My maternal grandfather was maligned for failing to fulfull social expectations of “manliness.” After he chose to become a stay-at-home dad, his family referred to him as a parasite. Though women sympathized with his decision, their husbands often pitied or scorned him. They did not know, or want to know, that he stayed home to raise the kids so his wife would not have to. My maternal grandmother loved her children, but she did not have the patience or the temperament to play the role of a 60s housewife in small-town Germany. As a journalist fluent in over five languages, and a stylish older woman, spending ten or more years with little intellectual stimulation other than “raising the kids” deeply disturbed her. My grandfather supported and inspired her academic career. They supported each other through the sexism and Antisemitism both of them faced on a daily basis.

Although a lot has changed since my grandparents’ struggle, women’s present gains are offset by rising benefit costs, wage cuts, and male under-employment. Women often have to do their own job and the job of a fired male co-worker in order to compete. At the same time, we earn less and pay more. As journalist Joan Cleaver rightly demanded, “Is it really progress if women strive harder, achieve more, and still cannot stop the backward slide of their families’ financial stability?”

In these dark and paranoid times, there is a bright spot: the education gap between men and women is closing. More women are getting a college education than ever before. The pay gap persists— and men, women and anyone in-between must recognize this if they want to right the wrongs of previous generations.

More on this topic: Are women gaining, or are men losing?

9 Responses to “Male Panic!: Women Get Jobs, Men Get Depressed?”

  1. A new reason to add to the list of “Why I don’t shop at Walmart.”

  2. Roxy! This is brilliant! And did you make that picture? It’s so freaking cute!

    D wrote a post that this one ties in perfectly with not too long ago. I think that with what your post suggests lends even more merit to the idea that women aren’t really catching up with men just because there will be more of us in the workforce than there are men. I think that it’s more likely due to the economy. As D pointed out in her post along this vein, when it comes to downsizing, the person who gets paid more (read: the man) will be more likely to be fired or laid off. The man will be less likely to be hired, when they can hire a woman and pay her less money than they’d have to pay the man.

    Nobody’s worth gets evaluated on merit, nobody’s position gets evaluated on importance, nobody’s skills get evaluated on importance. It’s all about the money, honey. Sad.

    The only way to fix that is to even the pay gap! It will help more than just women. Too bad there are too many people who would rather cling to sexist tradition and ways of thinking, than see that by doing so they are cutting off their noses in order to spite their own faces.

    • Thanks, V! As always, you’re spot-on (and more political than me.)
      I drew the picture on Illustrator, and if anyone in this blog ever needs a picture to accompany their posts, I’ll draw one. You can, for example, tell me the dialogue + context you want, and I’ll doodle it right up 🙂

      D’s post inspired this article, and the two posts definitely go together. I love her stuff, it always gets me fired up!

  3. An excellent, thorough post. I did write a post on this, but it was sparse on evidence. This kicks ass.

    The doctor statistic kind of shocks me. I’ve encountered a lot of female physicians and specialists, so I didn’t expect the number to be as low as 27%! My GP’s office is also a teaching facility, so a good number of those women doctors have been students. I’d be very interested to know what the percentages are for rising classes of doctors.

    And Fey’s right–I didn’t really need yet another reason to despise Wal-Mart, but I’ve sure got one now! The Ms link is the best: http://www.msmagazine.com/sept03/walmart.asp

    • D, your post rocked :D! It actually gave me the idea to write mine (honestly, I think the our articles are best read together, since they are inevitably related.)

      And yeah, the Ms mag shocked me, too. Business meetings at strip clubs and Hooters? God created Adam first? Hoooooo-boy, I knew it was bad, but that just blew me out of the water! Thanks for your feedback 🙂

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