Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Piece of Advice #69: Don't make everything into the Girls vs. the Boys

A society succeeds or fails based on the success or failure of the aggregate of its population.  Not half, not part - the majority of its citizens have to be successful or competent for the nation to be successful and competent.

I find it disturbing that so many women think that:
  • if visible, well positioned women succeed, all women benefit or are proved superior (the Girls Team wins!)
  • if men fail, women succeed
We should want women to succeed, but not if its at the expense of men or society in general.  Dramatically increasing the number of women in the workforce isn't such a victory if the average wage stagnates or declines to the point that two people have to work in order to afford the same middle class lifestyle.  Or if women are going from working in the home around their children (housework, piecework, or assisting in the home business) to working low status, poorly paid Wal-Mart jobs and expensively warehousing their children.

Is it a boon to women to comprise 60% of college students if getting a college education is impossible without falling into debt slavery?

By focusing on number counting and measuring success in terms of gender parity, we focus on only part of the story - what the scoreboard says in the great Girls vs. Boys Tournament.  We do not ask ourselves if, despite all these touted successes, women are happier (or even happy) now.  Because by many counts we are not actually happier than our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were.  If you win the game, but you spilled all your blood on the court and all but your two top players ended up in the ER, that's not a very satisfying victory.  And if your opponent now hates you and never wants to play with you again - I think we can agree that game was not well played.

We should not want our men to fail.  We should not feel satisfied when they - any of them - are humiliated or fall behind.  They are not our enemies or our opponents, they are our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our sons, our friends, our coworkers.  Gender schadenfreude is an ugly thing and says something about the women who think that way.  It says they can't hope to compete or keep up so they have to get their satisfaction in watching others fail.  We should be thinking that this is one team composed of men and women and the only way it can succeed is to strengthen and develop each member's talents (each member's true talent, that is; we should not be trying to force everyone to try and be a quarterback or starter or pickyoursportsmetaphor if that is not where her gifts lie).

Finally, let's remember that power is not the same as achievement or progress or betterment.  If Hillary Clinton ever reaches her goal of being a woman President, it will only mean that a women was capable of being as two-faced and calculating, as ruthless and sly as the male politicians who proceeded her to that office, in all probability doubly so.   And if she ever gets there, it will not mean that any woman has been proven to be "better" at anything unless her name is Hillary Clinton.  Yes, power is what makes the world go round, but it is not what makes the world a better or happier place.  That happens at the local level, most conspicuously at the family level - the level women have always had plenty of access to.

By thinking only in terms of Girls vs. Boys we focus on bean counting and the success of a few female outliers and miss the important larger picture.  We need to stop doing that.

15 comments:

  1. Well said. The fact that women are so bothered by the fact that men are taking care of them where they are (mostly) unequipped to care for themselves is striking in itself. If women ran the world and cared for men half as well we'd be holding a parade for you guys EVERY DAY. It would be a religious thing like the 5 prayers muslims have to do every day.

    I know that will never happen, as the majority of women don't have it in them to take care of a man long-term, or now,even do the housework while he earns the money, but I guarantee you it would be floats, beads, drinking and dancing in the streets in women's honor.

    The LAST thing we would be doing would be bitching about pay gaps or lack of representation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now before I say anything, I will own up to the fact that I am only 22 and I'm also unmarried and don't have any kids.

    I think a large reason why a lot of women are unhappy now is that they are trying to do everything. They want to have the fulfilling family life and the successful career. They end up spreading themselves incredibly thin trying to make everything work.

    Women are still, in a sense, forced to choose which of the two they want most of the time. Do you want the happy home life with the family or do you want the successful career. I know that at 22 I've already had to examine how I could possibly balance a career with a family - and I don't even really have either at this point. I'm just starting out in my teaching career and have barely got my foot in the door for supply work.

    On the flip side, men are not really expected to do as much in the home that us women are. They aren't expected to choose between career and family because they get to choose career without the same level of guilt that women deal with.

    I can guarantee if you go into most middle class families where both parents work full time, when they come home it's usually the wife who makes dinner, does the cleaning, makes sure the kids are doing their homework, etc. Women are really working two full time jobs - their career job at the office and then their career job as a wife and mother.

    I realize that may sound like the cop out answer, but I do think it holds true. Women feel guilty for choosing one over the other, they want both and get resentful when they can't have both.

    Additionally, as to our grandmothers/great-grandmothers being happier - there's actually a very interesting line of research into the 1940s-50s with the invention of suburbia and how it led to a great deal of depression among women.

    I really think North America needs to adapt the Scandinavian style of things. (And Europe in general really.) They provide day care and more flexible jobs so that people can have the family life and the career they want. It's really amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can guarantee if you go into most middle class families where both parents work full time, when they come home it's usually the wife who makes dinner, does the cleaning, makes sure the kids are doing their homework, etc. Women are really working two full time jobs - their career job at the office and then their career job as a wife and mother."

    Let's stop this lie right now. Seriously, it simply continues the whole man versus woman meme that is poisoning gender relations. Let's stop politicizing housework, let's look seriously at how men work extra career hours and doing the kinds of outside housework that is rarely studied or even acknowledged as equal to what women do inside the house.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dramatically increasing the number of women in the workforce isn't such a victory if the average wage stagnates or declines to the point that two people have to work in order to afford the same middle class lifestyle.

    Unfortunately, it's basically a foregone conclusion that if you increase female employment, it will come at the expense of male wages. The reason is, putting women into the workforce doesn't increase the amount of demand in a society, because the actual population stays the same.

    Furthermore, it doesn't increase production. It's harsh but true that most female jobs aren't wealth-producing: they're mostly secretarial, or administrative, or in sales, and are mainly service-oriented. Take my company for instance. We sell a software product. Nearly all the engineers (the actual producers) are male. We could fire all the female employees and we'd still produce the product. But if you fired all the men, there'd be nothing to sell.

    And that's not counting the fact that a disproportionate amount of female jobs are in the government, where they are parasitic upon the production of the private sector.

    So the effect of doubling the size of the workforce with women is simply that you end up spreading the same amount of wealth over twice as many workers - hence average inflation-adjusted wages are cut in half.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Agree with you Tomboy, but just don't think we'll ever have the Scandinavian model going here; we are too diverse, the political parties are too at odds with each other; we really are an angry pack of rats! Socialism will never get too entrenched here; the pushback is happening now; look for the demise of Social Security, public education, and public systems/support mechanisms of all sorts.

    I certainly admire women who can pull off career and motherhood and make it work at all; didn't even attempt it myself! Opted for marriage and career and skipped the motherhood part at my husband's insistence; truthfully, I never regretted it. More women need to be brutally honest with themselves and ask if they really do, want "it all."

    Regarding the anon. post at the top: interesting how "all" the women are so worthless, lazy, etc. but the men are paragons of virtue! I still believe the old line "water seeks its own level."

    ReplyDelete
  6. For Reformed Tomboy:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/relationships/7929014/Feminism-Forget-it-sisters.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. Deuce...if you fired all the engineers, there'd be no product to sell; if you fired all the sales reps, no one would use it, so there'd be no point in creating it.

    Similarly, if you fired all the secretaries (and they have become very scarce in most organizations), $120K/year engineers and $250K/year executives would wind up doing work that the secretaries could have done, thereby reducing their effectiveness at performing their core functions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "They aren't expected to choose between career and family because they get to choose career without the same level of guilt that women deal with."

    "They aren't expected to choose between career and family because they are forced to choose career or be divorced without the same spectrum of choices that women have."

    There you go,hun. Fixed.

    "Regarding the anon. post at the top: interesting how "all" the women are so worthless, lazy, etc. but the men are paragons of virtue! I still believe the old line "water seeks its own level."

    You may need to have your eyes checked. The statement I made about women is that they won't earn a living to support a man and children, which is neither criticism,rebuke,nor praise, it is a simple statement of fact.

    Why do you think all women aren't supporting men? Because MEN prefer it that way? You don't think men would like to be taken care of,too?

    As I said before,most women WILL NOT do it. I don't have a problem with that at all. That's between husbands and wives.

    And no, we're not gonna support socialism here in aggregate.

    If I am gonna take care of a woman and children, they'd better be my woman and my children. Everyone else can go to hell. Nobody is entitled to money I worked for but me,I'm not going to support single mothers on welfare because they made stupid decisions and messed their lives up.

    Similarly, I wouldn't ask anyone to give my metaphorical children any money because they dropped out of school or were addicted to drugs. That would be my mistake and I am obligated to deal with it, not society.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Zammo - my experiences with my own family growing up, as well as watching my friends has shown me that overall, women do pick up the bulk of the domestic work at home. That's not to say that men do nothing, but it is interesting that when both are working full time hours, when they get home, woman immediately has to get dinner ready. The other big thing is taking care of the children - particularly with younger kids, it does primarily seem to fall to the mother. This why my experience growing up as a children since 1987, and it was also the experience of the majority of my friends.

    i think it's telling that there is still a huge stigma associated with the idea of a stay-at-home dad. My social circle has a lot of intelligent, well-educated guys in it and they all think the ideal would be for them to work and their future wives stay at home with the kids. While there are many women who would also like that ideal, more and more it is viewed with the feeling (at least within my group of girlfriends) that it's not "enough." I know for myself I could never be a stay at home mom.

    My own experience is with a mother who became the primary breadwinner when I was in high school, and has remained the primary breadwinner. She also does the bulk of the cooking (my dad will BBQ and we do BBQ a lot, but my mom is still in the kitchen getting veggies or whatever and preps the meat for him to take out). As well as the cleaning. My dad does occasionally clean the house, but rarely. It usually falls to my mom or now that my sister and I are both home again, one of us. Now anything outside tends to end up being more my dad's domain.

    Like I said - that is my experience, as well as the experience of my peers. I can't speak for what the new younger families of the 2000s are doing though. Perhaps there is more a shift with that group than in the generation I've grown up in.

    I also do think there is far more social stigma that women can face regardless of what choice they make in terms of career or family, if they appear to choose one over the other. No matter which they decide on, there will be some amount of criticism of "why didn't you do the other." It's very a much a damned if you do, damned if you don't. That's the pressure myself and my girlfriends feel. We've talked to the guys in our group about it and they don't feel they have to pick one or the other they same way we do.

    Also - the hate on for socialism is baffling to me. Maybe it's because I'm from Canada and I've always had free healthcare. But to be honest with you? If you look at Sweden as an example they are a very strong welfare state. They support families. They pay for the university education of their citizens. Free healthcare, etc. Yes they pay high taxes. But here's the other thing - they have a very low poverty rate. You don't see homeless people out on the streets there hardly ever. I lived there for a year and only ever saw a small handful - even in the big city centres they aren't there. And Swedish families seem to really have the ideal partnership from what I've observed because their jobs/careers are more flexible so they can have it all.

    Europeans, in general, have more vacation time, work less hours for the same or even more money in certain fields and seem to enjoy life a hell of a lot more because they can actually relax.

    The cries of socialism always make me laugh to be honest. I've grown up in Canada, spent a lot of time in the USA because that's where my mom is from and I have dual citizenship. I also spent a year in Sweden. From all I've seen, I'd like to have the Swedish system if I could.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Reformed Tomboy:
    Europeans, in general, have more vacation time, work less hours for the same or even more money in certain fields and seem to enjoy life a hell of a lot more because they can actually relax.

    They also have a worse marriage strike problem than we do and are less productive.

    Using Sweden as the model we should follow is particularly absurd, because it is the poster boy for out-of-wedlock births and the death of marriage:
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp?pg=1

    ReplyDelete
  11. David:
    If a company fired many of its sales reps, at the same time its competitors fired many of theirs, there likely wouldn't be any problem at all, or else it could reorganize in a way that would diminish the problem. Perhaps it could put that money into R&D or something, to improve the actual strength of its product line.

    One thing is for sure: companies currently hire more women, and pay them more, than the law of supply and demand would dictate on its own. The huge influx of women into the workplace over the past four decades didn't just happen all by itself suddenly. It's the result of a series of government interventions (eg "equal-opportunity" and "equal-work-for-equal-pay" laws) deliberately designed to skew the marketplace in such a way, through incentives and disincentives, as to get companies to hire more women and pay them higher salaries.

    And that's not even counting the many female jobs that don't even aid in a company's production indirectly, or that even directly suck up the wealth created by productive jobs (most government jobs, for instance, that are funded by tax money). That now-infamous "The End Of Men" article that grerp linked to even admits this trend indirectly, when gloating that men are becoming "irrelevant" because the US is switching from a production-based economy to a service-based one. Of course, that's bunk. You can't eat, drive, wear, or live in a service. We're just as production-dependent as ever. The switch to a "service-based economy" doesn't make men irrelevant. It just means that while our men fall increasingly behind, we'll be more and more dependent on the wealth produced by men in other countries, and have less and less to trade for it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Reformed Tomboy

    In order to have a Swedish healthcare system you need the Swedish population.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well said! Men mostly behave because they still live under the illusion of the American dream, the idea that someday their hard work and good behavior will pay off. Keep stealing more and more from men, and eventually, they're going to break, and go full thug, and that's not a happy world for anyone...

    ReplyDelete
  14. As a man, I think that I will avoid all of these women who have illusions about who does more home maintenance and such, and avoid all of these women who are sullenly keeping score on every event so that they can cheer over every momentary appearance of a victory for "team woman".

    I'll remain single and keep all my money and use my extra time to do things that entertain me.

    After 40, sex is less important, and the women generally lose their looks, so it all works out.

    ReplyDelete