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SCROLL through the titles and subtitles of recent books, and you will read that women have become “The Richer Sex,” that “The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” and that we may even be seeing “The End of Men.” Several of the authors of these books posit that we are on the verge of a “new majority of female breadwinners,” where middle-class wives lord over their husbands while demoralized single men take refuge in perpetual adolescence.

How is it, then, that men still control the most important industries, especially technology, occupy most of the positions on the lists of the richest Americans, and continue to make more money than women who have similar skills and education? And why do women make up only 17 percent of Congress?

So begins this excellent piece in today's New York Times, penned by Stephanie Coontz; I've not been familiar with her prior to now, but as I just got my subscription to the Times last week, hopefully that will change. As you might expect, it does discuss the glass ceiling - but it also points out what I like to call the gender ghettoification of certain roles as women become more heavily involved in them.

What I like best about this article is the fact that it does something I rarely see mentioned in feminist articles which make it to the mainstream - it discusses in brief the damage done to men by male gender stereotypes as well. While that may seem old hat and all, I am amazed at how many of my peers here at school - especially lady peers! - who are self-identified liberal believe that feminism is about being pro-woman, rather than pro-equality. As a new member of the Women's Law Society, I've even seen it in some of my fellows there. So it is a part of the message that bears repeating, alongside the glass ceiling.

According to a 2011 poll by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans now believe that a college education is necessary for a woman to get ahead in life today, but only 68 percent think that is true for men. And just as the feminine mystique exposed girls to ridicule and harassment if they excelled at “unladylike” activities like math or sports, the masculine mystique leads to bullying and ostracism of boys who engage in “girlie” activities like studying hard and behaving well in school. One result is that men account for only 2 percent of kindergarten and preschool teachers, 3 percent of dental assistants and 9 percent of registered nurses.

The masculine mystique is institutionalized in work structures, according to three new studies forthcoming in the Journal of Social Issues. Just as women who display “masculine” ambitions or behaviors on the job are often penalized, so are men who engage in traditionally female behaviors, like prioritizing family involvement. Men who take an active role in child care and housework at home are more likely than other men to be harassed at work.

Men who request family leave are often viewed as weak or uncompetitive and face a greater risk of being demoted or downsized. And men who have ever quit work for family reasons end up earning significantly less than other male employees, even when controlling for the effects of age, race, education, occupation, seniority and work hours. Now men need to liberate themselves from the pressure to prove their masculinity. Contrary to the fears of some pundits, the ascent of women does not portend the end of men. It offers a new beginning for both. But women’s progress by itself is not a panacea for America’s inequities. The closer we get to achieving equality of opportunity between the sexes, the more clearly we can see that the next major obstacle to improving the well-being of most men and women is the growing socioeconomic inequality within each sex.

Well-worth reading and sharing. Especially to those of us young adults; it is an article that is not 'scary' to those easily made timid about the prospect of equality, and briefly but honestly engages the reader in a quick look at the facts. Of course, I doubt Allen West would ever read it, unfortunately...
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Comment Preferences

  •  This is something that I've said a lot (6+ / 0-)

    When we assign rigid gender roles to men and women, both lose out.

    It is not fair that men are raised to be aloof and unemotional and it's not fair that women aren't allowed to be.

    We do a disservice to both genders when we claim something is "lady-like" or "manly."

    I'm glad my nephews don't squirm when a woman mentions her cycle, and I'm glad they can hug the people they love without feeling emasculated.

    And I'm glad my nieces can kick ass and be assertive and stand up for themselves.

    It's not a lose/lose. It's a win/win.

    "...and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love...then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream." ~ Michelle Obama

    by BoiseBlue on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 08:06:15 AM PDT

  •  We are well past the time we should be (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ConfusedSkyes, Loquatrix, rserven

    transcending traditional stereotypes for what we consider to be male, and female roles, or masculine and feminine behaviors, and characteristics.

    A few decades ago, one of my transgender friends mentioned a book called Brain Sex, which analyzed how overly simplistic these binary distinctions are.  

    Just as a start they introduced five or six dimensions of gender, and sexuality, and pointed out that none of them were even reducible to simple either/or distinctions, not even genotype, where in addition to XX, and XY, chromosomes, we have XXY, XYY, XXXY, broken fragments etc.

    Then, in terms of phenotype, numerous physiological syndromes can influence, or disrupt development leading to visible intersex conditions occurring in 1/2000 births, and many more not detectable until puberty, if ever.

    Then, we get into sexual orientation, gender identification, affectation, expression, and others that I can't even remember.

    One of my TG friend's pet gripes, long ago, is that in those days, the psychological and sociological screening filters for transexuals (should this have two "s" sorry I cant remember) seem to her to be founded on the presumptions that one could be allowed to go from one traditional gender stereotype to the opposite if one were a "primary transexual" but, discouraged if one were a secondary (starting after puberty) where one could not as "successful" achieve the opposite stereotype.

    But, that was back in the day when the "trans" in transgender  was interpreted as mean "across" as in from one sexual stereotype to the opposite.  My understanding is that now, the trans is more frequently interpreted to mean "going beyond" as in transcending traditional gender and sexual stereotypes. (I suppose a cynic might add, "for new broader more inclusive stereotypes.)

    Perhaps, one day we well get to a level where we notice and relate to people as the unique individuals we are, rather than a members of a oversimplified abstract gender and sexual categories we have a part of our own intellectual constructs?

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:02:57 AM PDT

  •  The culprits are the impractical incompetents (0+ / 0-)

    whose lack of productive talents forces them to rely on the gift of gab to extort what they need for themselves from those who can provide. There are, indeed, makers and takers. However, the takers, for whatever reason, seem not to realize that their demands are not what initiates action -- that giving orders is not what gets things done.
    I don't think having to rely on the gift of gab is a gender-based thing.  More likely, there's some disconnect which keeps some humans from understanding process and so, by default, they resort to directing others.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that classical economic theory proceeds from the assumption that production -- i.e. the transformation of matter into useful things -- is prompted by demand, rather than the creative talents with which man, the tool using animal, comes equipped. That demand is the initiator is consistent with the perspective of the myopic suckling, which concludes that his sucking on the teat is what produces the milk to satisfy his need (the pangs of hunger in his tummy).
    That other people must be coerced to give up their goods is a juvenile attitude. That it persists in some people may well be a consequence of some shared characteristic at birth. All sorts of prenatal or perinatal insults could account for it, including malnutrition or what we call a "difficult birth." We do know that forceps deliveries can have permanently damaging effects. Chronic conditions such as diabetes or tuberculosis or other pulmonary conditions may have resulted in disabilities that aren't necessarily obvious.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:09:32 AM PDT

  •  This seems to be a fashionable topic of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ConfusedSkyes, BoiseBlue

    conversation at the moment.  I've just read an interesting article in The Guardian by Hanna Rosin about The End of Men.

    I do hate the way these conversations generalise men and women.  No discussion that has as its premise the idea that  men and women are "hardwired" for certain character traits and certain roles can ever be scientific, simply because examples that confound such "rules" are ten-a-penny.  I have often found myself saying, "Gosh, I'm just not a woman after all, then!" because I recognise almost NOTHING about myself in lists of what are supposed to be "female" traits.  And I have many traits that are typically thought of, by the "hardwiring" school, that would seem to make me a man!

    But one generalisation I can agree with is that women have, on average, been better at envisaging expanded roles for ourselves.  We have determined to have the things that men had traditionally kept exclusively for themselves -- education, jobs, financial independence -- but there has not been an equivalent determination among men to make reciprocal headway in territory that has traditionally been women's.  There has been no equivalent upsurge in men wanting to become primary school teachers or nurses, for example.

    This goes to your point about the damage done to men and boys by male stereotypes.  Men see teaching, nursing etc as low status and low paid, therefore it's women's work.  Any man wanting to go into such a role becomes a figure of fun to other men -- the movie "Meet the Parents," in which the lead male character is a nurse, is an excellent fictional example of the condition.  Men's own commitment to outdated stereotypes of "masculinity" hold society back just as much as their outdated stereotypes of "femininity" (and I put those words in inverted commas because they mean so utterly little, to me, in practice).

    If men perceive themselves to be "in decline," I would merely exhort them to be more imaginative about the role a man can play, exactly like women have done since time immemorial (and certainly since the advent of the Pill) to broaden our role beyond child-rearing and housekeeping.  Any man feeling his role is "in decline" needs to remember it's adaptability that prevents extinction.  Men need to do better at adapting to a post-industrial economy, and they could make a very good start by dumping these traditional ideas of "masculinity" that hold so many of them back from happiness and fulfilment.

    •  Well, I don't think this article starts with the (0+ / 0-)

      idea that our 'gender mystiques' are biologically predetermined. I'm not sure if you were directed that as a general critique or a specific one.

      The difficulty in men grasping feminine things is based on our complex cultural understanding where most things feminine are weak; it's easy for people of power to understand wanting to 'advance' yourself. It's not so easy to understand wanting to 'weaken' yourself. In a textbook example, my mother often exhorts me to 'be a man', even as she's long dropped most of her charges against my sister to be more lady-like. The ability for women to have socially acceptable moments of weakness is, I think, a big source of strength for them. Few people are healthy and happy being 'always on' in rigid mode.

      •  The "gender mystiques" is from Hanna Rosin (0+ / 0-)

        and the article in the Guardian I had just read.  She seems to take it as biological fact that we are all "hardwired" to some extent, which strikes me as total bollocks, quite frankly.  There can be no "hard wiring" otherwise it would be impossible for me to have both an X chromosome AND all these apparently "masculine" traits that make up my personality.

        The ability for women to have socially acceptable moments of weakness is, I think, a big source of strength for them.
        Too much of a generalisation; you're trending into "hardwiring" territory when you reckon all women derive strength from, say, the knowledge that they can boo-hoo in public and expect a positive outcome from it.  If it's womanly to be "weak", then once again I'm apparently just not a woman after all!
        The difficulty in men grasping feminine things is based on our complex cultural understanding where most things feminine are weak
        Complex?  Sounds pretty simplistic to me!  Feminine = weak, right?  The only complexity arises in defining what is meant by "feminine" because as we've established, it is entirely subjective.
        •  I don't think it's hardwired at all. (0+ / 0-)

          And I mean things much more diverse than simply having a cry. And it is complex, because there are situations in which we do assign a role of power or authority to stereotypical femininity, and/or fear it. The 'femme fatale' in the arts is partially playing up on said fear; her common coupling to the male lead an almost ritualistic loss of her fatality and a sign of her 'taming.'

        •  As a quick, off-the-cuff example: (0+ / 0-)

          Being warm, huggy, sunny, cheerful - those are traits generally more acceptable for a woman than a man to display in professional life. They are signs of 'weakness' of a sort, but they are very much a strength. I have been criticized by bosses who thought they were doing me a service.

          •  You're letting men stereotype you. (0+ / 0-)

            If only you were a woman, you would have learned to laughingly confound all that crap by now.  :)

            And now, I am late for my date with Sunday Ticket and the NFL simply cannot run properly without my undivided attention.  Thank you for the thought-provoking discussion.

            •  I'm glad to oblige, but... (0+ / 0-)

              I am kinda slightly offended that you mistook my negative example of how the screwed up "female = weak" creates odd outgrowths where female doesn't equal weak through really weird twists of chauvinist sexuality, and told me that it was because I was thinking with my penis. :(

              •  Thanks for the clarification. (0+ / 0-)

                The simple fact is, so much art is produced by men for other men -- movies are the epitome of this phenomenon -- and therefore it is unsurprising that these fantasy representations of females are so often so utterly stereotypical and so irrelevant outside the context of their sexual relationship with the male lead.

                Things are starting to change, thankfully.  There will always be an audience for the traditional "Strong Male Lead / Beautiful But Feisty And Ultimately Conquered Female Supporting Role" formula.  It's a popular male fantasy, and male fantasies sell box office tickets, so these stories will continue to get made.  You just go through life hoping most men aren't dumb enough to believe what they see in the movies, whether that be a damaging female stereotype or indeed a damaging male one (just to bring it back around to your original point about gender stereotyping).

  •  women have more choices than men (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think that society tolerates nonconformity more when a woman does it and a feminine mystique might actuallly contribute to that.  If you take the position that it doesn't matter what women do, then logically you won't control it as tightly or punish deviation as harshly.  Even in less progressive societies, it could be acceptable for women - especially young single women - to work outside the home.  Women are allowed to be "failures" by male standards: allowed to be taken in, allowed to be taken care of, allowed to be passive, allowed to ride on someone else's coattails, and allowed to claim what someone else provides as their own ... and be praised for it.

    Men aren't allowed to adapt because society places so much importance on what men do and why.  Ambition, competitiveness, acquisition, and the exercise of power are fundamental to virtually all societies' ideas of masculinity; only the specific methods differ - from hunting and war in "primitive" societies to vulture capitalism in our society.  Men who don't - or more likely can't - live up to that are seen as failures, but unlike working women who can be tolerated as waiting for a prince to take them away, men are not given any socially acceptable way to assume a passive and dependent position.  Men are not allowed to be saved by a woman or anyone else.  Men who cannot carry their own weight at the very least are seen as liabilities to be "toughened up" or jettisoned, while all the help goes to the men who don't need it in the belief that they're more deserving of it.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 10:52:10 AM PDT

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