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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Oh Forbes, You Wicked Bastion of Old School Rhetoric

Okay, I know, the topic's been b/flogged to death - not to mention that I'm quite late coming onto the scene (see Toddled Dredge, Hummingbird Mind, Not So Humble, God bless them, just to name a few). But I've read the article and thought about it quite a deal, and I have something to say about it.

When you get beyond the inflammatory headline, Michael Noer presents some interesting and discussion worthy statistics. Of course, he not only fails to address the underlying societal issues, he totally misinterprets them, leaving it at just the shallow and immature surface debate (reminiscent of high school) so predictably continued by Elizabeth Corcoran. “Smart girls are bitchy.” “Boys are stupid.” “Ow! That’s my hair you’re pulling!” The real reason this article deserves attention is that it serves as a perfect illustration of the fallout finally occurring after the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. Cultural change moves at a glacier’s pace (and that would be the before-global-warming pace).

First, some qualifiers, I fall squarely into the category of professional women as defined by Mr. Noer; and I have personal experience with most if not all of the statistics he cites: I have made more than my husband, I almost didn’t have children, I have chosen to stay at home with my children and not work, and I have chosen to work while my husband stayed at home. I have suffered emotional distress in the pursuit of both paths. Currently, I am at least working part time from home as the primary caregiver for my children. My husband is also self employed and works as little as possible in order to spend as much time as he can with the kids, too. So far, we all find this arrangement quite satisfying. We have decided that we’re okay if we maintain our current financial condition for the next few years, or even if we go back a bit – retirement be durned. I’m sure most of the contributors to Forbes magazine would disapprove. Ah, well.

Please note: Mr. Noer lays the blame for these marital problems of professionals squarely on career women. Frankly, there aren’t words for my outrage. My temper is only slightly assuaged by the fact that he clearly has no clue how offensive it is to complain that women aren’t willing to put in a full week at work and keep up with all the household chores and child care, too. Not that this isn’t exactly what many women do, but it seems quite clear to me why they might be getting a bit peeved about it. I can also see why this might give some women pause in considering taking on the responsibility of children. Luckily there are some men out there smart enough to have figured out that it probably isn’t a good idea to come home, put up the newspaper do not disturb sign and expect candlelight dinner and a foot rub from wives who’ve put in just as many hours at the office as they have. Otherwise, the human race might just have had its last boom.

Women are now availed of the opportunity for education beyond Home Economics and Dinner Table Etiquette and the resultant more intellectually challenging and satisfying careers. This is really good as it takes two incomes to maintain the average standard of living (i.e., 2 car payments, balloon payment on house and/or home equity line, dinner out 3-4 times a week, collection of strappy recognizable brand name sandals in sparkly vivacious colors, tool-time envy gadgetry collecting dust in garage for lack of use). Mr. Noer boils much of the problem down to the lack of specialized labor at home: a dirty house. Now, I don’t know, perhaps I’m missing something here, but I see a pretty simple solution to this that should be more than affordable to these two (childless?) professionals – hire a maid. Put those intellects and dollars to use, people.

Referencing Mr. Noer’s statistics about mothers being unhappy at home with their children, I wonder that it has not occurred to him that many successful career women might be more than a bit unhappy at being forced to make the often unnecessary choice between working and providing appropriate care for their children. And, at least in part, because the role of motherhood is not valued, it is hard to feel productive and contented in the job – I would say particularly for a “career” woman, who has attained some measure of gratification from employment. However, it is an evil fiction that women can’t have careers and children simultaneously. The reason that most women can’t do both is that so many employers are still stuck in the dark ages – greedy, inflexible, and suspicious, trying to wring out that last minute of work and convinced that they’re being cheated – that they needlessly (and stupidly) run mothers out on a rail.

This is somewhat of a separate (but related) rant, but the fact is, our society does not value children. We do not value their care; just look at the lack of status accorded to their caregivers: day care workers with no special skills or training making not much above minimum wage to referee as many children as the law will allow. It is no mistake that motherhood is known as a thankless job. Child care is hard work without much in the way of kudos and practically nothing in the way of support. This society does not value women, either – unless they exhibit the traits and drive historically attributed to successful* men, and preferably a propensity to eat their young (*think about what our society considers success here – it ain’t stay-at-home dads).

To me it seems a no-brainer why women would be more likely to get divorced the more hours they worked. Have any of these supposed social scientists Mr. Noer quotes looked into the division of the home and child care load? I’m not a betting girl, but I’d bet a bucketload that these divorce-happy unfaithful career women aren’t unloading husbands who pull their weight at home. The reality of equality is that we have not yet attained it. I find it quite astounding that the inequity in the balance of labor has gone on as long as it has after the feminist movement – and with so little fuss from said feminists. Even more remarkable, as evidenced by Mr. Noer’s article, the word has not spread to the dead weight sitting on top of the glass ceiling that the free ride on the backs of their wives may finally be ending.


Shannon said...

btw, this is my comment to forbes: While I think Mr. Noer highlights some interesting and important issues in both relationships and business, he does so accidentally. He completely misses the larger underlying problems and Mrs. Corcoran does no better. The discussion at hand is really about equity of the workload distribution and the tipping of the formerly inviolable balance of power into something more fair and, umm, balanced. It is about re-negotiating the relationships between men and women. If you would like to read more about my thinking on this, please read my blog:

12:08 AM  
liz said...


3:33 PM  
bubandpie said...

There was an article in my local newspaper this week quoting the author of Boom, Bust, and Echo who warns that declining birthrates are going to produce an economic downturn. And thought, there's one in the eye for people who think a baby is some kind of luxury accessory for those who can afford it.

The stupid, needless wringing-dry of employees is a pet peeve of mine, especially when I hear stories of law firms that won't hire an articling student over age 35 because they know those students won't be willing to put in the crazy hours. (They won't hire anyone with a dog either - because dogs have to be walked and watered sometimes, which means the employee actually has to GO HOME.)

5:02 PM  

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