Mr. Rebates

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who creates the gender wage gap?

Dec 4, 2010

Here is an excerpt from a comment that Male Matters has circulated widely over the last year or so to address the Paycheck Fairness Act and the gender wage gap:

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband.

If millions of wives can accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives can accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining — all of which lowers women's average pay. They can do this because they are supported by husbands who must earn more than if they'd remained singlewhich is how MEN help create the wage gap. (If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.)

Bear all this — and women's 77 cents to men's dollar that so enrages feminists — in mind as you read the following two reports. 

No kids, no jobs for growing number of wives

 What do you do all day?" is a question Anne Marie Davis, 34, says she gets a lot.

Davis, who lives in Lewisville, Texas, isn't a mother, nor does she telecommute. She is a stay-at-home wife, which makes her something of a pioneer in the post-feminist world.

 Ten years ago, she was an "overwhelmed" high school English teacher. "I didn't have time for my husband, " she says, "and I didn't have a life." 

She presented the idea of staying home to her husband, a Web engineer. "I told him it was something I wanted to do, and he supported it. It was a great relief."

Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," says stay-at-home wives constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years, many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home," he says. While his research is ongoing, he estimates that more than 10 percent of the 650 women he's interviewed who choose to stay home are childless.

Daniel Buccino, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine clinical social worker and psychotherapist, says stay-at-home wives are the latest "status symbols."

"It says, 'We make enough money that we both don't need to work outside the home,'" he says. "And especially with the recent economic pressures, a stay-at-home spouse is often an extreme and visible luxury."

June Cleaver, minus Beaver and Wally

Davis says her life isn't luxurious. "Tuesdays are my laundry day," she says. "I go grocery shopping on Wednesdays and clean house on Thursdays." Mondays and Fridays are reserved for appointments and other errands.

But her schedule also allows for charity work and leisure: reading, creative writing and exploring new hobbies, like sewing.

It's a lifestyle, Davis says, that has made her happier and brought her closer to her husband. "We're no longer stressed out," she says; because she takes care of the home, there are virtually no "honey-do" lists to hand over.

Stay-at-home guilt

"If you told me years ago that I was going to be a stay-at-home wife, I would have laughed at you," says Catherine Zoerb, 27. Yet after the Wichita, Kansas, resident finished graduate school in 2005, she found herself unemployed, childless -- and strangely happy. With her husband's support, Zoerb decided to just stay home.

"I was able to clip coupons, do all the chores and make nice dinners," she says. "I was much less stressed and tense."

But she was concerned, too -- about not using her master's degree in English and how future employers would view her work history. "I worried about gaps in my resume," she says. And there was something else: "I thought about the feminist movement -- all those women who worked so hard so that I could go out and have a good career, and I was kind of saying 'no thanks.'"

Recently, Zoerb took a temporary job at an engineering firm. It will boost her resume, and although the Zoerbs don't need the money, it will help pay down their mortgage. Still, she hopes to return to stay-at-home wifedom soon.

"I'd never say that a woman shouldn't work," she says. "But I don't see what good it would do to work in a job that I couldn't stand, and if I have the choice not to, why wouldn't I take that opportunity?"

Retro marriage, 21st century-style

"Everyone seems to be OK with women staying home when they have kids," says Davis, who currently doesn't plan to have children. "I've actually heard people say that women who don't work are a drain on society."

Don't be too quick to judge, says Haltzman. Women might give up a job to focus on an advanced degree, pursue artistic or creative goals, or deal with health issues.

And that's the forty percent who admit this in our politically correct society which, under feminist influence, generally disdains the word “housewife.” How many feminists secretly prefer the same thing? -Male Matters

Surprisingly, though, Haltzman says the biggest draw is homemaking itself. "Many women I talk to take care of the household seriously, and they want to focus on caring for the home, whether or not it involves children."
Sometimes a wife's desires don't align with her husband's. "I hear frustration from men whose wives choose not to work," Haltzman says, "but only if there are financial stresses. One of the realities is that few men appreciate the scope and difficulties of managing a household."

Kirk Zoerb is an exception: The 27-year-old engineer says he's happiest when his wife is jobless.
"When Catherine stays at home, I feel the house is more together because she has the time to do things like in-depth cleaning and can be more attentive to the garden," he says. "She also has more time to find good deals at secondhand stores, garage sales and at grocery stores." As a couple, he says, "we have more energy and are generally emotionally healthier."

Still, "I don't believe that the woman has to be the exclusive cook, cleaner or shopper, and I don't believe the man must be the breadwinner. I wouldn't mind staying at home while Catherine works!"

Book Review: The Wives of Others
Are stay-at-home mothers putting themselves—and feminism—at risk?

by Rebecca Mead | The New Yorker | April 16, 2007

When Betty Friedan wrote “The Feminine Mystique,” forty-four years ago, she did more than launch a revolution by identifying “the problem that has no name”—the crushing ennui of the modern housewife. She also invited a bit of wordplay that has proved irresistible both to her detractors and to her would-be successors. If “The Feminine Mystique” has acquired the status of a classic, the various iterations of “The Feminine Mistake” have provided something of a barometer of a shifting cultural climate.
In 1967, “Alice in Womanland, or The Feminine Mistake,” by the pseudonymous Margaret Bennett, provided a satirical overview of the condition of the American woman, its chapters on marriage, family, and work framed within an extended allusion to Lewis Carroll—a tactic that, like the lyrics to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” might once have made sense but these days indicates a culture that was on the verge of losing its collective mind. By 1971, the feminist movement was sufficiently well established to merit a parodic counterblast from the humorist Cal Samra, whose own “The Feminine Mistake” was, he claimed, “perhaps the first true masculinist tract since the Koran.” When Judith Posner’s “The Feminine Mistake” appeared, in 1992, it was time for feminist one-upmanship. Posner, a sociologist influenced by the burgeoning New Age movement, argued that those women who had followed Friedan’s counsel and sought to enter the workplace on a par with men had gained nothing but their own subjection to corporate culture, and would do well to cast aside career in favor of personal growth, forming a vanguard for the wholesale reformation of consumer capitalism. “We can even say that the glass ceiling was a blessing in disguise,” she maintained. “Today, women can not only see to the glass ceiling, they can also see through it.”

The latest “Feminine Mistake” (Voice; $24.95), by the journalist Leslie Bennetts, means to be a corrective to such correctives. Just as Posner’s book was conceived as a response to the media phenomenon of the overwhelmed Superwoman (Posner cited a Time cover from 1989 that featured a woman with a baby in one arm and a briefcase in the other, accompanied by the text “In the ’80s they tried to have it all. Now they’ve just plain had it. Is there a future for feminism?”), Bennetts’s book appears amid trend stories like one that was published, notoriously, in the Times in the fall of 2005, in which female Ivy League students disparaged the working-mother model of their mothers’ generation and declared an intention to be provided for by their future husbands as soon as they possibly could.

Bennetts, who is the same age as the mothers of those Ivy Leaguers, is appalled by that attitude. She argues that women must work, even after becoming mothers—not so much because, as Betty Friedan lyrically expounded, “if women do not put forth, finally, that effort to become all that they have it in them to become, they will forfeit their own humanity,” as because a woman without a job or a career will be in dire economic straits if she loses her provider to death, desertion, or debility. Nor should a woman who leaves the workplace when her children are babies count on being able to rejoin it later; her skills may have become unmarketable, Bennetts warns, and her years off will be counted against her. “It’s nice to be at home when your child loses her fourth tooth,” she writes, “but is it worth the price you might pay if your breadwinner dies or divorces you, and you end up losing that home entirely?” The feminists of Bennetts’s youth proclaimed that a woman needs a man the way a fish needs a bicycle; Bennetts’s point is that bicycles get broken or stolen all the time.

She is alarmed that women aren’t taking precautions. Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier; a survey of women who graduated from Harvard Business School in the years 1981, 1986, and 1991 revealed that only thirty-eight per cent of those with children remained in full-time employment by 2001. A poll cited in a recent issue of Psychology Today claims that forty per cent of today’s women would prefer a return to the gender roles of the nineteen-fifties. “Once seen as a quaint relic of bygone times, the stay-at-home mother who depends on a husband for economic support while taking care of their home and children has come back into vogue with a vengeance, as newly stylish as a vintage alligator purse,” Bennetts writes. She has a particularly low opinion of mothers who decide not to work in order to have more time to shop for vintage alligator purses and go to lunches carrying them. Bennetts, like Friedan, concerns herself almost exclusively with the life styles of the well-off, and focusses on professional women or the wives of professionals; but even among women without professional qualifications, she thinks, the decision not to work is a cop-out. “Under questioning, many stay-at-home wives admit they were bored or unhappy with their work before quitting their jobs,” she writes. [For every woman bored or unhappy with her work, I"m certain there are at least two men who feel the same way but don't have the option to quit and stay at home. Far, far more women than men have this option. -Male Matters] Their insistence that they are fulfilled by taking care of their families is, she says, “the socially acceptable cover story” for their failure to find work that they like enough to leave the kids with a sitter for it.

To Bennetts, the new “stay-at-home momism,” as she termed it in the 2005 magazine article from which this book grew, is a kind of nationwide female delusion: “a plague of silence across the land,” she says, with Friedanesque rhetoric. (Elsewhere, she cites a soccer mom turned entrepreneur who likens the divorce and desertion among her peers to “the slaughter of the lambs”—a slightly less inflamed metaphor than Friedan’s description of domesticity as “the comfortable concentration camp,” but along the same lines.) Where Friedan’s interviews convinced her of a pervasive discontent, though, Bennetts finds, and deplores, a pervasive contentment. Interview after interview reveals a woman who seems, actually, pretty happy with her lot, at least until Bennetts sweeps in and points out how terrible things will become if her husband leaves her. (A typical response to a question about plans for the future—“To be honest, I haven’t thought long and hard about that”—is provided by the stay-at-home mother of a two-year-old and a two-month-old, a woman who deserves a medal simply for answering the door to Bennetts.) The response of one woman to the bald question of what she would do if the worst were to happen—“I would get married again”—strikes Bennetts as so absurd as to be barely deserving of commentary, although half of all divorced women remarry within five years of their first marriage ending, and three-quarters remarry within a decade of a split.

To Bennetts, this domestic satisfaction is a travesty. Although she claims that her argument is an economic one, rather than one based on “values,” she believes not only that women have to work but that they should want to. She’s also convinced that working mothers are the best kind that children can have, teaching resourcefulness and independence by example, and demonstrating the virtue of engaging in work that one loves. A baby boomer to the core, Bennetts is happiest when she is quoting exultant, successful older women who have juggled work and child care and have come out the other side saying things like “You know what? I think my kids really benefited.” In her view, “a combination of good child care and an egalitarian marriage” is equal to the challenge of running a household, and she points to herself as a writer for Vanity Fair who works from home and also makes dinner for her kids every night, at least on those nights when she’s not interviewing Jennifer Aniston about being yet another woman who didn’t expect her husband to leave her.

Where Friedan’s book had empathy for the housewives she wrote about, its author finding her own domestic anomie mirrored in that of her interviewees, Bennetts’s encounters with the contemporary American wife have left her hopping with exasperation. “Stay-at-home mothers typically describe their domestic contributions as if there were no conceivable way a woman could manage to work and also to put nutritious food on the table at night,” a typical harangue concludes. The possibility that a younger generation of mothers might reject the boomer assumption that one would want to have it all, let alone manage to do so, is unfathomable to her.

Yet you needn’t doubt the appeal of an egalitarian marriage, good child care, and a job you love to wonder whether the new momism is necessarily the worst choice in the world for women who don’t have those satisfactions. Bennetts dismisses any suggestion that children beyond infancy might do better under the care of their mothers than they do in child care, but she is short on answers for women whose budgets do not stretch to hiring a well-chosen private surrogate. (Her children’s nanny is the second on a list of four women to whom the book is dedicated, after her mother but before her daughter and Betty Friedan.) And she seems impatient with anyone who has failed to find, as she has, the thrill of work, particularly work that grants a certain degree of child-friendly flexibility. (Then again, even a magazine writer who works from home is going to have to leave her baby with a nanny for long hours, unless she hires a nanny who can write.)

She barely considers the possibility that a woman might clear-sightedly find the rearing of her children the most rewarding work she can do, not out of a sense of self-sacrifice but out of a sense of personal fulfillment, a position eloquently characterized a few years ago in the book “Maternal Desire,” by the psychologist Daphne de Marneffe. Nor does she consider whether the flight from the workplace might be a justified rejection of a culture that assumes that parenting can be dealt with in the margins of one’s work life. There is a real economic cost when someone gives up work in favor of being a mother, as Ann Crittenden skillfully outlined six years ago in her book “The Price of Motherhood”; and that cost does, as Bennetts argues, become acute if a woman is unexpectedly widowed or divorced. But to some extent such circumstances can be hedged against with insurance policies and the efforts of a decent matrimonial lawyer. For many women, a contented life of motherhood and homemaking, even given the uncertainties, may offer better odds of satisfaction than the guaranteed stress of unloved work and the difficulties, emotional and practical, of surrendering to another the task of caring for one’s children.

Nor is the defensive crouch that Bennetts recommends likely to enhance a marriage, marriage itself being the epitome of a good-faith enterprise. Bennetts does women a service by pointing out the dangers of financial dependency in marriage, but emotional dependency is at the core of the marital relationship. It is reassuring to discover that this is as true of Bennetts as it is of the stay-at-home wives she interviews: in a recent magazine article, she wrote that she and her husband of eighteen years have “a life so intricately intertwined that I long ago ceased to be able to imagine a separate existence.” The briskness of her mandate (get a job) and the alarmism of her monition (you never know, he might leave you) hardly do justice to the complexity of married life, which encompasses vulnerability in the present and includes the hovering prospect of loss. The best way for a woman to be independent of a man is to refrain from marrying one, which is hardly a solution that Bennetts, her interview subjects, or her readers will find satisfactory. For all her efforts, the time isn’t likely to come soon when the Feminine Mistake can be retired as the name that has no problem.

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