can't we all just get along?
Forbes magazine recently published an article by Michael Noer in which he posits that marriage to a “career woman” (ie, works 35+ hrs/wk, makes more than 30K/yr) is less likely (for the man) to be happy & healthy, and more likely to end in divorce.
His logic isn’t terribly compelling – it’s a number of disparate and inconclusive studies brought together to support a tenuous deduction. And he himself concedes that statistical correlation doesn’t imply causation.
But what interests me is the visceral, savage response from women I’d have thought would have known better. Examples here and here and here.
Luckily, I’m here to help -- so here’s the deal, ladies:
In the first place, some of what he says makes sense. Three examples:
- Specialization *is* more efficient; all else being equal, and assuming both spouses are happy with their role, a household where roles are divided is likely to function more smoothly than one in which both partners try to do everything.
- Going to work every day *will* expose a spouse to more temptations and more opportunities to be unfaithful – doesn’t matter what gender they are.
- A spouse who works will have a wider vision of the world, will have a better feel for his/her options, will be more likely to leave a defective spouse for something better.
But the real point is, why do you really care? Should it matter how one gender is graded on a report card designed exclusively by and for the other gender? As pretty as it would be to think otherwise, what’s best (or most convenient) for one gender is not necessarily best for the other, whether in terms of marriage or in terms of fulfillment as a person. Marriage, just like parenthood, requires quite a number of compromises of what we might consider to be “ideal” for either person individually.
Remember the thing about The Perfect Day, Male vs Female? Synopsized, the woman’s perfect day involved shopping, being pampered, beautified, admired, etc. The man’s version involved sex, food, sports, and naked women bending over as they served him things. Yes it’s a broad brush, but face it: a woman’s idea of a “perfect” husband is NOT a man’s idea of being a perfect and fulfilled person, and it doesn’t work the other way, either.
When you get upset at the idea that a career woman isn’t a man’s idea of an ideal wife, you’re buying an entire context – that marriage is about convenience for the husband – that last time I looked, feminism had rejected. That is, you’re trying to have it both ways – that you can have a career AND still make marriage the cozy haven for your husband that somebody somewhere said it’s supposed to be. You can accept the idea that a two-career marriage is harder to succeed at than a traditional-role marriage without viewing that as an indictment of career women as long as you don’t also buy that the woman is the one who’s supposed to give up her career and stay home.
Consider one of the items listed above, which I consider very reasonable: Going to work every day will expose a spouse to more temptations to cheat. How does this not make sense? The following statements are probably both true:
- If you marry a career woman, she’s statistically more likely to cheat on you.
- If you marry a career man, he’s statistically more likely to cheat on you.
If you accept that, does that mean working women are somehow responsible to stay home because of it? To get angry or take it personally suggests that you’re accepting the idea that
a) a working husband is the normal state of a marriage, and
b) a wife working should have no effect on a marriage in that context.
Which doesn’t seem a very supportable position to me.
It strikes me that rather than
a) ignoring the article since it’s so entirely male-centered, or
b) acknowledging its truths and arguing against Noer’s over-broad conclusion
the women who are so offended simply read the article, heard the message “because you work, you’re not a good wife” or possibly "women shouldn't work" and went immediately to FEMCON 5. It’s exactly this kind of emotional reaction that makes some men* want to pat women on the head, smile indulgently, and say gently “There, there, Sweetie – just don’t worry your pretty little head about it…”
*but not me, he said hastily