Friday, August 25, 2006

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:

  1. If you marry a career woman, she’s statistically more likely to cheat on you.
  2. 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

13 Comments:

At Fri Aug 25, 06:42:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a Dr. Laura moment or WHAT!!!

 
At Sat Aug 26, 09:19:00 AM PDT, Blogger Lisa said...

Great blog, Bryan. I think part of the female reaction has to do with guilt. I don't know any man who is consumed with guilt for working full time away from the home. But MOST women I know who work full time outside the home have a fair amount of guilt about it, and this article taps right into that feeling, hence the crazy reactions. Why the guilt...? I'm waiting with bated breath for your blog on that one!

 
At Sat Aug 26, 10:43:00 AM PDT, Blogger Left Coast Sister said...

Interesting post, bryan. i agree with Lisa, somehow women feel guilty regardless of what they do... I feel guilty for not bringing a paycheck into the bank every two weeks. Like you said, all marriage is compromise... regardless of who's working, who's "fulfilled", who's anything. As to the whole, "greater opportunity to cheat" idea, I disagree. If you are a cheater, you'll cheat even if you live in a basement and work from your computer and never leave the house, you'll find a way. so bottom line: it ain't easy and nothin's 100% fail-proof.

 
At Sat Aug 26, 02:36:00 PM PDT, Blogger Happy Mask Saleswoman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sat Aug 26, 11:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger jay are said...

good post, good points made. Over-reacting is a full-time job. A lot of hard work, ya know. Just doesn't always pay very much.

 
At Sun Aug 27, 06:34:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Just a couple of observations:
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.
Actually, I don't think either of these statements are true--I don't have any stats to back me up but, then, neither do you. Also, I think that the women who may feel guilty about having a career are the ones with children.

 
At Mon Aug 28, 08:37:00 AM PDT, Blogger kat said...

Having perused your links, I think it's worth pointing out two facts: The first link led to the counterpoint article posted BY FORBES when the editors realized that Noer's piece was infuriating people. There's nothing visceral or savage about it. And the second two links led to two articles (and yes, one of them is mine) that were really, obviously satirical-- pieces in which the main point was not the article's seemingly misogynist slant, but its stupidity. Is it really so hysterical or out of line to be irritated that Noer plucked information from studies that drew general conclusions about both genders, and then twisted it to pretend that it applied only to women? I mean, really???

So, does "it matter how one gender is graded on a report card designed exclusively by and for the other gender?" No. But it does matter that one obnoxious guy wrote an obnoxious, poorly-researched article, and that Forbes (which had to be well-aware that it would piss people off) went ahead and published it. People who do dumb things in the public eye ought to get made fun of. And that, rather than "visceral and savage" women "who ought to know better", is what's driving the backlash.

 
At Mon Aug 28, 11:22:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

thx for comments, all.

unca,
understanding that neither of us necessarily has data, i'm still interested in why you feel those statements are not likely to be true.

kat,
i'll cop to some hyperbole (ie, "vicious and savage"), but then, i think i'm in good company; two women i linked to -- including you -- mentioned vomiting, and your post *is* entitled "Forbes Fury"...

 
At Mon Aug 28, 06:55:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Here's another blog post that questions the article and in particular the intepretation of the stats.
http://www.pobronson.com/blog/2006/08/response-to-forbes-dont-marry-career.html

 
At Sun Sep 03, 08:57:00 PM PDT, Blogger Stephanie said...

Bryan,

Sorry, but you were completely out to lunch on this one.

You're also showing some...ummm...unconscious sexism on your part by labeling women upset by this story as "emotional" and "overreacting," and then offering your own "improved" analysis in the most patronizing tone.

You then end your piece saying that we outraged women are bringing it upon ourselves that men will pat us on the head indulgently when we get "upset" over piece's like Noer's. NEVER MIND THE FACT that perhaps those women writing those pieces in their blogs weren't writing for MEN anyway?

But let's get back to your "superior" male analysis. You go into a whole tangent that the perfect ideal of men was to have a naked woman bending over them serving them things, and thus, we shouldn't be upset that this guy is basically saying this using statistics to do this.

First off, I just had a conversation with some guys last night, who actually told me that there is a generational gap with men and younger guys in fact are interested in women's PERSONALITIES...and not looking for dumb bimbos. So maybe you can include yourself in wishing that you have a harem slave as your partner, but don't speak for all men.

You also say:

"Should it matter how one gender is graded on a report card designed exclusively by and for the other gender?"

Yes, it should matter, when the publication is Forbes, which is supposed to be a magazine about business for businessPEOPLE. Not just businessMEN. And that's the crux of the issue for me.

Last I checked, Forbes was not the businessman's version of Maxxim. Last I checked, Forbes was supposed to be a place where I could get intelligent reporting and analysis of business and financial news.

Last I checked, the purpose of Forbes wasn't to have some male editor out of the blue bitchslap me, the female businesswoman reader, telling me that I make a crappy choice for a spouse based on some data he misinterpreted.

I, as a businesswoman and careerwoman, am a significant part of Forbes's readership. The magazine is not supposed to be offering sexist dating advice for bitter old baby boomer men who still haven't learned to deal with women's lib.

Now, I want you to consider how you might have personally responded if a woman had written something along these lines:

Don't Marry a Man Who Works as a Consultant and Travels a Lot

...since...that will lead to divorce. She then goes and cites a whole slew of examples as to why you would make a crappy husband based on your choice of career.

I'm sorry if that's getting slightly personal here, but I hope you can understand why, then, such an article was completely inappropriate and should never have been published in Forbes in the first place.

Maxxim or Playboy would have been a better venue for it - and while I'd still be fuming at the sexism in the piece - at least it wouldn't be smacking the face of the magazine's readers then.

 
At Sun Sep 03, 10:16:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take that and that.....fttttt.

 
At Tue Sep 05, 10:03:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

Now THA’S what I’m talkin about! Excellent points, articulated well. And since I admire your comment so much, I’ll try to give [parts of] it a worthy response…


You're also showing some...ummm...unconscious sexism on your part by labeling women upset by this story as "emotional" and "overreacting," and then offering your own "improved" analysis in the most patronizing tone.


You’re absolutely right, and thank you for noticing. It *was* patronizing, and in exactly the way you describe. The only thing you’re not correct about is the “unconscious” part – I acknowledge and embrace my sexism, as it was painfully and reluctantly acquired over a long period of time. And what I write is sometimes a reaction, and sometimes meant to elicit a reaction, and is not always a perfect encapsulation of my most heartfelt views.


But let's get back to your "superior" male analysis. You go into a whole tangent that the perfect ideal of men was to have a naked woman bending over them serving them things, and thus, we shouldn't be upset that this guy is basically saying this using statistics to do this.
… there is a generational gap with men and younger guys in fact are interested in women's PERSONALITIES...and not looking for dumb bimbos. So maybe you can include yourself in wishing that you have a harem slave as your partner, but don't speak for all men.


Perhaps I was unclear in making my point, or perhaps you’re not making as strong an effort as you might to understand -- it’s probably more satisfying and fun to believe I’m a dinosaur who just wants a harem slave ;-) -- but just to clarify:
I’m not sure it’s a generation gap – maybe it’s an intelligence gap – but either way, I don’t actually know very many men who just want Betty The Bending-Over Bimbo. For me personally, while I don’t really care if a woman is educated or intellectual, but I *do* require emotional intelligence, and quite a number of personality qualities like self-confidence, flexibility, kindness, zest for life, etc. I want someone who will challenge me, inspire me, stand up to me when I’m wrong, etc -- I nice butt is certainly to be celebrated, but by itself it wouldn’t be enough to keep me around very long.
My point was NOT that all men just want all-boobs-and-no-brains – it was that an exaggerated joke (the Perfect Day thing) highlights an underlying truth: that men and women are different in certain fundamental ways; that those ways inform the question of what they bring and what they get from marriage; and that Noer’s idea of a “better” wife needn’t be taken too seriously since – right or wrong – it’s not a balanced view.


… Forbes …is supposed to be a magazine about business for businessPEOPLE. Not just businessMEN. …The magazine is not supposed to be offering sexist dating advice for bitter old baby boomer men who still haven't learned to deal with women's lib.


I ackowledge that this is an important point. The content of the piece aside, an article directed exclusively to men certainly might make the female readership feel marginalized. And altho its readership is still probably 75% male, Forbes is – as you point out – not Maxxim, nor Cosmopolitan.


… consider how you might have personally responded if a woman had written something along these lines:
Don't Marry a Man Who Works as a Consultant and Travels a Lot
...since...that will lead to divorce. She then goes and cites a whole slew of examples as to why you would make a crappy husband based on your choice of career.


I would think she was presenting a biased opinion that was only part of the picture, just as I do about Noer. But what I think I would NOT do is feel the anger I sense emanating from some women in response to Noer’s article. Annoyance, probably; frustration, maybe; rage, no.
What set me off on this post in the first place is the sense I got that women were
a) incensed (“rage”, vomiting, etc), and
b) not bothering to address the actual points Noer made.
This touched a nerve with me because of my experiences in college, where I felt significant emotional pressure to conform to a certain (80s-feminist) orthodoxy regarding male/female issues. Open discussion, and other modes of thought, were scorned and opened one to accusations of the worst kinds of sexist thinking.
And I *did* conform, lived to regret it; as I got older, my real life experience put the lie to many theories I had embraced, and my reluctance to abandon the ignorant ideas I had accepted cost me in my personal relationships.
I will concede that my reaction has plenty to do with my baggage, just as probably the female response to Noer has plenty to do with collective female history regarding workplace sexism. But the fact remains that I found it heavy with emotion and light on logic; hence the thing about pats on the head.


I'm sorry if that's getting slightly personal here, but I hope you can understand why, then, such an article was completely inappropriate and should never have been published in Forbes in the first place.


Well, I imagine the decision to print it was deliberate and has to do with generating readership, “buzz”, etc; you have to admit that right or wrong it’s an issue that would resonate with a large % of their readership.


Maxxim or Playboy would have been a better venue for it –


Agreed.


… I'd still be fuming at the sexism in the piece


Understood, but I’m not sure why. The title, the subject matter, is inherently sexist. Any article telling one gender how to choose the other gender is going to be sexist -- it can’t be otherwise. By your standard, 99% of the articles in Cosmo are “sexist”, but they don’t make me fume. Why is this? Is it just that you and I are different? What am I missing?

 
At Tue Sep 05, 12:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger Stephanie said...

Hi Bryan,

My response would have been so long, I just created a blog post about it.

Thanks for your comments:

http://www.feelgoodgirl.com/?p=173

 

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