March 25 2013

Role Reversal: Women on Top

Charlotte Hays

A USA Today article headlined “An American Role-Reversal: Women the New Breadwinners” culls some fascinating figures from Census data:

A USA TODAY analysis of Census Bureau data reveals a revolution in the traditional roles of men and women that extends from college campuses to the workplace to the neighborhoods across this nation. Today, when one spouse works full-time and the other stays home, it's the wife who is the sole breadwinner in a record 23% of families, the analysis finds. When the Census started tracking this in 1976, the number was 6%....

Just as telling, wives outearn their husbands 28% of the time when both work, up from 16% 25 years ago. This means the wife is bringing home the bacon — or at least more bacon than her husband — in more than 12 million American families.

One of the takeaways from this article is that feminist activists should quit complaining about the phony gender wage gap. Women don’t need a more intrusive government to get ahead. They are doing it on their own. Time and their own hard work have eliminated barriers.

The second takeway is that however couples divide up their responsibilities, it's up to them. We wish them well. It appears from this article that families are experiencing a new freedom about the roles of husbands and wives. This is a positive development. 

But there are a few caveats. Take this description of Captain Kaththea Stagg:

As a girl, Army Capt. Kaththea Stagg was told that she was too independent and homemaker was the proper role for a Southern girl. She would have none of that. She enlisted in the Army to rebel against her dad, then found that she loved the military.

The implication is that homemakers aren’t independent women. Some of the best-read and most independent women I’ve ever known were homemakers. One, my sister, is also a Southern girl, and a feisty, determined one at that. She taught in the early years of her marriage and then stayed home to raise children.

Captain Stagg’s husband, a stay-at-home father, seems a bit discontent. He says that the moms don’t fully accept him and he hangs out mostly with enlisted guys. He doesn't sound confident about his situation:

"The Army moms treat me like an outcast. They don't know what to think about a guy in their group," Dunham says.

The story takes note of the changes in college enrollment: 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 60 percent of advanced degrees today are earned by women.  We have to worry that men today aren’t doing as well as women.  Psychologist Helen Smith addressed this concern in an IWF Modern Feminist Portrait:

“I absolutely think there’s a war on men. I laugh and cringe every time I see something on the ‘war on women,’” says Smith. Smith, who is also an authority on violent children, is half of a blogging couple—she is married to Glenn Harlan Reynolds, the University of Tennessee law professor known as Instapundit. They live in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she continues to see patients once a week, though she has shifted her focus to writing.

Smith has a book coming out from Encounter Books entitled Male Strike: Society’s War on Men. The thesis of the book is that the deck is so stacked against men that they are “going Galt,” as Smith puts it. The term comes from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged in which society’s productive members went on strike—led by John Galt—because they were being exploited.

“In the case of men, the government and the politicians work in cahoots with women to extract money from men,” Smith says.” And then men aren’t entitled to a lot of the benefits, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program) or a lot of welfare.”

The male strike can take the form of not marrying, not going to college or working at low-paying jobs and taking up hobbies to avoid paying into a system that uses state and federal programs to transfer men’s taxes to women. And taxpayer money doesn’t just go to what we regard as traditional welfare programs. Smith cites the Violence Against Women Act, which funnels taxpayer dollars to organizations staffed by activist women.   

In light of Dr. Helen’s comments, let’s say that, while the gender role-reversal looks fine, we need to keep an eye on the phenomenon. 

We want women to get to the top. We want them to do well. But we want both women and men to be able to pursue careers that appeal to them. 

A stay-at-home father can be happy and productive. But some of the guys in this story did sound a bit wistful.

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