Increasing concern about the loss of male domination and male earning power in favor of an encroaching matriarchal ruling class may account for the hostility women receive in their efforts to break any glass ceiling. Maureen Dowd’s book Are Men Necessary, as it turns out, was a precursor to other recent entries as The Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys and The End of Men. The latter are both mentioned in Stephanie Koontz’s NY Times article, The Myth of Male Decline. Her excellent piece posits that the plight of male decline is more hand wringing than reality.
As Ms. Koontz states, these books worry over a “new majority of female breadwinners,” “while demoralized single men take refuge in perpetual adolescence.” Yet:
How is it, then, that men still control the most important industries, especially technology, occupy most of the positions on the lists of the richest Americans, and continue to make more money than women who have similar skills and education? And why do women make up only 17 percent of Congress?
Indeed. Ms. Koontz notes that there has been a lessening of “what the sociologist R. W. Connell called a “patriarchal dividend” — a lifelong affirmative-action program for men” …however, men are still very much in charge. In big media, men control the narrative in overwhelming numbers, in entertainment, few films or tv shows are helmed or written by women. Actress Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media repeatedly offers research sharing that girls are not valued as much as boys in our current programming – and they are not represented in accurate, equal numbers either.
Much like another informative article by The Daily Beast’s Leslie Bennetts, Women and the Leadership Gap, the point is that while women are getting more degrees – their higher education and greater excellence is necessary in order to compete in the world of men where standards of hiring, advancement and rewards for accomplishment are still not level. And Koontz points out that our progress has “actually stalled over the past 15 years”:
Women’s real wages have been rising for decades, while the real wages of most men have stagnated or fallen. But women’s wages started from a much lower base, artificially held down by discrimination. Despite their relative improvement, women’s average earnings are still lower than men’s and women remain more likely to be poor.
Today women make up almost 40 percent of full-time workers in management. But the median wages of female managers are just 73 percent of what male managers earn. And although women have significantly increased their representation among high earners in America over the past half-century, only 4 percent of the C.E.O.’s in Fortune’s top 1,000 companies are female.
Koontz also notes that women were hurt disproportionately in this devastating recession. More damaging is that some fields have become even further gender-segregated”
“[T]he percentage of female electrical engineers doubled in each decade in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. But in the two decades since 1990 it has increased by only a single percentage point, leaving women at just 10 percent of the total.
…In 1980, 75 percent of primary school teachers and 64 percent of social workers were women. Today women make up 80 and 81 percent of those fields. Studies show that as occupations gain a higher percentage of female workers, the pay for those jobs goes down relative to wages in similarly skilled jobs that remain bastions of male employment.
…Similarly, a 2010 Catalyst survey found that female M.B.A.’s were paid an average of $4,600 less than men in starting salaries and continue to be outpaced by men in rank and salary growth throughout their careers, even if they remain childless.”
It was also found that there is a bias against working mothers in terms of hiring and earnings capacity:
A few years ago, researchers at Cornell constructed fake résumés, identical in all respects except parental status. They asked college students to evaluate the fitness of candidates for employment or promotion. Mothers were much less likely to be hired. If hired, they were offered, on average, $11,000 less in starting salary and were much less likely to be deemed deserving of promotion.
Koontz shares that “If the ascent of women has been much exaggerated, so has the descent of men.” She states that “male boorishness” is on the decline. Conversely, there is an increase in men helping out at home and more flexible roles in marriage and child rearing, yet men are impeded in making progress in this regard because of strict gender stereotypes for women and men in society:
“Although men don’t face the same discriminatory laws as women did 50 years ago, they do face an equally restrictive gender mystique.”
She tells us that men tend to be marginalized or even harassed at work for adopting the more so-called feminine traits of prioritizing family involvement, child care and housework. So basically women are insulted for being women and now men are insulted if they are “women-like,” too?
The message here is that what is considered feminine is still somehow ‘less than’ or less than respected. Ms. Koontz’s able work in terms of the real numbers in the current work force puts the kybosh on the idea that women are taking over the planet. But theories being espoused by the recent books she notes make clear why women get such a thrashing when they dare to step beyond the status quo, politically or in business.
The myth of the encroaching, emasculating female was played out in mainstream media daily as David Letterman derided Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits, Tucker Carlson called her “castrating, overbearing and scary,” Andrew Sullivan called her Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” and Margaret Carlson and Chris Matthews referred to her as the “domineering mother.” The fear in the recent books Koontz mentions is that as women grow in power, they are turning men into little boys – but isn’t it more accurate to say that those who have irrational fears of being consuming by mommy are actually little boys anyway?
A man who is comfortable in his own skin, who owns his place in the world and his contributions within it is never threatened by a woman stepping up to the plate. Women in their excellence, having an opinion, a skill set and the guts to use them are welcome additions to the debate, not threats.
The male nightmare that bad mommy is somehow going to take away their access to a boys’ toys may account for much of the childish, brutish and bullying narrative we saw in the 2008 presidential election and that we continue to see today. It also accounts for our preoccupation with female appearance. If a woman can be reduced to her body parts, she is a lot easier to control and marginalize.
I’m glad Ms. Koontz mentioned The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, since very title is also troubling — it seems to indicate that women and men are not capable of sharing power. This reflects, among other things, a scarcity mentality in which I cannot succeed unless you fail. And no, every women is not Mommy and every man is not Peter Pan. The truth of the modern world is that family units are more flexible of necessity. One person realizing their full potential is never a bar to someone else doing the same, regardless of gender. This kind of hand-wringing is just more blather to keeps us “wimminz” in line. We live in a co-ed universe. Co-existing and co-nurturing is far preferable to me than this new type of fear mongering designing to do what exactly? Make women feel sorry for men so they won’t strive to succeed?
If women were really turning into a dominant force, at the very least, our representation in the halls of leadership would more accurately represent our percentage in the population — one half, not one sixth.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter’s Rude Awakening, available at Amazon in print and kindle editions. Also available at Barnes & Noble.
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