Women have gained this latest bit of ground mostly because men have lost it — 78 percent of the jobs lost during this recession were held by men. So not only is it unseemly to rejoice over a larger share of a smaller pie, it is also unsettling to face the fact that so much of the history of women in the workplace (both their leaps forward and their slips back) is a reaction to what was happening to men.
Look, it’s not that I can’t appreciate the statistics. Clearly men are losing jobs. Middle class and low-income American families are really straining. Women and men’s workforce participation is inextricably linked, along with their gender roles within the home. No doubt about it.
But why must we belabor these issues–economic decline, job loss–through a sex/gender dichotomy? He suffers vs. she gains is not the most compelling lens within which we can understand the current economic crisis or changing culture in the American workforce. Nor is it the most nuanced. In many ways, it feels like a large distraction from some of the more pressing issues that this economic moment presents: corporate conglomeration, class disparity, wealth accumulation and preservation, the lack of state and federal safety nets for the average American etc. etc.
There’s some heavy analysis and powerful argumentation to be made. Instead we’re raining all over the small and humble parade by feminists excited that women’s participation in the workforce is nearing 50%. Ugh.