The XX Factor

The Recession Did Not Make Gender Roles More Fluid

Last year when data first emerged about how men were experiencing job losses at far greater rates than women, some feminists wondered if it might mean more gender fluidity for men, who might be more willing to be stay-at-home fathers. In a piece about how the recession affects family relationships published in Slate last February, Emily Bazelon didn’t think that men would be so quick to relinquish their gender roles, quoting a study that showed that unemployed men “spend more time sleeping, watching TV, and looking for a job,” rather than helping out around the house or with child care. In today’s New York Observer , Irina Aleksander offers a peek into a New Jersey-based group for men who lost high-paying jobs in finance and accounting, founded by a life coach named Paul Anovick, called Men in Transition. Her article confirms Emily’s earlier suspicions.

These men still define themselves through work, or lackthereof. One group member, Steve, 44, a former director of business development at a marketing firm, says he was reluctant to join the group. “I didn’t want to come at first. … I guess it’s a guy thing. I originally called it ‘miserable men,’ because I thought that’s what Men in Transition was: a bunch of guys who were talking about how miserable they were. I didn’t want to be with a bunch of losers. Nothing personal.” To be unemployed and talking about your feelings means you’re a loser, Steve is saying. Nothing personal! Aleksander is sympathetic to these men-it’s impossible not to be; they’re going through a rough time. But if they were able to define for themselves what being a man means, they might not need a life coach to tell them about how to properly “brand” themselves.