The XX Factor

Oh, My Poor Boys

I’m not sure Hanna is right that we’re nearing the end of the age of men . It seems to me that we have an undeniable, female-dominant trend in education, with affirmative action for men to avoid 60/40 splits at all kinds of university campuses, but we don’t know yet whether that will one day shatter the glass ceiling for high-level jobs, given that it’s been so exasperatingly difficult even to crack. Will men figure out how to make women work for them forever, no matter how much better-educated the chiquitas are? It seems unlikely; on the other hand, let’s see if those stubborn figures that show women as only 10 percent of CEOs/law firm partners/etc. start to really climb.

I don’t see how it reinforces stereotypes to talk about the shift in the work world that’s led to so many male job losses in the recession, though. In a response to Hanna, Ann Friedman chides her for describing a world in which men don’t often venture into female-dominated professions (teaching, nursing, home healthcare):

Maybe it’s just my feminist idealism talking, but I fail to see why these “nurturing professions,” as Rosin dubs them, must forever be the province of women. Not once does she posit what would happen if we stopped writing articles that reinforced the stereotype that men are best suited to the manufacturing and finance sectors.

The problem here is the facts. Can you think of a female-dominated profession that men have entered in significant numbers? Hanna couldn’t. I can’t either. Friedman seems to confuse the descriptive and the normative here. To describe the actual gender split of the labor market isn’t to advocate that it remain fixed in place.

But yes, let’s applaud the men who wise up and get an R.N. They’re making sure they won’t be obsolete. That’s one piece of advice I plan to give my own sons, whom I felt suddenly worried about when I finished reading Hanna’s piece. Two others: Learn how to be friends with girls, because they will be all around you in your professional lives, if not running the show. And (self-servingly), thank me for being a working mom, and thank your dad for all those end-of-day pick-ups and his general halvesies attitude. Because if we haven’t traumatized you, then you won’t be freaked out when your own partner expects the same from you someday. Maybe you won’t think anything of it. A mom can dream.