The Feminist Dilemma in a Nutshell

Check out this provocative piece by Alexis Coe in The Atlantic, bemoaning the fact that “Being Married Helps Professors Get Ahead, but Only If They’re Male.”  In a nutshell, it manages to capture many of the dilemmas of feminism in the present day.

At the outset, let’s set aside the “diversity” irony — that is, the fact that female professors often carry a heavier “service” load than their male counterparts. This is in part because “diversity” requires women on each committee, and given their lower numbers, this translates into more hours away from research and writing for female junior faculty. So a preoccupation that’s supposed to benefit women (i.e., keeping an eye on “gender balance”) often ends up disadvantaging them. (Who’d a thunk?!)

Otherwise, the big “problems” as laid out in the piece are that (1) smart women are more likely to marry smart men than vice-versa, and smart men are less willing to want to follow their wives to new jobs; (2) men are more likely than women to have stay-at-home spouses, thereby allowing them to devote their full energy to their careers; and (3) women experience greater demands in parenting than men do.

Modern feminists can bemoan these facts all they want, but until they can: (1) Convince smart women enthusiastically to embrace men who are less intelligent and/or accomplished than they; (2) Force all women into the workplace, thereby shoving at least some unwilling women out of the home and upending the otherwise economically rational decision to let the higher-earning partner maximize (most often) his income; and (3) Figure out a way for men to give birth and experience the rush of maternal feelings that (most often) accompany motherhood, it’s not clear to me how the “root causes” of this gender disparity can be alleviated.

Yes, of course, universities can tinker around the edges, and no doubt they will. But like the “diversity” preoccupation set forth above, such tinkering can often have undesirable, unintended consequences of its own.

What am I missing?

  1. Bryan G. Stephens

    As one of those evil men with a stay at home wife and mom, I can say the arrangement works well for us both. My wife is just as smart as I am. She also loves being a mom, and it great with the kids in ways that I find impossible.

    I have not washed clothes in ages, except for when she was out of town. I call her when I am in Kroger to find out where things are. When we go on vacation, she packs the bags for the kids. I drive the whole way. She cooks dinner for the family, and I clean the dishes.

    I know all of that makes me a sexist pig.

    But, I also cut the grass, and I kill spiders, and I carry heavy things.

    An oh yeah, I support four people on my income.

    So, division of labor. I think Adam Smith had a thing or two to say about that.

    It works for us.

  2. Devereaux

    What you’re missing is that feminism is simply a lie.

    Women ARE equal to men – in only one thing – brains. Even then, how they use those smarts can be quite different. Still, I accept that women can be just as smart, or smarter, than men.

    In pretty much all other ways, women and men are not equal – that is, not the same. Women have a different psychological make-up (thank goodness!), they have very different physical capabilities, and because of those, they often have different attitudes towards goals, ideals, etc.

    Equality is such a nasty word to use in this whole context, in that it is used as  a sword to slash men, whereas reality shows that the simple truth simply doesn’t exist.

  3. Lamont Cranston

    The modern feminists commit–yet again–the Grand Fallacy of the Economists.

    Every Econ 1A class begins with the TA reciting the “utils” joke. The value of a good or service isn’t just the price–it’s the price and utility. Utility can be a synonym for reliability, style, cache, sex appeal–what have you. 

    But, says the Econ TA, we have no way to measure “utils” (chuckle, chuckle), so for purposes of studying economics we will assume that the rational consumer always–always–makes his choices based on price.

    In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. If everyone bought a car based on price, you’d know someone who drove a Dodge. People make career choices to increase utility–happiness–not just cash.

    A tenured university chair is a sweet gig. A dear friend has leveraged her husband’s tenured chair into a career as a “volunteer” 4-H leader and organizer-of-practically-everything-related-to-horses across the state of Pennsylvania. Twenty acre farm, summer home on the lake in Connecticut, (well-deserved) adoration and adulation wherever she goes.

    But…no paycheck.

    Is she a victim of discrimination? Of course not.

  4. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    I’ve long thought that my background in economics helped me overcome the feminist attempts at social engineering. Division of labor is key. There are certain things about being female or male that affect this division (to begin: I carry the child, I recover from delivering the child, I nurse the child, I do it all over again with the next). I’m the one who encouraged my husband not to split 100% of things 50-50. He and I agree, though, that this division of labor makes all of us happier and that we’re much less confused about our roles.

    Although he does gripe a little bit about doing the dishes (I plan and make all dinners and then begin my evening shift of work immediately thereafter).

  5. Israel P.
    Carol Platt Liebau:  So a preoccupation that’s supposed to benefit women (i.e., keeping an eye on “gender balance”) often ends up disadvantaging them. (Who’d a thunk?!)

    Most people seem to say “unintended consequences” when they mean “unforseen consequences.”

    The one implies that nothing could have been done about them. The other usually means sloppy planning.

  6. Tuco

    For the past several years, my wife reads the local (Long Island, NY) marriage announcements, noting an (unscientifically tabulated to be sure) increasing number of women with graduate degrees marrying men with “just” a bachelors or some college.  We think of the education disparity in terms of what their plan will be raising children.  Will marital accord suffer as career goals collide with child rearing?

    We think a significant factor to this is that high schools focus on sending as many kids as possible to 4 year colleges.  Many boys are channeled to academic programs unsuited to their personalities and skills, leading to an unsuccessful college academic experience, enhanced by student loan debt and without a trade skill that can actually provide an income sufficient to raise a family.

  7. Crow

    If you take a look at the voting habits of young women in the past several election cycles especially, and the general trend of our politics of the moment more broadly, you’d be a fool not to think we’re heading toward a European style model on maternity leave type questions.

    Which just calls to mind this thread from two years ago around these parts highlighting this very issue.

  8. Terry Mott

    I think we on the starboard side need to more regularly point out the crass materialism embedded in the never-ending calls for more “equality” coming from port.  Never mind academic-sounding discussions of price and utility.  Just, “Why are you so materialistic?”  It won’t change their minds, but might help others to not swallow the left-wing spin without deeper reflection.

  9. Indaba

    That is old news. Companies want to hire single women or married men. Women choose to look after their children and do less hours because child rearing is what they find to be special. It is not men forcing them home.

  10. Lady Egoist
    John Murdoch:

    But, says the Econ TA, we have no way to measure “utils” (chuckle, chuckle), so for purposes of studying economics we will assume that the rational consumer always–always–makes his choices based on price.

    Hate to nitpick, but that’s not what any economist would say.  Utility can’t be compared across people, but people absolutely make decisions by maximizing utility.  (Prices affect marginal utility to price comparisons, but choices are not based solely on prices.)

    Anyway, as others have said, division of labor is key.  So is demanding reality be whatever the feminists want it to be, as Carol suggests. :)

    My husband and I are academics; the anecdotes and statistics in the article ring true.  But I doubt the situation is unique to (history) professors.  So what?  Why must there be equality in these arbitrary statistics?

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