Since “International Women’s Day” was yesterday, I thought I would post something about it today, in keeping with my theme of being right on the cutting edge of late news. And, since my Beautiful Wife is still out of town, I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and I have to leave town in a handful of hours, I’m going to keep my part of the post brief.
James Taranto, editorial columnist for the Wall Street Journal and author of its daily Best of the Web Today feature (frequently referenced by this blogger), though not a die hard Santorum supporter, has been very convincingly defending the candidate’s comments that the fruit of feminism and sexual liberty has had some seriously negative effects on women that go generally unrecognized. He has highlighted the conclusions of others that the “rise” of women has meant the “decline” of men and that the consequences of this have not been all positive as they are often painted.
Yesterday, perhaps in honor of “International Women’s Day” (unlike me, he is not late), he titled the BOTW feature, “The Unchained Woman,” commenting in the blurb under the title, “What used to be a normal family life is now available only to the affluent.” Though I rarely do this, the section is worth quoting here in full, though I hope you will read the entire feature (Taranto’s politics are clearly conservative-ish — it is the WSJ, after all — but his insight and wit is about as sharp as it gets; of course, caveat navita stans.). Here are his comments:
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Susanna Mancini, a 27-year-old lawyer, sent her boyfriend a photo of herself wearing a swimsuit and sunglasses. “Too bad you can’t see my eyes,” she wrote him. “I am so proud of my tough yuppie stare!” And one tough yuppie she was, Reuters reports: “Her professional pride propelled her early career as a lawyer. She was successful and well paid for it.”
That was the late 1980s. Mancini, now 50, married the boyfriend (whom the story never names) and bore him two children. “She kept working when her first child was born and was promoted to a more senior position in Citibank after her second child arrived.”
Eventually, however, her career “succumbed,” as Reuters oddly puts it. In truth, this is no tragedy but a hypergamous happy ending. Mancini left the labor force because her husband was doing so well that he could afford to support the whole family: “She quit in 2005 when her six-digit income was overtaken by his seven-digit one.”
For Mancini, it was a liberation. She tells the wire service: “At that point, it was clear that my wage had become family pocket money. There was a real opportunity to do other things that did not require being chained to a desk.”
An increasing number of affluent women with affluent husbands are casting off the chains of professional work, according to a forthcoming Federal Reserve study that Reuters apparently obtained in advance:
It shows that between 1993 and 2006, there was a decline in the workforce of 0.1 percent a year on average in the number of college-educated women, with similarly educated spouses.
That contrasts with growth of 2.4 percent a year between 1976 and 1992.
The result: the labor force in 2008 had 1.64 million fewer such women than if the growth rate had kept up its earlier trend, slightly more than 1 percent of the total workforce in that year.
“The trend is not limited to top earners,” Reuters notes. “It has been detected among households earning around $80,000 per year.” But $80,000 goes a lot further in the middle of the country than it does in New York or San Francisco. A husband has to be fairly affluent for his wife to be able to afford to stay home: “Only a few households can afford to give up a good second income.”
For women with lower levels of education, the picture is markedly different, as Charles Murray shows in “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” One-income households have become common at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum as well–but because women are less likely to be married at all, while men are less likely to be in the labor force.
Marriage and male responsibility for families were once the norm at all levels of American society. Feminism was supposed to liberate women from dependency on men. Instead it has helped to create a two-tiered culture in which the norm is for women to be “chained to a desk,” but those who hit the jackpot in the mating game can realistically aspire to escape that status. Nice going, ladies. Happy International Women’s Day.
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[OK, Taranto time over; back to me.] I wouldn’t agree that what used to be a “normal family life” with husband working and wife being a keeper at home is “available only to the affluent.” Though it was financially easier on an actuarial salary, my family and I manage to enable my Beautiful Wife to be home and I would hardly call us “affluent.” At the same time, the direction we, as a culture, have taken our society has made it much more difficult for families to do the same, and that is a shame.
The “lib” part of “Women’s Lib” is supposed to stand for “liberation,” but it’s sad that in many ways it has produced the opposite.