There it was in the grocery store checkout line, in all its glory — a Time magazine headline: “The Richer Sex.” The article is a reprint from Liza Mundy’s new book of the same name. What does it mean? That women “are overtaking men as America’s breadwinners.” Ms. Mundy wants you to know why that’s a great thing.
As women have gained more economic clout, she writes, the ways in which women and men “work, play, shop, share, court and even love each other” have dramatically changed. True enough, and the last two on this list should be of particular concern. The so-called rise of women didn’t just change courtship and love. It upended them. Today, a mere 51 percent of U.S adults are married, compared with 72 percent in 1960 — before the feminist movement took off.
This should tell us something about the nature of romantic relationships. When power is misused, love disintegrates. There’s nothing wrong with women in the workplace, but the power women wield at work should be left at the office. It rarely is. Women are bringing their empowered selves home, and no man wants a woman telling him what to do.
Nor do men wish to become more like women — which is what feminist America wants him to do. Writes Mundy, “In the face of women’s rising power and changing expectations, many men may experience an existential crisis. When the woman takes on the role of primary breadwinner, it takes away an essential part of many men’s identity: that of the provider, the role he was trained, tailored and told to do since he could walk and talk.”
Now isn’t that ironic. All the talk about women leaving kitchens revolved around the idea that women’s identities were inevitably eroding from the demands of husbands and babies. Yet here we are forty years later, and feminists think nothing of taking away a man’s identity.
Mundy saysbreadwinning wives go to “great lengths” to avoid emasculating their husbands — particularly if they stay home with the kids. These wives assure their husbands that taking care of the house and children, including planning, shopping, and cooking for the family, is a task equally worthy to theirs. Then Mundy adds this: “The ability to generate income is not the only measure of value.”
Really? You don’t say? That’s an excellent observation, Ms. Mundy — but also an ironic one considering feminists have been chomping at the bit to get out of performing such equally worthy tasks for decades. As a matter of fact, Betty Friedan began this whole mess by stating outright that housewives live in “comfortable concentration camps.”
Yet when men do it, childrearing and homemaking become indispensable.
But wives don’t need to pump up their husbands’ egos, says Mundy. It’s okay that men don’t make as much as women. A University of Texas study found that ever since the sexual revolution, there’s been a “huge jump” in the weight men give to women’s earnings. There’s “strong evidence” that a rich woman makes great wife material. That’s not surprising — most men (and women, for that matter) love the idea of having more money.
It’s the flip side, which Ms. Mundy also highlights, that matters: There’s also been a “sharp drop” in the way men view domestic skills.
In other words, after years of listening to feminists gripe about how terrible it is to be at home with babies, toddlers, and bags full of groceries, men have stopped respecting the vital role mothers play in our society. Given this huge (and negative) social transformation, it seems logical to me that when husbands do stay home they would need their egos pumped.
Mundy’s right: The way women and men court and love each other has definitely changed. That’s why we have millions of singles in this country desperately searching for a spouse. It’s why businesses like Match.com, Eharmony.com, Spark.com, and It’s Just Lunch are booming with clients looking to get hitched.
Never before have women and men had such a difficult time getting together. Forty years after it first began, feminists’ fight with Mother Nature has come to an end.
Guess who won?
— Suzanne Venker is the author of The Flipside of Feminism. Her new book, How to Choose a Husband, will be published February 2013. Suzanne’s website is www.suzannevenker.com.