Listen to your mother. Don’t pay attention to the boy who pulls your braids; he’s just trying to get your attention, she said. Women of all ages seem to have trouble following this rule.
Michael Noer’s article, “Don’t Marry Career Women,” published on Forbes.com was the grown-up equivalent of a pig-tail tug. He warns guys: “Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.” He writes that typical career-girl attributes like being “well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged” are “seemingly good things,” that is “until you get married.”
The article was written to offend. Does that mean that women have to be offended? After all, career women should be confident in their value, both as individuals and as marriage material; they shouldn’t care about the opinion of this man. No woman hoping to wed can seriously think that her boyfriend, reading this advice, is going to dump her to pursue a modern-day June Cleaver.
Yet some women seem to revel in being offended and seized this opportunity. The Huffington Post described it as “blood-boiling misogynistic;” ABC World News dedicated a segment to the article and the ensuing firestorm; and, Forbes received enough negative feedback immediately following the articles publication that they removed the article from the website before reposting it along with rebuttal from a female Forbes writer. And that seems to be only the beginning of the response.
Noer has been called a sexist pig, offended bloggers have caricatured his piece, and women have offered their own advice, like “don’t marry a lazy man.”) Yet no one has seriously taken issue with the statistics he uses to back up his hypothesis.
Working women are more likely to get divorced. They have less time for housework. They are less likely to have kids, and, if they do have kids and choose to stay home, they are more likely to be unhappy. None of this is surprising. In fact, if these stats were cited by a feminist writer, they could be framed as good news for women. One reason feminists urge women to maintain their careers and avoid economic dependency on a husband is specifically so they can more easily exit unhappy marriages. The numbers show that this strategy works.
Responses to Noer’s article also show a misunderstanding of statistics. Elizabeth Corcoran’s rebuttal on Forbes.com, for example, argues that she is a career woman about to celebrate her 18th anniversary of marital bliss, as if this proves his data wrong. But of course there are plenty of happily married career women, a point Mr. Noer himself makes: “of course, many working women are indeed happily and fruitfully married — it’s just that they are less likely to be so than non-working women. And that, statistically speaking, is the rub.”
Career women able to look past the deliberately obnoxiousness might find this information useful. If maintaining a happy marriage is a priority, it’s worth being aware of the potential pitfalls of juggling two careers and a family.
While Noer’s advice is jarring, it makes sense for men and women both to consider their expectations for prospective spouses. Women who want to focus on their careers might want to consider spouses willing to take on more family responsibilities. Women who hope to stay home with kids should also make that clear. While there’s a caricature that all men want their wives to stay-at-home, many husbands don’t want to make the financial sacrifice and would prefer a second income.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem avoids Noer’s bait and sent this dismissive e-mail about the article: “I’m deeply grateful to Forbes Magazine for saving many women the trouble of dealing with men who can’t tolerate equal partnerships, take care of their own health, clean up after themselves or have the sexual confidence to survive, other than a double standard of sexual behavior.”
So Steinem wouldn’t be interested in dating Noer and vice versa. Noer stated his aversion to career women in an unnecessarily rude manner. As with any hair pulling, best just to ignore it and move on.
— Carrie Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.