By sintecho • September 24, 2007•Balancing Private and Professional Life
Editor's Note: As part of Ms. JD's 5th Birthday celebration, we'll be looking back at our favorite posts over the years.
The New York Times had an interesting article this week about the "hostility" and difficulty many professional women now face "trying to figure out how to balance pride in their accomplishments against their perceived need to bolster the egos of the men they date." Since most firm lawyers start out with three-figure salaries, this phenomenon, assuming you buy it, would likley affect many single women lawyers trying to have a dating life in whatever time they can get away from the firm.
The article quotes Stephanie Coontz, research director at the Council on Contemporary Families, stating that “on one hand, [professional women are] proud of their achievements, and they think they want a man who shares house chores and child care. But on the other hand they’re scared by their own achievement, and they’re a little nervous having a man who won’t be the main breadwinner. These are old tapes running in their head: ‘This is how you get a man.’ ” The article mostly talks about how the income disparity manifests itself in consumerism (she hides her shopping bags, so he won't know she can afford such expensive clothes; she wants to go to the opera and nice restaurants and fly business class, he can barely afford dinner at a diner let alone dinner and a movie; she works all the time, he has too much free time and seems "boring", etc.).
The conclusion, though, suggests that women really correlate the lower salaries with "a lack of drive." I found this interesting because it seems to equate "drive" with material success, as though any man who could earn a high salary would do so unless he were less sophisticated, intelligent, or driven than his romantic partner. One woman interviewed about the end of her relationship with a less financially successful man blamed their incompatible goals, stating: "It wasn't the job, it was the passion." Sure, it's true that some men (and women) with low-paying jobs have them because they don't want a lot of responsibility and don't have "drive" for professional pursuits. Surely, though, teachers and police officers and nonprofit workers and artists (the list goes on and on) ostensibly have passion for their work and choose their careers not because they couldn't make more money but because they don't want to. And can't you have passion for something other than a career? Is it so wrong to work a job that you don't really love but that has short hours so that you can spend time doing things you are passionate about (but that don't lend themselves to a lucrative career) like hanging out with your family or hiking or writing poetry?
To me, this article gets at another pervasive signal of continued gender inequality: the burden is still on the men to be the wage earners. We want the right to hold any job a man can hold, but we also want men to continue to hold the jobs they've always held. Shouldn't a result of women's expanded opportunities to break with the social expectations that they stay in the home and work pink collar jobs be that men can also break with social expectations and go after less highly paid jobs that they enjoy? If women can work and earn an equal wage, then why the continued pressure on men to be breadwinners? Even if women earn enough to take on the breadwinner role, this article suggests that many of them aren't comfortable doing so. I think it's important that we as professional women think about how the things we find attractive in men as partners could ultimately undermine the whole women's rights movement.