sintecho

Are you willing to bring home the dough while your husband/partner bakes it?

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.

3 Comments

karen1

The NY Times piece eally could have benefited from interviewing a more diverse group of women and at least giving a nod to the fact that the "man as breadwinner" archetype is slowly being chipped away.  Why didn't they have any examples ofdriven men who simply make less money?  I felt like every comment in the story showed the worst of each gender.
Since they apparently aren't willing, I have an example:
-Lawyer Friend #1:  When she got married, she worked in the corporate department of a large law firm (she recently moved in-house to a bank). She worked long, stressful hours, but as a result of the paycheck was able to purchase her own condo.  Her husband writes for a trade magazine, and I believe was working from home when they got married.  Both love music (she sings, he plays guitar) and going out to see bands. 
 Their relationship works, I think, in part because their personalities mesh well and they share similar interests.  I also think it helped that my friend was married once before—to a fellow lawyer.  From that failed experience, I think she learned to look for someone who was laid-back to complement her more ambitious nature.
 If you think about it, the best man a successful woman can find is one who's willing to stay home to raise children and tend to the home, because it frees her to pursue her career goals to the fullest.
 
 

NRGlaw

Growing up, I was always told that I could be anything that I wanted to be and that being female wouldn't be a liability.  The people who gave me this sense of confidence (my parents) are the same people who are now pressuring me at 30 to find a man to take care of me so they can have grandchildren.
I see a similar attitude in my 20 and 30 something friends that places value on rich men who allow women relief from the burden of supporting herself.
This article resonated in my mind because I've traditionally dated men who make less money than I do and was MISERABLE dating a man who made more.  I can speak from experience that "ambition" has come directly in the way of the relationships.  Although it sickens me when I hear a powerful woman use "ambition" to disqualify a man, the attitude may more accurately reflect an inability of men to deal with a woman who is more ambitious.
It is certainly a vicious circle but if want our careers, we may need to take it upon ourselves to break the circle. 
If you know any single freelance writers or art teachers who are comfortable being a provider of virtues other than a fat wallet, send them my way!

SNS

Having different career ambitions and desires is exactly why my husband and I are a good fit (we think) - we agree that it makes no sense to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in high-paying (and high-stress) occupations for two people, when I feel we can comfortably live on my six figure salary, freeing him up to pursue a more flexible and less demanding massage therapy degree that will allow him time to compensate, in household chores, child rearing, puppy rearing, community activity, and countless other ways (um, clean kitchen), for my more demanding career.  And this career/activity makes him SO much happier than he was working in a "traditional" career, and I'm SO much happier than I would be working a less demanding job.  We have shared, more important, non-career interests that make us compatible.  Because while I am definitely very much proud and very much absorbed by my career, I do, shockingly, have other outside interests that he and I can share.
 Of course, we have the added benefit of having been together since high school, so we did have a lot of time to work this all out.

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