So excited to kick off our inaugural Sausage and Eggs column! This week we’re going to continue our discussions on gender, focusing on the argument that with women’s career and social advancement has come a decline in men. A book and several articles have come out recently that discussed this issue. Let’s jump on the bandwagon and talk about it too: Has the career and social advancement of women led to a decline in men’s status?
As much as it’s wonderful that women are obtaining a greater percentage of degrees and rising through the ranks in many industries, we women are still playing by rules that men have determined. Despite the fact that according to Hanna Rosin (The End of Men), women now account for half of the workplace, we do not have equality in pay and most jobs and offices have not changed very much from the 1950′s. Or they’ve gotten worse. I’d love to have a 9-5 that paid me well and allowed me to be on the train to Greenwich at 5:30.
We still have not yet had a female President or a large and vibrant female representation in government. There are very few female CEO’s. Good for us that the He-Man Woman Hating club has gone co-ed, but talk to me about the “end of men” when we set the rules because we now own the playing field.
Hello Ms. Manager!
Thank you for kicking off the inaugural edition of Sausage and Eggs. So is my time up and the end of men neigh? Frankly, it’s hard for me to say. I work in an industry that is dominated by females so I haven’t seen many changes in the gender make-up of our corporate structure. Granted I’m a bouncer at Tracy Caldwell’s treehouse and my only task is to enforce the “no boys allowed” rule, but last I heard Tracy was still in charge.
From my friends who do work in the formal/non-treehouse workforce, though, they do say there are an increasing number of women filling up the board rooms. That’s a huge plus, but that glass ceiling is still there. I’m sure as the male CEO gazes down upon his underlings, through the fish tank he had installed as the floor in his executive suite, he sees more and more women one promotion-level beneath him. Yet it still seems that precious few have broken through the glass. It might have something to do with the (wo)man-eating sharks in the fish tank. Or it may be the overarching phallocratic-system that has reigned supreme in the modern workforce for centuries. Either way something’s gotta give at some point, right? Either the edifice of the phallocracy slowly but gently comes tumbling down, or I take a harpoon to those cock-blocking sharks (is there a female equivalent to this).
Now to toss the ball back to you, Ms. Manager, since we seem to agree the End of Man has not yet cometh, how do you see happening? A gradual leveling of the playing field with more female CEOs? Mope Oprahs, less Stedmans? Or is this the wrong way to measure success?
I don’t know why we need to speak in terms of the end of men, rise of women, etc. Except that it’s a great way to sell books and copies of The Atlantic. Here are my issues with the entire social dialogue that we’ve been having since Anne Marie Slaughter’s article came out in the aforementioned Atlantic Monthly.
- As I mentioned before, I don’t think that anyone can speak honestly about the rise of women without addressing the fact that their rise is being measured according to terms and standards that were set for them in a male-dominated society.
- Bully for us that we have more degrees and make up half the workforce. But the onus is still on us to contort ourselves to fit into the matrix that men created when middle class women were childlike barefoot baby incubators, popping Valiums because they couldn’t use the education they got at Vassar.
- Maybe we’re looking at this issue too narrowly and we’ve all settled for doing things a certain way that isn’t good for anyone, much less women.
What will bring about the end of men? I don’t know. Because it seems to me that this sudden fear comes from men who have to actually you know, compete when before they could just exist and float along into some kind of life success. Oh, so now you have to actually make an effort and bring an A-game? That’s what women have had to do for decades so we don’t seem like whiny crybabies when we’re running to stay ahead of the pack, in our heels (because, flats are for quitters and wearing sneakers with your suits is just god-awful), re-applying our lipstick, because women who wear makeup are shown to move up the ladder faster, and carefully parsing our words lest we seem like man-eating bitches because we dared to call one of our male colleagues on his bullshit.
Personally, I don’t want to see the “end of men.” Especially not as a result of my success. I would like to see this male constructed matrix change, because it was based on certain values and ideas of what “the good life” and “success” look like (money, power, women). So if anything, I’d like to see the end of an unhealthy and counterproductive culture, which doesn’t contribute to the real flourishing of either gender.
Oh Juliet, you just had to go and use bullet points! You know like anything Sam Waterston and his sagely unibrow say, I can’t disagree with anything in bullet point form. Not even the most logically impossible of statements. For example:
- This statement is false.
Curses! It’s true and false at the same time! Like a tree falling in an abandoned forest, that kind of philosophical trickery is enough to blow one’s mind–especially that of the crushed lumberjack who felled that tree without his union-mandated spotter. But enough riddles and metaphysical tomfoolery. I find your use of the word “matrix” thought-provoking. It makes me think of Keanu Reeves. And that makes me think of a lot of one syllable words and wonder if I should have majored in drama instead of philosophy. But it also makes me think of The Devil’s Advocate. So allow me to do my best Keanu Reeves and play the role, even if bullet points never lie.
I see where you’re coming from when you say the rise of women “is being measured according to the terms and standards that were set for them in a male-dominated society.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I take that to mean that in order to succeed as a woman in business (with really trying), you need to act like a man. And by acting like a man you mean being uber-aggressive, abusing your underlings if it helps to advance your career, and basically being a promotion-above-all-else ass. Maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but you know what they say about hyperbole: it’s the truest form of expression in the history of mankind.
And more to the point, doesn’t that kind of reasoning venture into the shaky territory of assuming some kind of naturalistic gender roles? That women are sugar and spice and everything nice, and men are, well, dicks. I agree that this cut-throat attitude is probably necessary for advancement in corporate America, but I don’t think it’s a priori something male (thanks for the pretentious Latin phrase, philosophy major!). As a counterpoint, you do have quite the opposite corporate culture in those Silicon Valley companies. There it’s all West Coast relaxed, people roll into work in sandals and tie-dye shirts, sit at their “work pods” in bean bag chairs, and probably have hug breaks instead of smoking ones. Is that more of a female than male work environment? And if so, can you write me a recommendation?
So there you have it. Is this cutthroat corporate culture the product of the (man) matrix? Or if its not, could it just be a gender-neutral one spawned by the nuances and pace of industry itself?
In the gender-normative dialogue the people are represented by two differing stereotypes: the serious and much put-upon straight (wo)man and the funny man who, Ernie the Muppet-like endears himself to the audience. These are our stories. (Cue Law & Order gong)
Since Sam Waterston also plays a lawyer, (smugly, I might add) typically for the prosecution, I will assume the role of Assistant District Attorney. There are cultural roles and identities that feed into this entire mess and are the real problem.
Our cultural tendencies favor dominant, overbearing, douchey-men as the correct way to be male and promote docile, sweet, and submissive women as a feminine ideal. Are there dominant, overbearing, and douchey women? YES. And are there docile, sweet, and submissive men? YES. But since we’ve labeled one as “male” and the other as “female” they appear to be naturalistic. Our American acceptance of the Protestant work ethic tells us that material wealth and success is evidence of God’s blessing. That’s our American dream, right? That you can work really hard and have a lot of stuff and then you’ve justified your existence.
So the dominant, overbearing, and douchey bird who measures his/her success and worth by how comfortable their life is, gets the worm. Since most of the workplace outside the home/farm has been made up of men, who are conditioned to be assholes, unfortunately women, neither douchey nor docile got a say in how it was constructed. But we helped construct it too, by believing that a woman’s highest calling in life was to be a wife and mother and it wouldn’t hurt if you could have a nice house in Greenwich too. Or they’re too busy trying to support their families–because 84% of single-parent households are mothers–to speak up.
So when I mentioned earlier that men now need to actually compete for jobs that they just thought would be theirs with a minimum amount of effort, that might not be a bad thing. It might not be a bad thing that men are forced to find ways to support themselves and their families outside either the corporate or manufacturing matrix. Was it healthy for people to be minimally skilled workers on an assembly line? Is it healthy for people to be cogs in a corporate machine that will spit them out when they’re ready to outsource in Hyderabad? And for what? To have a nice house and a car–things that can and have been taken away at a moment’s notice? Is that really what our entire system is about? Cue MadMen music.
Oh Juliet, you’ve done it again! Last time I couldn’t disagree with something in bullet point form, and now this time you pull the Sam Waterston card. You know I’m too enamored with him to mount a solid counter-argument against his patronizing wisdom. Especially if I’m resigned to the role of so-called “audience endearing” Ernie. I was always partial to Bert in the first place. Something about how Ernie handled that rubber ducky just didn’t sit right with me….
But I digress. I’m glad you didn’t fall into my rhetorical booby trap of admitting there was something inherently male about the take-no-prisoners, scorched earth/boardroom corporate culture. I’m also glad I finally got a chance to use the phrase “booby trap” in a column, especially one about gender roles. More to the point though, as you said, these cultural norms only seem to be naturalistic because they’re so tightly sewn into the fabric of our society they seem “natural” when it reality they’re invented and promoted by those who benefit from them–i.e. the male quilters guild. But where are these cultural norms coming from? You refer to the Protestant work ethic that tells us to work work work, go to church on Sundays–don’t forget to pay your tithes!–and then get back to work work work. Then rinse and repeat. And by rinse we mean work.
II do wonder why, if some scriptural interpretation of the tenets of Protestantism–I assume by a dude since you guys don’t have nuns, right?–is largely responsible for the male-driven work culture we see, why do we see the same type of culture in non-Christian countries? Is it just that America the Hegemon has forced our Puritan work ethic upon the rest of the world so they need to work similar hours if they want to compete (sorry France)? Is it all religions? Or does it have nothing to do with religion and something deeper drives this? Is it nature? Is it nurture? Is it neither? Is it both? Is this constant questioning getting us nowhere closer and do we need twice the space to fully address this topic? Probably. And after all this sausage and egg talk, are you seriously hankering for an IHOP run? Absolutely. Oh, and can you spot me a few bucks for brunch given the whole “end of men” thing? Thanks. I’ll pay you back once Tracy’s treehouse goes public.