Me(n) First

Why Women Participating in Society is Suddenly a Problem

Graphic Paku Daoust-Cloutier

Society is a competition. Or so the recent onslaught of pundit-pieces that coddle menfolk would have us believe.

We’re suppose to think that success doesn’t happen for those who work towards it—it happens to one class and one group at a time. Success is a zero-sum game. So whoever is seen to be climbing the ranks is only able to do so by knocking others down as they go.

Just because women are more present in the workforce than before doesn’t mean we are responsible for the “mancession.”

The Globe and Mail ran an article this Saturday about a new book by Hanna Rosin called The End of Men. The article is a dialogue between the author and two writers discussing how men’s place in the world is changing.

“Arrests of women are rising, while violent crime perpetrated by men—including rape—is dropping,” said the Globe’s Zosia Bielski as part of the conversation, under the headline “Heel, boy.”

“The shift in gender roles may see women turning violent, with women acting more like stereotypical men.”

The discussion included contemporary men articulating their feelings in ways they weren’t able to before and putting forward the notion that, while women are taking men’s jobs—and, apparently, violent traits—men are becoming society’s emotional and sensitive class.

The assertions that men are more open than before were based on statistics drawn from online dating profiles. Apparently, on the webpages of singles hoping to attract a mate, men are posting that they want to get married, whereas women are posting that they don’t.

This is seen as an example of shifting attitudes, but it’s really one of many ways in which statistics lie. Online dating profiles are meant to make the individual as appealing as possible to whomever they hope to attract. Both genders are posting what they think the other will want to hear. Seen that way, our society hasn’t changed much at all.

The article is part of a trend in the media that focuses on how women are excelling and becoming the primary breadwinners of the household. But the issue of women succeeding is usually cast as undermining men’s ability to do so.

In 1990, 15 per cent of men and women between 25 and 34 had a university degree. By 2009, it was 34 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men. Both genders are pursuing higher education more than they used to, but with women outnumbering men, men must be losing out.

In 2009, the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States reported that women made up 49.9 per cent of the workforce—an all-time high. This was blamed on the recession eliminating male-dominated jobs. But even with all that social fear-mongering going on, women still weren’t fully half of the workforce.

And while it’s not nearly as splashy, the women snapping up those percentage points aren’t corporate glamazons, they’re often low-income workers. Seven out of ten women in the bottom 20 per cent income bracket earn as much or more than their husbands.

Women are still far from outpacing men when it comes to the corner office. But just the fact that women are in the game at all seems to be too close for comfort for the mainstream.

Even though men’s participation in the workforce has been on the decline, that decline has been for full-time work, while women’s gains are more in part-time positions.

And despite any gains, statistically, women still earn 15 to 40 per cent less than men working the same jobs. Articles that focus on that sad fact are apparently too cliché to tackle.

The assertion that women are becoming the new men usually follows a fear that maltreatment traditionally directed at them will now flow the other way. Somehow this makes both genders uncomfortable.

People look at women gaining ground, and men losing it, and they draw an easy line between the two. But social change is complex, and making these correlations is irresponsible.

Women aren’t working in the male-dominated industries that are losing ground, such as the manufacturing sector; they are largely in growth industries.

According to Statistics Canada, women only outnumber men in the service industry and health care. If men want to serve coffee and take care of our aging population, there’s plenty of room for them to
do so.

In the Globe’s article, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche summarized the problem: “The kind of men who think that being a nurse is embarrassing are not going to make it.”

Men aren’t going into these growth industries yet though, and that can hardly be considered women’s fault. Articles on the subject tend to ignore this fact and cast women’s gains as an approaching—or already present—matriarchy. But how can that be when gender equality is still so far off in so many regards?

Let’s dispense with the gender hysteria. As the stereotypical coppers of old used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”