The blogs entries collected by Technorati accuse Forbes of culling the academic literature for fodder that will shove women back into the kitchen; send them back to the 1950s; and force them to put their buns in the oven and get their buns in bed.
But I’ve yet to read a blog item or a protesting e-mail from a reader that convinces me that the article—as opposed to the deliberately provocative headline—really insults women, career or otherwise.
Point one: The headline. “Don’t marry a career woman” sounds fairly insulting to career women — it says that there’s something sufficiently wrong with them to avoid marriage. If the article were titled, for example, “Don’t marry Jack Shafer,” I could see why Jack Shafer would find it insulting, even if the reasons given for not marrying Jack Shafer could apply to all Slate employees, or all journalists, or all people.
Some of the sensational findings presented in the Forbes piece appear to be gender-neutral and hence don’t bait feminists at all. For instance, Noer holds that the literature indicates that “highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex,” and “individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.” So, if career women are bad marriage bets, so are career men. It’s a wash.
Well, no. Because the article wasn’t about how career people are bad marriage bets. It was specifically about how career women are bad marriage bets, even if the reasons that it gave to support that assertion could be applied just as easily to men. I would even argue that the fact that the statistics behind the author’s assumptions are applicable to working people in general underlies feminists’ point that the article is deeply sexist — the writer takes what are often gender-neutral findings and applies them only to women, as evidence for why men should avoid us. That does bait feminists, and it is misogynist.
Noer also cautions against marrying career women because it’s “financially devastating.” “[D]ivorced people see their overall net worth drop an average of 77%.” But if your overall net worth is going to drop an average of 77 percent, wouldn’t you want your net worth to be higher, which it could be if you marry a career woman, as opposed lower with a non-career woman?
Um, yeah. But he uses that as another reason why you shouldn’t marry a career woman. And this is where Shafer misses the boat through the rest of his piece. He’s making a lot of the same arguments that feminists are — that the Forbes article sites studies that could be interpreted in lots of different ways, and that the reasons they give for not marrying career women aren’t very good at all. Shafter seems to think that this somehow delegitimizes feminist anger over the piece, when in fact feminists are angry because it’s yet another article that reinstates traditional gender roles and seeks to remind us that if we’re successful or employed or at all independent, men won’t want us. It emphasizes the idea that male approval is the most important goal for women. And it takes, as Shafer points out, relatively gender-neutral observations and uses them as weapons against women in particular. That’s why it’s sexist, and that’s why we’re angry.
I’m also irritated at Shafer’s condescending tone and use of the word “careerist,” but that’s another matter. I should probably stop typing now, as I wouldn’t want to break a nail.