Not Getting It

Slate’s defense of that Forbes article: It’s gender-neutral, we swear!

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.

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18 comments for “Not Getting It

  1. August 23, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Don’t ask me to get upset about slide six—”Your house will be dirty” if you get married to a woman who makes more than $30,000. The same goes for slide nine—”You are more likely to fall ill” if your wife works. What upsets you about the piece? Bore me with your fury at

    Fuck you, Jack Shafer. No seriously, fuck you.

  2. piny
    August 23, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Fuck you, Jack Shafer. No seriously, fuck you.

    Pretty much. “You’re so cute when you’re angry!”

  3. matttbastard
    August 23, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Forbes has removed the Noer article from its site (archived version available here). Maybe someone politely informed the editors that it’s no longer the ’50s.

  4. August 23, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Don’t ask me to get upset about slide six—”Your house will be dirty” if you get married to a woman who makes more than $30,000. The same goes for slide nine—”You are more likely to fall ill” if your wife works. What upsets you about the piece? Bore me with your fury at

    Seriously, could he BE more condescending? Now Forbes AND Slate are dead to me.

  5. August 23, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    BoingBoing has some follow-up posts about this article and its removal. Here’s the first follow-up, which includes a link to a regendered version of the article. And here’s the second follow-up.

  6. the15th
    August 23, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    Jack Shafer tends to write media criticism that I see as borderline-sexist (nitpicking articles about sex slavery for minor inconsistencies) but he did write this nice takedown of the “opting out” thing.

    It’s really a major victory that Forbes took down the article, I think.

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  8. kate
    August 23, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Its good to know that Forbes took down the article from their website, but how many waiting rooms, lounges, living rooms, studies and libaries are filled with the magazine that has the article to poison the minds of easily influenced, gullible men?

    How minds of gullible and inferiority complexed men has this article already poisoned?

    Oh and kiss my lily white fat ass you mindless mysoginst jack ass Jack Shafer. May you suffer a severe bout of tendinitis in your hands in the very near future.

  9. August 23, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    ‘Jeepers, ladies! Calm down! And in conclusion, since you’re all actually gold-diggers, have fun getting the job AND the cushy divorce settlement you’ve always wanted. Just don’t break a nail doing it, hahaha!’


  10. Silver Owl
    August 23, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Who really wants to marry a man that acts like an over grown child rather than an adult with actual responsibilities?

    Men who have already been raised by their parents and are capable of handling real life responsibilities are much more successful and less likely to wind up in prison or divorce court.

    LOL! Trump is touted as a successful and has been married, what, 3 times already. Maybe his wives were not “nanny” enough for him.

    Men who fail in their task of being reared to self-suffiencent adults capable of handling real life issues end up in divorce court unless they find a woman who’s willing to continue to raise them as the man-children they are.

    I do have to say, growing up to be a “man-child” is not a high achievement in my book. LOL!

  11. August 23, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    They haven’t taken down the article, they’ve moved it: now it’s a Point-Counterpoint with an in-house rebuttal from Forbes’ Elizabeth Corcoran, who argues “Don’t Marry a Lazy Man”. Sing it.

  12. August 23, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    I’m sure all the married women who work at Forbes are thrilled with this article.

  13. Lya Kahlo
    August 24, 2006 at 9:51 am

    “Bore me with your fury at ”

    Sounds to me like Jack is a little desperate for female attention.

    Or that being such a dishonest ass makes him incapable of admitting he and both articles are pieces of deliberately incendiary tabloid trash.

  14. Betsy
    August 24, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Right on, Jill.

  15. August 24, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Heh. I posted about this, and spun it as reason why women shouldn’t marry career men.

  16. Joe
    August 28, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    This post is further evidence that bloggers are slowly killing subtlety.

    Nice work.

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