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September 03, 2012


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Sir C--coupla things. There is data and plenty of it, this story didn't include it, for some reason. I wrote a story (http://hvrd.me/Up7usu) about research coming out of the University of Maryland in 2004, that supports the model Rosin uses. I don't think she goes into it, but her premise is related to the growth of the 24/7 economy, which has offered an explosion of stable but low-paying jobs, mostly for women, in health care, hospitality, back office support and other areas. Yeah, those are not jobs that come close to supporting a family at the same level as the sales and management jobs those guys had, but that's all there is in that little town! That's the point. According to Rosin and others before her, most of the new jobs are dead-end and offering only moderate to low pay. As she points out, men don't even apply for those jobs,until they get desperate.
And, yes, I've been told women make up more than half of law school and medical school students, but don't go as far up the ladder as men, probably because they take time off at important moments in their careers, to have and raise children. Even so, they've got skills and background that opens doors for them in other fields.
I think the point Rosin was making was not that women are going to outstrip men in earning power, but in actual earnings because women do not feel the pressure that men feel to be the sole breadwinner. Unless they have to, of course. And, if women find themselves in that situation, they are uncomfortable because they know their husbands are uncomfortable with it. So?
What struck me about the piece was the quaintness of attitudes toward marriage that have changed little since 1950, in spite of all that's happened to turn that upside down. Not here! This is a region that was in the middle of the upheaval of the civil rights movement, saw a huge influx of immigrants in the 1980s, built a sizable tourism and communications base, yet steadfastly holds onto the mores of life in another century. When Russel left and the ground moved out from under them, men fell apart. Perhaps because women do not value themselves, their time or their skills as highly as men, and have been raised to take care of the family, women were able to jump in and go with the flow. The question is, how can anyone help men move on? Their inability to shift gears is obvious in so many arenas, including some of the most important ones. In spite of the world flying past them, men in power still cling to another era in the GOP, the Vatican, the medical community, and the list goes on.
It's sad, actually, sad for the men and sad for those around them.
Before you say, I'm just reiterating the generalities, let me mention that I found myself in the position of having to support a husband, then a husband and baby, then myself and a growing child , on my own for the better part of 25 years. I did what I had to do and didn't mind doing it, but my husband and many others treated me like I was on some sort of quest when the reality was I wanted to eat and avoid homelessness. I saw the same attitudes in my husband that Rosin points out in her piece and, like the women, I did not value my time as highly, so was willing to take anything I could get to put food on the table. Eventually, that paid off.
The next Horatio Alger story may be about Harriet Alger.

Sir Charles


Notwithstanding my criticism, there's a lot to unpack from this story and I focused on what I think is Rosin's unduly optimistic picture of women vis a vis men in terms of economic power and mobility. Now it may well be that we will see a real change in this as we get another decade or two down the road, but at this point I see no evidence that women are really displacing men at the really high end places in the economy nor in areas of political power.

Having said that, I think that there are several things going on in the broader economy that are of interest. One, is that this old-fashioned notion of man as breadwinner is just not going to work well for most people. It leaves a family incredibly vulnerable to economic risk.

If one looks at what Jill Carbone describes as the blue state family model, in which couples have fairly egalitarian marriages, both people work, children are carefully planned -- and deferred for education and career building -- and limited in number, and domestic duties are pretty evenly split, you see an arrangement that produces better results for people in this day and age.

I too think women may be less constrained by the kind of macho attitude displayed by the men portrayed in this story. On the other hand, women still disproportionately take on family and domestic burdens that circumscribe their own career advancement, so they have their own cultural influences that limit success.

I also at some point want to do a post about work generally and the ludicrous work ethic that now permeates so much of the upper middle class and makes them ripe for working ridiculous hours and allowing employers to control their lives.


I look forward to that post, Sir C.
I want to add that the situation Rosin describes is more than a reiteration of the fable of the tortoise and the hare. And, you can't tell the story Rosin tells without talking about values. They just jump out at you.
Now, I don't know if Rosin went looking for the most isolated backwater she could find in Alabama, but the values expressed by those interviewed are straight out of post-war US. If you took the book The Help and dropped out all the Blacks, you might have these folks and their rigid attitudes toward what is a man's thing and what is a woman's. It's hard for me to understand how such a place could remain so static all these years. According to Rosin's piece, the church has a lot to do with it, I guess.
But, the same job scenario plays out everywhere, north, south, east or west. The job sector is changing and those who can't change with it are left behind. The difference in other parts of the country may very well be what you described as Blue State dynamics.
I'm not sure if I remember the right family in the story, but I found it interesting (and sad) that the dad did not take any job he could find just to send his daughter to a good school. Not only did she miss out educationally but his non-action told her that her future did not count for much. Women my age remember being told that, but young women today live in a very different world. They need all the tools they can get to prepare to take care of themselves and maybe others. Most of all, they need to learn the value of education and lifelong learning. At least one of these dads let a boat and golf club membership get in the way of reality.
Sorry for the sloppiness of that first post. I was rushing in hopes I could get in a morning walk before the rain.

kathy a.

it seems to me that rosin is telling at least 3 overlapping stories, complimenting her thesis that these women have proven more adaptable, thus more employable. one is the erosion of steady jobs that pay decently -- not top-flight jobs, but the ordinary jobs that are being sent overseas, mechanized, or otherwise eliminated. (other jobs just are not happening because people can't afford to hire people to do them -- home improvements, for example.) another is about the enduring nature of ideas about men's roles and women's roles, despite great strides toward equality in my lifetime. and third, these are stories about the human, personal impact of economic instability -- which is timely, because one of our major parties sees instability for the little people as critical to the goal of "wealth creation" for the fortunate.

i'm not sure the author meant to suggest women now rule all -- which we clearly do not. perhaps she was going after something more like what paula suggests, that the traditional female role and reluctance to value themselves has made these women more flexible (regarding employment) in times of crisis.

i really cannot relate to these women thinking their place is in the home -- i started earning my spending money at 12, babysitting and later a variety of jobs, and i always valued self-sufficiency. and i went to college and law school, at a time when scholarships, grants, and work could get one by w/o a lot of debt.

but i can relate to the misery of an unemployed or underemployed husband (and my own anxiety while seeking employment). we have an egalitarian marriage. we each have given up careers for the other, and we have supported one another's career changes; during most of the time when the kids were growing up, i was the prime breadwinner, and he did more of the day-to-day parenting. now, my income is less steady, but he has the regular paycheck and benefits. we are very fortunate. but those unsteady/transitional/unemployed times truly suck.

paula, i just don't get choices like not taking jobs and sacrificing the kid's education, or keeping the club membership when the family was suffering.

Sir Charles


I remember years ago when one of our clerical staff members was having significant financial issues while her husband sat idly waiting for work and our senior partner saying to me, "I would shovel shit if I needed to to take care of my family. Alas, not everyone sees the world that way.

I cannot imagine having my child forego an educational opportunity because I didn't think work suited my specialness.


I think if Rosin posited this more modest thesis, I might agree. Instead, however, she is always using inflammatory titles like "The End of Men and the Rise of Women" and treating anecdote like data. I think there is a more complex tale to be told here, but she would rather attract hits and sales than be more accurate and nuanced.


"one of our major parties sees instability for the little people as critical to the goal of 'wealth creation' for the fortunate." Important point, kathy!


Sir C, I'm ashamed to say two grown men in my extended family sat out the last two years waiting for someone to throw them jobs they liked. One has a wife and two little kids; one is single. Both are college grads. I never heard anyone in the family express anything but pity for their misfortune and concern for their emotional well-being. Both spent that time collecting unemployment, partying, goofing off and complaining. Is that behavior part of the Peter Pan syndrome, Becky?

kathy a.

SC, editors are in charge of titles, and they go for ones that sell. and, this was a contracted piece of her book, so perhaps she goes into more depth. i don't know. it is a complex tale.

paula, i'd add that this is a terrible, terrible time to be looking for work. there is enormous competition, even for lesser jobs. my baby sister, in her late 40's, has always been employed, has great experience, and she looked for about a year before securing a temp job in her field, which she hopes will turn into something permanent. my daughter graduated college in december, and has looked with no offers ever since -- every interview she has been on had so much competition; animal care, ticket sales, and answering phones, even, there are so many people with more experience. a friend with a non-profit says he gets at least 100 applications for any job offered, even the most menial; if he advertises for a paralegal, he gets all these unemployed lawyers applying.

it is possible your relatives are not trying hard enough -- i think my daughter could try harder. she isn't collecting unemployment, because she had no job from which to collect it. she isn't partying. she is not turning down offers.

i am 100% dead serious that the GOP platform is about crushing the little people for the goal of wealth creation for the very fortunate. it is what it is. how this can be presented as "a controversy" is beyond me.


Thanks, Kathy, but these guys turned down jobs when they weren't exactly what they wanted, including ones from generous relatives who took pity on them. The guys took exotic trips, bought toys and never seemed to be looking very hard. Frankly, I think they enjoyed taking some time off after 7-8 years in their jobs, and assumed they would just step back into the market when they were ready. It didn't work out that way. Eventually, unemployment dried up and so did other options. Both started new jobs in the last few weeks at substantially lower salaries than their last.

kathy a.

ok, then. they are adapting. possibly regretting the toys and party time, and turning down offers of the past.


The point I was trying to make was that I didn't find the men's attitude so unusual because I know men who exhibit similar behavior. The women, on the other hand, surprise me. And together they are raising another generation ill-equipped for change and intolerant of those who live lifestyles different from their own. In other words, GOP fodder in spite of the fact the party works to bury them.


I always found there was nothing between the 'fooling around waiting for a job' and 'you should take that McDonald's job'.

Of course, McDonald's always told me (even when I was nineteen and in college) 'You are overqualified' and some of the jobs offered me were going to cost more time/money to do than I'd get out of them... Time and money I could be using to get better work.

But whenever people talk about that, they seem to always make it look like you can take anything 'shoveling shit' or should take anything, regardless of how appropriate.


I'm guessing I'll be probably the only reader here who won't be watching the convention tonight. Imma done. Nada mas pundit yadda.

Time to deadhead flowers, prune some roses and prompt a last bloom. Sprinklers on.

Also, I hate these 'end of men/boys' trend stories, which I've been reading for too many years, as the mother of a male. All absurd. Stop that noise please.


Not the only one not watching (& also skeptical about 'end' of anything involving the human condition).

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
- Ecclesiastes 1:2 (New American Standard Bible)


Oh flip. Sprinklers off. Roses done. I cheated. Watching. All of them make one proud. Pundits -- bring it on.


I think paula just gave me a shout-out there, so I'd better try to respond! I'm not a fan of pop psych labels, and I consider the "Peter Pan syndrome" to be one of those. That said...there are some people (of both genders) who do seem to think some kinds of work are beneath them, which usually doesn't work out very well for them or their families.

I read the article, and found it thought-provoking, though also an example of the kind of lightly-researched "trend" articles that I generally find very annoying (one of Sir C's links is to an excellent take-down by Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice). I agree with Sir C that we're a long way from women as a group having anything like the amount of power that men do. What I think the article did illustrate was the difficulty that many people have in adapting to a rapidly changing world. Sir C referenced the blue family model, which I agree works better in the modern reality than the red model on display in the article, and I would add to this that people who are flexible and willing/able to constantly consider new careers, re-train and update their skills are the ones who do best in this economy. Of course most people don't fit this description, which is why this reality works very poorly for most workers. What's so bad about the decline of unions is that there's so little opportunity now for people who are willing to work hard and play by the rules but who lack unusually high cognitive and self-management skills. It's a reality that means that most people will struggle, and a lot will fail, and that is a very disheartening trend in our society (thanks, "job creators"--sarcasm). I don't think societies do very well when the structure works for only 20-25% of the population; after a while people start to realize the game is rigged against them, and you start to see increasing crime and other antisocial behavior, people failing to plan for the future, and generally giving up. I think we're seeing a lot of that in the US these days--there's a reason casinos are so popular.


Michelle Obama. What can one say? Have never heard anything like her address ever. Ever.

Sir Charles


The problem with the Blue Family model -- and I think you are getting at this -- that I touted is that it is one that is not always easily replicated for people who lack either the opportunity or the cognitive ability to succeed at higher levels of education.

We have to get back to the notion that work generally should be rewarded with a living wage and decent life prospects. Not everyone can be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, an actuary, a professor and the other jobs that require many years of schooling and an aptitude for that sort of thing. I struggle daily with trying to make sure that the kind of middle class wages and pension and medical benefits that have been the norm for skilled tradesman remain a reality -- and it is currently quite discouraging in many of the trades. And these are people with real skill doing incredibly useful things -- but things that people would like to have done more cheaply.

Sir Charles

I did watch the convention -- I just can't help myself sometimes -- and I thought it was an excellent night. I thought many of the speakers were quite compelling. Deval Patrick kicked ass.


Sir C, Deval Patrick kicked ass. Not the only kick by far.


A proud night for Massachusetts.

and, kathy, who isn't?

low-tech cyclist

I didn't have the time to watch any of it last night, but it sounds like the Dems really laid down a marker last night: that finally, FINALLY, they stopped running from themselves, stood their ground, and fought back with vigor.

2010 would have been a bad year any which way, but there's never been a doubt in my mind that they made it ten times worse by running away from Obamacare, the stimulus, and practically anything else they'd done. So it's really good to see everyone sticking up for the good things the Dems have done over the past four years.

I'll have to watch some of the videos of the speeches at lunch. Sounds like it'll be worth my time.


You missed some great moments. All the things we've been talking about, the things we wanted the Dems to say and do, many of those moments happened last night. Of course, they were preaching to the choir, but...
Speeches were 10 minutes, except for Michelle, who got 20-25. Carolyn Maloney made me cry. Strickland was impressive. Rahm E was scary. A family (Lihn?) with a sick child came out and told how the ACA saved her life. Lincoln Chafee was an articulate value-added trophy. Castro is bright and adorable, as you've heard. Deval Patrick was on fire and Michelle stole the show. Barack doesn't even need to show up Thursday night. If you have limited time, I'd suggest watching Patrick and Michelle. They laid it all out.

kathy a.
kathy a.

michelle is brilliant. warm, personal -- and hitting every single note on why this president is better for the country, and for its citizens -- without once even mentioning romney/ryan or the GOP, much less engaging in cheap tactics.

she did not need to mention the GOP. the distinction on every issue is so blatantly obvious.

and she is an amazingly competent, engaged, knowledgeable woman. really the opposite of a fawning nancy reagan; this woman gets her hands dirty, and talks to people, and thinks, and looks at the long view. she not only can imagine circumstances besides those she has personally has experienced, but embraces opportunity and fairness for all.


A few more notes:
Tammy Duckworth was terrific. You may remember Joe Walsh's attacks on her for talking too much about her service record. What a jerk.
Gov of Maryland and Kathleen Sibelius were interesting but lackluster speakers.
Lilly Ledbetter was dyn-o-mite!
The Kennedy kid was, uh, a Kennedy kid. Give him a few years.
Jimmy Carter, age 87, puts us all to shame.

kathy a.

jimmy carter is a genuinely good man.

low-tech cyclist

Michelle Obama was great! And right now I'm listening to Deval Patrick: "It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe." I think I can get behind that - if the Democratic Party changes enough so that I can't in truth call it the Scared Rabbit Party anymore, I can deal with that loss, you know?

I love that they're taking ownership of it all - Obamacare, a woman's right to choose, gay marriage, the whole nine yards. (I hope some of the speakers I haven't yet listened to included the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively, because that deserves a high place on the list.) They're really not running away from themselves this time, are they? Who knew this could happen? I was honestly wondering if I'd ever see the day.

jeanne marie

Not much to add, but I think what struck me most was the sheer number of very good to excellent speakers - all on message and fired up.

And, oh, David Brooks is a clueless jerk. He made a total fool of himself (not that he would recognize it) on the PBS broadcast last night.


"It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe."

That comment reminds one of Paul Wellstone.


Our relentless GOP disenfranchisement efforts continue apace. I thought disobeying a court order was contempt of court. Might someone be risking a jumpsuit in Ohio? I'd think too that these tactics should rightfully add these states to those requiring preclearance under the VRA. It's not like there's any confusion about the motivation.


Gov. Patrick has already said he intends to return to the private sector after he leaves office in January of 2015, but he hasn't said he would never run for office again. If Kerry becomes the next Secretary of State I wouldn't mind if Patrick ran for Senate.

kathy a.

oh, yeah, nancy. it is "bring your toothbrush to court" time in ohio. one does not ignore -- much less publicly declare he is ignoring -- a federal court order. the ohio sec. of state could have asked for a stay of the order pending appeal, but chose not to.


"This Court hereby ORDERS that Defendant Secretary of State Jon Husted personally attend the hearing," U.S. District Judge Peter Economus wrote in an order Wednesday afternoon.

At TPM . Hearing is September 13. I would doubt Husted can now say 'oh, never mind, on second thought'. My god these people are arrogant. And stupidly so.

Sir Charles

Oh man, would I like to be in that court house.

kathy a.

whoopsie, judge! sorry for the "misimpression"! can we have a stay of the order now?

my professional advice is: take a toothbrush to court, dude.


Misimpression . My impression is that he had every intention of ignoring the order and carrying on with impunity. I'd call that clear, unmistakeable contempt for the court and the rule of law. I imagine the violins are being tuned...devoted husband, wife and kiddies, fine upstanding, good neighbor, solid citizen, best son ever, economic hardship, etc.

Enough with this lot.

Sir Charles

Go to jail, go directly to jail, motherfucker.

kathy a.

violins are all well and good, but he won't be allowed to take one to jail. ;)

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