Is the U.S. Economy Really Biased Against Men?

There’s no doubt about it.  Men are getting the short end of the stick (as usual).  While women are clawing their way back, punching, fighting, kicking, and screaming to be viewed and valued as contributing members of society, as free moral agents with the rights and responsibilities as other citizens (read: men), poor men are stuck having to defend their masculinity and protect themselves against the big bad evil wave of girl power that is sweeping the nation.

Marty Nemko writes a fascinating (read: disgusting) piece in the Atlantic about why men are getting so totally screwed by the U.S. economy.  Starting off by exploring the economic situation on the fictional Planet Zuto and comparing the opportunities available to its two sexes, vozems and zems, Nemko concludes that if we look objectively at what’s going on in the US and ignore the “women’s issues” frame, we’d see clear as day that vozems (women) are really the privileged ones.

Nemko argues that the national concern with ensuring that women have “equal opportunity” has gone totally over the top and is now in danger of destroying men and their fragile egos altogether.  Of course, as with so many men’s advocates who think their contributions aren’t being recognized and that their vastly superior work ethics and attitudes are being demonized, Mr. Nemko seems to entirely miss a fairly important fact that has determined the vast majority of social history in the world.  Men neither have nor take responsibility for raising children.

Seem obvious?  Not to Marty Nemko.  Let’s just take a look at some of his more bizarre claims as to why the U.S. economy is so biased against men.

A) “Men are more likely to be in specialties requiring longer training, high-stress, and irregular hours.”

As I said, men neither have nor take the vast majority of the responsibility for raising kids.  Gosh, it must be nice for men to have the luxury of working longer, irregular hours.  Mothers don’t have that option of course, but hey, “it’s their choice,” right?  Because day care is subsidized, family leave policies are so generous, and most importantly, a woman can enter the training to become surgeons early in their careers because there exists the expectation in our society that the man in her life will care for her child while she’s off on her longer training and irregular hours.  Or, you know, not.

B) “Women but not men are encouraged to form committees and caucuses to advance their sex’s causes in the workplace, often at men’s expense.  These include fast-track-to-executive positions for women only.”

This must explain why there are so many women in executive positions.  Oh wait, there aren’t.  Women are making up half the workforce but just 2% of CEOs.  Only 3 Fortune 500 companies have women who hold more than 40% percent of the board seats, and women hold only 2.6% of board chairmanships of Fortune 500 companies.  29 of those companies have no women on their boards at all.  He was saying?

C) “Most people agree that, on average, men are more often willing to do the things it takes to get promoted, for example, to make time to take advanced technical courses by forgoing recreation such as sports or shopping.”

Yes, this sentence actually happened.  Of course, it’s nice when you are able to make time to take advanced technical courses because you aren’t rushing home to care for children.  Or taking the time to go shopping to buy food for your family.

(As for the statement that “most people agree”, well Mr. Nemko, a statement like that deserves a citation to some sort of study.  A reputable one, preferable.  One whose sample size isn’t you and your Uncle Bob. But let’s move on)

D) “Most people will agree that, on average, women are more eager to have children and to be deeply involved in their upbringing”

Ok, apparently we won’t be moving on from the “most people” statistic.  But anyway, the idea that women are more eager to be deeply involved in their upbringing is ludicrous.  Eager is a bizarre word to use here to begin with, so I’ll assume that what he meant was simply that women are more deeply involved in the upbringing of children.  This is true.  Making child-rearing responsibilities more evenly split between men and women is what would solve this problem.  Also, paternity leave.  When the US is one of four countries in the world that doesn’t have national laws mandating paid time off for new parents, we’re already struggling to get maternity leave.  And while it’s not the same because men won’t be recovering physically from bearing children, gender equality activists need to be just as vocal in demanding paternity leave so that women don’t get stuck doing all the child rearing themselves.  Women are more “deeply involved in children’s upbringing” simply because for most women, there aren’t any other options.  Men aren’t (or aren’t able to) step up, and not all of us are Ann Romney.  In fact, one study estimated that if the government fully funded childcare programs, mother’s overall employment would jump 10 percent.

E) “Men are more likely to move to a God-forsaken place for a promotion”

Gosh, it must be nice to have the freedom to move to wherever the best job opportunities are.  Of course, that’s harder if you’re also the one responsible for all the arrangements involved in moving kids along with you, but details.

F) “The 77 cents-on-the-dollar statistic is calculated in a way that is biased against men”

In her response to this piece, Bryce Covert did an excellent job of summing up what is so important about pay inequality that people are missing.  She writes,

Is there hard data we might examine in order to determine what’s causing the gender wage gap he thinks is so misleading? In fact, there is.  A GAO report tried to account for the difference in earnings between men and women and found that factors like work patterns (experience or time in the workforce, for example), industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure do come into play. However, it then stripped all of those factors out, and it still found that women make 80 percent of what men earn. It concluded, “[W]e were not able to explain the remaining earnings difference.” One of the possibilities, it said, is discrimination, pure and simple.”

Did we all get that?  It’s not just that about two-thirds of all workers making the minimum wage are women.  In other words, it’s not only because women are “choosing to take” lower-paid jobs.  Even when all else is equal – from training to education to the exact job itself – women still do not earn what men earn.  That’s what we call discrimination.  If you think that doesn’t really happen, you may want to take another look at the background of the Lily Ledbetter Act and exactly why it was necessary.

And so there we are.  Now don’t get me wrong: I did spend a full twenty seconds lamenting the poor position Marty Nemko is in, not being burdened by the responsibility (I mean, the honor) of child-rearing.  But after reading his absurd-not-even-remotely-laughable efforts to exonerate himself and his Uncle Bob from sharing the burden (I mean the privilege) of being primarily responsible for child care, I have to recommend that he get himself a one way ticket back to his fictional Planet Zuto and leave the rest of us to have informed discussion about the best ways to ensure that equal work is awarded equal pay and that equality of opportunity is not dependent on factors like sex.


Photo Credit: Reuters

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  • awesome! i should read the original article but i can’t even bring myself to do so. i know that men who do my type of job make more, because they are employed by more high-powered for-profit companies that prefer men and can pay to physically move their childless selves there. i’ve seen men promoted over more qualified women. when will people wake up????

  • Quirks

    In response to the Gao Report:

    Be careful when reading the summary and conclusions. It is poorly worded. Took me a second read to notice.Also on a side note, your aggression detracts from your argument. It was an interesting read until I compared the Atlantic article to your own and found while both were on complete opposite ends of a view, only one was unnecessarily ardent.