Monday, August 2, 2010

What About The Men?

Posted by on Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 3:00 PM

end-of-men-wide.jpg
The other day, I read Hanna Rosin's piece in the current issue of The Atlantic — "The End of Men." It's a controversial story about women's increasing gains in the workplace and what that means for men. And I can't stop thinking about what this means for Tennessee.

It's a two-fold problem.

One, these demographic shifts are happening no matter what we do.

Women are, more and more often, the heads of our households and the primary (if not only) breadwinners. Women who work outside the home create jobs for women lower down on the economic scale, as those women step in to do the domestic work the first women are no longer doing. We might not see a whole lot of women at the pinnacles of business and politics, but the reality on the ground in the lower and middle classes is an economy of women.

So, what is our state doing to prepare for the changing demographic? I mean, other than making abortion super-dooper-triple illegal. What are we doing to address the needs and concerns of the new household providers?

Two, what are we doing for men? Yes, we can call Mike Turner every time a brown man is doing work a white man could be doing. Or, we can sit down and say frankly, "Men, the number of good jobs you can get without a college diploma is rapidly shrinking. And a lot of you aren't going to college. Or even getting very far in high school. That's not giving yourself very good odds for a good life."

If every undocumented worker in the state went somewhere else, there would still be fewer jobs for men with only high school diplomas than there were five years ago. And we would still be faced with the fact that stereotypes about men and women are leading employers to favor women in the workplace.

I still hear politicians say "Well, college isn't for everyone." To which I say, "Fine, but you know the competition folks have for jobs is all out-of-work people with college degrees, right? So, what's your plan for getting these folks to work?"

That's a larger problem than just "tax cuts for businesses." All the tax cuts for businesses in the world aren't going to make men without college educations more employable than people with college educations.

We live in a state where a lot of emphasis is put on "being a real man," and being the provider and being in charge and putting in a day's work and so on. You live here — I don't have to tell you.

And the reality is about to hit us head-on — that you can't just put in an honest day's labor and come home with a check that's big enough to support your wife and kids (not that it's not already hitting a lot of men head-on. It's just about to become obvious to everyone).

The truth is, even if you can find that job, your wife — if you have one — will probably be making more than you.

We need to change, and start right now, building policy around the needs of women and doing something to bring our men up to speed.

Are we, as a state, ready for that?

I seriously doubt it.

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