The Economist recently put on its cover to celebrate a major milestone: In the U.S., women are now the majority of the workforce. Why? Massively greater numbers of men than women are losing their jobs in this recession.
Is this really good news?
And yet every sign that boys or men are hurting gets determinedly turned around into a happy news story of female success. The disconnect between the happy headlines and the reality underneath will only be solved by women. The irony of men is that they cannot defend themselves or organize around their own systemic, gendered problems. Putting their own gender in the position of "the weaker sex" unmans them -- and also makes them deeply unattractive to women. It's not going to happen.
So the only way we are going to identify the new problem that has no name, own it, and do something about it, is if women with power make it a cause of our own. We have sons as well as daughters, nephews as well as nieces. We want husbands and fathers for ourselves or for our children who are confident, successful males and good family men willing and able to work hard to support those families. The problem is not that women are doing well, it's that boys are doing badly. The two genders cannot be pitted against one another without all of us losing.
A new report by the Pew Research Center finds that more younger women are marrying down: 28 percent of wives aged 30- to 44-years-old have more education than their husbands, compared to 19 percent of husbands who are better-educated than their wives. One in four wives now substantially outearns her husband.
It turns out women are not necessarily happy about male failure. Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers' 2007 study, "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," notes that "By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men."