Thursday, August 24, 2006

Career Women's Houses Are Dirty, and Other Male Delusions

There's a bit of a brouhaha on the Internet over an article published on Forbes. The article was originally published on August 22. The following day, Forbes took the article down. A few hours later, the article was back up on the site, but this time right alongside an article with a counterview.

What was all the fuss about? Well, the article in question, written by a news editor Michael Noer, is titled "Don't Marry Career Women". That should explain it all. Right? But wait, there's more. The title is merely the tip of the iceberg. The article itself - in which rocky marriages, husbands' ill-health, dirty houses, dysfunctional kids, divorces, extra-marital affairs and lower rates of childbirth are all blamed on working women - is priceless.

In support of his assertion that men should not marry working women, Noer quotes many "studies". However, in many instances, the author's paraphrasing of the studies, or the quotes he uses, talk about "individuals", "spouse", "people" and not about women specifically. Here are a few examples that Noer ropes in to argue that career women are more likely to cheat and run away with someone:
  • When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they'll meet someone they like more than you.

  • According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

  • "I also find that the incidence in divorce is far higher in couples where both spouses are working than in couples where only one spouse is employed," Johnson [who "examined data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation"] says.
It is baffling that the author relies on these statements to conclude that only working women cheat, run off, have extra-marital sex and are responsible for the rise in divorce rates. In a similar vein, Noer makes an argument about "labor specialization" - if both spouses work, the household suffers. Again, the argument should not and does not translate to mean that women should stay home.

Furthermore, people - men and women - will cheat if they are so inclined and if the opportunity presents itself, whether they stay home or go out. What about spouses who stay home and are exposed to the mailman (or mailwoman), the fedex man (or woman), the pool boy, the baby sitter?

The essay is chockfull of other "insights" into marital relationships.
  • Households in which the women work are dirty, he says. Really? Is it any surprise? This is a reason why men should not marry career women? And is this really a problem? Where are the men in the equation? Do they really expect the house to be spic and span? If they really do (which I doubt - someone should go check out some bachelor pads and see how they stack up on the cleanliness scale), why not pick up after themselves, take the trash out, mop and dust a little, eh?

  • Husbands in households in which the women work are more likely to fall ill, he says. Are men really such babies? Did anyone check to see if the women in households in which the men work are more likely to fall ill? No? Why not? Because women are expected to take care of themselves, but the men need handholding and need to be taken care of or else they fall ill?

  • Husbands will be unhappy if their wives make more money than they do, he says. Well, all the men need to do is to tweak their attitudes a little bit. How about feeling happy that the family is earning more money? How about feeling proud that your wife is earning more than you?

  • Wives will be unhappy if they earn more money than their husbands, he says. Well, don't worry Noer. This character flaw won't last long. I suspect this feeling stems from having a crabby husband around and women will stop caring what their husbands think or feel if their illogical behavior lasts long enough.

  • If women quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy, he says. Sure, there will be some sadness. There's bound to be unhappiness over lost friendships, over the loss of professional connections. But that's life. Priorities change when kids arrive. But is this a valid reason not to marry a working woman? That's a myopic view if I ever saw one. And what about the unhappiness a non-working woman may feel that she doesn't work? Does this not count?
Just in case the men reading his essay are horrified and are thinking they will never ever marry, Noer exhorts men to marry. Do marry, he says, because marriage is positively correlated to higher incomes for adult men. How wonderful! If you want to make more money, you want to be happy, have children and children who are well-adjusted, stay healthy and have a clean home, marry. Please do. Just follow Noer's advice and make sure the woman of your dreams doesn't have a college degree and makes less than $30,000 a year.

The puerile and inane ideas expressed in this essay are trumped only by Forbes first pulling the essay from the web and then republishing it with a counterview written by Elizabeth Corcoran, also with Forbes. If Forbes did not think that the essay would not stand on its own merit, why did they publish it in the first place?

And oh, before we go, please do read Forbes? You Suck. Lively and quite on point.


Taz Snow said...

You have been tagged...

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hey Taz, will do. :)

M (tread softly upon) said...

Quite unbelievable :)

Hawkeye said...

if you were not a woman. but a statistician doing some analysis of a piece of survey data given to you.

Would you agree with forbes or not?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hawkeye, good question.

My problem with Noer's article is not with the statistics, but that he has used the statistics wrongly. First, as I point out, most of the numbers he reports apply to men and women equally. So it is as silly as someone using those numbers to argue that women should be wary of men with careers. Second, the some of the numbers (such as men more likely to fall ill, homes being dirtier) are blamed on working women alone. As he rather lamely points out in the very last paragraph these are mere correlations. They are not the causation. So the cause could be many other things - not the fact that the women have careers. Instead of exploring those, he makes the bald statement don't marry career women. For example, he says working women are less likely to have kids - has anyone considered the fact that some women build careers because they don't want to have children in the first place?

Anonymous said...

actually, in the usa, even now, it probably makes more sense[*] not to marry a woman who is also working; instead, just have a live in relationship and enjoy all the comforts :-). taxes are less if you are unmarried rather than married.

on the other hand, if you get together with a woman who does not work, get married pronto (even if it is Dec 31), it will reduces your taxes!

"As he rather lamely points out in the very last paragraph these are mere correlations. They are not the causation."

yeah really! how about if the husband and wife fought a lot from the get go, then husband told wife (or vice versa, depending on who was working in the first place) to go get a job so they can both get a life apiece in relative independence of each other?


it depends on what the boss wants. a good statistician should be able to use the same information and support whichever hypothesis requires it. :-)

- s.b.

[*] strictly fiscally speaking!

Anonymous said...

I am in marketing research, so I can understand how one could easily draw these conslusions with the data.

I agree with you Sujatha. I think the guy hasn't bothered to dig into what else could be causing these symptoms. he is just drawing the easiest (and most satisfactory for him, i think) conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Rumor is he got dumped by a "career gal" some time prior to publishing this article.

Can't imagine why.