Saturday, September 5, 2009

Women's work.

Wow, crazy week has been crazy. And I don't mean "we're gonna need you to stay til 8" crazy, I mean haz-mat and FBI and things catching on fire crazy. And someone tried to bite me but only managed to rip off part of my jacket in her teeth. Like a shark. But enough dull shop talk.

LabRat sent me this article, which contains so many weird misconceptions and false analogies that I started going through it in my usual italics/snark manner until I gave up after writing several thousand words and realizing I was still on the first page of three.

Short version: People aren't animals, animals often aren't even animals when it comes to stereotypical dominance hierarchies, men's success shouldn't require women's failure, and the author's planet does not comprehend the strange human concept we call "love."

(Oh, and gay people don't exist. Gay people never exist in this kind of article. Poly people neither and in a weird way, contentedly single people least of all.)

But there was one thing I wanted to address because I've seen this same idea several places, feminist and non:
...the overwhelmingly female-staffed professions of education and health care have been relatively insulated... some economics experts think that women are better suited to the new "knowledge economy," in which such traits as sensitivity, intuition, and collaboration are valued over typically Alpha jockeying-for-power games.

Women don't become teachers and nurses because we're fuzzy-wuzzy soft touches for the adorable kiddies and sickies. (And anyone who thinks there aren't elaborate and vicious power games in education and healthcare hasn't spent enough time in either system.) We don't take those jobs because we're super good at niceness and whatever "intuition" is supposed to mean. Sometimes we take them because they're sort of traditionally female roles so it's easier for us to get hired and fit in, but that's not even the main reason.

What do teaching and nursing really have in common? They have flexible hours. Teachers work school hours and get the summer off; nurses are in high demand and every institution has a different weird scheduling system so nurses have a lot of choice in what hours they work. And both jobs, being part of massive institutions, tend to come with decent benefits.

And all this matters because women are much more likely to be the primary caregivers for children. The nurses I've worked with weren't there because of some uniquely feminine love of healing; they were there because they could get a shift that didn't start until their husband got home to watch the kids, or that ended before the afterschool programs did.

My own job is about 80% male. Is this because it's action-oriented, physically demanding, sometimes scary, and requires operating a big clunky truck? Not really. It's because none of the shifts are compatible with caring for young children and the pay is too low to afford childcare. (Unless you have a partner who can cover for you, which is more and more often the case. But that's what this article would call the terrible decline of the alpha male.)

Of course women can be sensitive, of course we can enjoy taking care of people. But so can men. It's not like male nurses are hopelessly gruff or female nurses can't be huge jerks (try coming to the ER at 3 AM with a complaint of "I've had a sorta scratchy throat for the last two weeks" and see how much you get nurtured). The reason there are more "alpha males" than females isn't in our fuzzyhuggy instincts; it's because power-gaming pack-dominant brave-hunter men are less likely to need to get off work before little Timmy gets home.


  1. You have a lot more tolerance for BS than I do. I didn't make it past the first paragraph.

  2. The point about flexible hours is one that had never even occurred to me. Now I'm glad I dropped this thing on you, steaming pile of shit or no.

  3. I've noticed this. People talk a lot about the "glass ceiling" or point out that women in job X make less overall than men in job X. When you look at time off for child-rearing, child-care, and general family maintenance, though, the men in job X usually have wives taking care of all those activities of daily living. Or make enough money that they can hire the work out. If you interrupt your career to be home with the kid for five years until it goes off to school, and you only work 40 hours/week, you WILL get economically creamed by the person, male or female, who DOESN'T take time off and puts in 80 hour work weeks. That individual is more economically productive, of course that person is gonna get paid more. Durh.

    And, said individual if he becomes a single parent, will also take the financial hit. Or, more likely, pawn the work off.

    You don't see a lot of female neuro or cardiothoracic surgeons WITH KIDS. 120 hour work weeks, 10 years of training, during age 26-36. You're not out of fellowship until 36, then establishing a practice, another four years. Bam, 40, and you've got the time for children. The ones that do have partners that have a lot of flexibility and time, to make up for the time spent in training/earning a living.

  4. That was ten kinds of awesome, postiness-wise.
    One must consider the source. I must cop to never having actually perused a copy of "Women's Health" but, if it's anything like its "Male" counterpart, every issue is jam packed with just this sort of "find a lot of cool quotes that sorta-kinda make my point, if I had one." stories.
    I wouldn't be too surprised if Grant Stoddard was laughing his ass off all the way down to the bank to cash the check.
    "They actually PAID me for that!"

  5. William - Wage comparisons are apples to apples, at 40 hours/week men still make more than women.

    The glass ceiling isn't entirely illusory, but it is related to childcare--even a childless woman, or one with a childcaring partner, may be seen by a boss as on the brink of popping one out and going on interminable maternity and family leave. That perception, true or not, costs women jobs and promotions.

  6. I agree with what DQ said, awesome post, and I think Labrat owes you big-time for wading through that pile of nonsense. :D

  7. See now, this is why I read this blog (well, one of the reasons): to know that someone else is out there screaming about this type of maddening BS.

    So thank you.

    And, by the way, I'm a long-time lurker, but I'm not sure I've commented before. ::waves::

    - J. Donne

  8. I made it to:

    While women working full-time still earn only 77.8 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts,

    Before snorting and coming to see what you said about it.

    (the > .80 is only true if you count only salary and/or average it out such that you're not comparing men and women with the same time in jobs, for much the reasons you're mentioning. The last time I saw that figure, adjusted with total compensation, women now outearned men 1.10 to $1. For some reason, that's also when that stat suddendly wasn't so important...)