Views on politics and current events

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pity The Poor American Male

The Stranger / Seattle Slog

According to the New York Times , 15 percent of American men between 30 and 55 are not working despite being employable and in their prime. Instead, the Times reports, they are “turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified.” That’s up from 5 percent in the 1960s, a difference the Times says “represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s,” when women started moving into the work force.

So let’s see if I’ve got this straight: The unemployment rate for men was once much lower. Then women came along and took jobs that would have gone to men. As women get more educated, the jobs that are available to them improve. As a result, men in the newly competitive marketplace have trouble finding work that isn’t… ummm… “beneath them.”

The Times goes on:

Many of these men could find work if they had to, but with lower pay and fewer benefits they once earned, and they have decided they prefer the alternative. It is a significant cultural shift from three decades ago, when men almost invariably went back into the work force after losing a job and were more often able to find a new one that met their needs. … Even as more men are dropping out of the work force, more women are entering it. This change has occurred partly because employment has shrunk in industries where men predominated, like manufacturing, while fields where women are far more common, like teaching, health care and retailing, have grown. Today, about 73 percent of women between 30 and 54 have a job, compared with 45 percent in the mid-1960’s, according to an analysis of Census data by researchers at Queens College.

So it’s not that the men can’t get jobs. It’s that the jobs that are available are women’s work, and thus “beneath” men’s dignity.

But at least that frees men up to take care of housework and child care, right?


Many women without jobs are raising children at home, while men who are out of a job tend to be doing neither family work nor paid work.

So what are they doing? Reading, sitting around, and sleeping, the Times suggests:

[Former steelworker Alan Beggerow)] has not worked regularly in the five years since the steel mill that employed him for three decades closed. He and his wife, Cathleen, 47, cannot really afford to live without his paycheck. Yet with her sometimes reluctant blessing, Mr. Beggerow persists in constructing a way of life that he finds as satisfying as the work he did only in the last three years of his 30-year career at the mill. The trappings of this new life surround Mr. Beggerow in the cluttered living room of his one-story bungalow-style home in this half-rural, half-industrial prairie town west of Chicago. A bookcase covers an entire wall, and the books that Mr. Beggerow is reading are stacked on a glass coffee table in front of a comfortable sofa where he reads late into the night — consuming two or three books a week — many more than in his working years. He also gets more sleep, regularly more than nine hours, a characteristic of men without work.

Meanwhile, while Mr. Beggerow sleeps, lounges, re-mortgages his family’s house and declines to look for work, his wife has taken on three part-time jobs, all traditional women’s work, and is looking for another:

She is taking in work as a seamstress, baking pastries for parties and selling merchandise for others on eBay, collecting a fee. Still, she says, she hopes to land a part-time clerical job. “The comfort of a paycheck every week would take a load off my mind,” she said.

So it seems the real story here isn’t so much that men aren’t working, but that men are piling onto their wives (in addition to the housework and childcare that remain American women’s primary responsibilities) one additional burden: Earning a paycheck, often at a crappy job, while they lounge around, remortgage the house, and burn through their family’s remaining savings.


  • Sounds like Mr. Beggerow and his peers need to start getting their nine hours of sleep out at the curb. This is so ridiculous it almost smells like a setup. Mental health issues? There's SOMETHING wrong with him, and her for putting up with it.
  • So am I supposed to read this and think: "Gee, we need a government-sponsored social-engineering campaign to re-educate men to behave differently"? Because all I am thinking is: "Gee, that guy's wife needs to leave him."
  • The layabouts described notwithstanding (and this is surely not a new phenomenon--look at Joe Gould!) couldn't some of this increase be ascribed to a greater number of men participating in the "alternative economy," i.e. the drug trade?
  • Allowing these "women" into the workforce is taking away jobs from our middle-class white men, and depressing the wages they should expect to earn. This administration needs to wake up, smell the coffee, and deport all of the working women right now.
  • White men are lazy pigs. Their wives should leave them. Women are smarter, better educated, and deserve more money. If we had a woman as president and more women running industries and government there would be no global warming or wars.
  • what horse shit. i've got a father (white male, 56, all white hair) who lost his job working a white collar type deal. He ended up losing several jobs opptorunities to people who were either 1) a woman or 2) younger. is that the fault of women? No. But do you know what he ended up doing for almost two years until he was able to find a similar job? he sold fucking uncle, white male, late fifites, lost his job for volvo working in their printed materials division (manuals, etc.). lost his job, and know what he did for several years until he found a "real" job? he drove a fucking school bus. do you have any idea how hard it is for someone to do that? honestly? to be basically admitting to themselves and their family they are supposed to be looking out for that they are like some kind of failure? i think its entirely reasonable to think that anyone would not want to take a job that is "beneath" them because it strikes right at their own identity. its not a fucking "vacation" and all fun. It sucks. Neither my dad or uncle quit "trying" to find a job. For those several years they were sending out resumes and interviewing and the whole nine. While you may be able find examples like the dude above, the implication of this whole post is that this is what all "white men" are like. Thats sexist bullshit. Seriously. Fuck that. You'd sleep 9 hours a day and read books if you couldn't find a job for several years, too. What the fuck else are you going to do?
  • The laundry?
  • I read the entire article this morning. Granted the headline and the first men featured could get the blood boiling (at least they could do some housework). However the rest of the story explains that the vast majority of non-working working-age men fall in one or more of the following categories: a)were already trapped in the economic underclass of our country and lost a minimum wage job b)too old or disabled to take a physically demanding job c)have a prison record that disqualifies them from most positions d)are African American and continue to face discrimination based on their race. The article further details how they are often estranged from families(no wife paying the bills), struggle to keep their disability checks, and take under-the-table work to keep more money for basic food and shelter. Too bad that 3/4 of the article will be overlooked, because of the headline and first paragraphs.
  • Uhm, yeah. Demeaned by having to do under-paid or "women's" work. Good thing I'm a woman, 'cause being over-qualified and under-compensated in the workplace isn't an issue for us anymore.
  • What do they think is going to happen while they're not even looking for a job? That the perfect job is going to look for them?
  • Back when men did all the paid work, it only took one paycheck to raise a family. Now it takes two working full time - so who's around to take care of the kids? Don't blame American men, - blame American corporations. Now they get two for the price of one.
  • Umm... to pick a nit... Mr. Beggerow had a 30 year industry job. Sounds like Mr. Beggerow is enjoying a union (maybe even a "forced") retirement check. The wife of a retired union worker making money on the side by sewing in the sewing room, putting junk from the garage on ebay for sale, and baking cakes for parties is not exactly the same thing as working in a tailor shop, holding down a few shifts at Value Village, then working grave-yard at the Hostess cupcake factory. There is nothing sexist with either part of the "married" husband/wife, husband/husband, wife/wife union earning more money then the other half. Maybe "anti-feminist" is the correct word dynamic. There is nothing sexist if a married couple chooses that one half of the union earns or labors at a labor less then equal halfs. As long as both people are cool with it, happy with it, then all is good. That's what an LTR is about, compromise between the people involved. I find the point of this article to be very old fashioned, and out-of-date as far as to prove a point about how "married" couples should act.
  • assuming that that wives three jobs are less valuable and somehow less legitimate because they are done at home is very old-fashioned and sexist. Work at home is still work and shouldn't be considered less legitimate. Just because someones sewing is done at home does not alleviate the strain of the work. The problem here is that the inherent work of the household tradionally womens work is not being considered into this marriage equation. Its fine for one member of a union to earn more or work more than another but not to the extent where they find themselves with three jobs, especially when the other member has supposed skills and capability.
  • According the story, the majority of the non-working men are blue collar and live alone, so I'm not sure how the real story could be that they're living off their wives/families. Men tend to get their sense of social status from their employment -- that might mean they think some kinds of work are beneath them, but it also means that not working at all has a terrible impact on their self-esteem. (And "beneath them" as a catch-all is likely to include jobs that don't pay enough to keep up with bills, jobs they feel they aren't qualified for, or entry-level jobs that represent starting over at 53 years of age.) For these guys to have given up looking says something trenchant about our "booming" economy and the importance of what kind of collar you wear to work. In short, you don't want it to be blue.
  • A real reporter would have taken the original story, read the entire thing to despin it, and then done a search on one of the science paper sites to read the original study and read the original conclusions, instead of trusting the Bush-inspired snippet headline. Luckily, we just figure you had a really really good weekend at the block party, and know you're a really good reporter 99.9 percent of the time ...
  • Hey, if $14-16/hour office jobs are 'beneath' working class men, I'll be more than glad to take those jobs in your stead.
  • It's one thing to not want to take a job that is "beneath you." It's another to not take that job. When I was between jobs, I had no qualms about looking for minimum wage work to help support me while I lived off my savings. I feel sorry for people who can't find jobs. I feel sorry for people who can't find a job that is nothing like what they deserve. I don't one bit sorry for someone who can find a job and refuses to accept it because s/he thinks his/her pride is more important than personal responsibility. I think there could be more to the issue than what is reported here, and so there could be a legitimate financial (or other responsible) reason for turning down work, but that's not discussed.
  • Why can't these guys help around the house while they are between jobs? Why can't they volunteer in their community or take a blah job until they can find the right thing? I understand that job-hunting SUCKS and it's horrible to take a lame job when you used to do something that was much more meaningful. But one has to to survive. That's what the women are doing and the men need to step up. It's called pulling your weight.
  • White males are lazy and dumb. Most of them couldn't hold a job if it wasn't handed to them and then don't work that hard if they do get a job. Women are finally taking over the workplace and you're going to see this country get better, and better. If you compare how good things are in last decade to what it was like in the 1950's you can see where we're headed. We have women in the military, in industry, and in government and soon we'll have a woman president. When that happens there'll be no more war, or global warming.
  • This is really sexist! This is crushing my theory that women are smarter than men. They don't call it HIStory for nothing, let's not repeat it!
  • Some questions for the judgers out there? Why can't you all stop judging a guy you don't know anything about? Why can't you all stop treating Ms. Beggerow as if she is a child and can't voice her needs to her husband? Why don't you all butt out and stop drawing false conclusions from an anecdote? Why is genrealized sloppy thinking tolerated in the press? Oh yeah, I know, becuase media that makes us feel superior sells more than the media that reports the news.
  • Also, women fail themselves when they stick with deadbeat men.
  • Man-hating is not true feminism. It is petty and impractical, at best.
  • "If we had a woman as president and more women running industries and government there would be no global warming or wars." Listening, Condi?
  • I hate to break it to everyone, but 53 year old man who lost his manufacturing job doesn't really have the option of getting a job at Starbucks, Chili's or Barnes and Noble that most 20-30 somethings enjoy. Getting any job is difficult. Now that obviously doesn't excuse the fact that he isn't helping out around the house.
  • It's stories like these that make me glad I am a lesbian. Sorry my straight sister's.
  • Let me get this straight... white men are lazy bums because a fraction of 15% of them seem to be disenchanted with work? Some after having been kicked around at crappy jobs for 30 years? Ok you can nail us for genocide and slavery and war and economic depressions and polution and pro wrestling and yadda yadda, but we did not accomplish all that mayhem by being lazy. sheesh.
  • More power to these guys. If their spouses aren't on them about it, and they're not mooching off the government, then let 'em do whatever the hell they want. And do I detect a hint of hypocrisy here? When women do this, it falls under far less scrutiny than when a man makes a conscious decision to work less or leave the workforce short or long term. These men have recognized that corporations and employers are screwing workers now more than ever, forcing them to accept more more concessions on wages on benefit while CEO pay skyrockets. They've chosen to rebel and live off the grid- more power to 'em.

No comments:

Site Meter