08 April 2009

"He-cession" Changes Nothing for the "Second Shift"

Not only are women, with their lower wages, pulling the heavier (non-shovel) load during this recession, but they continue to be stuck with the bulk of household and family chores.
The Los Angeles Times is calling it the "he-cession." The stark facts show that the economic crisis is hitting men particularly hard: The official male unemployment rate just spiked to 8.8 percent, while the figure for women is ... now at 7 percent....

With women working more, there has been a role reversal of sorts, but it's hardly the kind feminists envisioned. As men lose their jobs, households are depending increasingly on the relatively meager wages of women to stay afloat. And the newly unemployed men aren't spending their freed-up time packing lunches and schlepping the kids to soccer games.... They're devoting those hours to looking for new jobs - and sleeping more, and watching more TV.

The picture of domestic life that emerges is not the gendered suburban dystopia of Revolutionary Road. But vestiges of that old order persist, mixing in new and potentially combustible ways with the legacy of feminism (the increased participation of women in the labor force), its unfinished business (their lower wages, and the lack of social supports for working motherhood), and the vagaries of this particular downturn, which has been especially merciless in male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing.

To put it another way, the "second shift" that sociologist Arlie Hochschild described in her classic book of that name is alive and well - even as it's increasingly women alone who are working the first shift.

'Course, these observations will make not one whit of difference.

"Stimulus" packages both north and south have been directed toward "shovel-ready" (read, 'manly') projects - primarily construction. Once again, men get the greatest advantage and women's wages and employment opportunities remain stuck in the 1950s.

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