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January 19, 2010

I, For One, Demand to be Called, "Sugar Mama"

So.... O majestic penis-having individuals.... what say you? Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing?

In 2007, the Pew report found, median household incomes of married men, married women and unmarried women were all about 60 percent higher than in 1970. But among unmarried men, median household income rose by only 16 percent. These days, men who marry typically gain another breadwinner.

In 1970, 28 percent of wives had husbands who were better educated, and 20 percent were married to men with less education. By 2007, the comparable figures were 19 percent and 28 percent. In 1970, 4 percent of husbands had wives who made more money; in 2007, 22 percent did.

College-educated wives are less likely to have a husband who is college-educated and in the highest income bracket than they were in 1970, and married women are less likely to have a husband who works.

“Among all married couples,” the report said, “wives contribute a growing share of the household income, and a rising share of those couples include a wife who earns more than her husband.”

The folks at NPR are positively tingly about the Pew report:

The joke used to be that some women went to college to get their M.R.S. — that is, a husband. In sheer economic terms, marriage was long the best way for a woman to get ahead. But a study by the Pew Research Center finds that there's been a role reversal when it comes to men, women and the economics of marriage.

The study compares marriages in 2007 with those in 1970, when few wives worked — and it's no wonder why. Until 1964, a woman could legally be fired when she got married. Even a woman with a college degree likely made less than a man with a high-school diploma.

"When you think about it from a guy's perspective, marriage wasn't such a great deal," says Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center. "It raised a household size, but it didn't bring in a lot more income."

Four decades later, it's men who are reaping rewards from a stroll down the aisle. Many more women are now working, and in a greater variety of jobs. Add to that the decline of gender discrimination, and women's median wages have risen sharply in recent decades even as men's have remained stagnant or fallen.

I found their giddy take amusing, but also interesting in light of this quote from the Playboy story the other day:

The early Playboy sought the eyes and minds of what Fraterrigo calls “the young, affluent, urban bachelor,” and the first issue was pitched by Hefner as “a little diversion from the anxieties of the Atomic Age.” These anxieties were not only about being barbequed by Soviet nukes; for the American male, they included having to marry the first woman you had sex with, living with your parents (thanks to a dire postwar housing shortage), and feeling emasculated by the new nature of American work, no longer artisanal or rugged or self-determining but managerial and inchoate and soul-stranglingly indoor. This was, in fact, the young Hefner’s life, and he loathed it.

So here's the debate question for today: Are we headed down the otter slide to Helk? Is this change "sustainable"? Is there an upside to this development for men (especially since, as we're so often told, men get the short end of the marriage stick these days)? Is it possible that some men and women are actually being freed up from gender roles that can't possibly suit every man or every woman equally well?

If you could turn the clock back to the 1950s, would you? Why or why not?

What say you?

Update: IS NOTHING SACRED???

Every so often, you would see [a stray dog] waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the ­savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.

Update II: Via bthun...

Uh-oh:

The director of Rape Prevention Education has attacked a promotion offering rugby tickets to "cougars" or women aged 35 and over "looking for slabs of meat" as appalling and disgusting, and wants advertisement withdrawn.

But the competition's promoters say they have no plans to stop the advertising campaign, which it says is meant to be light-hearted.

Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor said the promotion on Air New Zealand's Grabaseat website offering tickets to next month's Wellington Sevens aimed at groups of women aged 35 and over known as cougars, was objectionable on several levels.

She said the online advertisement, which shows a mature woman or cougar "starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night" by stalking a young man at a bar should be withdrawn immediately.

Despite the man's attempts to ward off the woman's advances, the cougar has "not tasted fresh meat for days" and drags her prey to an inner-city apartment.

Ms McGregor said the organisation had heard from Air New Zealand staff who were embarrassed and concerned by the promotion.

"They find it degrading and that it is encouraging potentially harmful behaviour, so my question is why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory behaviour?"

Again, what say you? FWIW, I think the promotion is in poor taste. Not sure men are a special class who need to be protected from sleazy ad campaigns any more than women would be in their place. I'd be more sympathetic to the idea that this kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink ad is more suited for Cosmo or a men's mag than for general consumption.

Posted by Cassandra at January 19, 2010 11:41 AM

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Comments

The income figures are interesting. I'm not sure they prove a lot in and of themselves, other than that there are a lot more opportunities for women then there were in 1970. The educational figures should be more worrying -- not because women are gaining ground on men, but because men of this generation are losing ground to men of previous generations. It's great for me personally, because I don't have to face as much job competition from younger men, but... that isn't the way the world generally works.

As for the Air New Zealand promo, the thing I'd charge them with is felonious abuse of a metaphor. Legal action is not only unnecessary, it'll be a lot less effective than merciless mocking. Someone should put together a video set to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"...

Posted by: Cousin Dave at January 19, 2010 02:21 PM

So here's the debate question for today: Are we headed down the otter slide to Helk? Is this change "sustainable"? Is there an upside to this development for men (especially since, as we're so often told, men get the short end of the marriage stick these days)? Is it possible that some men and women are actually being freed up from gender roles that can't possibly suit every man or every woman equally well?

My wife made over twice what I did as a Sergeant in 1996. It didn't bother me in the slightest. Nor her. Later, while I was back in school, she was the sole earner for the family. Then our situations reversed when she got sick and could no longer work. That doesn't bother me. I think it might bother her some, but more for the boredom aspect than lack of self respect. And I'm taking the last question in that paragraph as rhetorical snark. :P

Again, what say you? FWIW, I think the promotion is in poor taste. Not sure men are a special class who need to be protected from sleazy ad campaigns any more than women would be in their place. I'd be more sympathetic to the idea that this kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink ad is more suited for Cosmo or a men's mag than for general consumption.

Honestly? I'm scratching my head trying to figure out:
1) why a Rape Prevention organization is taking offense at this, unless they're afraid young single men are going to be raped in droves by aggressive older women
2) who is supposed to be offended by this, as it's showing women as holding all the power in the ad and the men are helpless (i.e. are we supposed to feel bad for the men?)
3) why don't they have more serious issues to pursue... this IS a Rape Prevention organization after all. Since when are they all fired concerned about an ad which is in no way that I can see glorifying violence (except potentially against young single men).

I dunno, my outrage-o-meter isn't registering on this one. The image of the cougar presented in this ad is by no means degrading to women. They're presented as strong and confident. I suppose you could look at it as objectifying towards men, which... I am sorry... is laughable. At twenty, having an attractive older woman look at me with desire (much less getting 'mauled') hardly would seem threatening or something to be offended by.

Is that a double standard? Yeah, so? A young virile male should be able to adequately fend off unwanted advances. If he's not capable of doing so, then ok... then come see me and I'll decry the violent violation of the poor dear. Men (stereotype coming here... dun dun DUUUUUUUUUN) on average are physically stronger than women. I don't think this ad will cause women to go wild with lust and sexually assault men. It's HUMOR people... lighten up.

Posted by: MikeD at January 19, 2010 03:58 PM

I think we had a variation on this conversation once. The point was, as I recall, that women's entrance into the workforce has essentially raised the bar for everyone while depressing real wages. I.e., if the workforce doubles in size (roughly), on simple supply-and-demand terms, wages will be much lower on average than if there were half as many workers seeking work.

So, whereas in the 1950s you could easily afford a marriage where only one party worked, now it's harder to make that work.

However, Uncle Sam is on your side. He's raised taxes so high on two-income families that you're back to the point that there's no real benefit to the second partner working. Your family may be making $70,000 instead of $35,000, but you'll be paying so much more in taxes that you won't notice the difference. Or if you're the family making $100,000, you'll be paying still higher taxes (especially FICA); while the family making $25,000 will be subsidized with food stamps and various tax credits.

So, really, the government has boggered it all up so badly that it doesn't really matter what you do. Work hard! Slack off! Your living standard won't change much, and neither will the amount of money you have in your pockets.

Posted by: Grim at January 19, 2010 04:39 PM

So, what, now you're Princess Sugar Mama in a Hostess Snowball Cream Cheese Danish Bikini?

And the Villainry think bt has a *few* personalities.
*snnnicker*
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 19, 2010 05:19 PM

whereas in the 1950s you could easily afford a marriage where only one party worked, now it's harder to make that work.

I think there are two things going on here:

1. Real wages may well be depressed.

2. But also, a family full of generalists doesn't work as efficiently as a family that leverages comparative advantage.

If you take the full time home manager (that's housewife to you, bub!) out of the home, the money that comes in isn't spent as efficiently - there isn't as much "bang for the buck". You end up doing what I like to call "Ye Olde Capital-for-Labor Substitution".

My kids are prime examples of this. They buy all sorts of things that I made from scratch and they buy more new things (and just more things!) than their father and I did starting out. And my husband and I did the same in comparison to our parents.

Each generation does have more disposable income but time is more precious and there's more waste. I don't think it's so much that couples can't live on one income as it is that they have adopted a two-income lifestyle that's unsustainable on one income.

That's a tradeoff. Nothing wrong with it. But most folks that do this don't openly admit that's the choice they made. They say they can't afford not to have both work, but often what they mean is that they aren't willing to go without the more expensive goods and services two income couples can afford but one income couples traditionally forgo.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 05:21 PM

Hmmm... Princess Sugar Mama. I like it.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2010 05:27 PM

"And the Villainry think bt has a *few* personalities. *snnnicker*"
*looks around and asks*

Was she talkin' 'bout us? =8^\

*decides this might take a while to sort, heads over to the beer chillin mechanism while the possibility is discussed*

Posted by: bthun at January 19, 2010 06:19 PM

"It's HUMOR people... lighten up."
We'll drink to that!

Salute!

Posted by: Larry at January 19, 2010 06:24 PM

I think that rarely are changes ever unmitigated goods or unmitigated evils. It is quite possible that a change can increase both goods and bads.

Going back to an earlier thread, divorce rates started rising at the end of WWII. About the same time that women were really starting to enter the workforce. As women were no longer financially dependent it made it easier for her to leave and break the family. She could survive on her own.

But at the same time, it created the two income family which has done more for increasing the standard of living for families than anything else before it. Really, how many teenagers in the 50s had cars of their own? How many today?

But with both partners out of the house, they each have to deal with the stress of bosses, deadlines, traffic, etc. plus the stress of the house gets piled up on top of that on both of them because neither has time during the day making a much more stressful living situation for the entire family.

But in the '50s one spouse couldn't quit work and learn a new skill to change careers and get a better job then trade off and let the other spouse do the same. If you were a poorly paid assembly line worker, you may have been able to afford staying a poorly paid assembly line worker, but you *really* couldn't afford *not* being one.

People who look at only the negatives of these changes (OMG, it's the end of Western Civilisation!!!) are like those people who yearn for the romanticism of the Pioneer West: Where Men were Men and Women were Women...

...and you both had to wipe your a$$ with a leaf.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 19, 2010 06:31 PM

...you may have been unable to afford...

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 19, 2010 06:33 PM

Just the other day the Engineer was telling me once I was hired he fully intended to do a role reversal. Something about being a 'kept man' escaped his bearded lips.

Yes. He has a very handsome beard. Has been growing it now for about seven months.

Anyhoo, he has always thought he could do housekeeping better than me, even when I was cleaning to Marine standards. I know he can simply because he is PA Dutch and wired that way.

I say, 'Let him.'

Posted by: Cricket at January 19, 2010 08:09 PM

"I say, 'Let him.'"

Here here, Cricket!
MH has long had the reputation of being able to get the bathroom so clean you could eat off the floor....w/out dishes. He's pretty good with a dust rag, too. Which is fortunate.....for our visitors.
I.
Don't.
Dust.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 19, 2010 08:25 PM

Heard this one the TV news this evening, too. One thing that crossed my mind: they refer to "household income", but they ignore "household expenses". A married couple with 2.5 children will have greater expenses than a single man (or woman) (ignoring the disposable income). So, the "married men are better off financially" may not, in fact, be completely true...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2010 08:32 PM

I never cared who made more than whom, so that dynamic was totally irrelevant to me. When I was working full-time, I made more than her, but she always complained that I was too focused on work and needed to spend time with her.

When I was unemployed for about a month one time, or when I was only working part-time because I had gone back to school for an advanced degree, she complained that she had to be the primary breadwinner. So, whether I made more, or she did, the only constant was her complaining.

Ultimately, though, the suppossed benefit to men by women earning more is ephemeral. When married, my ex always spent more than whatever she brought in, and then I lost the rest in the divorce. So, whatever the statistics may show, my opinion that marriage is a bad financial deal for a successful man remains unchanged. Let the outrage begin!

Posted by: a former european at January 20, 2010 12:38 AM

I think that your spouse should call you "Sugar Mama".

As for me, my "Sugar Mama" makes a few tens of thousands more than I do, which I suppose would bother me if I had self esteem issues. As 'tis, it's nice not having to cover the majority of expenses; we pretty much do things on a 50/50 basis, financially. Works (quite well!) for me...

Posted by: camojack at January 20, 2010 03:46 AM

afe:

They say most couples fight about money. That's probably the one thing we *don't* fight about, oddly enough. I've always spent more money than The Unit but we spent it in totally different ways.

I've always been pretty thrifty with ordinary expenses (for instance I didn't buy paper towel or paper napkins when we were first married and didn't have any money - I used old washcloths/towels to clean the house and ironed cloth napkins for the table). But I did that so we'd *have* money when there was something we really wanted to buy. I was also more likely to make large purchases.

I think the big thing was that we lived within our means.

Now money isn't really an issue and I'm not nearly as careful with how I spend it. I still take a while to think over major purchases. I looked at this secretary for an entire year before I bought it (never regretted it either - I smile every time I look at it). My husband is far more careful with money. He's more frugal than I am by nature.

To me, so long as you keep a nest egg and a savings account for bad times, money is there to use to make life better.

I think that your spouse should call you "Sugar Mama".

Well, he still makes way more than I do, Camo. But he can call me that any time :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2010 08:09 AM

Ultimately, though, the suppossed benefit to men by women earning more is ephemeral. When married, my ex always spent more than whatever she brought in, and then I lost the rest in the divorce.

I'm not going to argue your personal experience, afe.

I do know that during most of our marriage we struggled to get by and my management of my husband's paycheck allowed us to stretch it as far as it would go. He is better than I am at earning money. But if I'd bought convenience foods and paid full price for everything we bought, we wouldn't have been able to maintain the same standard of living given the same paycheck.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2010 08:12 AM

Yes, Cass, I have always said you seem to be the level-headed, down-to-earth type, and your marriage with the Unit appears to be a great example of how things should be. I know some couples like that as well, but it seems the exception more than the rule in my neck of the woods. I do understand, though, that it is hard to generalize from one's own viewpoint or experiences, in that my circle of friends and aquaintances may be several standard deviations from the norm around the country.

Posted by: a former european at January 20, 2010 07:49 PM

Or mine may be, afe. That's the other possibility.

Either way, I'm certainly no great prize :p Cheers, my friend.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 20, 2010 07:52 PM

If you could turn the clock back to the 1950s, would you? Why or why not?

I wouldn't. I prefer to settle into a traditional gender role by my choice rather than have it dictated to me by society.

And I used to like Playboy. It had great interviews. :)

Posted by: Tony at January 26, 2010 04:04 PM

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