1) The New York Times reports:
The American Association of University Women, whose 1992 report on how girls are shortchanged in the classroom caused a national debate over gender equity, has turned its attention to debunking the idea of a “boys’ crisis.”
“Girls’ gains have not come at boys’ expense,” says a new report by the group, to be released on Tuesday in Washington.
Echoing research released two years ago by the American Council on Education and other groups, the report says that while girls have for years graduated from high school and college at a higher rate than boys, the largest disparities in educational achievement are not between boys and girls, but between those of different races, ethnicities and income levels...
The report points out that a greater proportion of men and women than ever before are graduating from high school and earning college degrees. But, it says, “perhaps the most compelling evidence against the existence of a boys’ crisis is that men continue to outearn women in the workplace.”
2) Then I read this piece in Business Week:
They eat from the same dishes and sleep in the same beds, but they seem to be operating in two different economies. From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs. You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not.
What's going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst — manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.
This situation is hardly good news for women, though. While they're getting more jobs, their pay is stagnant. Also, most share households—and bills—with the men who are losing jobs. And the "female" economy can't stay strong for long if the "male" economy weakens too much.
My comment: This has been going on for decades--over a century, in fact. Women made up only 2.5 percent of the clerical workforce in 1870. But by 1930, women were 52.5 percent of all clerical workers. Women's education and employment jumped in every decade of the twentieth century, including in the 1950s. These trends continued right up through the 1990s and they continue today.
In many respects, the genders traveled through the twentieth century on separate tracks—but by the end of the century women were catching up, economically, socially, and politically. “It was inevitable that women would rise out of property status,” writes novelist and social critic Jane Smiley. “Capitalism wants every consumer, and ultimately distinctions among consumers according to gender, age, geographical location or ethnic background must break down as the market extends itself.”
Thus women’s accomplishments didn’t come at men’s expense. Women responded more quickly and nimbly to social and economic change and so they were able to benefit from the evolution of capitalism from industrialism to post-industrialism.
Meanwhile, men who were too invested in the status quo fell behind. Feminism did not cause these social and economic changes, but by preaching equality between genders, it tried to teach women and men how to live with them. Feminism also provided role models that helped girls and women adapt to new realities.
Now, I think, men have to do the same for boys, moving from rigid notions of manhood as breadwinning and domination to something more flexible and cooperative, from one economic paradigm to the next. It's that lack of new role models that constitutes the real boy crisis.