Saturday, July 16, 2011

Switch Hitting: How Women's Soaring Economic Power is Changing Men and Fatherhood

Here's the video from a presentation I gave with my friend and collaborator Christine Larson at Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research. Chris outlines the nature and trajectory of women's rising economic power; I come in at the end with some opinions about how men and families should respond. Please share!

In other news, next month PM Press will publish Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood, which combines the best pieces from this blog and the award-winning zine Rad Dad, two kindred publications that have tried to explore parenting as political territory. As I edited the book, I kept getting choked up, and once actually cried--these are incredibly powerful and sometimes extremely funny essays about the birth experience, the challenges of parenting on an equal basis with mothers, the tests faced by transgendered and gay fathers, and parental confrontations with war, violence, racism, and incarceration.

I'll be promoting it with coeditor Tomas Moniz at book fairs and playgrounds around the country. Here's the schedule so far:

Timberland Regional Library, Olympia, WA
Wednesday, August 03, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Special Guest: Nikki McClure, Sky Cosby and others

Richard Hugo House, Seattle, WA
Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 7:00pm
Special Guest: Corbin Lewers

Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
Friday, August 5th, 2011 at 7:30pm
Special Guest: Ariel Gore

Zephyr Books, Reno, NV
Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm

The Avid Reader, Davis, CA
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Brooklyn Bookfair, Brooklyn, NY
Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bluestockings, Manhattan, NY
Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 7:30pm
Special Guest: Ayun Halliday

Woodenshoe Anarchist Collective, Philadelphia, PA
Monday, September 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Baltimore Bookfair, Baltimore, MD
Sunday, September 24, 2011

Reach And Teach, San Mateo, CA
Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

New Parents Expo, Manhattan, NY (tentative)
Sunday, October 16, 2011

In October, Tomas and I will organize "Out of the Bookstores and into the Playgrounds," a series of guerilla readings at playgrounds throughout the Bay Area. Want to help organize one or just bring one of us to your town to talk about the book? Contact me at jeremyadamsmith (at)


Anonymous said...

It seems like, until our society validates the 'stay at home mom' we will never be able to validate the 'stay at home dad'. said...

I'm sorry. I don't believe Ms. Larson's comments.They fail a basic laugh test. In 1790 farmers made up over 90% of the US labor force, by 1900 they were 38% of the labor force. This covers the 19th century. What I am seeing is a huge population shift, immigration, the rise of industrialization. What I see is labor being rearranged by the use of mechanization. Nothing said seemed understand this. Skipping around in time from the 19th century to the 1950's is just sloppy. In 1850 making your families clothes was common. Not so in 1950.

The Ecomnist article is singular and has no notes that I could find. I don't see any wide spread support of what Ms Larson said. Building a whole presentation off just one article is a red flag for me. If she has more research she should present it. A page of foot notes would be fine.

A simple economic fact not mentioned is that with greater and greater concentration of wealth in the US to a few ultra wealthy, economic growth data becomes suspect. Paris Hilton's millions hide many sins. Women are getting a larger slice of a smaller pie. Is this achievement? Real family income has been stalled since the 1980's. How can women's income grow while family didn't? How is this a good thing?

Nope. I don't buy it.

Dave said...

Er, what don't you buy? I think Larson is just saying that women's economic power has grown relative to men. Are you disagreeing with that? It sounds like your beef isn't with Larson's argument, but rather with the general trajectory of capitalism since the mid-19th century. In any event, it sounds like her presentation was based on her book, Influence. That probably has the footnotes you're looking for. said...

Dave -

The point of Jeremy's posting was to sell this book. The point of the clip is to show why we should buy this book. So the big thing I'm not buying is this book.

Why? Because of the presentation.

What the presentation is saying that the changing economic power of women will help drive a stalled gender revolution. Jeremy is saying that this will also drive a revolution in men staying at home with their children, which is a subset of the gender revolution.

In my post above I pointed out that her history is dubious, her analysis of the economic growth of women is dubious, partly because her history is dubious. So her conclusions are dubious too. I looked more today and The Economist article still has no outside backing that I can find. The article goes against what I have heard generally, so I am inclined to discount it, which eliminates much of the presentation. I checked the book on Amazon and I can still find no notes to where she, and her co-author, are getting this info from.

I don't buy that she made a case for economics helping a gender revolution. Which would be explained in detail in her book. What she did show was that women have become a source of cheap skilled labor. She did not show how this might help families, or that it will change gender relations.

So no, I'm not buying this book.

Dave said...

Ah, rtb...I'm sorry, but I'm just not finding your argument convincing. Larson shows pretty convincingly that women aren't just a source of cheap labor--they're also launching and leading businesses in greater and greater numbers, and earning a larger share of family income. In fact, I think it's weird that you seem to see women as just a cheap labor pool; that's obviously untrue and perhaps insulting to women.

But let me ask you a question...if it's not economics driving the evolution of gender identities and relations, then what is? You seem to imply it's something else. Or are you saying that there hasn't been any evolution? Or that the evolution has strictly been negative? Just trying to understand. said...


Thanks for the politeness, and for pointing out my vagueness in places.

In college I would whine if I had a 2-5 page paper to do. Being able to clearly state anything in a short, clear, and accurate way is tough. So Props to Jeremy and Ms Larson for their efforts.

I realize that I am taking a negative role in this. Ms Larson and Jeremy have taken a "Pro" position and I am taking the "Con". I'll admit to playing the "Devils Advocate" a little bit.

With the exception of the article from The Economist I don't argue her facts. Larson tries to fit those facts into a logical framework, or Paradigm, and then extrapolate using that Paradigm. As far as I can tell the paradigm is the *stalled* feminist revolution of the 1960' and 70's. This is my issue. At about 2 minutes 20 seconds in Larson states that these changes in economics will restart the stalled revolution. My point is the revolution isn't stalled, it's over. Standard economics is all that is needed.

Standard economics explains everything in Larson's presentation as to women's employment, the gender gap in pay explains the growth in employment. Labor productivity is the difference between the value of labor and what an employer pays for the labor. I would predict if the gender gap in pay goes away then so will the growth. The other alternative is that women possess some genetic endowment that gives them some sort of innate advantage in this economy. Ms Larson does dance around that point. I don't think that is where she wants to go.

As for gender relations, there is a pattern now. More women have children without a formal relationship with the father, and more fathers are absent from their children's lives. I fail to understand why continuing the trend in women's pay will reverse the trend on male behavior. If a women can pay another women to watch and care for her child when she can't do it herself, then how will giving her more money change this. In the end being a SAHD is moral choice, I don't see how economics changes this.

Anonymous said...

This is a little late to the party, but some interesting related research.

Study: New job trends reproducing old forms of gender inequality


Jeremy Adam Smith said...

John, that is an absolutely fascinating study that I hadn't seen--thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeremy,

I am really interested to see how the numbers play out in terms of gender, unemployment and income since 2008. I think makes some valid points about the need to put the changing income of women in the context of overall declining middle-class income and growing income disparity (though I think he dismisses the presentation a bit too much).

One of the interesting things in the last decade has been the shift to a larger percentage of women getting college degrees than men. While there has been a lot of hand-wringing about education failing to meet the needs of boys/men, the more plausable explanation is that men without a college degree have (or had) career options that paid much better than the options available to women - primarily in the trades. To an extent I suspect this was also driven by the housing bubble.

With the 2008 recession and the higher incidence of male unemployment, I suspect that we will see more balance in higher ed as some of the typically male-dominated careers become less available. Also, some of the stats I have seen seem to show a narrowing of the gender gap in unemployment (ie, men are getting hired faster). It will be interesting to see how the "little depression" plays out with gender.


Anonymous said...

Here is another interesting perspective, that perhaps is related to RTB.inks comment about SAHD being a moral choice.

"working Time and Feminism."

The post looks at parental leave policies in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, and notes that increasing parental leave tends to reinforce the culturally embedded gender roles - women are more likely to reduce working hours or time than men - and outlines some strategies that are being proposed to structure parental leave in ways that to try to even that out (such as having a % of parental leave that can only be taken by fathers).


Famous Women in Business said...

For the first time in history a majority of women are earning their own money and paying their own money and paying their own way and, so, taking charge and making changes in their careers, their consumerism, their personal lives, their investments, and their activism. More of like an equality on both sides, as for me.