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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 17, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Continuing with Melanie Notkin’s awful and misandric screed in the New York Post (New York Post, 5/13/17).  Having called men “perpetual adolescents,” she goes on to wonder why they, like women, are delaying marriage and having children. 

I suppose it’s too much to ask Notkin to think about why men might be doing that, why they say they place less emphasis on career than did their predecessors or why they’re more ambivalent about male-female relationships than are women.  Needless to say, as with all gender feminists, Notkin’s ideas about men and women include essentially nothing about men as human beings with genuine needs of their own.  No, for her, men are entirely judged by what they do or don’t do for women.

Today’s empowered young women are not only placing greater value on the importance of marriage and parenthood than the generation that precedes them, they also value high paying careers more than ever. And millennial men? They’re lagging behind.

See what I mean?  Millennial men are lagging behind.  According to Notkin, they’re either doing what women of their generation are doing or they’re “lagging.”  Women’s behavior is the norm against which men are to be judged.  To no one’s surprise, they’re judged lacking.  After all, this is Melanie Notkin who’s writing.

But what about those men?  Actually, unlike Notkin’s portrait of them, they’re more likely to be employed than are women.  That’s true now and always has been.  There’s about a 14 percentage point gap between men’s and women’s workforce participation rates and employment rates.  Men earn more money than do women and work longer hours.  They’re more likely to work full-time and they tend to work at higher-paying jobs. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although men aged 25 to 34 have a 5% unemployment rate and women a 4.8% rate, men’s labor force participation rate is 88.7% versus women’s 73.8%.  In other words, far more men than women are employed. Those are the men whom Notkin refers to as “perpetual adolescents.”

But the fact is that, when it comes to paying the bills, they do a much better job of it than do Notkin and her friends.  That being true, Notkin attempts to take refuge in attitudes.

It’s not surprising then that a 2012 Pew Research study found, in a reversal of traditional gender roles, that while two-thirds of millennial women say that “being successful in a high-paying career or profession” is of high importance to them, only 59 percent of young men do. At the same time, a significantly larger number of young women than men say that a successful marriage is “one of the most important things in life.” Almost 60 percent of women rate successful parenting as one of the most important parts of life, while only 47 percent of young men do, according to Pew.

For a long time now, I’ve noted the stark differences between what people say they value and what they end up doing.  The Families and Work Institute has been tracking the attitudes of young adults toward work and family for many years now and, whenever the poll is taken, respondents can be relied on to voice their support for equality in all things, most prominently earning and childcare. 

Those surveys are always interesting, but what’s more so is how dramatically different is the behavior of those polled from their stated values.  Simply put, when little Andy or Jenny comes along, reversion to Dad as breadwinner and Mom as Mom is the overwhelming norm.  So, whatever millennials say about the comparative importance of work and family, count on the women to sideline their careers when the first little millennial is born.  And count on their male partners to be the ones to facilitate those choices.

Should Notkin want to peek at her own words quoted above, she might notice a problem.  If two-thirds of millennial women place high value on high-paying careers and 60% say the same about successful parenting, those women are going to be faced with a choice.  Because no one can do both alone.  How many articles and books do we have to read before that sinks in on people like Notkin?  Overwhelmingly, people do one or the other – high-flying careerist or parent – but not both.  The Pew figures cited by Notkin mean to a virtual certainty what I said above – that, when the first child is born, millennial women will drop their work lives like so many hot rocks and their male partners will become the sole or at least the primary earners.  If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my hat.

Now, one thing Notkin never establishes is whether there’s a problem.  She says there is, based apparently on the problems of three women she’s talked to who can’t seem to find a boyfriend or, if they have one, get him to commit to having children.  For example, she makes no mention of the greater emphasis placed by millennials on family, on getting and remaining married than did their parents’ generation.  I discussed that only ten days ago.

But, having failed to make the case that there’s a problem, she nevertheless has the solution.  Actually, she has several of them, not one of which is worth a tinker’s “damn.”

For some young college educated women, an older partner may work. Middle-aged men place a higher value on marriage and parenthood than their younger counterparts do, according to Pew.  

Yes, that’s true.  It’s also why those men are highly likely to be married and therefore not available to Notkin’s needy millennials.  More importantly though, does it really make sense for a 30-year-old woman to marry a 55-year-old man?  He’ll be dead in 20 years, when she’s 50.  If it’s unappealing now, how will the dating scene look then?  Then there’s the fact that, at that age, he may not want to take on the role of father to a couple of toddlers.  He’s been there and done that and probably is ready to get on with living adult life.  And what about the fact that men over the age of 50 have a significantly higher probability of producing children with schizophrenia?  Notkin’s first alternative doesn’t look so good.

[Author Jon] Birger also advises college-educated women to consider a different cohort of men altogether. “If there are too many women in the white-collar dating world,” Birger contends, “that means there are too many men in the blue-collar one. I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see more and more of what I call ‘mixed-collar’ marriages in the future.”

That’s a sensible suggestion on Birger’s part, but don’t count on millennial women acting on it.  Women tend strongly toward hypergamy for eons-old evolutionary reasons.  They still do.  That’s why the loss of a job by a man is the best predictor of his wife’s divorcing him.  And, again should Notkin want to take a glance at her own article, hypergamy is one of the major problems she’s complaining about.  Remember, Notkin claims that millennial men aren’t “marriageable.”  One reason they aren’t is that, according to her, they don’t earn enough money.

The census reports that “the average adult woman in the US is more likely to be a college graduate than the average adult man.” Moreover, today’s young, childless female city-dwellers with college degrees are out-earning their male counterparts by 8 cents on the dollar.

So, weirdly, what Notkin identifies as one of the major problems occasioning her article is also part of the solution.  According to her, women don’t “marry down,” which creates the problem of not enough marriageable men, so they should “marry down.”  I suppose it’s true; if women were different, then the situation would be too.  But they’re not, so the situation remains.

That brings Notkin to her real solution.

Either way, like Kate and Susan, young women should plan for later age fertility and motherhood, now. Egg-freezing is an option for those who can afford what can cost $12,000 or more, plus ongoing storage fees, and later IVF – albeit, with no guarantee of success.

Whatever choice they make, young women should consider their options, and move forward. Wait for love, absolutely. But be ready in case love doesn’t come in time for motherhood.

In other words, have a baby without a father.  Now, I won’t go into all the ways that’s a horrible idea for the child.  That’s been detailed so many times by so many people that I really don’t need to do so again.

So I’ll just confine my remarks to explaining to Notkin that, far from solving the problem she believes to exist, it does the opposite.  It makes it worse.  If a woman has a job and no partner, and she obtains a child by whatever means, does that make her life easier?  Less stressful?  Does she have more options to choose from?  No, quite the contrary.  What she’s given herself is a baby whom she rarely sees plus the increased obligation of working to support not just herself, but her child as well.  She’s given herself all the stress of parenthood with few of the joys and, however much she might like to do what married women so often do, i.e. quit her job, she’s stuck with it.

Gender feminists never have come up with an alternative to men and fathers.  Heaven knows they’ve tried, but the realities of men and women and the demands of work and family thwart them at every turn.  Melanie Notkin’s no better.  She imagines a problem where there isn’t one and her solutions either don’t exist or would make women’s lives harder and more unpleasant.

I suppose it’s comforting in a way.  In this age of constant upheaval, some things never change.

 

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