Sunday, June 25, 2017

Are You Man Enough... To Be a Nurse?

This is probably not the most shocking thing you are going to hear today. While male unemployment is high jobs are going unfilled because men do not want to do them. Better yet, their wives do not want them to do the jobs. And those who hire people for the jobs do not want to hire men. Those who do the jobs do not want men as colleagues either. I am talking about care giving jobs, like nurses and home health care workers.

Naturally, Susan Chira attributes it to stereotyping, but does she know better than the men, their wives and their prospective colleagues? At the least, she ought to respect the views of the women who live with these men.

Yet, as Chira presents the case, the feminist vision of male nurses and male home care workers fades into oblivion. Gender interchangeability is just another dumb idea… one that takes permanent leave from reality.

Chira opens:

Traditionally male factory work is drying up. The fastest-growing jobs in the American economy are those that are often held by women. Why not get men to do them?

The problem is that notions of masculinity die hard, in women as well as men. It’s not just that men consider some of the jobs that will be most in demand — in health care, education and administration — to be unmanly or demeaning, or worry that they require emotional skills they don’t have. So do some of their wives, prospective employers and women in these same professions.

Notions of masculinity have developed for reasons that have everything to do with human nature. Why is that so difficult to accept?

A sociology professor who sets her straight:

Ofer Sharone, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has studied middle-aged white-collar professionals who have lost their jobs. He found that some men who might have been willing to consider lower-paid jobs in typically feminine fields encountered resistance from their wives, who urged them to keep looking.

“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman,” Professor Sharone said. “What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”

That may be, he said, because other sociologists have found that while work is important to both men’s and women’s identities, there remains a difference. “Work is at the core of what it means to be a man, in a way that work is not at the core of femininity,” he said.

Clients do not want to hire male caregivers, either. Perhaps they have bathed in the ambient culture, the one that demonizes men as repugnant abusers. Perhaps they understand that men lack the genetic make-up to be good caregivers:

Sherwin Sheik, president and chief executive of CareLinx, which matches caregivers with families, said that many clients remain suspicious of male home health care aides, worried about abuse or sexual predation, and convinced that women will be more caring.

And, of course, women who work in what have traditionally been women’s professions do not want a lot of men around:

Men can also face resistance from their female peers. Jason Mott, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, said some of his male students were teased by their female classmates. “They feel they need to really express their manhood, stressing the athletics they take part in,” he said.

Nursing offers a perplexing case study. In theory, nursing should appeal to men because it pays fairly good wages and is seen as a profession with a defined skill set. Yet just 10 percent of nurses are men, despite “Are You Man Enough … to Be a Nurse?” posters and other efforts to enlist men.

Of course, it’s all a messaging problem. You want to attract men to nursing, you need more posters about how only a man who is man enough can be a nurse. 

Women know better. They are not rushing out to marry male nurses. Men whose manhood has been compromised by such occupations often believe that they need to become more macho than thou, more aggressive and more violent… to assure themselves and their prospective mates that they are really man enough.

If women do not want it, we should respect their views.

Why Relationships Fail

Consider this a footnote on yesterday’s post about “Why Marriages Fail.” You recall that Harvard professor Alexandra Killewald’s research showed that women were more likely to walk away from marriages when men were not breadwinners. That is, when men became the kind of male beings that feminists have told them to become.

Fortuitously, New York Magazine has just written up a case study of a relationship that failed because the man did not make enough money. (via Maggie's Farm)

Carly is 38, with a five year old son. She has her own business and barely makes ends meet. Jackson is 37, without children, but who loves her children. They have a great rapport and great sex. Yet, Jackson has no real ambition and does not make much more than he needs.

Carly said:

 It felt great having a boyfriend. A giant weight was lifted off my shoulders because I had someone to talk to, someone to rely on, someone who fit with me and my son. Plus, the sex was incredible. It was kind of picture perfect, despite the untraditional-ness of it all. I guess the only issue from the very start was that Jackson didn’t have a stable job. He’s a super-talented photographer, but his work was a little unsteady. If I’m being honest, I thought maybe there was family money, and I hoped for that only because it meant I could stay with him forever. I didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t contribute; I knew that would only lead to resentment. But there wasn’t family money …

He was not going to be a breadwinner. End of relationship.

To be fair and balanced, Jackson offered his own viewpoint:

I didn’t make the kind of money she wanted me to, which bothered her way more than me. I feel like I’m lucky that I have a rent-stabilized apartment and work that I enjoy. In my eyes, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t provide for her or her son. Love, affection, adventure. I was devoted. Dollar signs weren’t a thing as far as I was concerned.

Carly’s response:

It started to annoy me, big time, how little he worked, how rarely he thought about money or ambition. He’d do the littlest thing, like maybe smoke a joint with my friends, and I’d just boil over inside. Like, “You fucking stoner deadbeat!” Meanwhile, all my friends were also smoking and I’d be like, “Cool, love you guys.” But I was conflicted — he and my son had gotten so close and there was so much I loved about Jackson too.

But, Jackson has work/life balance:

She wanted to change this very innate quality about me, which is that I’m not driven by money. I’m not materialistic. I don’t need fancy things. I just need good people, creativity, inspiration, honesty, a beautiful woman, a cold beer on my front stoop …

I would have done anything to make it work, except get a terrible, soul-crushing job. And that was the only thing she ever wanted me to do. It got real ugly. She’d yell at me about everything. I went from this man she wanted to raise a child with to someone who couldn’t do anything right.

Carly saw it as “the Urban Cowboy thing” and she refused to make it a part of her life. As opposed to what we read in therapy columns, this account shows a good dose of responsible adult reasoning. 

"Another Soul-Sucking Disappointment"

Democrats thought they had it won. They were convinced that they would win Tom Price’s Congressional seat in the Georgia runoff election last week. They were wrong. They lost. Now is the time for soul-searching. Because, if Democrats are good at anything, it’s soul searching.

While not the first to weigh in, Maureen Dowd has gotten her groove back in today’s column:

The Democrats just got skunked four to nothing in races they excitedly thought they could win because everyone they hang with hates Trump.

If Trump is the Antichrist, as they believe, then Georgia was going to be a cakewalk, and Nancy Pelosi was going to be installed as speaker before the midterms by acclamation. But it turned into another soul-sucking disappointment.

I’m not so sure what the Antichrist has to do with cakewalks—shifting narratives—but Democrats were persuaded that young attractive centrist Jon Ossoff would easily beat Karen Handel. He didn’t. He didn't even live in the district.

Dowd contacted Rahm Emanuel, to learn how to win elections:

“We congenitally believe that our motives are pure and our goals are right,” Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, told me. “Therefore, we should win by default.” But, he added dryly: “You’ve got to run a good campaign. In elections, politics matter. Oooh, what a surprise.”

Apparently, Rahm has forgotten the other rule of politics: when you have power you have to govern effectively. The man presiding over the killing fields of Chicago, within a state that has been bankrupted by years of Democratic governance, does not serve as a role model for effective governance.

If Democrats do not think that it matters, they are living in their own fairy tale. Dowd explains it well:

Democrats cling to an idyllic version of a new progressive America where everyone tools around in electric cars, serenely uses gender-neutral bathrooms and happily searches the web for the best Obamacare options. In the Democrats’ vision, people are doing great and getting along. It is the opposite of Trump’s dark diorama of carnage and dystopia — but just as false a picture of America.

True enough, there is enough dystopia in districts that voted for Donald Trump. That’s why they voted for Donald Trump. But, if you are looking for a real dystopia, put Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago on your itinerary.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Self-Sabotage

Again, the letter the frustrated woman writes to therapist Lori Gottlieb is far more interesting than anything Gottlieb has to say. 

As often happens in these letters, we are deprived of most relevant information, condition that makes up prey to Gottlieb’s efforts to shoehorn the woman’s life into a psycho narrative. And thus, to ignore the woman's question?

For your edification, I provide the letter written by a woman who calls herself Frustrated:

I am divorced with two kids, and trying to date in the age of “swiping.” It’s hard. But for the first time in years I fell for someone … hard. The feelings had been intense from the beginning but also very recognizably mutual. All the basics you could hope to check off in the list of desirable dating traits were checked. Prior to this guy I had “dated” guys that would really just consist of a month or so of texting with about three dates total. None of them ignited an emotional connection like this last guy. But with the other guys, I could always tell when the guy was about to call it quits. I learn people and read people’s behaviors so I can tell when something is off and the level of interest has dissolved. My gut has never failed me when it comes to this stuff.

With the most recent guy, I started getting a bad feeling about a friend that he used to date, but he swore they were just buddies. He was forthcoming about his friendship with this girl, but I found it very strange that he would talk all the time to this person and hang out quite frequently. It made me uneasy. I have severe trust issues. He knew this. And he put a lot of effort into reassuring me that there’s nothing going on between them. I tried very hard to trust him. I wanted to trust him.

But I couldn’t shake my suspicions about their friendship. And so I became (secretly) obsessive about trying to figure out if they’re hanging out and how often they’re talking.  It was like I knew deep down that maybe there was unfinished business between them and I was looking for any evidence to prove myself right.  It caused me so much stress and anxiety. There very well could have been nothing going on, but my gut was telling me otherwise.  I had that feeling you just can’t shake that something isn’t adding up.  I think ultimately he sensed that this would probably be an ongoing issue, so he ended things stating that feelings weren’t mutual, which is contradictory to everything he had been saying to me and how he treated me until that moment he broke up with me. 

I think my biggest concern is that I don’t know how to get over the urge to read into everything to “prove myself right” when I think I’m being wronged.  It worries me that I will self-sabotage any future relationship.

We are all impressed to see that Frustrated has already bought the psycho narrative about self-sabotage. Apparently, she has already had some experience of therapy and has learned to blame it all on herself, on her tendency to self-sabotage.

We will note, for the record, that we do not know how old she is, how old her children are, what she does for a living, how old her paramour was, whether or not he had children and what he did for a living. We do not know what she brings to a relationship and what the man in question was bringing. Without knowing any of this we are flying blind. It does not bother Gottlieb, who flings a blizzard of psychobabble about self-sabotage. 

Again, by the terms of the letter we are not dealing with a human being who has a life. Nevertheless we ought to respect her question and address it directly. 

Frustrated was dating a man and became suspicious of his relationship with an ex--. The man was open and upfront about the ex--. He talked with her all the time and told Frustrated about her all the time. So, Frustrated became suspicious. Her instincts told her that something was off, that he was not over his ex--.  Would any sensible adult have drawn a different conclusion?

True enough, Frustrated says, nothing might have been going on, but her “gut” told her otherwise. I am not a fan of going with your gut, but I confess that I respect her intuition. We do not know whether her ex— and his ex— were making the beast with two backs, but that is not the point. The man was obviously unavailable. He might have been pining away for his ex--. His ex—might have been married or engaged. She might have rejected him. At the least, he was not fully engaged in his relationship with Frustrated. His level of commitment was not the same as hers. To anyone who is not a therapist, this is almost self-evident.

For all we know, his distance might have had nothing to do with Frustrated. Since we do not know whether he was married or not, whether he had children or not, how old he was, what he did for a living, we cannot judge whether he had other reasons for his distance.

On one point I do agree with Gottlieb. We would like it if Frustrated trusted her instincts. Failed relationships, relationship traumas will certainly undermine one's ability to trust and one's reliance on instinct. Under the circumstances it’s best to consult someone who is more objective. She would do better to indulge in endless bouts of introspection or exercises in overpriced storytelling. She ought to learn how to look at the situation objectively, with all relevant facts in hand. This will tell her whether she is judging the situation correctly or is distorting it. Of course, being suspicious seems perfectly reasonable here. It tells us that she is not willing to rely solely on her gut.

In this case, I think that Frustrated was right. I think that her suspicions were giving her a sense of the reality of the situation. As a rule, women have very good intuitions about such matters. But, how does it happen that a female therapist does not respect Frustrated’s intuition, her take on the situation? It’s a sad state of affairs when a woman, pretending to offer therapy, disrespects another woman.


Why Do Marriages Fail?

Why do marriages break up? Does it have anything to do with shifting gender roles? Are other economic variables playing a decisive role?

Last year Harvard sociology professor, Alexandra Killewald, published an important study on the topic. It has been reported by Jon Miltimore at the Intellectual Takeout blog (via Maggie’s Farm.)

Killewald considered three options:

A core unresolved question is how trends in marital stability relate to changing family and economic circumstances. Have wives’ greater earnings power and work experience increased divorce by reducing the costs of exiting bad marriages? Are strained household finances associated with heightened risk of divorce? Or do spouses’ work and earnings patterns alter marital stability by conveying signals about whether each partner is fulfilling the implicit, symbolic, gendered terms of the marital contract?

Are more people getting divorced because it’s cheap and available? Or do they opt out of marriage because of financial strains? Apparently not. The most significant factor was that men had not fulfilled their roles as breadwinners. You will note, as we all do, that this role has supposedly been rendered obsolete by women’s liberation. And yet, apparently, a man’s failure to support his family will lead even liberated of wives to seek a divorce. Or perhaps a man who is not a breadwinner will be more likely to stray. 

Killewald explains:

…the strongest evidence for the gendered institution perspective is that, for marriages begun in 1975 or later, divorce is more likely when husbands are not employed full-time. Consistent with my hypotheses, there is no evidence that this association is weaker for later than earlier marriage cohorts. Just as male breadwinning has remained important for marriage formation (Sweeney 2002), the results here demonstrate its enduring importance for marital stability. The results are consistent with claims that bread-winning remains a central component of the marital contract for husbands (Nock 1998).

Many feminists will respond that it just shows how entrenched sexism is. Other, more rational folk, will conclude that people who ignored traditional roles paid a price for it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trump to Xi: Toughen Up!

No sensible adult is going to defend all of Donald Trump’s tweets. Yet, no sensible adult should reject them all out of hand.

Case in point: Trump’s tweet regarding China and North Korea. Isobel Thompson at Vanity Fair calls it mystifying. It is anything but.

Following the death of Otto Warmbier, Trump tweeted this:

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

This tells us that Trump asked China’s president Xi for help in dealing with North Korea. And it says that the Chinese president agreed to do so. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a diplomatic solution to the problem with North Korea. It  beats the alternatives. Surely, it is more diplomatic than making threats. 

Now, Trump is saying that President Xi may have oversold his ability to influence the regime in Pyongyang. The subtle and ironic jab at China, wrapped in compliments, suggests that if the Chinese expect more from America they will need to do better with North Korea. After all, the whole world is watching. That is what it means to send the message via tweet instead of via back channels.

If China wants to be recognized as a world leader, it should honor its commitments and deal with its vassal states. Your move, President Xi.

Trump is not telling Xi what to do. He is not condemning him. He is saying that China’s president is embarrassing himself on the world stage, looking weak next to North Korea, and that Trump hopes that he can do better.

Thus, Trump is leaving Xi a way to save face and is putting Xi on notice that he expects more than a good effort. The tweet is sophisticated, diplomatic and subtle… apparently too subtle for many observers. Don't these readers understand irony?

Deal Breakers

We all know why relationships fail. We know all about the several kinds of abuse—physical, emotional, verbal, sexual—and we imagine that, high on the list of deal breakers is: adultery. Let’s not forget the possibility that your beloved turns out to be a pathological liar, a criminal or a drug addict. He might have some truly unsavory habits—like a fascination with child pornography. Or he might chronically keep the toilet seat up.

Thus, we have been taught to think of it in terms of drama. When relationships fail we assume that something dramatic happened, something that can make its way to the small screen in a movie of the week.

But, life is not all about drama. Or, at least, I hope that yours isn’t. Life is about little things, about small stuff that can make or break an observation. So says Judith Newman in a recent article. In most cases Newman is talking about how a woman understands in a blinding flash of insight that she must exit her relationship. Perhaps she is talking about tipping points. Perhaps she is talking about something as gauche as calling your beloved, in a moment of passion, by someone else’s name.

Newman is not talking about abuse and she is not even talking about personal habits—like bad personal hygiene-- that make an individual insufferable. She writes:

I’m not talking about the kind of differences that make life with someone clearly incompatible: smoking, different concepts about hygiene, profound religious or political schisms. I mean the differences that may, from the outside, look like mere quirks—but turn out to be anything but. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that small discrepancies in style can indicate much larger ones in substance.

To be fair, Newman does not offer a grand theory about why this should be. She does not say that the women should or should not do what they are doing. She accepts their actions and respects them. It’s perfectly reasonable and perfectly fine with me. One does best to suspend one’s critical and theory-making faculties long enough to examine the evidence, dispassionately and objectively. And to recognize that, in the world of dating and mating, whatever makes sense to you is good enough for me. 

In her own case, Newman walked out on the love of her life over a movie. In Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, a man tells his friend that it is better to murder his mistress than to risk her exposing their affair to his wife.

Newman’s paramour found the reasoning cogent. Newman ended the relationship:

I left because the man who had me as his mistress believed a man who murdered his mistress acted rationally. Call me old-fashioned, but that was a deal-breaker.

But, in most cases she is not talking about something quite that profound. She received messages from women who have broken up with men because of ridiculous tube socks, bow ties, lame tattoos and ugly gym bags.

Perhaps we are dealing with a habit that represents the tip of an iceberg… something small that signifies something much larger. Heck, it might be taste in books. In the interest of gender equity, Newman offers a man’s response:

“For me, the horror is discovering that an adult I’m interested in is a huge fan of Harry Potter,” says my friend Spencer. “I mean, go to the movies, if you must. Read the books to your kids.  Go to Harry Potter Land at Universal, see Daniel Radcliffe naked in Equus, anything, just don’t gush about what great literature these novels are if you’re over 21.”  Recently Spencer met a woman who seemed great for him in every way—until the HP subject popped up.  She’d read all seven.  “I wish she’d just lied to me,” he sighed.

And then there are repugnant verbal tics. They are not repugnant because they are obscene, but because they are so completely out of context:

Similarly, there are those were entirely sunk by using or misusing words repeatedly. “Ciao” turns out to be, for some, a devastating irritant. Ditto the promiscuous use of LOL. And “dude.” As one woman put it, “If I wanted to hear ‘dude’ in every other sentence I’d date 13 year olds.” Another friend told me she had to break up with someone when she couldn’t get him to stop saying “ekcetera ekcetera ekcetera.” Was she dating Yul Brynner, I wondered, but then I discovered it was the mispronunciation that set her teeth on edge. “Why was it so hard to learn ETcetera?  WHY?” she asked.

Newman’s friend Lynn Snowden Picket has her own list of deal breakers:

Her deal breaker?  “A man who ordered a crèche of wine instead of a carafe, and when I told him he’d just ordered his wine in Jesus’s manger he said, `Oh, I’m a writer, I play with words.’” She fired him as her date not so much for the wrong word, but for being a pretentious git.

Why the concern with restaurant manners? Try this: if she continues to date him and finds herself out in company with him, she risks being mortified by his behavior. No one really wants to be attached to someone who is going to make her look bad in front of family, friends or colleagues. It’s all about status and standing, about prestige and good behavior. Most women will not risk being humiliated by a date or a lover or a husband who likes to pretend that he is a teenager.

And then there are mistakes that people make in bed. This one is NSFW:

“I was with this new man, and we were having a fantastic time,” said my friend Lily.  I was really losing myself in the moment when he looked up from what he was doing and said, “You likee?” And that was it. I knew he would never be in my bed again.” At first I thought Lily was being ridiculous; after all, wasn’t it nice that the guy was trying to please her? Then I remembered an incident in my own life when, at a distinctly inopportune time, the new man I was with shouted, “Yee-haw!” Maybe this would have been ok if he were a cowboy.  He was a plastic surgeon.

Call these epiphanies, moments where a woman recognizes that the man she is in bed with is not really there… that he is recollecting a past experience or reliving a prior casual encounter. It’s roughly like calling her by the wrong name.

Sometimes, the deal breakers involve gender identity. A man who does not do manly things can be dismissed for being insufficiently manly. What does or does not count as manly changes with geography:

Often these deal-breakers are critical signifiers of masculinity or femininity.  “I won’t date a man who doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift,” says Kristen K. To those who grew up in cities, where cars are not really erotic symbols of much, this makes no sense. But Kristen, who grew up in Kentucky, was adamant that a man who couldn’t drive a stick shift was not a real man. (To me, that position would be taken by a man who didn’t know how to litigate, but then I grew up in Scarsdale.).

Surely, this is far better than embracing or rejecting a prospective lover or even a spouse on the grounds of hotness or coolness… depending on your age.

So, Newman’s message is to sweat the small stuff. If you are thinking about spending a lot of time with someone, it’s a good idea to be on the same page, or better, for both to be present to the relationship:

Taste matters. Style matters. And sometimes they matter more over the years, not less. To those of you on a first date to that Broadway musical that makes your heart soar:  If he’s sighing and looking at his watch, pay attention.

It's not so much that he's bored with the play-- most Broadway musicals are boring-- but that he is bored being with you. If he cannot suck it up to enjoy sharing an experience with you, look elsewhere.