Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Did You Expect?

Recently there was a Washington Post article about The Problem with Men.  It was blogged about in several good posts including by Coloring Outside the Lines and theviewfromher.  It's not worth noting that each of these authors was female.

The core article, while giving a nod to a balanced view is fundamentally alarmist in its slant towards key symptoms with little or no perspective on underlying cause. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for alarmist if it gets people discussing root causes. ;-)

Each of the various posts made me consider the core issue from different perspectives which I assume was the point.  As I considered a variety of responses, I decided to just knock them down in the order they came to me.  So while I'll repost on this subject again with other angles, this one covers only my initial reaction.

Reading the article my first response was "What did you expect?"  In today's workplace we are required to give women special treatment but equal pay.  The legal system gives preference to mothers over fathers at almost every turn. Our child support system is woefully corrupt. Casual sexuality leaves men completely disadvantaged in the dating scene. The education system is in majority geared towards a liberal arts education whereas the workforce continues to give preference to the aggressive and technically adept. The number of support and specialty resources for women vastly outstrip the parallels for men. And so on...whine, whine, whine.

Don't get me wrong, many of the protections afford women and mothers are necessary, crucial even. But if a woman can expect equal investment from a company while reserving rights not available to a man for example maternity leave, that's clearly shifting the balance of power.  When a woman can choose to leave a relationship for no cause and still enforce primary financial dependence on the man, clearly the balance of power has shifted.  When the scholarship basis is weighted almost 4 to 1 in favor of female applicants and the cost of education is stratospheric clearly fewer men or going to consider higher education.  Because I'm a coward I don't even want to get into the other more inflammatory examples.

Rest assured I am not so naive or ignorant as to be unaware that there are many examples of how power has been and continues to be abused by men.  I concede that men can really stink.  My point is that anyone can really stink, gender-neutrally.  As we continue to emphasize legalities that are gender-specific we only make this whole problem worse.

I'm all for gender-equality (or race equality or preference equality or height-equality or pc/mac-equality or...) but it has to actually be about equal, not just a form of special treatment.  Let me give one clear, simple example.  It doesn't make every point and surely has multiple impact points.  But it specifically showcases my point about equal pay and special treatment.

As a business owner I currently have to invest equally in women and men in my workforce.  However I must bear an increased cost in the health-care of women that I don't have with men.  As the business owner I am required to fund the cost of preserving a womans job during a maternity leave, regardless of the business disruption. In this simple situation I have employees that cost me considerable more but I am expected to pay them equally.  Of their own accord, they can choose with their health and family planning decisions to increase my costs and the associated business disruptions by more than 100%. Clearly, these employees are not being treated equally because of the special protections afforded one group by our legal system.  Keep in mind this isn't a bogus example, these are actual facts from current reality.  Because these costs are real, and the business must plan to cover them, the average pay available for anyone in that position is pulled down.  This impacts men because now they are faced with taking a lower wage job with no additional benefit to them.  Women however are afforded the equivalent pay but with added benefits. This isn't just one level of inequality it is actually a double impact. A negative impact for a man and a positive incentive for a woman.

When faced with a myriad of special treatments and challenges such as this, it is becomes possible to understand how this environment is demoralizing at a minimum, and ultimately debilitating. With women getting special treatment in the workplace, the legal system, and the education system, did we really expect men to continue being competitive?  If we increase their challenges to success (in the workplace, the social scene, and in education) and hobble them seemingly at random when they attempt to integrate (the child support system, the divorce courts, and the disparity with benefits and support resources). We can't expect them to do as well as women at keeping up, even if we assume they aren't completely beaten-down and demoralized to begin with.

Add to all of this the idea that women are, generally, more capable then men, is it really such news to discover that men aren't being as "successful" as women?  I use the terms "successful" in quotes because it was used in many of the posts and is another aspect I intend to discuss in future follow-ups.

Okay, so I covered my first response and gave away more of my controversial opinions than ever before.  Well, what's a blog for anyway? Flame away.

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