Once upon a time I wrote a post entitled: “Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?” It’s not a serious question, but that has not prevented serious thinkers from asking it from time to time.
They agonize over the fact that men are not lining up to get jobs as nurses and caregivers. Since they do not recognize that men and women are not the same, and that gender is not a social construct, they continue to contort their minds to explain a point that biology will easily answer.
Call it the agony of ignorance. But, don’t confuse it with the more popular phrase: “the agenbite of inwit” which means, I am sure you know, the gnawing of conscience.
Anyway, Claire Cain Miller writes in the New York Times that it’s not a good time to be an unemployed male in America. As she adds, the most recent election offered a hint. Jobs that men want are vanishing while jobs that require a woman’s touch are begging for applicants.
Miller explains this phenomenon:
It hasn’t been a great time to be a man without a job.
The jobs that have been disappearing, like machine operator, are predominantly those that men do. The occupations that are growing, like health aide, employ mostly women.
One solution is for the men who have lost jobs in factories to become health aides. But while more than a fifth of American men aren’t working, they aren’t running to these new service-sector jobs. Why? They require very different skills, and pay a lot less.
They’re also seen as women’s work, which has always been devalued in the American labor market.
Where to begin? Obviously, men are not running out to find jobs for which they have neither the skills nor the interest in order to be paid less. Why should this be tormenting anyone? As for devaluing women’s work, it might be that being a caretaker or a nurse is less valuable than doing a job that produces something—whether wrenches or widgets.
And, lest we forget, men choose jobs because of the standards that women use in choosing men. Women are less likely to be attracted to a male nurse who is making a lot less money than, say, a doctor or an IT professional. If you think that this is merely a guy problem and merely evidence of endemic sexism, think again.
Actually, if Miller or any other journalist wanted to enlighten us she could do an analysis of why the economy is skewed in favor of healthcare and skewed away from manufacturing. And one would have to note that many segments of the modern economy skew toward men. Jobs in Silicon Valley tend to do so, but the men who were running lathes do not have the skills to do them. And jobs in the energy business also tend to skew toward men. As do jobs in construction? Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to make up for the lost factory jobs. Are schools encouraging boys to develop the skills needed for some of these jobs or are they trying to teach boys how best to be future nurses? Or else, are the schools trying to elevate girls at the expense of boys?
One notes in passing that many of the factory jobs have not just gone abroad. Many have been replaced by robots and other forms of automation.
Still, the experts are agonizing over the men who do not want to be nurses, so they offer up the feministically correct explanations:
Much of men’s resistance to pink-collar jobs is tied up in the culture of masculinity, say people who study the issue. Women are assumed to be empathetic and caring; men are supposed to be strong, tough and able to support a family.
“Traditional masculinity is standing in the way of working-class men’s employment, and I think it’s a problem,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist and public policy professor at Johns Hopkins and author of “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America.”
“We have a cultural lag where our views of masculinity have not caught up to the change in the job market,” he said.
But telling working-class men to take feminine jobs plays to their anxieties and comes off as condescending, said Joan Williams, a law professor at U.C. Hastings and author of “Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.”
“White working-class men’s wages have plummeted, and what happens to men in that context is anxieties about whether they’re ‘real men,’ ” she said.
In fact, these great minds would do better to examine the science. You remember science, don’t you? You recall that left thinking people insist that they are defending scientific truth against the right thinking yahoos who ignore it whenever it becomes inconvenient.
As for the science, Debra Soh (from York University in Toronto) explains the seeming conundrum in the Los Angeles Times. The information she offers is not proprietary. It has not been kept under wraps in the corner of a research lab. It is public record, available to everyone. And it would have explained the problem that the experts are agonizing over:
A large and long-standing body of research literature shows that toy preferences, for example, are innate, not socially constructed or shaped by parental feedback.
Most girls will gravitate toward socially interesting toys, like dolls, that help social and verbal abilities develop. Most boys will gravitate toward toys that are mechanically interesting, like cars and trucks, fostering visuo-spatial skills.
It’s not too complicated. The evidence is clear. And yet, parents across America are now bringing up their children to be gender neutral, or, should I say, gender neutered. The current mania over the transgendered seems to be harmless enough. If it causes you to bring up your child to be gender non-conforming it can easily be harmful.
In a steadfast pursuit of gender equality and to promote nonconformity, it’s become popular in some social circles to start early, very early, by raising young children in a gender-neutral way: not revealing the baby’s sex at birth, dressing them and their bedroom in various shades of oatmeal, encouraging them to play with gender-neutral toys. There’s also pressure on corporations to help; parental complaints led Target to stop sex-segregating its toys, for instance.
Offering kids the opportunity to pursue what they’d like, freed from societal expectations, is an undeniably positive thing — whether it has to do with toys, clothing, or their future aspirations. But the scientific reality is that it’s futile to treat children as blank slates with no predetermined characteristics. Biology matters.
Yet, even Soh has drunk a little too much Kool Aid. It is not an “undeniably positive thing” to allow children to do what they please, regardless of societal expectations, or of ethical standards. Parents who do so are bringing up their children to be slugs, or, as the saying goes, Millennials.
Besides whoever got the idea that we ought to allow children to decide what is best? Whoever got the idea that we should respect the mature judgment of an eight-year-old boy who has decided that he is a girl?
And yet, the gender neuter movement has skewed the science in order to make it appear that they are on the side of the angels. Unfortunately, they have gotten it wrong.
In the face of scientific data, the gender-neutral movement nevertheless continues to gain momentum. Indeed, its adherents took heart in a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which touted the idea that the brains of women and men are identical. If so, that would offer support to the theory that gender is an artificially created, outdated concept.
However, an immense body of neuroimaging research has shown brain differences between the sexes. One meta-analysis of 126 studies found that men have larger total brain volumes than women. Men also show greater white matter connectivity running from the front to the back of the brain, while women have more of these connections running between the two hemispheres.
As it happens, you allow children to do what they please they will gravitate naturally toward their gender roles. But, parents ought to encourage and support them. The notion that we ought to be messing with this, that we ought to be remaking boys to conform to an ideology, or, to be able to fill jobs in the health care industry is… undeniably demented.