The thing about sexist attitudes is that they’re often expressed semi-unconsciously. For example, I haven’t yet seen an article or blog post entitled, “Men are worthless if they’re unemployed.” But look at the first paragraph in Hugo Schwyzer’s “Good Men Project” post from a few days ago:
Last week, Jennifer Doll offered a familiar lament in the pages of the Village Voice: “Dear Single Women of NYC: It’s Not Them, It’s You.” Though her focus is on New York, Doll could have been describing almost any large American city in which the number of single, straight, employed, and emotionally competent men is apparently dwarfed by the number of women who want to meet them.
The post itself is not about the desirability of unemployed men. But still, it’s troubling that Hugo begins his post by echoing the idea that an unemployed man is inherently defective. Of course, it’s perfectly understandable that a woman would not want to date an unemployed man who has no ambitions beyond playing video games. But, in case anyone missed it, the economy is horrible. Not all unemployed men are irredeemable screw-ups. In fact, I’d venture to say that the majority of unemployed men probably want to find a way to be productive and make a contribution to the world. But it’s very difficult to get hired, and there can be a lot of barriers to finding employment.
Hugo’s swipe at unemployed men is discouraging, especially in light of a previous post he wrote, in which he dismantled Charles Murray’s argument that a strong welfare state necessarily diminishes a man’s status.
Excellent day care, good hospitals, inexpensive education and a strong social safety net give the traditionally underprivileged, men and women alike, the chance to do something vitally important: form and maintain relationships based on desire and mutual respect rather than on need and vulnerability.
… We need to show young men that they can be valued not merely for their capacity to fight or to earn but for their capacity to be complete, well-rounded human beings.
I couldn’t agree more. And one of the best ways we could show young men that they are worth more than their paycheck would be to stop talking about unemployed men as though they were categorically unqualified to be in relationships.