Employment and the disposable man.

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.

[Bold mine.]

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.

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10 Responses to Employment and the disposable man.

  1. elementary_watson says:

    Good article. It reminded me of reading the first one and a half chapters of Terry Pratchett’s “I Shall Wear Midnight”, where a footnote in the first chapter, describing the flower “forget-me-lots” as being given by girls to men they don’t want to see again until they learn about hygiene and get a job , a little in the wrong way.

    For the extremely infuriating popular culture depiction of this attitude, check out Lisa Kudrow’s character in “P.S. I love you”, who won’t even talk to a man if he’s not straight, single, employed. Entitlement at its most extreme, and embraced by the film makers.

  2. Fidelbogen says:

    Interesting blog you have here. I shall bookmark it and drop by from time to time.

    In attempting to form some estimation of your political positionality wrt feminism, I have garnered the impression that you are what the European MRAs call a “purple poodle”. (German; lila pudel)

    To mix the metaphors a bit, a purple poodle is a kind of “half fish, half fowl” compromise. Your linkage to ethecofem and feminist critics lends weight to this impression.

  3. randy says:

    if the intellectual allies of charles murray are right, the neo-classical, Austrian, free-market economists are right, then the value of a man really is equal to his paycheck.

  4. John E. says:

    Well…assuming monogamy and all other things being equal, I’d think that most women would consider a relationship with an employed man is more desirable than one with an unemployed man.

  5. Politicalguineapig says:

    I think some form of risk management also comes into play here. Men do not tend to deal with stress well, and a stressed man is more likely to become violent. Sometimes unemployment indicates other risk factors as well: drinking problems/ drug problems which can also lead to violence or death.

  6. Do you really think a “man” who has tenure actually looks out of his ivory tower and cares about those beneath, ahem, less privileged, ahem, bad men….

    This sure isn’t fair but it seems to be the way of the world….
    A man is valued on his wealth/status and a woman on her looks…

    In prehistoric times a man was valued as a hunter in some societies, now he is valued as a worker/mover/shaker…. same game different day…..

  7. (I am not a PUA advocate BTW)

  8. Clarence says:

    I’m an ethical PUA advocate, SWB.

    I think what I took from the community has made my life better without making the lives of the women I’ve been with worse. And that’s win-win. I don’t go in for notch count and crap like that.

  9. Y’know, I actually think I could run my own bootcamp…..

    I could just re-write some old sales manuals….

    Then take the guys running around the block, then to Hooters or somewhere.

    I might make a good PUA instructor–it’s the old phrase those who can’t do teach 😉

  10. It’s not about being unemployed. A lot of guys have no desire to earn a living to be self sufficient and that is the turn off. And it’s not always about the recession for some too. They’ve been unemployed even when there were plenty of jobs around. It’s the laziness – wanting to do nothing, play video games all day and just while away the time to get closer to the grave.

    I don’t care if the man does not work but have a lot of money (trust fund baby). He can keep all the money he has.

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