Reshaping the Work-Family Debate

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Joan Williams discusses why the United States has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world, and she shows how that disadvantages men as well as women. In Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, Williams looks at why new mothers are often pushed out by discriminating and inflexible workplaces that pit men against woman, and she examines the often-ignored role of class in work-family issues.


Joan Williams

Comments [30]

She fails entirely, she falls back on the same old tired dogmas of 60s feminism which was based on the mind as a blank slate. Does she really think that women would fight over beta males the way they do after alpha males? Like it or not human nature comes into the equation and blows all her assumptions away. Not that many women are willing to marry down, some will settle, but like it or not a big pay check or high status is not useful in the mating game for women as it is for men, and it isn't going to change any time soon. That discrepancy alone accounts for much of the differences. She wishes to force men to work as little as women to even things out? Standard blank slate force people into the mold you want type of thinking. Does she even dare to account for the fact that 9 out of 10 people behind bars are men? Of course not, just the simple games of calling for equality based on over simplification and ignoring hard realities. Men might succeed more, but they also fail a whole lot more, a few men might be far more successful reproductively if they take risks or have high ambition, no such evolutionary principle works for women who can garrantee their genes go forth just by playing it safe. In any case, it is women who decide, and have for the longest time, the most attractive mates are the successful ones, and that isn't going to change any time soon. Any ideas ignoring human nature are going to fail, she might as well be pushing for a return to the kabutz.

Oct. 15 2010 02:42 AM
peter from vancouver

like most feminists, this guest will cry discrimination no matter what the situation is: if women have their job back after maternity leave they are being forced back to work; if they become stay at home mothers, then they are being forced out of work. guess what, nobody can have it all. children require sacrifice. as for europe, which feminists often harp on about, yeah they have subsidized child care; they also have really high taxes.

Oct. 14 2010 06:02 PM
Mike from Inwood

Caitlin: Will you marry me?

Oct. 14 2010 12:48 PM

"it takes a brave man to marry a liberated woman"

oh, so all other men are cowards? This is misleading shaming language spouted from a hard core arrogant feminist. Fortunately, her influence, if any, terminates at the border of Western society.

Its takes a smart man to marry a foreign woman south of Mexico. These American women have priced themselves out of the long-term-relationship market. Their dicey sexual pasts notwithstanding.

Oct. 14 2010 12:47 PM

Agree w john.

As a as-much-as-possible stay at home dad i long ago gave a sh*t what other people say or think. The one thing I do is try and be a model parent, spouse and person. (School involvement, volunteering, coaching, no cell-phone blabbing while w kids, not much tv, good cooking)...

We are probably going through a national maturity evolution w regard to race and gender, which is great.

Oct. 14 2010 12:44 PM

leonard, obama did not come from "a very poor family" in fact he went to Punahou School a private school from 5th to 12th grade.

Oct. 14 2010 12:43 PM
Mike from Inwood

If you want to eliminate subtle discrimination against women in the workplace, then make a mandatory 4 months off for everyone, male and female every other year. if a woman wants to use this as maternity leave, she can. Because everyone must use it, there is no reason to view women who have children as being less dedicated or productive.

Oct. 14 2010 12:41 PM

How about letting everyone take a sabbatical every once in a while, instead of just parents? I'm all for letting people spend more time with their kids, but those who are childless are often left behind to pick up the slack, and it's often assumed that if you don't have a traditional family you don't have a life outside of work.

Oct. 14 2010 12:40 PM

What do you think of the show Mad Men. Does that show any differences in how things have changed?

Oct. 14 2010 12:38 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This would all be great if Americans were only competing with Europeans for jobs but we participate in a global, highly integrated world economy and all of these new "standards" that we impose reduce our competitiveness and export jobs overseas - sorry but it's the truth. This person wants us to preserve our prosperity without sacrificing anything, just a dreamer with a boatload of utterly useless observations.

Oct. 14 2010 12:38 PM
John from New Jersey

It is simple -- stop living up to insane, ridiculous, and pointless gender roles. Forget the corporation, forget worrying about who is the breadwinner, forget feeling like a "man," whatever that means, and just live your life.

If/when I have a kid I'll take every minute off that I can.

Oct. 14 2010 12:37 PM
Glenn from Manhattan

why don't you ask her how single men get discriminated against when their employers want married people with mortgages?

Married with mortgage means able to be pushed around with no backtalk or leaving.

Oct. 14 2010 12:37 PM
Rick from Upper west side

I could never say this publicly for fear of destroying my career, but in 25 years of human-resources management I have observed that about 3/4 of all women who take their 12 weeks FMLA leave for maternity don't return to work after the period. The company has made do without them for the period, and they always spin it out to the very end, sometimes asking for extensions, which companies typically grant. They never, ever pay back the company's health-care premiums, as the law mandates. You begin to get pretty cynical.

Oct. 14 2010 12:36 PM
Everyone wants a free lunch from NYC

Why should we have to pay for people to procreate?? Unless the human race is truly in a decline, the social tax for free love has gotten out of hand.

People believe it's their right to bear as many children as they wish and then expect the employers to pay for same salary for less productivity while their co-workers pick up on their slack; they expect govt to accommodate for the increase in population, etc etc.

IM SICK OF THIS SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT...Not to mention the peer pressure of having to chip-in for yet another annoying Baby-Shower.

Oct. 14 2010 12:36 PM

What it means to be a real man, or a good man? She said that! This is the very core of all these arguments and finally it has been stated publicly. Does your guest truly believe in social engineering because that is what it sounds like.

It takes a brave man to marry a liberated woman. She said that too. Does she want to create more brave men?

Oct. 14 2010 12:36 PM

At times in this interview I think we are experiencing an "insight gap" in the form of Leonard Lopate's at times antagonistic questions for this desk. Asking to have basic cultural-critical points explained to you, as if that is the job someone clearly considerably more enlightened than you are about such matters, is offensive in such a platform. Lopate is clearly not doing this in order to "represent" a listenership with such a level of cluelessnes (the majority of the listenership does not share his apparent cluelessness). It's a credit to the guest that she is clearly so able in fielding questions from men of a demographic that is unfortunately still part of the problem, in its thinking as well as in its actions. I look forward to the day when these two hours are hosted by a more thoughtful and enlightened radio personality.

Oct. 14 2010 12:35 PM
Ed from Larchmont

We've been told that motherhood isn't important, when it's difficult and important.

Oct. 14 2010 12:34 PM
JP from NJ

Our obsession with working long hours and worshipping the corporations we work for is completely insane. There is no other way to describe it.

Oct. 14 2010 12:32 PM
Carl Richtman from Midtown Manhattan

I'm a new dad -- and my firm has a generous paternity leave -- but I'm afraid of what will happen to my projects if I take time off. A lot can happen in a month; I could be obsolete by the time I get back.

Oct. 14 2010 12:30 PM
Chuck from Brooklyn

Why do you feel the birth rates are so high here with poorer people? Lack of education? Macho attitudes? Cultural?

This raises our taxes since so many are on public assistance.

Actual working people can't afford kids.

Thoughts please.

Oct. 14 2010 12:30 PM
mp from New York

I became sick struggling to manage family life and work; it is a very family hostile society.

Oct. 14 2010 12:29 PM

On the "earnings gap"
Why not force men to work less, say four days a week. Would that not bring down their wages and make things equal?

On the "work ethic"
Many men are very competitive because they want to be. So are some women. Do you think they really care about the wages of others who work less hard?

Oct. 14 2010 12:28 PM

What does your research say about "house husbands."

I know of a couple where the woman was in a sales job and basically was making 3-4 times more than the husband. The marriage almost fell apart because neither one of them wanted to give in on helping out in the house.

So the man got a part-time job to spend more time in the home. As a result the stress level went down and the wife was able to focus more on the job and started to make even more money that more than made up for the lack of income from the husband.

What is the view of men in the support role for a female breadwinner

Oct. 14 2010 12:27 PM

I'm a man who sometimes works as a communications strategist (bill hourly) in the financial industry based in nyc and greenwich.

I am also primary caretaker of 3 young kids.

Childless women seem to dominate this part of the business -- and to news of our latest additions, they have seemed to react with a particular breed of disgust. Think Mad Men.

Oct. 14 2010 12:24 PM
Maddy O. from Newark

I had a stay-at-home mom growing up, and she was completely bonkers. She was depressed and miserable all the time. It would have been better for me and my brother if she had been a bit more absentee and a bit more sane!

Oct. 14 2010 12:24 PM

Maybe we have to face up to the reality that the old "family system" of having and raising children is an obsolescent "cottage industry" that is no longer sustainable over the long run.

Maybe Aldous Huxley had the right solution in his prophetic 1936 work, "Brave New World?"

Oct. 14 2010 12:24 PM

The USSR was probably the first major "revolutionary" society to officially bring women into the salaried work force in the 20th century.
Soon thereafter, women got the vote and hence increasing political clout in the West.
Modern society created jobs that women could easily do as well as men. With the rapid increase in political power and the availability of jobs for women, men's role in the traditional family as "breadwinner" rapidly declined.
Today, the need for men is now optional. The shoe increasingly has shifted to the other foot, and men are today the weaker sex in the family and increasingly on the job, and their role regarding children, and relationship to them, increasingly tenuous.
Hence, the decline in marriage, stable families and the birthrate.
We have to start thinking about new options in this "Brave New World" that is emerging.

Oct. 14 2010 12:18 PM
Giuseppe from Morningside Heights from Morningside Heights

Brav-O, Leonard! Of COURSE women pressure men to work full-time. No woman will date a man without a job.

Oct. 14 2010 12:13 PM
nmd from Jackson Heights, NY

When I returned to my job after maternity leave, I was given a 25% pay cut. When I complained I was told that I could work an extra day per week and keep my current salary. I worked for a supposedly 'family friendly' company.

Oct. 14 2010 12:13 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Yes, very family unfriendly.

Oct. 14 2010 12:10 PM

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