Feminism, there. Not just for the wimmin. From the NYTimes:
THIS week Maria Shriver brings together a star-studded cast of celebrities, from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Beyoncé, to call attention to the economic plight of American women and demand that women’s needs be put “at the center of policy making.”
But is this really the time to focus on women? For nearly four decades, feminists have decried “the feminization of poverty.” However, since the 1980s there has been a defeminization of poverty, as a growing proportion of men have fallen on hard times. In recent years men have experienced especially significant losses in income and job security.
Although women are still more likely to be poor than men, on average women’s income and labor-force participation have been rising since the 1970s. By contrast, between 1970 and 2010 the median earnings of men fell by 19 percent, and those of men with just a high school diploma by a stunning 41 percent. And while women have regained all the jobs they lost during the recession, men have regained just 75 percent.
Since about 1980 the percentage of men and women in middle-skill jobs has declined. But for women, nearly all of that decline was because of increased representation in higher-skill jobs. Women’s employment in low-skill jobs increased by just 1 percent. By contrast, for men, half the decline in middle-skill jobs was a result of increases in low-skill jobs.
The most urgent issue facing working Americans today is not the glass ceiling. It is the sinking floor. So wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on gender-neutral economic policies?
Actually, it wouldn’t, because “gender-neutral” work practices and social policies were traditionally based on a masculine model. Employers assumed that there was no need to accommodate caregiving obligations because the “normal” worker had a wife to do that. Policy makers assumed there was no need for universal programs such as family allowances and public child care because the “normal” woman had a husband to support her and her children. Accordingly, most social benefits, such as Social Security and unemployment insurance, were tied to prior participation in the labor market. Welfare was a stigmatized and stingy backup for misfits who were not in a male-breadwinner family. [Rest.]