January 18, 2013

"Being Married Helps Professors Get Ahead, but Only If They're Male."

Headline at The Atlantic. The writer, Alexis Coe, begins with something the Princeton professor James McPherson wrote in the acknowledgements section of one of this books:
"The person most instrumental in helping me produce this volume has also been the most important person in my life for the past forty years, my wife Patricia. In addition to enriching my life every day, she has been a superb research assistant, having read almost as many soldiers' letters and diaries as I have."
Well, you see where this is going, but can I yell stop? It's not that he's male. It's that he is outward manifestation of a 2-person partnership. There is one name on the commercial side of the life they share, which has private arrangements that you don't get to scrutinize.

Ladies, if you are jealous of this lifestyle, ally with a man who would like to live like that, sharing a private life with you while you hold down the income-producing job.
Coe tells us about faculty wives who "explain they, too, once pursued a higher degree."
Without fail, they look at you a little sadly and say, "best of luck" or, far worse, "stick with it."
As if grad schools aren't full of males who aren't going to make it in serious academic careers! Ladies, if you really are at the top — McPherson-like in every respect but sex — and you think your disadvantage is the lack of a helpmeet spouse, why don't you marry one of those grad school males who aren't so likely to make it — someone who'd really love to take the backup role in your career and to take care of the home and the children?
"I have a theory about this," said Tara Nummedal, an associate professor of history at Brown University. "It seems pretty clear that smart women are going to find men who are engaged, but I just don't see that it works the other way." She added that a female professor with a stay-at-home spouse is quite rare, but often sees men with stay-at-home wives, allowing them to fully commit themselves to their professions.
Well, that's my theory too, except that I reject the sexism of smart women are going to find men who are engaged. Smart men want engaged women too. Engaged is a funny word here, but I take it to mean that individuals who are intellectually alive and working hard would like a partner with similar qualities. Why do women want that more than men? Is it merely the social convention that the man needs to bring in money? Is it some sexual need that corresponds to the man's desire for beauty? 

41 comments:

Pogo said...

Women don't fantasize about house-husbands.

BDNYC said...

One word helps explain this: hypergamy.

edutcher said...

I've been The Blonde's tech support, office manager, business manager, and marketing guy for several years now and she has no problem with it.

I think these women just don't know what they want until they're told by the Lefty and feminist (distinction without difference) Establishments.

Seeing Red said...

Jealousy - happily married for 40 years. Also can't understand why the wifey might be OK with it.

The Godfather said...

Look, we can joke about it, but the loss of "taken for granted" gender roles is a problem for people.

After I married in 1967, my wife and I talked about where we'd move to, and what would be best for my career. Once we got there, she got good job and started her own career. But today, it's much more complicated, because it isn't a given which spouse's career takes priority.

I'm not saying that's bad. It's just more difficult.

CDR J said...

One if my grad school statistics professors was married to a woman who taught at Vassar. I remember a story that mentioned he had used his expertise to prove that married women professors were discriminated against.

Lyssa said...

in my experience, women like me- by which I mean high achieving, type A sorts who go to grad school or law school, really look down on people who don't get a college education and have a high achievement levels like themselved. I'm familiar with a number of women who consider a man's lack of college degree to be a deal breaker. Then they wonder why their choices are so many dead and why they can't get ahead, or why they're can't handle their workload as well as the men with sales home spouses.

it's pathetic, these sexist snobs who would call themselves feminists.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, Lyssa, I was just reading the book "Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus," and I came across this paragraph:

"In the realm of epic and myth, lyssa is impossible to properly define. In the factual prose of Attic Greece, however, the word had a quite literal meaning: rabies. As much as we hesitate (obeying the injunction of Susan Sontag) to deploy illnesses as metaphors, such links can hardly be resisted even in the present day, when the emergence of new diseases— usually originating in animal populations— threatens us with unforeseen manners of death. Consider how inconceivable it would have been to disentangle such links at a time before men knew of viruses, a time when diseases spread by means the keenest eye could not discern nor the keenest mind divine. With this particular convergence, the twinning of rabies with notions of savage possession, it is hard even to say which member of the pair took precedence, chronologically or otherwise. Both were there from the beginning. To link the two states, medical and metaphorical, was natural in both senses of that word. Lyssa was rare, terrifying; violent, and animalistically destructive of others; ultimately (and pathetically) destructive of self. It made creatures maim and kill those closest to them. It hollowed out reason and left nothing but frenzy."

What's up with your name?

Lyssa said...

Should be "stay at home spouses." Don't try to type on a smartphone while feeding a baby.

Henry said...

What the article neglects to mention is that pursuit of a professorship is a lousy grind, no matter what your sex. My wife has occasionally taught as an adjunct. At one point she considered getting PhD in order to pursue a full-time academic career. Numerous friends in the academic world advised not to do it: it is an expensive, soul-killing grind with little chance of reward at the end of it.

The Atlantic article is slight at best, a marshmallow froth of anecdotes smothering a barely reported survey. It doesn't tell you the most important thing. What is the age range of the people surveyed? Are the men perhaps older than the women?

Lyssa said...

Actually those women aren't wondering why they can't get ahead; they're complaining about it being "so unfair."

Ha, professor, I had no idea of that background of my name! "Lyssa" is just a slight corruption of part of my real first name. I thought I had made it up, tbh.

Maguro said...

Yeah, I don't think these women are interested in having some beta male "helpmeet spouse" change the kid's diapers while they climb the greasy pole. They want high status males and only high status males because that's the way evolution made us.

Guys with supportive spouses have an advantage over them and it makes them furious, but there's nothing they can do about it. Other than push feminism and try to stop other women from playing the supportive wife through social pressure.

Shouting Thomas said...

The war on tradition keeps producing casualties, but no lessons can be learned.

Why?

dbp said...

I think it is easier to have a help-mate husband in later life.

In a woman's fertile years, she is hard-wired to find the best (highest status) mate she can. A man willing to put his career on hold for his wife is just not a high status male.

Later, it doesn't matter: All you need is someone who improves your lifestyle. Two can live very nearly as cheaply as two. As long as he is pleasant and helpful, your life will be better and easier with such a man around.

Freeman Hunt said...

Whole lotta those stay at home wives are intellectual Type A's. They're engaged, just not making money. Someone could write this article the other way, accusing these career women who want career men of being greedy and praising the men for their ability to see beyond the dollar in a spouse, valuing instead relationship and teamwork.

Freeman Hunt said...

Note, I'm not taking that line, but it's the equivalent to their "It's unfair!" nonsense.

dbp said...

As one. D'Oh!

chrisnavin.com said...

So, some people are busy building feminism into academia, publishing and our institutions, and others will have to coax the children of feminism out into broader world and differing principles and, well, reality.

I feel a new round of neo-neo-conservatism coming on.

Must suck to be a man working at Slate, The Atlantic, the faculty lounge and have your career be governed by this stuff.

chrisnavin.com said...

Wait, never mind. They just chase most of the men away. The ones who stick around can become ideological leaders, helpmates, or 'friends.'

Basta! said...

The Sumerians were aware of rabies, and attributed it to Gula, their healing deity whose avatar was the dog. Because the one who could afflict you was also the one who could heal you. There are several incantations against rabies, where their understanding of the disease is made explicit: the froth of the rabid dog was a type of diseased semen, injected along with the dog bite, where it quickly morphed into tiny (very very tiny) crazed puppies running amok inside the victim's body.

So I must disagree with this quote above: "Consider how inconceivable it would have been to disentangle such links at a time before men knew of viruses, a time when diseases spread by means the keenest eye could not discern nor the keenest mind divine."

True, the Sumerians couldn't know about the virus part, but they sure as hell got the source and the vector right. The romanticized and self-congratulatory approach to the past that assumes the so-called "primitive mind" is, unfortunately, still common.

Erika said...

Chris: I give you one of the most cringe-inducing videos I have ever seen. Hannah Rosin and beta husband David Plotz debating with their two kids (a boy and a girl) that girls are superior to boys. It made me angry on behalf of the boy that his father would willingly subject him to that humiliation.

cubanbob said...

Hey, Lyssa, I was just reading the book "Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus," and I came across this paragraph:

Great book. The descriptions of the symptoms are eerily similar to the comments of some of our resident prog trolls. Just saying.

Paddy O said...

Do you think that married women don't have the same kind of help or that married women have a stronger need to assert their own efforts? Meaning, they're less willing to share credit because of inherent sexism in so many academic fields?

johns said...

There is an awful lot of generalizing here, which is not exactly rare on the internet. My own opinion is derived entirely from my own individual experience. In my first marriage my wife and I both got graduate degrees; I was so eager to show my love of equality that when she got an offer to teach at harvard, I passed up my offers and took a job in Boston also. The result of my deference was that I was never respected, and my marriage ended years later over this impasse.
My second marriage is very happy. i am not dominating; rather i am doing what many men do, which is to put a high priority on the career and its demands.

Teri said...

Dear Pogo, that's interesting, but it's certainly not my personal experience. My husband used to take care of all the housework, cooking, etc. Anytime I mentioned that to another woman (and none of us had high paid careers), they always said I was very lucky.

Marriage is an economic unit and we'd have more successful marriages if people looked at it that way.

johns said...

There is an awful lot of generalizing here, which is not exactly rare on the internet. My own opinion is derived entirely from my own individual experience. In my first marriage my wife and I both got graduate degrees; I was so eager to show my love of equality that when she got an offer to teach at harvard, I passed up my offers and took a job in Boston also. The result of my deference was that I was never respected, and my marriage ended years later over this impasse.
My second marriage is very happy. i am not dominating; rather i am doing what many men do, which is to put a high priority on the career and its demands.

MTN said...

This comment by Maguro (1/18/13, 5:26 PM) just explained 50 years of feminism better than anything I have read:

"Guys with supportive spouses have an advantage over them and it makes them furious, but there's nothing they can do about it. Other than push feminism and try to stop other women from playing the supportive wife through social pressure."

MTN said...

This comment by Maguro (1/18/13, 5:26 PM) just explained 50 years of feminism better than anything I have read:

"Guys with supportive spouses have an advantage over them and it makes them furious, but there's nothing they can do about it. Other than push feminism and try to stop other women from playing the supportive wife through social pressure."

JorgXMcKie said...

In my experience we won't have to worry about this particular problem since in the more than a decade I've been at my institution it has become harder and harder to hire any males on tenure track whether they're married or not.

It doesn't help that we're turning out more and more PhDs [too many with weird areas of study] while the actual number of tenure track jobs is either flat or declining. I try to warn my grad students about that. Some of them listen.

And the amount of anti-male prejudice I've seen in the hiring process in Academia is just mind-boggling given how much back-patting there is about "tolerance" and "diversity".

chrisnavin.com said...

Erika, that's rich. Poor guy probably puts up with that at home too. It's her career and her religion

traditionalguy said...

The child bearing role years has its demands. But after they've grown up and leave, you still have a 20 year career to plan for.

The woman who can plan for a good man to take care of her home life and keep her career going stronger and her vacations fun is the rare one. But she is also the one smart enough to handle that.

Romance can find a way.

EDH said...

Too many people looking for meaning.

Just get a fucking job or start a business that creates value for others, for chrissakes.

hellocreepers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
30yearProf said...

Life has many dimensions. It is really best done with a partner (whatever the legal relationship). Those who are successful without a partner have to carry a heavy load, all the load, and so often work becomes their life.

Those who have partners, also have a "helpmate" to smooth out the load that business success puts on us. And since they are living a 2 dimentional life, they have someone to act as the balance.

For example, I was very successful in practice and would have made a LOT of money before I died. But I'd have had to find all my rewards in that one aspect of life and I, we, believed that I'd burn out early (i.e., die). My partner, a she, who choose not join me as a work-o-holic stood up for other values (besides keeping me functioning). Eventually WE decided that we didn't need more money that we'd just have to worry over, that I really wanted to be influential not rich, and that we both valued time over money. For us it has worked out to be a great choice.

She could have gone to the top in business, I'd have had the time and energy to support her efforts, but SHE choose not to. I don't think she ever viewed it as a desireable life.

FleetUSA said...

There are all sorts of combinations in life partner relationships. Maybe just looking at the academic is myopic - probably not surprising as academics are often great navel gazers.

My thought is that the paradigm is changing from the pre-1980's couples to now as so many young women have strong degrees. But also they want a social life and a home life.

FleetUSA said...

There are all sorts of combinations in life partner relationships. Maybe just looking at the academic is myopic - probably not surprising as academics are often great navel gazers.

My thought is that the paradigm is changing from the pre-1980's couples to now as so many young women have strong degrees. But also they want a social life and a home life.

kentuckyliz said...

I work in higher ed. I see among the hifalutin faculty, and I mean at research institutions, that most women faculty are lesbians or flying solo through life.

If you look at the teaching institutions (lower tier 4 year liberal arts colleges and community colleges), there's a lot more latitude. You will find more married women faculty members there. It squares better with family life.

At the community college, there are a lot of faculty members who are retired teachers who got a master's along the way, with 18 graduate hours (minimum) in the subject they teach. This is a second career for them. Many are married and their kids are college age or adult.

kentuckyliz said...

I got on the tenure track at 28 and got my full professor promotion at 40. I don't see how family life would have fit into my life. I could use a wife, though. You should see my apartment. Yikes.

Aridog said...

Lyssa was rare, terrifying; violent, and animalistic ...

You got her phone number? :0

Krumhorn said...

Pogo had it exactly right. There is nothing less likely to occur than for an attractive, smart, ambitious woman to find some supportive house hubby type attractive. In fact, that's guaranteed to produce nothing but misery.

....and I define misery as a life of no marital sex. No boom boom.

- Krumhorn

Bella said...

I wish the study had been conducted more rigorously:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201301/do-married-men-really-get-promoted-fastest