In her new book, The Richer Sex, Liza Mundy — who also wrote this week's TIME cover story — describes a future where women are the first (and wealthier) sex, not the second. She argues that the next generation of women will out-earn their husbands, since they already hold more college degrees and managerial jobs; it's only a matter of time before the wage gap closes to reflect the gender role reversal.
But clearly, we must ask — since the Don Drapers of the world always considered how their Bettys felt about their subservient status — how this affects men. NPR's Jennifer Ludden is, at least, very concerned about the future male ego, going as far as to say that Mundy only touches upon the "clear losers" in the upcoming economic shift — "the growing numbers of working class women who — faced with men's diminished prospects — are not marrying at all." She refers to Juan, a Texan man Mundy interviewed who quit his job as a car salesman to take care of his family so that his wife could work full-time as a paralegal. And Juan, who sells Avon makeup to bring in extra money during school hours, is bummed. "Sometimes I fantasize about, like, leaving [my wife]," Juan told Mundy, "because I want to feel more masculine again." Ludden also mentions women who lie on online dating sites so that they won't intimidate lower-earning men.
Are educated, talented, well-paid women really the "clear losers," though, or are the real losers the men who fantasize about leaving their wives because they feel threatened? More importantly: do most men still feel threatened by powerful women, or is that a trope that slowly started to wither around the time Sex and the City went off the air? Mundy actually suggests the latter. On TIME's website, she says the pervasive notion that men are afraid of high-powered women is kind of bullshit, and that research shows "men will be just as adaptive and realize what an advantage a high-earning partner can be" in the near future. She encourages women on first dates to "own up to your accomplishments, buy him a drink, and tell him what you really do." Her book is based on recent research (data that Ludden actually failed to "touch upon" in her review) that shows that while lower-income women are marrying less often, ladies in the top earning percentile are getting wedded in droves — their marriage rates have increased by ten percentage points. And Mundy believes that those rates will go mainstream with time, as more men get used to the idea that they don't get success handed to them on a platter just because they're dudes.
Perhaps the reason Mundy only "touches upon" the "real losers" is because the theory that unmarried women are losers is, finally, becoming passé. Hey, imagine that! Future generations might live in a world where the concept that women should downplay their accomplishments if they want to get married is as outdated as the wage gap.
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