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Washington Examiner


Another Side Of 'Feminist Victory'

May 31, 2013

By Kay S. Hymowitz

As predictably as summer humidity arrives in D.C., so the media remind us that the days of Ozzie and Harriet are gone and traditional gender roles are passed.

The latest example of this perennial favorite came Wednesday. "Nearly 40% of Mothers are Now the Family Breadwinners, Report Says" was the Washington Post’s headline. The Atlantic went with: "The American Family Is Leaning In to Working Moms More Than Ever."

Actually, the report in question, by the Pew Research Center, is far from the feminist victory that at least some played it up to be. On the contrary. It’s a reminder of something most of the media hates to admit: The feminist revolution has had winners and losers.

Let’s start by unpacking that 40 percent figure. You’d never guess from the triumphant headlines that almost two-thirds of those family breadwinners are single mothers.

That is, these mothers are not "the top earners," as "The Week" put it; they are the only earners. Only 37 percent of the 40 percent of "breadwinning women" are married mothers who are making more than their husbands.

And in many of those cases, women’s progress came about not because they were leaning in, but because their husbands lost their jobs. All in all, married couples continue to be pretty traditional when it comes to breadwinning; in only 25 percent of married couples with children under 18 - 15 percent of all households with children - are women the primary earner. Not exactly what the headlines suggested, is it?

The Pew report describes a large economic and cultural disparity between breadwinning wives and single mothers that also defies the happy headlines. Single mothers are disproportionately black and Latino.

Very few - only 18 percent - are college educated. Their median household income is $23,000; that’s compared to $57,100 for all married couples with children. A growing percentage of single moms, particularly those with less education, are "never married," as opposed to divorced or separated.

Though it’s outside the purview of the Pew report, other studies have shown that never-married mothers tend to get less financial and caretaking help from their children’s fathers than previously married mothers.

The growing marriage and disadvantage gap between educated and well-off women on the one hand, and less educated and financially challenged on the other is not news. Scholars and the occasional reporter have been warning of the trend for years.

But for the most part, the media, wedded to a narrative of untarnished feminist progress, prefers to ignore those women for whom sexual and economic freedom has not meant a husband who changes diapers and a law career.

"Employment and gender roles in the United States continue to shift away from the Leave It to Beaver model. Murphy Brown is winning," the Atlantic cheered. It speaks volumes that the article’s vision of a single mother is a sit-com character who is a television news star.

Even more egregious in its denial of the two classes of post-feminist motherhood was the Washington Post’s article on the "sweeping change in traditional gender roles and family life over a few short decades." (Actually, the Pew report traces changes over five decades - a half century - but that sounds less progressive.)

The reporter interviewed a Georgetown Law Center employee whose husband takes care of the kids while he starts his own business, the owner of a recruiting firm married to a massage therapist, and one single mother: a 42-year-old divorced Ph.D. who works on Capitol Hill.

Not a sign of the never-married women breadwinners who, say, clean the recruiter’s office or drive her kids’ school bus.

The gender revolution has sent women to the office and men to the nursery; ironically, it has also given us a large class of struggling single mothers. "We showed our kids that anyone can be a nurturer or go out and be a primary breadwinner," says one woman quoted in the Post story. "Your gender doesn’t matter."

Tell that to a never-married mother.

Original Source:



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