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Women as Workers

Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men documents the rise of a much greater proportion of women in the workforce following the downturn in traditionally male jobs such as construction due to the US recession. I haven’t read it yet but there are some things in there worth having a discussion about. In particular, I’d like to see a discussion of her concept of ‘cardboard men’ and ‘plastic women’: what is it about how society views masculinity and femininity which has led to greater flexibility on the part of women, and less on the part of men? 

Now Rosin’s not always had particularly sensible things to say. Her stuff of why hook up culture is good for women seems skewed, for example. On the other hand, her argument that marriage is in decline because women’s standards are too high places blame with women – like we haven’t heard that argument before!

But the high school teacher in me thinks it’s worth asking the question about why boys don’t succeed in school and go on to university in the same numbers as girls, thus disadvantaging them in certain areas of the workforce (ones which Rosin argues have been safer in the economic downturn.) There’s an ongoing and important discussion about boys in education.

But it is not helped by the argument that men have a greater right to the workplace than women, such as Al Mohler argued in his critique of Rosin’s book (h/t Eternity).

Mohler asserts:

God intended for men to have a role as workers, reflecting God’s own image in their vocation.

Thus, the rise of women in the workplace is the ‘displacement of men.’

Oh dear. Did Mohler miss the bit where both male and female were created in God’s image and then both were given the task of ruling and subduing the earth? Sounds awfully like both reflect God’s image by being workers to me.

I’m not uncomfortable with the model of men as the primary breadwinners and women as the primary caregivers. But there is no room in that discussion to see breadwinning either as more work-like than caregiving, nor for tying it to the image of God.

Even if men and women are to have different roles in society (and we can argue that one another day) both of them must be legitimately seen as part of bringing order to and nurturing creation i.e. work.

Categories: Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

1 reply

  1. Re ‘cardboard men and plastic women’ – some feminist I was reading recently (I can’t remember who!) offered an explanation: we want to be the stronger, more powerful gender – therefore it’s okay for women to operate in traditionally male domains, but society thinks it’s bizarre for people to want to adopt attributes/roles of the weaker gender.

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