Syndicated New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd sounded the alarm recently about the "scary" statistics on women, careers, and childlessness. "Fifty-five percent of 35-year-old career women are childless," she writes. "The number of childless women age 40 to 44 has doubled in the past 20 years," and "among [female] corporate executives who earn $100,000 or more...49 percent... did not have children."
Dowd observes that "yet again...men have an unfair advantage...the more women accomplish, the more they have to sacrifice.." And, of course, she knows exactly where to place the blame.
Men, she explains, "protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women." In the marriage market, female achievement is the "kiss of death for women" because "men veer away from 'challenging' women." Dowd even implies that her own childlessness is the result of this "male" problem. Yet there are many reasons for the "baby bust" besides male perfidy.
Reason #1: Women often do not adjust their preferences in a mate to their career goals.
High-powered career women need men who will support their careers by scaling back their careers to become the children's primary caregivers or even househusbands. Studies have shown that under the right conditions, many men would be happy to exchange their long work hours for the primary role at home. Yet, paradoxically, women rarely choose these men as mates.
Reason #2: Even successful women still usually choose to "marry up."
Obviously the pool of available candidates for women becomes smaller the more successful they become.
Reason #3: Some men prefer to marry women who are not as career-oriented as they are out of legitimate concern for their future children.
Men believe, with justification, that even successful women still want men to be the primary breadwinner. Thus they know that if they marry a career-oriented woman, both of them will be tied to their careers, to the possible detriment of their children.
Reason #4: Having kids is not for everyone, and many women have made an intelligent choice to remain childless.
Feminism has spent 30 years teaching women to rebel against compulsory motherhood and domesticity and to focus on their careers. Many women have done it and are content with the choices they have made. For them, there is no ‘crisis.'
Reason #5: Modern women's overreaction to the strict gender roles of the past.
As dissident feminist Danielle Crittenden points out in What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman, the highly educated modern woman has been taught that any career sacrifices or accommodations made for men and/or children constitutes an unfair limitation on her freedom. As a result, the accommodations which all people, male or female, make when they marry and have children are resented. This resentment is often unfairly deflected onto men.
Reason #6: Educated modern women have been misinformed on men and marriage by the Women's Studies programs in their universities.
As a new report by the Independent Women's Forum notes, these programs focus on convincing young women that women are under siege and oppressed and that men take advantage of women. While serious researchers and scholars have generally concluded that these programs promulgate discredited research, the programs still imbue educated women with hostility and contempt for men, marriage, and child-rearing.
These programs exaggerate the disadvantages and burdens women face, and ignore or misrepresent as ‘privilege' the disadvantages and burdens men face. For example, the fact that men earn more money than women, because they work the longest hours at the most hazardous and demanding jobs, is dressed up as "wage discrimination."
The problem with Dowd and the many modern women who think like her is that it never seems to occur to them that they, not men, are often the cause of their own problems. Dowd is a successful career woman who has been endlessly critical of men. Yet, without a trace of irony, she chastises men for being afraid of successful women who, she says, may be critical of them. But how many women want to marry a man who is critical? Many domestic violence pamphlets even characterize men who are critical of their wives as "emotional abusers."
A friend of mine recently explained the break-up of his marriage to a successful woman along these lines. "My wife said the problem was her career success," he said. "But I was happy for her and her success. The problem wasn't her career. The problem was her negative, critical view of men. In the end I simply got tired of being wrong all the time."
This column first appeared on Cybercast News Service (4/18/02).
Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues columnist and radio talk show host. His columns have appeared in dozens of America's largest newspapers. His radio show, , can be heard every Sunday on KRLA 870 AM in Los Angeles.
Glenn can be reached via his website, at www.GlennSacks.com or by e-mail at .