Last week, Grazia published an article debating the issue of whether men are intimidated by their female partners earning more than they do.
I shudder to think that this is still a genuine issue considered worthy of a “debate”, let alone in a magazine which implies – however falsely – that it’s aimed at strong, modern women. But apparently it is. Then again, the headline – “Are Men Really Happy You’re Out-Earning Them?” was phrased in such a loaded way that it presumably encouraged readers to sit up and say “yeah, you’re right, I’m not actively happy about it”. Never mind the fact that women are not, on the whole, out-earning men; nor that anybody suggested every man on planet Earth would be actively delighted with this situation even if they were. In fact, the old “husbands should earn more than their wives” is such an ingrained belief that in many cases women are actively quitting their jobs in order to maintain the status quo. And articles like this one sure as hell aren’t doing much to change it.
But Grazia’s a commercial operation, and they want traffic, and hell if click-bait titles aren’t de rigeur these day, so perhaps that’s not such a surprise. More so is the disappointing discovery that the editor managed to find a particularly unpleasant specimen who unashamedly would, to all intents and purposes, prefer women doing what they do best: staying at home, remaining financially dependent, and bringing up a litter of kids whilst cooing at the awesome achievements of their big strong husbands.
Here’s the offending article:
I can’t help thinking all this proves is that Andy Jones has such chronically low self-confidence that this is a genuine issue for him. I simply refuse to believe that his views are held by a significant portion of the male population, and I would sincerely hope that no intelligent woman would consider a relationship with him or anyone of his ilk. I would feel sorry for him, except I’m too busy being angry at his misogynistic attitude, and the fact that Grazia considers this an acceptable argument to what should frankly be a non-debate anyway. Way to empower the women reading their magazine! “Worried your pay packet is undermining your relationship? According to Andy Jones and possibly 50% of all men, YEAH, IT TOTALLY IS!”
And obviously this is precisely the belief we want to be instilling in the impressionable young women reading Grazia right now. As if they’re not already concerned enough that they aren’t doing the ten thousand things thrust upon them by the media in order to be as flawlessly alluring to the male gaze as possible, they’re now being told that they shouldn’t really earn too much either, lest it emasculate their poor, delicate boyfriends.
I notice that Andy doesn’t give any helpful suggestions by which to fix his vision of feminist hell. When a woman finds her entrepreneurial business is on the up, should she sever all contacts and donate her earnings to charity? Should female employees knowingly reject a proffered payrise? Or should we revel in our raised salaries and run far, far away from our existing, poorly-paid male companions, into the arms of men who earn yet more than we do? I seriously don’t understand the point of his argument. Is he flat-out saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to earn more than – or even as much as – men? And whose responsibility is it to do the dumping when the unthinkable occurs?
There is an alternative argument which disagrees with Andy’s outpourings, but even that is somewhat damning with faint praise, not to mention his equating “girly” with “inferior” by describing the embarrassment of being bought a G&T to celebrate his girlfriend’s success:
Dan Jude’s article still feels slightly painful and apologetic – and doesn’t do much to boost the morale of any stay-at-home parents (of either gender) by implying that all they do is sit on their arses watching TV – but hey, it’s there, and thank god for that. It’s kind of sad that he had to “learn” her higher salary wouldn’t change their relationship, but at least he has, and hopefully his slightly protesting, not quite unencumbered feelings towards the situation will help any woman who finds herself in a relationship with a man who isn’t quite as open-minded as she might have hoped. And it’s hard to change a societal norm overnight, so full credit to Dan for overcoming this sticky obstacle and emerging (kind of) triumphant on the other side.
But back to Andy’s despicable, depressing “argument” and all the elements which made me want to throw things – ideally Andy himself – against a very spiky wall.
A baby arrives and I’d worry I’d be stuck indoors with Loose Women on – my self-esteem melting into the carpet.
The implication being that if his girlfriend were the lower wage owner, she’d automatically be staying at home instead – but that’s ok. Andy apparently believes that she is either biologically guaranteed to want to do this, or her self-esteem is irrelevant.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an alpha male or not – to provide is an essential part of being a bloke.
Why? According to whom? Am I to understand that lesbian relationships are doomed to financial failure because there’s no male figure to do to the providing?
There’s very little in modern life – apart from manners and behaviour – that marks you out as a man.
I’m pretty sure there’s a more basic biological definition than that, actually. And, er, does this mean that men and women subscribe to different sets of manners? I’M NEVER SAYING PLEASE OR THANK YOU AGAIN, BITCHES. Of course, if he’s talking about the societal understanding of what it is to be a man, then that’s purely subjective. I’ve met plenty of men over the years who have appalling manners and behaviour and yet – yup – they’re still men.
Women might say they are happy living with a man who earns less, but after a few months of constantly picking up the tab, they lose respect and are soon running for the door.
And yet despite the fluctuations in Andy’s pay packet, his girlfriend is still (inexplicably) with him after five years. So I guess either – as per Andy’s own admission – she has no respect for him; or the argument itself is inherently flawed. Then again, if such behaviour was actually meted out to him in real life, I’d venture to guess that the sprinting women probably had an issue with a far more unpleasant character flaw than his disappointing wages.
However far equality has pushed on, I don’t think any man can be truly happy playing second fiddle.
But . . . it’s ok for women to play second fiddle? Because their happiness doesn’t come into it? Does he understand the meaning of “equality”? And who gave him the right to unequivocally speak for 3.5 billion men?
If you earn less than your partner, it’s as if – though it’s never said – you somehow have less say.
So, if Andy’s in a relationship with a woman who earns less than him, would he consider her to have less say? If the answer’s no, then I can’t imagine why he thinks it would be the case the other way around. But if the answer’s yes – then I think we’ve found the source of the problem.
And if you lose your voice, then surely you’re no man at all…
Nope, you’re just in a very unhealthy relationship.
Look: it is possible to be less than delighted that your partner is earning more than you. If you’re a competitive person then frankly it’s only natural; not because you think that their gender entitles them to less moolah, but because you’ve been brought up in an environment where success involved measuring yourself against others. People, I get it: so was I. I don’t like being beaten either. But gender is irrelevant. And ultimately, after that first twinge of jealousy that you’re not being financially rewarded for your own hard work to the same extent as your partner, one would hope that the subsequent – stronger, more residual – emotions are pride, happiness, and contentment that you’re in a relationship with such a successful, well-regarded individual. It doesn’t matter if you’re the man or the woman and your partner is a man or a woman, or neither of you identifies with any gender labels. So when they get that promotion, go ahead, have a self-pitying moment of glumness that you’re under-appreciated by your boss. Then, feel gratified that your partner isn’t, and bask in the pride of his or her achievements. Then go out to dinner, and when he/she offers to pay, feel perfectly entitled to say yes (just this once. And get the expensive wine). And tomorrow morning it’s back to normal, you’re both on equal footing, the universe doesn’t explode, neither does your relationship, and you both do the same amounts of washing up and occasionally bring the other person breakfast in bed.
Isn’t that just how relationships should be?