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The Richer Sex, Liza Mundy

2012/05/05

There has been some discussion regarding the gender gap in the recovery following a recession which left many young people out of work. In the meantime, it has been argued, women have been taking advantage of the slow job market to become more educated, and thus, more prepared to take the jobs which have been coming available — those requiring skills in technology, written and verbal communication, and administration; meanwhile, men who once excelled at the blue-collar, manufacturing jobs, are falling behind as those jobs are made obsolete by technology or outsourced to other countries. This book takes a look at how this has affected women and their interactions with men and other women, influenced their decisions regarding families and children, challenged them to redefine femininity without emasculating men or trying to become men.

One critic of this book mentioned that the author’s idea of the newly transformed gender roles looks a lot like a mere reversal of traditional male/female roles, in which the man now stays at home and takes care of domestic matters, caring for children, and cooking, while the woman has the high-powered, well-paying office job, instead of a more balanced, equal state in which things are evenly shared. I would suggest that the whole premise of the book is that our economy and educational system are promoting inequality, and thus Mundy’s description of these effects does show an accurate representation of what will happen if things are not changed. Other books have made the argument that a majority of schools and curriculum are designed such that girls, who tend to pick up more quickly on verbal and written communication, will excel while boys, who tend to mature later and are attracted by action and movement, often do not focus and learn as quickly, thus promoting inequality in education, which can result in less investment in schooling, lower expectations from college and career. “Why Boys Fail” is a great book that looks into this, and makes some suggestions as to how to remedy it.

One of the sections of the book that was most interesting to me was the chapter that examined the role of men and women in Japan, a country which recently experienced a similar recession, wiping out the job prospects of many young people, and in which the women are highly educated. Men and women there are learning to navigate a new style of relating and marrying, which is particularly vital to their country since the population has shrunk drastically and there is a severe lack of younger people to help support the elderly. Although Americans are not yet in this state, it is important to see how other first-world countries are addressing the problem, and what their solutions may look like.

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