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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

The Patriarchal Dividend
October 7, 2012 - 3:41pm

As the mother of a son, I have been observing what seems to be growing panic about the diminished prospects for men and boys with concern, but also with some confusion.

Maybe the situation is different in other parts of the country, but here in New York, guys still seem to be in charge of most things. Most of our upper-level elected and appointed officials are men. Men run most large corporations, agencies and firms, even in areas such as social services, in which women provide most of the front-line work.

A great deal of the panic seems to be focused on education, and certainly, many of my son's female friends got better high school grades than he did, and were accepted into more prestigious colleges. That seemed only fair, though, since they worked harder and completed their assignments on time. Ben was more interested in listening to, composing, and playing music, and his grades reflected those priorities.

All of this is anecdata, of course, and I wondered whether my experience was anomalous and women and girls really are taking over and shoving out boys and men in other parts of the world.

For these reasons, I was fascinated to read this article by Stephanie Coontz. I had never encountered the term "patriarchal dividend" before, and it seems useful. Of course, as Coontz points out, the "dividend" doesn't work only in men's favor; traditional gender expectations can hamper boys who wish to excel quietly in school and men who request time off to care for their families.

As a feminist, I know I should deplore the fact that Ben has a better chance of financial and professional success than a harder-working, better-educated woman. As a mother, though, I must admit I find the idea a teensy bit comforting.


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