Comments on: The empathy gap for those hardworking, white middle-class “men on top?” History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sun, 21 Sep 2014 01:45:37 +0000 hourly 1 By: Z Sun, 14 Apr 2013 16:24:54 +0000 “The one spouse doing market work picture is only a tiny blip in the history of work.”

I wish people would realize this. And I have a question for historians. People always tell me my family is unusual but they do not feel unusual, they just feel middle class. Is this normal at all?

Grandmother 1: BA German UC Berkeley December 1912, teacher; stopped working to raise family, went back when widowed.

Grandmother 2: BFA Painting Pratt Institute June 1914, teacher, artist, decorator; worked part-time while children were young; went back full time when widowed.

Great-aunt 1: Graduated Glendale High School 1900, family crisis prevented college (to make up for which she left money for me to go to college), went to work as secretary, rose high in Social Security administration, good career.

Great-aunt 2: Degree UC Berkeley around the time Grandmother 1 got hers; worked as elementary school teacher during college and then became public librarian; long career at this.

Great-aunt 3: Degree nutrition University of Illinois-Urbana during World War I, was nutritionist at hospitals / for industry, long career.

I could go on. People keep telling me this is not normal and I even had a psychotherapist tell me that it was pathological that women had been “allowed” or had “taken” so much power in my family by having these educations and careers. But their friends were the same way. Is it really true that the whole group was so unusual? I am speaking at the grandmother level, so that means 4 families not previously related to each other. ???? Must know.

By: Sisyphus Thu, 11 Apr 2013 02:30:13 +0000 So this highly depressing article reminded me of older posts you had about women vs. men authors being book-reviewed, with bonus changing out of the author’s control:,1&fb_action_ids=752217807342&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%22752217807342%22%3A152422868267557}&action_type_map={%22752217807342%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map=[]

By: Linden Tue, 09 Apr 2013 13:46:15 +0000 That makes me think of a financial literacy project I used to work with. Nearly all of our participants were recent Mexican immigrants. Though all the adults in the family were supposed to attend the classes, usually the men would send the women to do it, because they had the traditional arrangement of the men making the money and doling it out to the women to spend. When the women came back from the classes and starting asking the men how much money they made and where it was going so they could implement a family budget, boy did that get sticky.

By: Feminist Avatar Tue, 09 Apr 2013 07:15:11 +0000 For 20thC UK history, Frank Mort has done some really interesting work on his own father, who was one of these precarious lower-middle-class types. He thinks about both the opportunities for power (as a man who was quite abusive of his family) and constraint (as someone middle-class but precarious).

Frank Mort (1999) Social and Symbolic Fathers and Sons in Postwar Britain, Journal of British Studies, 38(3), pp. 353-384.

On the whole ‘women manage the budget’ issue, there is a huge literature on the impact on this on familial power relationships. Much of it points out that it was in families without considerable (or any) excess income that women were given this ‘privilege’ and that it was a ‘privilege’ that came with considerable stress, as it moved the responsibility for shortfall onto women as managers, rather than men as earners. So, seeing it as a symbol of power is actually problematic or at very least speaks to a much more complex power relationship. Moreover, as Historiann points out, it didn’t change women’s social position or opportunity any.

By: Historiann Tue, 09 Apr 2013 01:09:11 +0000 Thanks for the warning, Western Dave. I like the way they’re handling their problem commenters over there–very clever! (I’m not nearly so imaginative.)

By: Western Dave Tue, 09 Apr 2013 00:38:59 +0000 Oh look! Jen Bob is visiting from Lawyers, Guns and Money now that ze gets all its posts redacted into “I am a very bad person” even though it posts under various pseudonyms.

By: Historiann Mon, 08 Apr 2013 22:51:29 +0000 nicoleandmaggie: thanks for that, and for the reference to Goldin’s work.

And Barrister: the nineteenth century called, and it wants its values back.

By: Barrister Mon, 08 Apr 2013 21:41:39 +0000 As someone who left the humanities precisely because of the inanities presented in both this blog post and the comments that followed it, I ask the following question rhetorically: do contemporary academics in the humanities ever get tired of using the same boring categories of analysis (race, class, gender, sexual identity, subculture) and the same boring analytical frameworks (mainly drawn from irrelevant French literary criticism) to reach the same tired, patently political conclusions (capitalism = bad, whitey = bad, bourgeois values = bad, marginal peoples = good, marginal socialists = amazing, language = enslaving, knowledge = problematic, meaning = meaningless)?

Cuz, y’know, 1990 called and wants its dogma back.

By: Nicoleandmaggie Mon, 08 Apr 2013 20:22:08 +0000 Linden– your timing doesn’t work out. Economic inequality lessened under Johnson and Nixon as women’s rights moved up.

Economic inequality has a LOT to do with government regulations and views towards inequality and towards business. Not so much to do with women and minorities except to the extent that the pro-women and pro-minority policies decrease economic inequality (and tend to feed and educate kids).

Additionally, prior to women’s rights, plenty of married women were working, they were just poor and lower middle class women. Married women weren’t working at the beginning of the 20th century because of marriage bars (laws) keeping them out of the labor force. (My great grandma got around that by being a divorcee/widow.)

The one spouse doing market work picture is only a tiny blip in the history of work.

Claudia Goldin has a fantastic book called Understanding the Gender Gap that traces the history of women and work in the US.

By: Linden Mon, 08 Apr 2013 19:14:13 +0000 Question for the academics: I’ve often wondered whether there’s a connection between the rise of second-wave feminism and the rise of economic inequality. Did women become more interested in paid employment outside the home (because women have always worked, just not always for wages) as a response to the beginning of the wage slide, or was it the other way around? Or is there no connection at all?

As someone who grew up in the 1970s and came of age in the 1980s, it often feels to me like the cultural climate responded to the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement by basically saying, “If you’re going to make us share the goodies, we’ll make sure there aren’t as many goodies to go around, so all the groups will fight each other for a share of the diminished goody pool instead of fighting for more goodies for everyone. And by the way, we’ll elevate a few oustanding members of the disadvantaged groups here and there, to trick people into thinking this is all based on merit.”