The weaker sex

Into this gloomy landscape, however, strides Liza Mundy, her bold new vision encapsulated in The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family. Instead of being a castrating, unmarriageable harpy, today’s reproductively and economically free female, Mundy asserts, is the trigger for a challenging but exciting new social order. In 2012 America, as she points out, women are better educated than men (women earn the majority of bachelor’s and graduate degrees); an escalating number of single women younger than 30 earn more than their male peers; and nine of the 10 U.S. job industries with the most projected growth are women-­dominated. This last figure has resulted from various societal shifts, ranging from a late-20th-century fall in manufacturing jobs to the rise of such lucrative, almost exclusively female professions as psychotherapy. (Indeed—do you know a male therapist? I don’t, and my last therapist charged a murderous $275 an hour.)

In nearly 40 percent of American marriages, the wife earns more than the husband. Data indicate that this power inversion can trigger not just problems with gender identity but a troubling amount of male infidelity (peculiar new trend: women who are financially dependent on their husbands tend to be faithful, while, para­doxically, financially dependent men tend to stray). One 2010 study showed that when a woman’s contribution to household income tops 60 percent, the couple is more likely to divorce.

But Mundy sunnily believes a bright day will dawn once households with a female primary bread­winner become the new American majority, as data suggest they will. Just as the workplace will become more feminized (let’s chant the shibboleth together: on-site-child-care-paid-­parental-leave-flextime), the home will become more masculinized. In short: Could the next wave be Adam and Eve snuggling together over a Desert Storm–camouflage Miele vacuum cleaner? …

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