Thursday, August 24, 2006

Another Cootie Award

A Third Class Cootie with Pink Ribbons is awarded to Jack Shafer for this Slate piece which is a defense of Michael Noer's "Don't Marry Career Girls". Shafer seems to think that only the headline is insulting to women, which would be A-OK as a lot of people only read headlines, right? But the reasons for finding the rest not insulting are things like this:

But I've yet to read a blog item or a protesting e-mail from a reader that convinces me that the article—as opposed to the deliberately provocative headline—really insults women, career or otherwise.

Some of the sensational findings presented in the Forbes piece appear to be gender-neutral and hence don't bait feminists at all. For instance, Noer holds that the literature indicates that "highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex," and "individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat." So, if career women are bad marriage bets, so are career men. It's a wash.

Noer also cautions against marrying career women because it's "financially devastating." "[D]ivorced people see their overall net worth drop an average of 77%." But if your overall net worth is going to drop an average of 77 percent, wouldn't you want your net worth to be higher, which it could be if you marry a career woman, as opposed to lower with a non-career woman?

The nine slide-show entries appear to be a holding pen for crap Noer couldn't shoehorn into his overstuffed thesis. The headline to the first one, "You are less likely to get married to her," is a non sequitur. That you are less likely to marry her can't be a reason for not marrying her. The literature cited in the second slide, which is about divorce, refers only to the number of hours women work—not their education levels—and hence doesn't seem to apply to Forbes' definition of "career women." The fourth slide, "You are much less likely to have kids," doesn't allow that many "career women" don't have kids by design. If you don't want kids and don't have them, there's no tragedy, right? The fifth slide seems to be playing fast and loose with the facts. Its headline asserts, "If you do have kids, your wife is more likely to be unhappy." The item is footnoted to an academic study and a USA Today story about the academic study. According to USA Today, the study found that affluent parents experience reduced marital happiness after spawning compared with middle-class parents. If this observation is about joint income, not a woman's career, what's it doing in the story about not marrying career women?

What Shafer is saying here is that the article isn't insulting, because you could think of all these counterarguments while reading it. These counterarguments are not in the original article, you know, and the original article never makes the point that most of its assertions also apply to men.

This is a very odd way of defending an article. It could be used successfully to defend anything, really. That one can always mutter "crap" when reading a biased article doesn't make the article any less biased.

But this is not why our Jack gets his very own Cootie Award. Any old journalist could do as much. No, where Jack really excels is in these statements (bolded by me for your benefit):

Before my female readers break their nails pounding out angry e-mails to me, they should consider the piece's fundamental weakness.


What upsets you about the piece? Bore me with your fury at (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

The verb you are thinking of is "to belittle". The female readers, I mean.
See also Jennifer Pozner's response to Shafer.