A HE-cession? I'm not buying it.

The folks at ABC World News released the second segment last night in a series they’re calling “The New Gender Rules.” Apparently, men are being hit harder by the recession than women (though many sources say otherwise) because male-dominated fields like engineering and finance are where the majority of jobs are being lost. This, according to “The New Gender Rules,” is causing a wacky shift in traditional gender roles. Guess what? Gender inequality is gone because of the recession! Goodbye sexism! Helllooo postfeminism!

Check out the first segment in the series:

Okay, first of all, “the HE-cession?” Who exactly is calling it that, Charlie Gibson? And isn’t the very fact that ABC has deemed stories of a man who is going into nursing, or a man who is staying at home with his kids, so very newsworthy an indicator that we haven’t started following these “new gender rules” quite yet? And how about the narrator’s voice? Could he have strained any more on the words “wrenching re-negotiations over gender roles”? I thought he was going to choke and pass out. (Is there a special heimlich maneuver for when someone chokes on gender norms?)

Couples who are making their own gender rules are awesome, of course, but ABC World News hasn’t quite convinced me of an overall societal shift in that direction with this piece. Somehow it seems like a GIANT oversimplification, but perhaps the second video segment will suggest otherwise? Let’s watch it and find out!

We’ve switched to a female narrator in this one, but somehow she’s still not inspiring a lot of confidence. Call me crazy, but the very fact that a man who cares about his children is on the national news because of it suggests to me that we’ve still got a looong way to go before we reach the Postfeminist Promised Land. Of course it’s great that these couples are negotiating gender roles in their own way, but come on! An email to ABC World News (that they chose to read on the air) saying my husband is “at home right now cleaning!”? That seems like evidence of how far we still have to go before we’re living in a world where gender roles have dissolved.

Maybe it is cranky and pessimistic of me, but I am wary of mainstream media that suggests that we’ve somehow achieved complete gender equality. It’s such an oversimplification of a complicated issue, and I don’t like the idea that couples all over the world might be throwing in the gender towel (which I imagine is both pink and blue) and hanging up their “Mission Accomplished” banner when it comes to gender equality just because they both help their kids at bath time. I know it could be the uptight feminist in me, but I’ll be a lot happier when stories like these aren’t considered newsworthy.

Stay tuned for more “New Gender Rules” coverage. Maybe next time we’ll see (gasp!) a gay couple! In the meantime, what do you think of all of this? Do you think the recession (or HE-cession?) will bring about a shift in gender roles?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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5 Comments Have Been Posted

i'm skeptical on all these

i'm skeptical on all these same accounts in terms of calling an incredibly small percentage of men taking up traditionally "female" roles a societal shift. but one interesting effect of the recession and the subsequent Recover Act is that millions of dollars are going out to create green jobs and green jobs, will most likely end up going to workers in the construction industry. right now the construction industry employs about 2-3 % women on the national level. so really, it is mostly men that will cash in from all those jobs and job creation.
our poorest will always suffer most in a recession and women are poorer than men across every single ethnic group. 37% of female-headed households are below the poverty line.

to be clear, i like to see media highlighting shifts in gender roles, especially in employment. occupational segregation is abhorrent in how it traps people out of living wage jobs, but criminy, let's also highlight the shifts that work toward gender equity and at the same time, lift up those who need it most.

Not to mention

All of these couples shown are white middle to upper middle class, and as you alluded to, heterosexual. It definitely oversimplifies the situation and ignores the fact that lower income women, especially women of color, have been working their butts off for ages, and often taking care of kids at the same time. Women working is not this crazy concept that they're trying to make it out to be.

That's not entirely true,

That's not entirely true, Crystal. There was a mixed race couple in the first segment--the woman was black and the man was white. Didn't help much, though, since her take on the state of things was that she felt uncomfortable coming home and seeing her husband wearing her apron. Seriously? What year is this? Jeez.


In the second segment they gave statistics showing an increase of female participation in the paid work force; however, they did not give statistics showing an increase of male participation in the domestic labor force, just anecdotal evidence. This seems to be a lapse in methodology that may show that the data is not there to support the claims that they are making; that in fact, while women are going into the paid labor force, men are only anecdotaly spending more time at home and there are not numbers to support this. This would show that women are still feeling the affects of the third shift and the only aspect of the gender roles that has changed is that women are in the paid work world. Research on gender dynamics and gender roles still show that men are not seen as competent in the house and are not supposed to do the housework or be stay at home dad's. I think this report is oversimplifying and exaggerating the research and what appears to be going on in order to make their headline bigger and using anecdotal evidence to support a weak claim.

Does He-man know about this?

Does He-man know about this?

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