Lady Business: Are the Mancession, He-Covery, and Stay-At-Home Dads Good for Feminism?

The shadow argument for the old “Having it All” conversation, which should probably be retired along with cutesy words like Mancession and He-Covery, is the idea that men who are not breadwinners are undermining patriarchy and male power.

white man holding his pockets out while white woman slaps forehead in disgust.
This is the actual photo from a USA Today article about the mancession. What?

With that reasoning, I’ve wondered for a long time if the so-called mancession, which most mainstream media reported was the worst fallout of the recent recession because man jobs were declining as women were getting more work (in pink collar professions?), was good for feminism.

Role Reboot says maybe, but not for the reasons the media suggest

The shift that the mainstream media has missed is that today’s men are WILLING AND ABLE to take on home and childcare responsibilities. And just as importantly, this trend was already accelerating BEFORE the “Mancession.” In April of 2008, just before the sub-prime meltdown, the Today Show reported that “the number of at-home dads has grown by over 60% in the last 4 years.” In those four years (2004-2008), the economy was whizzing along, and even then, many men were still choosing to leave good-paying jobs to take care of their children. Another fact the media always misses is that the number of at-home dads actually declined slightly (see table FG8) from 2009 to 2010, at the height of the “Mancession,” then rose sharply (12.5%) in 2011 during the “He-covery.” The media has explained the Mancession as being men losing their jobs and forced into caring for their kids and the He-covery as their relief in being able to return to work when THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS THE TRUTH.

I love it when the opposite of what I believe and have been told is true. So, great, even though Bloomberg News data showed that “88 percent of non-farm jobs created since the end of the Great Recession have gone to men,” a lot of dads are staying at home with the kids. They’re not a part of the Evil Corporate Man construct.

Unfortunately though, even if we’re on the safe side of male job recovery, for working mothers there is no relief, really. Unless they are already wealthy and privileged enough not to rely solely on their jobs. Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and now a lawyer, writes in “1% Wives are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible” that: 

A job that anyone can have is not a job, it’s a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation). Even moms with full-time jobs spend 86 percent as much time with their kids as unemployed mothers, so it is apparently taking up the time of about 14 percent of a paid position. And all the cultish glorification of home and hearth still leaves us in a world where most of the people paid to chef and chauffeur in the commercial world are men. Which is to say, something becomes a job when you are paid for it—and until then, it’s just a part of life.

That brings up, of course, the sticky notion of what determines what work is and whose work is more important. But I won’t go there. What do you think about the so called mancession and its effects on women’s lives? Have stay-at-home dads been a good thing for feminism or not?

Previously: Why Isn’t There More Feminist Business Writing?, The Three Types of Businesswomen in Pop Culture

Joshunda Sanders, a Black woman with short black hair, smiles brightly at the camera
by Joshunda Sanders
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Joshunda Sanders is the author of I Can Write the World, How Racism and Sexism Killed Traditional Media: Why the Future of Journalism Depends on Women and People of Color, and The Beautiful Darkness: A Handbook for Orphans. She lives in the Bronx, New York, and sometimes tweets @JoshundaSanders.

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