Forbes Takes on Working Girls

By Rachel Dry
Sunday, August 27, 2006

Every year, Forbes magazine dutifully indexes the 400 wealthiest people in America. The list lays bare just how massive a treasure this country's richest have gathered. But what about the enriching joys of love, marriage and family? Forbes covers those, too.

Last Tuesday, the magazine published on its Web site an article titled "Don't Marry Career Women," written by Michael Noer, executive editor of news for Forbes.com. The essay -- about 1,000 words summarizing recent social science research -- was illustrated with an online slide show depicting the unhappy life of a career woman's spouse: an unkempt living room, a miserable wife (with a tear on her cheek) and other undesirable fates. Response was so "heated," according to Forbes.com, that the site took Noer's article off its "Careers" pages and re-posted it in its opinion section three hours later. It became the "point" of Forbes senior editor Elizabeth Corcoran's "counterpoint" article, "Don't Marry a Lazy Man." The articles drew hundreds of online comments. One poster wrote that "the only conclusion I can draw from it is 'Don't Read Forbes.' "

THE ARTICLE

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women -- even those with a "feminist" outlook -- are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

[ . . . ] Many factors contribute to a stable marriage, including the marital status of your spouse's parents (folks with divorced parents are significantly more likely to get divorced themselves), age at first marriage, race, religious beliefs and socio-economic status. And, of course, many working women are indeed happily and fruitfully married -- it's just that they are less likely to be so than non-working women. And that, statistically speaking, is the rub. To be clear, we're not talking about a high-school dropout minding a cash register. For our purposes, a "career girl" has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year.

[ . . . ] According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 times more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas). Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

THE BACKLASH

Girlfriends: A word of advice. Ask your man the following question: When was the last time you learned something useful, either at home or work?

If the last new skill your guy learned was how to tie his shoes in the second grade, dump him. If he can pick up new ideas faster than your puppy, you've got a winner.

[ . . . ] The experts cited in his story think that professional women are more likely to get divorced, to cheat and to be grumpy about either having kids or not having them. But rather than rush to blame the woman, let's not overlook the other key variable: What is the guy doing?

[ . . . ] There is, of course, the continual dilemma of who does the work around the house. But if both spouses are working, guess what? They've got enough income to hire someone else to fold laundry, mop floors, etc. . . . So guys, if you're game for an exciting life, go ahead and marry a professional gal. ("Don't Marry A Lazy Man" by Elizabeth Corcoran)

The furor over "Don't Marry Career Women" is a testament to the speed of an angry blogosphere, but also to the anachronistic and wholly outrageous tone of the article. It was easy to wonder how we had traveled through space and time to a moment at which it was OK to publish this kind of thing. . . .

The piece was so utterly ludicrous that for some, it was hard to do much but laugh. "I'm deeply grateful to Forbes Magazine for saving many women the trouble of dealing with men who can't tolerate equal partnerships, take care of their own health, clean up after themselves or have the sexual confidence to survive, other than a double standard of sexual behavior," wrote Gloria Steinem in an e-mail. "Since a disproportionate number of such unconfident and boring guys apparently read Forbes, the magazine has performed a real service." (Rebecca Traister in Salon)

THE SUPPORTER

Wow. Wait 'til the feminazis get a load of this one. . . . See, the culture of feminization is starting to fade away and a return to normalcy is rearing its head. These things are cyclical. I knew it was going to happen, but the early dawning of the New Age, the current age of feminism occurred in the '60s, late '60s and early '70s when I was in my late teens and early 20s, it totally messed me up. You young guys, 21, 22, just be thankful as hell you weren't born back in 1951, '50, '55. ( Rush Limbaugh, Aug. 23 )

THE SOURCES

Noer's piece was based on social science studies, including a recent study in the journal Social Forces. Peter Uhlenberg, editor of the journal, thought Noer was referencing a March 2006 piece called "What's Love Got to Do With It? Equality, Equity, Commitment and Women's Marital Quality," by University of Virginia sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock. That study pinpoints the real problem, career or no career: People expect too much. As the authors wrote:

"We suspect that higher expectations of intimacy and equality among women, especially more egalitarian-minded women, have led them to view their husbands' emotion work [defined as efforts to express emotion] more critically; we also suspect that these expectations have increased marital conflict and -- in turn -- dampened men's marital emotion work. . . . Thus, the irony here is that -- at least over the short term -- the increased popularity of companionate [egalitarian] ideals of marriage seems to have contributed to a decrease in the prevalence of the companionate marriage in practice."


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