I have just finished reading Monday's Wall Street Journal, and I've come to he conclusion that women entering the labor force are causing no end of trouble. "Husband's Hazard" reads the left-hand column on the front page. "For Middle-Aged Man, a Wife's New Career Upsets Old Balances." Pay attention, now, this is serious!
It seems that middle-aged women reentering the work force are causing widespead emotional trauma among middle-aged men. A psychiatric consultant is quoted as saying, "People talk about women's problems all the time, but the adaptive stress men undergo when their wives take on a career has been virtually lost sight of. Even if you could postulate an ideal man and an ideal marriage, this would be a difficult transition to make.
"The metamorphosis of homemaker into breadwinner sends tremors through every relationship," pronounces the Journal and, with a passing nod to the benefits two incomes bring to the marriage, it goes on to chronicle experiences of men who have found their wives becoming indifferent to their career and emotional needs and who have had to adjust their weekends and vacation schedules to the wives' careers. "Responsibility for household chores shift," says the Journal. "In the Merrin household, for example, Bruce cooks breakfasts and scrubs toilets."
"Most disconcerting of all," the Journal goes on to note, "many husbands are no longer sure they know the women they married. New facets of their wives' personalities emerge. Meticulous housekeepers become more tolerant of sloppiness. Easygoing mothers flare up over the children's balkiness or dawdling . . . "
It's all enough to convince a man that the last thing he should let his wife do is get a job. Not only will he lose the safe harbor from the tempests of the work place, but he will also have to cook breakfast, scrub toilets and put up with a sloppy wife. We never find out, however, what forces drove the happy little homemaker into the work force. While one man is quoted as saying what happened to him is "just too painful" to talk about, none of the women are even quoted.
Presumably, they surged into the work force without skipping a beat, because Monday's Journal editorial page brings us an article by a New York writer asking, "Must Women Executives Be Such Barracudas?"
Now, I have been in the work force for nearly 15 years and I must confess that, while I have encountered an awful lot of male sharks, I have met only one female barracuda. The Wall Street Journal writer, however, has had a tougher time of it. "Are upper level women executives nastier and more professionally amoral than men?" she asks. "I've been worrying about this question after three unhappy experiences within one year." Three barracudas within a year, she tells us. And not only that: "I've found others who have noticed a similar phenomenon." The Wall Street Journal, with the usual keen scientific eye it brings to matters involving working women, has found a new trend. Would the Journal have applied the same tarring brush to males, to blacks, or to religious groups? Would the Journal have printed a headline that said: "Must New York Executives Be Such Barracudas?"
The message here is not that some women act like some men when they get into the work force, but that most female executives become threatening predators when they get into positions of power. You surely wouldn't want to hire someone like that, and you surely wouldn't want to work for someone like that.
And, if that's not enough, when you give them a shot at management they want to join in management games. "Stag Poker Aggravates Women at CBS," announces the lead headline of the Journal's second section. "At issue is an all-male poker game that some female executives in the elite documentary unit see as the place not only to deal, but also to wheel."
One excluded woman says it is the "quintessence of the old-boyism that runs the shop," while a male executive said that is "ridiculous . . . The women have just as fair a shot around here as anyone else." Dropped parenthetically into the story is the information that only three of the 13 producers on CBS Reports are women, which suggests that the executives have been paying more attention to poker than to affirmative action. But then, that's in keeping with the times.
Monday's Journal was enough to give any reader second thoughts about the revolution in the work place. It's one thing to hire young women, but it's obviously quite another to hire middle-aged women reentering the work force. For every reentry woman there's going to be a traumatized man. If I were a man, I'd be shaking my head with wonderment, trying to figure out what is going on in the heads of American women. For no apparent reason, all they seem to want to do is abandon their husbands and become barracudas and butt in on men's poker games.
It just goes to show what happens when you upset those old balances.