Warning: The following post contains no business content.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably witnesses some of the blogospheric outrage over the recent Forbes opinion piece entitled, "Don't Marry Career Women." In it, columnist Michael Noer cites various studies and statistics that he believe indicate that men are better off marrying a stay-at-home wife.
Precisely as he intended, it sparked a firestorm of outrage, including responses from the BlogHer team.
There is no question that the article is offensive and the author a pig.
But missing in all of this is that fact that none of the posts I read has attempted to refute any of his basic claims with logical argument.
Noer cites a wide variety of sources that claim things like:
1) If they [career women] quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003).
2) They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006).
3) You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001).
4) You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology).
5) Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).
6) Women's work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men's work hours often have no statistical effect. "I also find that the incidence in divorce is far higher in couples where both spouses are working than in couples where only one spouse is employed," Johnson says.
7) Highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas.)
8) Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.
Elizabeth Corcoran's counterpoint makes the argument that the mechanism by which 2-career marriages break down may have more to do with the husband than the wife--if the husband is lazy and takes his wife for granted, a career woman has more attractive alternatives than a financially dependent spouse without marketable skills.
This is an eminently reasonable argument, though it doesn't tackle the $64,000 question, "Regardless of who is to blame for the difficulties experienced in 2-career marriages, is a man more or less likely to be happy if he marries a career woman?"
Elana Centor of BlogHer writes:
"The point is that it took the outrage of readers and their own employees to make the editorial team at Forbes realize that what Noer had written was an opinion piece and not a piece of objective journalism. They broke the public trust. They insulted their subscribers. They were snarky. While readers expect and accept snarky from Gawker and other bloggers, they do not expect it from mainstream business publications that are supposed to adhere to fundamental journalistic ethics. That's not to say Forbes can't be edgy and even snarky. It can. Just label the piece as a blog--- not a piece of journalism. There is a difference."
Um, I'm puzzled by this. "Label the piece as a blog---not a piece of journalism?" This is Forbes we're talking about, not Scientific American. I think it's pretty clear it's an opinion piece.
I think it's fine to blast Forbes for publishing something you find offensive, and immediately cancel your subscription, but don't say that they insulted the public trust.
Lisa Stone writes, "That said, Corcoran's and Noer's pieces are both flawed -- I know far too many men staying at home with the children and far too many women CEOs for these outdated archetypes to hold even one more day. They're laughable! Then again, I have the vision of a woman who doesn't have to work at Forbes with Noer and his editors every day."
Again, I'm puzzled. Essentially, Lisa seems to be saying, "I don't believe the stats and studies that Noer cites because my own anecdotal experience shows that they're incorrect."
I refuse to depend Noer's intentions. It's clear he wanted to stir up controversy, and didn't give a damn about all the feelings he was going to hurt.
I myself am married to a career woman who is a Harvard graduate. I believe that you should marry for love, and that regardless of anything that Noer cites, I'd be less happy if I married an uneducated, unemployed woman.
But if we want to knock any sense into the heads of the troglodytes Noer was trying to rally with his piece, we need to tackle the facts of his argument.
If Noer had written an article advising his readers to avoid living in neighborhoods with African Americans because they tend to commit more crimes, would it be more persuasive to respond by 1) calling Noer a racist, blasting his publication, and citing the fact that none of the black people I know are criminals, or 2) pointing out that Noer's argument had failed to control for the impact of socioeconomic class on crime rates?
I know it's hard to remain calm in the face of willful insult, but allowing your outrage to determine what you write (and using weak arguments in the process) often has the opposite effect of what you desire. We should write to persuade, not just to satisfy our own (eminently understandable) need to vent.