Phillips: New majority

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 10:00pm
By Betsy Phillips

The biggest issue facing Tennessee’s women under Gov.-elect Bill Haslam’s administration is, by far, the unemployment rate and the loss of jobs in the state. Beyond the obvious — that families need a certain level of income to get by — the peculiar nature of this recession’s unemployment trends are having profound effects on women.

This recession has hit men harder than women. Jobs traditionally held by men have dried up, and stereotypes of women being more reliable and compliant have led to greater job stability for women. While single women have, by necessity, been our own breadwinners, married women were still often able to arrange it so that they could stay home with their kids while married men brought in the main family income. Even among two-income families, women’s income was often seen as an added luxury.

That’s no longer the case. Women’s income is vital to the financial health of the family. And often, it is the sole income of the family.

It’s difficult to overstate the effect that change is having and will have on Tennesseans.

Some men will adjust just fine to not being the primary breadwinner. Much like how the rise in divorce rates led to men being comfortable changing diapers or consoling pre-teen daughters or just being more hands-on than their fathers and grandfathers, there will be unforeseen positive consequences.

But it will be difficult for a lot of men who’ve been brought up to equate being a man with being the head of their household with being the provider. How will you be a man if you can’t take care of your family? It’s going to be rocky while men work that out.

Women who become the primary earners will find that they like the perks that come with being the provider, including being the person who is the final authority in the household. As the saying goes, “She who pays the piper calls the tune.” But now these new female breadwinners will discover how stressful it can be to provide the one income a whole family depends upon.

Haslam has got to find a way to put people back to work, and he’s going to be under tremendous pressure from both sides of the political aisle to do so. If Haslam encourages men to retrain for new jobs and go to college and compete on an even playing field with women, a Haslam administration probably won’t be any worse for women than just living with the general political shenanigans of this state. Yes, we may see some cuts for programs women care about, but we may also see that women’s increased earning power brings us a broader ability to have our needs pandered to.

If Haslam decides that he can’t fix our unemployment situation, and that the twin specters of illegal immigrants and abortion aren’t doing enough to frighten voters into forgetting about their actual problems, he’s already signaled his support of “traditional marriage,” and the definition of “traditional marriage” is conveniently flexible. Sure, right now, it just means a marriage between a man and a woman. But what if Haslam needs it to mean “a marriage in which the man is the head of the household and the primary breadwinner and the woman, even if she’s better qualified and more employable, stays home, and, if she doesn’t, she’s ruining it for everyone?”

What if it becomes easier to scapegoat women than to put men to work?

That could get very ugly for women very quickly.

It’s important to keep the pressure on Haslam to put people back to work without indulging in the narrative that women are taking jobs that should rightfully belong to men. A family works together, and the person who is best able to earn an income that supports the family should be free to support his or her family without feeling like he or she is betraying tradition. 

8 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 11/10/10 at 7:10

You put impossible chores before the newly elected and tell us
what falure of those chores will mean. Yes, there are a few things
government can do toward employment, but not alot. Training
and education of the citizens is one. Tax laws that are favorable
to its citizens and businesses alike being another. The Social
elements mentioned within are nothing more than a silly attempt
at letting us know that conservative positions not allowed. That
only a progressive could handle immigration, abortion, and
traditional marriage issues in the "proper way". Get over
yourself and let the Governor that was elected by a HUGH
majority handle what is and will comes before him!

By: gdiafante on 11/10/10 at 7:34

Oh gov...the conservative way is to do nothing...Everyone knows this...

I'm not familiar with Hugh Majority and how did he get to decide the election?

By: Loner on 11/11/10 at 6:21

Ms. Phillips opines: "Much like how the rise in divorce rates led to men being comfortable changing diapers or consoling pre-teen daughters or just being more hands-on than their fathers and grandfathers, there will be unforeseen positive consequences."

I fail to see how going through a divorce makes a man a better father, a more understanding counselor or more adept at changing a diaper. An argument could be made that just the opposite is more likely to be the case.

Mr. Haslam is a conservative; those folks are always telling us that government cannot create jobs or wealth; with an attitude like that, I predict that Tennessee will suffer a further erosion of it's attractiveness to employers. and employees.

The "positive consequences" of electing a Judeo-Christian theocrat to the state's top job are these: Statewide scores for Bible Studies will probably go up. Islamophobia will increase in its severity and white Christian schools will have a friend in the Governor's mansion. Be afraid, very afraid.

By: girliegirl on 11/11/10 at 9:11

Actually, gdia, the conservatives donate more to charities (factual info here) than the more liberal members. I had no idea until I married one. LOL Whoa~

By: Loner on 11/11/10 at 9:21

Girliegirl married a charity? Strange matrimony laws in Girlie's state.

By: girliegirl on 11/11/10 at 9:32

No goofball, the man and his conservative friends donate tons more than my lib friends. It's just a fact. (moral teachings, religious views..all a factor)

By: girliegirl on 11/11/10 at 9:34

My Libtard friends expect the gov't to pick up the bill. My Conservative friends don't think the gov't does the job "in an efficient manner"....which I find funny, myself. I'm strictly Libertarian (Independent) and watching it all transpire. :)

By: pswindle on 11/12/10 at 10:08

Just wait and see where TN is after 6 months of Haslam. If you have a state job, you had better hang on for your dear life. It does not bother the GOP one bit if they lay off people as long as they get low or no taxes. But for some reason, they want all of the services. I have a GOP friend, and she wants low taxes but lay of my SS and Medicare.