Is A He-Cession Good News For Women?

According to researchers, bloggers, and bitter, unemployed men, our recession has a gender-specific twist. They argue that the recession is in fact a “he-cession,” since four out of every five people who have lost their jobs during the past two years have been men. The shift in unemployment is due primarily to job losses in manufacturing and auto industries; men make up the majority of these work fields.While some, like USA Today columnist and Men’s Health editor David Zincenko, are worrying about the “Decline of The American Male,” others are predicting that the employment shifts will be meaningful for women, who may soon be known as the breadwinners for their families. It’s likely that, for the first time since World War II, women will soon make up the majority of the U.S. labor force. Maria Shriver wrote a piece for Huffington Post about her excitement regarding the possible changes. She will be working with The Center For American Progress to launch a national project called A Women’s Nation, which will take a look at “this shift [that] is changing the economic and cultural landsape for our country.”

Elisabeth Eaves wrote a similarly enthusiastic piece on this so-called “he-cession,” bubbling with excitement over the fact that “[t]he share of men in the United States with a job is at its lowest point ever” and that “[t]he recession seems to be kicking our seismic long-term shift in gender roles into high gear.” Many commentators have predicted, as Eaves does, that the employment changes we’re seeing will lead to men taking on “wifely” duties at home.

But I, and many others, feer that the recession will bring more ramifications for women than meet the eye. Although men may be losing jobs at higher rates than women, they’re also more likely than women to re-enter the workforce when the recession subsides. Economist Heather Boushey has clarified in the past that, “[t]raditionally when women have lost their jobs, they have been more likely to simply exit the labor force.” Therefore, in the future, men are likely to work their way back into the employment stats, while women are not. And let’s not forget that, overall, women are still paid less than men in most fields, and aren’t equally employed in high-paying ones (for more stats on gender inequality, and what it means for the recession, see this article). America might not be as close to becoming “A Women’s Nation” as it might seem.

Another outcome more likely than a switch in gender roles is that working women will work their butts off in the office while their husbands sulk in bed. Newsweek reported that “female partners of Wall Street warriors ostensibly vent about how the economic meltdown has morphed their men into ‘emotional train wrecks,’ deflating their sex lives along with the Dow.” So don’t get too excited—while the recession may keep more women working, these ladies are likely to be welcomed home by a man with a pissy attitude and a low libido. Not exactly empowering for either sex. The Newsweek article also informed us that “laid-off men don’t do dishes.”

Conclusion? He-cession, or recession, the effects don’t seem too exciting—for men or women. I’m curious to see how the “A Woman’s Nation” project turns out, and I hope its predictions come to fruition, but until then, the women who’ve kept their jobs might be forced to put up with whiny, depressed dudes. And the women who have become unemployed? Well, sadly, they might never work again.