Another Thing Conservatives Don't Get: Most Women Work Because They Need the Money

What Women Really Think
Oct. 31 2013 11:34 AM

Most Women Work Because They Have To

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Waitress whose husband is sitting at home, waiting for his salad.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Last week, Vice co-founder and conservative jerk Gavin McInnes threw a sexist temper tantrum on HuffPo Live, insisting that ambitious women are mostly lying to themselves and would prefer to be home, serving their manly men who go out in the world.  "Women are forced to pretend to be men. They’re feigning this toughness. They’re miserable," he railed, claiming "studies" show that feminism makes women unhappy. "They're not happy in the work force, for the most part."

Though it's tempting to just laugh him off, a couple of brave souls squelched that urge and instead pointed out a major flaw in his argument. McInnes assumes that women work because "women are forced to pretend to be men," but as Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker at Salon explain, most women, married or not, work because of this thing we call "money," which they need:

But our analysis of 2012 census data shows that most families with two incomes rely upon the wife’s work to stay afloat financially. The census reveals that out of 59 million married couples, 36 million feature wives with positive earnings. When we subtracted the wives’ incomes from those 36 million families, roughly 7 million fell below the federal poverty line, with another 6 million falling below 1.5 times the poverty line, and a further 6 million falling below twice the poverty line. Thus, were the incomes of working wives to be suddenly subtracted from their families, a full 54 percent of families with two incomes would be in or near poverty.

Bruenig helpfully supplied a chart at the American Prospect for manly men like McInnes who are too busy killing boars (watching Internet porn) to do feminine stuff like read:

It is somewhat unfair to accuse conservatives, hipster or otherwise, of not knowing that women work because they have to. The truth is that when folks like McInnes are yelling about how "women" are meant to be at home, they are talking about a very narrow subset of women—upper-middle-class women of the sort that men of privilege look forward to marrying, basically. They don't care if working-class families don't enjoy the benefits of having a full-time housewife. In fact, when it comes to the working class, there's often an about-face from conservatives, who start emphasizing how important it is for women to get out of the house and go get a job. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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