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Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men

Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men

by Andrew Hacker

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After tackling the sensitive issues of race and wealth, bestselling author Andrew Hacker now turns his authoritative analysis to a topic on which almost everyone has an opinion: the relationship between the sexes. Skillfully employing a wide range of new and startling statistics, he finds a gender divide that is only getting wider, with devastating consequences


After tackling the sensitive issues of race and wealth, bestselling author Andrew Hacker now turns his authoritative analysis to a topic on which almost everyone has an opinion: the relationship between the sexes. Skillfully employing a wide range of new and startling statistics, he finds a gender divide that is only getting wider, with devastating consequences for family life and personal happiness.

Whether measured by quantity or quality, marriages are weaker and briefer than at any time since this nation began. Gone are the days when men and women happily assumed the complementary roles of provider and caretaker. Today's women are unwilling to truncate their goals to make life congenial for men; instead they are competing for -- and often winning -- places once thought of as solely male preserves. At the same time, fewer men can satisfy the expectations modern women have for their dates and mates. What does this mean for the future of intimate relationships?

Andrew Hacker probes statistics on divorce and parenthood to explain why more women are initiating divorce and why so many are raising children alone -- or choosing to forgo motherhood altogether. He notes that more men are skipping college, just as more women are entering and succeeding at careers once dominated by men. But even as women make great strides in the workplace, double standards and glass ceilings persist, suggesting continuing and new forms of hostility and discrimination. Hacker also confronts the troubling question of why, in a civilized nation, rape and assault against women remain widespread and why men and women are opposed on fundamental issues such as gun control and abortion. Perhaps most provocatively, he makes the prediction that the social patterns of white Americans are beginning to mirror those of blacks -- yet another result of the growing gender divide.

Sure to incite discussion and debate, Mismatch is an important, defining book from the "political scientist known for doing with statistics what Fred Astaire did with hats, canes, and chairs" (Newsweek).

Editorial Reviews

The term "feminist revolution" has ceased to be in vogue, but gender relations continue to change, and according to political scientist Andrew Hacker, the distance and dissonance between men and women continues to grow. In a detailed analysis, Hacker maintains that some gender gaps have become chasms. Discussing issues ranging from the "mommy track" to the causes of divorce to fertility rates, Hacker argues that deteriorating gender relations are altering the face of American culture.
The Washington Post
What interests him most is "asymmetries" between the sexes. A good many of the ones he notes seem to be trending in women's favor. The percentage of women in law, medicine, the professoriat — on and on — is rising. Women's incomes have leapt exponentially. But, Hacker insists, the double standard remains in matters sexual, and this is enough "to limit the options open to women" and "degrade their human standing." Hacker makes much of women's alleged lack of words parallel to those men use to demean women, such as "bitch" and "slut." Anyone who has listened to a female "bitch session" (as women themselves call it) about men will find this a bit hard to believe. — Jean Bethke Elshtain
The Los Angeles Times
In Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men, Andrew Hacker, a professor of political science at Queens College in New York, takes his turn at explaining the so-called gender gap. Drawing on a wide range of statistics on everything from marriage, divorce and fertility rates to deadbeat dads, single moms, disparities between men's and women's income and educational levels and the reasons cited by those filing for divorce, Hacker offers a readily recognizable snapshot of the way we live now. — Merle Rubin
Publishers Weekly
Hacker's Two Nations focused on the growing racial divide in America. Here, he explores how men and women in America have also grown apart. He builds his argument from a wide range of statistics: divorce rates, age at marriage, male-female income ratios, homosexuality rates, sex ratios of college grads, numbers of people never married and so forth. Women, with more education and better earnings opportunities than in the past, have been marrying later than they used to. More confident and more demanding in their relationships with men, they're increasingly unwilling to "limit their ambitions to make life more congenial for men." Men, he says, have responded with their own sort of "liberation" movement, abandoning responsibility for supporting wives and children, and leaving them for younger, more compliant women. Hacker has a gift for analyzing apt statistics (e.g., inferring the scale of male impotence fear from the over seven million men using Viagra only a year after its introduction), and he matter-of-factly addresses taboos, stating, for example, that men rape because they hate and fear women and that "white men harbor a primal fear that black men may surpass them in virility," responding to those fears with "periodic lynchings" in older days, while now "the surrogate for lynching is imprisonment." Hacker wisely refrains from pointing fingers at guilty parties and offers no solutions, although some readers will surely want to use his statistics to buttress their own arguments. It's more of a "buyer beware" book, witty at times and searingly direct. Agent, Robin Straus. (Mar.) Forecast: Mismatch's subject-a perennially popular one-and Hacker's name recognition could ignite sales. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Renowned social scientist Hacker on the gender divide that still prevails. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
The Wall Street Journal Few people writing today for a general audience can make more sense of numbers.

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Read an Excerpt


Mismatch ventures into a terrain -- the world where men and women meet -- about which we all have opinions. This is hardly surprising. Almost everyone has lived near members of the other sex, starting with parents and siblings, continuing with classmates and colleagues, and on to spouses and lovers. Thus each of us has a wealth of experience and insights regarding relations between the sexes.

We could all write volumes on this subject. In fact, hundreds of authors have; many more if we count those who have penned novels and movies and television scripts. The book you have opened offers one writer's assessment of the state of the sexes in the United States today. My aim is to provide new information and interpretations that will help to shape and sharpen your own views. Most of the ideas ventured here will build on reliable sources, often from official documents and in statistical form.

However, there will also be times when hard evidence isn't available, or is in short supply. Then intuition and speculation must take over, and every effort will be made to present these interpretations as credibly as possible. This needn't mean that your agreement is expected on every page. Quite the contrary, Mismatch is a book to be argued with. And if you find yourself shaking your head, my hope is that you will also see enough here that makes sense so you will defer any doubts and continue turning the pages.

Mismatch has not been written as a textbook or an academic monograph. Rather, it is intended for an intelligent audience interested in a serious subject. For this reason, we begin with a caveat: some of the book's judgments may at first seem overstated, or appear to force the sexes into strict dichotomies. This has been done knowingly and for a reason. The ground where men and women meet can be a tense topography, where we are often on the defensive and ignore crucial truths about ourselves. One way to confront these realities is by portraying them as vividly as possible. In this spirit, hyperbole can serve a purpose: to sharpen our understanding of the murky world in which we live.

Sex and Statistics

Most of the facts and figures that accompany the conversation in Mismatch come from government sources. The United States leads the world in quantifying the activities and attributes of its citizens. Almost all of these documents divide their tabulations by the sex of the persons. Yet these findings are dispersed in hundreds of documents the average taxpayer seldom sees. But they are public property, and it is our right to know what they say about us as individuals and about the country as a whole. In some cases, figures have been combined from several studies or categories have been compressed to highlight broader trends and developments.

It would be a mistake to view these tables as merely columns of numbers. The main reason we rely on statistics is that they provide precision. Figures can also tell very human stories and often surprise us with unexpected findings. For example:

• When the Bureau of the Census looked at wives aged 25 to 34 who had bachelor's degrees, it discovered that 35.6 percent of their husbands had a lower level of schooling.
• Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services show that 60.7 percent of divorces were initiated by wives, 32.5 percent were begun by husbands, and 6.8 percent were filed together.
• The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that among the graduates of dental schools, 40.1 percent are now women, compared with 0.9 percent in 1970. And women now receive 68.5 percent of veterinarians' degrees, up from 5.8 percent in 1970.
• The National Center for Health Statistics also has figures going back to 1970, which show that 72.9 percent of women college graduates began having children before they reached thirty. Now only 35.7 percent are giving birth that early.
• When the Internal Revenue Service looked at people who made more than $1 million a year, it found that 93.l were men and 6.9 percent were women.
• The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported in 2001 that 7,783 men and 926 women were charged with murder or non-negligent manslaughter. For embezzlement, the numbers were 6,284 men and 6,293 women.

Why Mismatch?

Mismatch has been chosen as the title for this book because the term best characterizes how relations between women and men have been evolving over the last half century. In earlier times, the sexes were seen as complementary. Needless to say, nature and culture caused men and woman to differ in many ways. Still, it was assumed that their traits and temperaments formed a symmetry that allowed them to live closely and compatibly, with each bringing distinctive qualities to a common enterprise. Not only did nature intend for women and men to meet and mate; couples were so composed that they could reside contentedly for the rest of their lives. And by and large, they did.

Needless to say, not every pairing was a paragon of harmony. Battles between the sexes were doubtless common in every era, as memorialized in the bickerings of Shakespeare's Petruchio and Katherine, and Beatrice and Benedick. Yet by the final act, the shrews had been tamed and the bulls brought into an enclosure. In the aftermath, mutual obligations arose, to be fostered not only by the partners, but by the broader community, which had a stake in seeing matches succeed. The hope was that each partner would care for and about the other, providing the emotional comfort and support that most of us want and need. For an intimate pairing to succeed, each partner had to subsume a portion of the identity he or she brought to the match. If this was done freely, in return for love, so much the better. But in those days, the basic bond was founded on inner convictions of honor and duty.

If this symbiotic relationship was seen as natural, it was not wholly a reciprocal arrangement. As an ideal, complementarity supposes equal partners, with each one giving and receiving to the same degree. In reality, there was seldom such a balance, in marriages and less-lasting liaisons. The burden usually fell on the woman to make the pairing work. Thus when it came to consoling and commiserating, the man expected that the bulk of the attention would be bestowed on him. It was the woman's job to listen and understand; to sympathize when he suffered setbacks, to cheer his minor triumphs, and to show she was unequivocably on and at his side. If he asked about her day, his questions were usually perfunctory; nor was it always evident that he was absorbing her answers.

We know that women in earlier eras desired more equality and reciprocity at home and in the wider world. But few of them said so aloud, in part because there was little prospect that the other sex would alter its ways. Society offered few opportunities for women to fulfill themselves on their own, and in fact erected many barriers. So the woman contributed most to this arrangement, while the man received its benefits. To be sure, he had an excuse. He had man's work to do: protecting the household and providing its sustenance. He would arrive home pleading exhaustion. "It's a jungle out there," he might groan, echoing his primal antecedents, as if to say that enduring this ordeal warranted his receiving the lion's share of attention. Though brief, this is not a wholly exaggerated depiction of the past. How far scenes like this have changed is a question that will recur throughout this book.

What has changed, though, is the readiness of women to subsume themselves or limit their ambitions to make life more congenial for men. Few are willing to sustain the former complementarity that required them to play a subordinate role. More broadly, they expect full equality, not just legally and in the economic arena, but in the holistic sense of being perceived as an integral human being. As hardly needs recounting, women are now entering spheres that were once dominated by men. And as more of them are revealing their talents, they are competing against men, a circumstance that was never contemplated in the past. Concurrently, today's high rate of divorce may be evidence of a growing estrangement, which transcends the difficulties of individual couples. Developments like these have begun to undermine what was once accepted as the affinity of the sexes. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to describe today's women and men as a natural match.

Needless to say, the sexes are not always at odds; nor are all sexual tensions and frictions of recent origin. In some areas, men and women have similar ideas and attitudes. This will be seen in the chapter on children, where many couples are agreeing they want fewer of them. On another level, the power men have had over women has a long history, as will become apparent in discussions of why the double standard and physical assaults persist in our time. At the same time, these efforts at control -- and women's responses to them -- take on new forms and meanings in the current century.

Mismatch will also look at such phenomena as the growing number of fathers who are rejecting parental obligations, along with women who are choosing to embark on motherhood on their own. It will chart the changing faces of higher education and the workplace, as well as the repercussions of the growing acceptance of homosexuality. Other chapters will consider what "being a man" means today, and inquire whether the experience of black Americans has warnings for the white population.

As I suggested in opening this preface, all of us could write a book on men and women -- or women and men, since the order makes a difference. It is also likely that each such work would reflect its author's experience and outlook, including the gender with which that person identifies. Does this mean it is impossible to be objective about how the sexes interact and regard and treat each other? After all, this arena is notable for rousing emotions and interests that color perceptions and interpretations.

This is perhaps a roundabout way of saying that I will leave it to the reader to decide how far what is said in this book rings true, or has enough plausibility to keep the conversation going. My early training was in political philosophy, at Amherst College and then at Oxford University, which focused on issues of freedom and justice and equality. One never forgets such studies, and their impress is on these pages. Later, I did graduate work at Princeton and the University of Michigan, where my own field of political science was influenced by research in psychology and sociology. Since then, my teaching at Cornell University and Queens College has crossed academic boundaries, if only because the subjects I find interesting and important can't be encompassed by a single specialty.

This approach held for a book I wrote about the realities of race in America, where the inequalities faced by one race confront the insecurities of another. In a more recent book, on wealth and income, I found that people's goals were less purely economic than quests for status and esteem. Moving from race and wealth to the sexes seemed a natural progression, since it is another of this country's abiding divides. Here, as before, I use statistics when they can enhance our understanding, and add my own analysis when the discussion needs to be taken further.

An additional subtitle for Mismatch could have been "from affinity to estrangement." As women are becoming more assertive, and taking critical stances toward the men in their lives, they are finding that all too many men lack the qualities they desire in dates and mates. And despite bursts of progressive rhetoric, only rarely do men show themselves disposed to change in more than marginal ways. Thus there is a greater divide between the sexes than at any time in living memory. The result will be a greater separation of women and men, with tensions and recriminations afflicting beings once thought to be naturally companionable.

Andrew Hacker
November 2002

Copyright © 2003 by Andrew Hacker

Meet the Author

Andrew Hacker is a professor of political science at Queens College in New York. He has written ten books, including the bestselling Two Nations and Money. He lives in New York City.

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