What Are Women Earning? (And How Are Men Shrinking?)

If you’re following my Dare To Be A Feminist topic at Scoop.It (or have just been paying attention to the news), you probably noticed all the discussion about the Pew Research Report that states that women are earning more than their husbands in 40% of American families with children:

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.

These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers.1

The income gap between the two groups is quite large. The median total family income of married mothers who earn more than their husbands was nearly $80,000 in 2011, well above the national median of $57,100 for all families with children, and nearly four times the $23,000 median for families led by a single mother.2

If you, like many other people, just skimmed that headline, here’s what you need to really know about this discovery:

Compared with all mothers with children under age 18, married mothers who out-earn their husbands are slightly older, disproportionally white and college educated. Single mothers, by contrast, are younger, more likely to be black or Hispanic, and less likely to have a college degree.

The growth of both groups of mothers is tied to women’s increasing presence in the workplace. Women make up almost of half (47%) of the U.S. labor force today, and the employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011.3

(There’s also discussion of the dreaded single mothers; so I urge you to read the entire Pew findings.)

One should also note that this is not simply a matter of “feminism having won, so just let it all go away.” For the findings also reveal that “total family income is higher when the mother, not the father, is the primary breadwinner.” Thanks, pink collar ghetto, unequal pay, and continuing notions of gender inequality in the workplace. Not to mention all the BS traditional notions of motherhood.

Never mind the facts, however; let’s just get to the million dollar subtext question Liza Donnelly put forth regarding the 37% — the married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands: Can Husbands Handle Being Outearned By Their Wives?

The answer is, quite clearly, “No.”

Exhibit A: Lou Dobbs and his all-male panel of guests. Here, the comments range from Doug Schoen’s “a catastrophic issue” that “could undermine our social order” to Erick Erickson’s statement that this is the real “war on women.”


If you want to dismiss all this as the ramblings of irrelevant talking asshats on Fox (for which I will gently remind you that their rhetoric is often too dangerous to be dismissed), you’ll need to also know about this other study, called In Sickness and In Wealth, from Washington University in St Louis’ Olin Business School.

This research found that “men are more likely to experience problems with erectile dysfunction and other forms of mental and physical anguish as a result of his female counterpart being the primary breadwinner”.

Olin Business School professor Lamar Pierce and Michael S. Dahl of Aalborg University in Denmark write: ‘Male sexual desire and behavior is tied to cultural and social factors such as patriarchy and money, potentially causing men to suffer reduced sexual desire or dysfunction when perceiving their traditional role of provider to be usurped.

‘In fact, the medical literature has shown that anger and frustration can lead to serious sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED), a problem also linked to unemployment and decreasing household income.’

Additionally, Pierce told NBC News: ‘There is a powerful social norm for many men that it’s important to make more than their wives and, essentially, when that social norm is violated, what this does is make them feel emasculated.’

And men do not usually suffer alone, as research found that the female breadwinner also has problems with insomnia and anxiety.

Men in such a relationship have also been found to be more likely to cheat in an effort to regain their bedroom mojo.



It seems we have not come a long way, baby, in terms of marital duties, especially not in terms of how men think. Shudder. Bigger shudder. Because this all sounds like a lot more permission slips are about to be handed out.

Of course, not all men are this primitive. But for some reason, primitive still prevails in the politics (and libidos) of our lives.

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Confessions Of Culture Shifts & Gender Bias

Sometimes being 46 years old — and a woman — is an amazing thing. I’m often fascinated by the cultural shifts I’ve witnessed; too often dismayed by the cultural shifts promised which have not occurred, been set further back even… But it sure has been a shifty four decades.

I often wonder if other individual women in other generations have anything to compare…

I’ve thought my Great Aunt M had lived through some amazing changes — suffrage, working during WWII and returning back home when the men came back to claim “their” jobs, the choice not to have children in the atomic family age… Amazing cultural shifts in one lifetime.

I’ve long been aware of my mother’s experience — but usually from the point of view of what it’s been like to have been her daughter. She was the first and only mom I knew who consistently worked outside of the home. At first it may have just been for the money; waitressing and the like. But by the late 70’s she was progressing from “just an office job” to reading The Assertive Woman, attending workshops on how-to-dress-for-success, and actively pursuing a career. As the only kids in the neighborhood — and in our family — with a wanting-to-work mom (and a father who supported her choice and her work), my sister and I had a different perspective of women’s lib: equal parts of liberation, greater responsibilities, and increased expectations. …This could be a long post by itself.

But just a few days ago I had an astonishing talk with my mother which made me reexamine just what it must have been like for her…

She and I had been discussing how different my sister and I are (I’ve always said that if we hadn’t been born sisters, we never would have met), and I said, “I could understand it better if she and I had been born further apart, but there’s only a year and a half separating us — we were raised by the same parents, at the same time in their lives.”

And then that’s when my mom shared some stories that rocked my brain.

When my mom was in high school, this would be the late 1950s, she wanted a summer job. Her father said he would recommend her to the diaper washing service next to his auto-body shop if she promised to work every single day — not miss one day, or ever be late. She agreed, he made the recommendation, and she got the summer job.

She went in to work every day, all summer long. Then one night, she and her boyfriend — her first love, broke up. She spent all night crying, as teenage girls will do. When she woke up and her father spotted her in the hall, he asked her why she wasn’t yet dressed for work. She responded that she was a mess, that she could barely see through her puffy eyes, that she wouldn’t be going into work that day. Her father looked directly at her, said, “You gave your word,” then turned on his heel and left.

Mom quickly got dressed and to work on time.  She never missed one day of work and lived up to her word.

When it came time for her younger sister Vickie, mom’s junior by nine years, to get a summer job, Vickie only worked four days before she quit. Years later, when having some sister-chat, my Aunt Vicki asked her sister, my mother, “Why didn’t they teach me to be responsible, like they did you?”

My mom’s response was, “You came along at a different time in their lives; you were their baby and they had different expectations of you.”

That is probably a fair analysis. And an amazingly insightful, non-spiteful, response from my mother to boot.

But my mom wasn’t done sharing her stories.

A few years after the summer laundry job, my mom worked full-time as a secretary at a finance company. This was at the same time that her brother, Mike, just two years her junior, was working at Pabst. My mom was paying $15 a week in rent to her parents. She thought nothing of it until she discovered that her brother wasn’t paying anything to their parents.

When she asked her parents why she paid rent and her brother did not, the answer (given in that “you’re so silly to ask” tone of condescension) was that “she was working for pin money, but Mike was a man.”

Even though “Mike the man” wasn’t supporting a family (his paycheck went to purchase beer), the assumption was that he was working for a future, that his paycheck and job were more important. He was expected to work; she was not.   The price for her frivolity in dabbling in employment was one she would have to pay for.

Even now when I think about this I am amazed. Not just that this greatly shifts my perception of my beloved grandparents, who were a product of their own times, but that my mother who was raised by and living with these people had the guts to question her parents about this gender bias.

But that’s not even the worst of it.

When I expressed my surprise and shock — including that I’d never heard these stories before, my mother shared one more…

This one is about my cousins, Lisa & Danny, who are my Uncle Mike’s kids.

Recently, my cousin Lisa was out to lunch with my mom and she confessed that both she and her brother felt they never pleased their father; Danny for not being a macho sports guy — and Lisa for not being a boy at all. It was so bad that Lisa said, “You know, my mom never read to me. Not once. She read to Danny.”  And then she rapidly tacked on — as if risking being accused of being unfair or mean-spirited,  “I could listen though.”

Images of a small shy child silently lurking in the doorway while a mother snuggled with a sibling on a bed, reading to him from a book he’d selected… *shudder*

I always wondered why my cousin Lisa was so shy — painfully so. Ill-confident, uncomfortable in her own skin.  How can you be anything else when your own parents don’t think you’re worthy of being read to because you’re not a male child?

It sounds the stuff of the 1950s, not the 1960s and 70s… If  “America” at all.

But here it is, gender bias bullshit, from real lives, not text book depictions; from my family, some of it even in my lifetime.  It’s real. It’s still living here, if only in echos. And poor self esteem.

Image via Steady Mom.

Is The Money Where Your Mouth Is? Phone Sex As A Career

Making a full-time living off being a phone sex operator (PSO) seems the stuff of urban legend these days. Being paid to deliver sex fantasies over the telephone in the digital age of the Internet seems even to make claims of supplemental income from the career dubious at best. But according to the 10 women I interviewed, there’s still money to be made in talking dirty over the phone!

While the general consensus seems to be that the real money is made by independent phone sex operators, all 10 of the phone sex pros stated that working for a phone sex company or in some other facet of the adult industry is the best way to get the lay of the land, so to speak, and begin your new career.

If you are comfortable talking with strangers about intimate matters, how do you begin? With some research online, of course. Many phone sex companies place ads and have their own websites with online applications. When you find a lead on a job, treat it as you would any career opportunity and ask questions.

Probably the first thing you want to be clear about is whether or not this is a work from home job opportunity or if you’d be working on location. Not only is working on location less common of an option, it’s typically paid for at a lower rate, and, according to the professionals I spoke to, a lower quality phone sex service, with all that implies.

Also be sure to ask about the required number of hours or shifts you’ll be required to work; even working from home, phone sex companies require you to commit to scheduled hours just as any other employer does.

Along with asking questions and reading and the phone company’s website, you should investigate the company. Google the company name, number, etc., searching for reviews and commentary from PSOs and clients alike. Evaluate what you read in terms of the company’s stability and reliability in terms of pay. And don’t forget to ask about the details.

Phone sex, like any industry, has it’s own terminology and duties which seems like mumbo jumbo to those of us who are neither phone sex workers or callers. Some companies require PSOs to perform dispatch duties, whereby they take shifts answering the main telephone number, taking caller billing information and matching them with the most suitable PSO available who can meet their erotic needs. Typically, those dispatching shifts are paid at an hourly rate. Other companies expect their phone sex actresses to also spend time “trolling” or looking for new clients online, buying advertising, and performing other marketing and promotional duties. Traditionally, PSOs who perform trolling are paid more per minute than those who do not, and sometimes they are reimbursed or otherwise compensated for their efforts as well. It is highly recommended that you ask about these duties and any other duties you’d be expected to perform in addition to your performances with callers.

When you work for a phone sex company, you’ll receive some training and support; all the technical stuff as far as phone numbers, connections, billing, your character ID and photos, etc. will be taken care of; and there will be some base of established clients too. But when you work as an independent, all of this falls to you.

Even if you opt to use a phone sex service platform such as NiteFlirt, MyPhoneSite, or TalkSugar, and therefore have the technical issues and billing rather handled for you, there’s a lot of work to be done before you ever get your first call.

All of the PSOs I spoke with were independents, roughly half using those aforementioned phone sex service platforms, and yet all listed marketing or promotions as the one aspect of their business that took up most of their time, even after years in the phone sex industry. Even using the phone sex platforms, which have established customer bases and website traffic, there’s great competition among the PSOs to stand out and get the calls.

This is due in no small part to the low barrier of entry to the phone sex business. All one needs to do is provide valid proof they are of legal age to work in the adult industry, and, generally with the same documents that prove age, provide “Right to Work” documents in the U.S. Which means that nearly any adult female can start her own phone sex business — and nearly any adult female can fail at her own phone sex business.

In order to stand out, get calls, and cultivate your own established customer base, PSOs need to market themselves — on and off any phone sex company or service platform website. All the PSOs I spoke with stated that in addition to managing their own profile pages, placing ads, using forums and social networking sites, and the like, they spent most of their time while waiting for calls running their own websites and blogs. Which means they each developed at least a rudimentary knowledge of blogging, SEO, and other web development issues.

The trade-off for this extra work means the independent PSO has greater control over the calls taken, the rates charged, and the hours worked.

As for the amount of money you can expect to be paid as a phone sex operator, it varies. Some PSOs working for companies are excited to get $1 a minute they are on the phone; which could quite literally mean being paid $15 for 15 minutes of work — but this is all they have to show for having hung around, waiting for calls, for a six hour shift. Other independent PSOs claim to make more than $1,500 a week working less than 20 hours — but this after months or years of paying their dues building a client base and regular callers.

In short, there is no short route to quick riches with phone sex. But if you start, working to gain the experience and skills, building a supplemental business, who knows where you could go?

For more information on making a living as a phone sex operator, check out the Phone Sex Secrets blog.

Working Mothers Working From Home, 1962

“Working Mothers Needn’t Leave Home,” by Bettijane Eisenpreis, as published in My Baby, June 1962, isn’t terribly earth-shattering per se — other than, perhaps, our notions of the time period. This is how the article begins:

The working mother has long been part of the American scene. Still, many career women feel saddened at leaving their children, Their solution: be housewife, mother and part-time career woman by working in your own home.

What can you do at home? Just about anything. Shoes are designed, books translated, rugs woven, advertising campaigns created, research done, and parties planned from home. This article was written at home.

Honestly, it reads like many WAHM sites and books. (You can click the scans below to read the article in full.) But one thing sort of nags at me a bit…

The name Bettijane Eisenpreis isn’t common, so I believe she is the author of many magazine articles and a few books, including Coping with Scoliosis (1998) — which makes me wonder if Bettijane didn’t work from home because of her health situation. …Not that I do (or would) feel the same about her authoring Coping: A Young Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer Prevention. So what does that say about me?