Going back a century, there existed a great inequality between the sexes with women not allowed in many professions and voting rights only held by men. Today much of this inequality must still be addressed in the world, but in the U.S. great strides have been made.
During World War II, around 16 million Americans, mostly men, were called into the armed services. As these men went overseas to protect from afar, Rosie the Riveter with her slogan, “We can do it,” became an iconic symbol for women who stepped out of their homes and into the workforce. With this new-found independence, the second wave of feminism, focused on the destruction of sexist power structures, arrived and has achieved significant progress since then.
Lately, however, it seems, on some issues, that the equality teeter-totter has begun to rock in the opposite direction. Women are pursuing higher education and duly receiving the jobs that correspond, while male performance in these areas has drastically decreased. Yes, there is still incredible sexual violence against women in the U.S. and other issues are not changing as fast as they should. But especially in the areas of equal opportunities in education the pendulum has swung in favor of women.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released information on graduation rates and found that in post-high school degrees, women are far outperforming men. In fact, 57.5 percent of Bachelor’s degrees given in 2010 were obtained by women and those numbers rise higher with masters and professional degrees. While fields such as engineering still see a disproportionate quantity of male graduates, overall pursuance of higher education is now dominated by women. Title IX and affirmative action first helped to correct the unbalanced teeter-totter, but it seems that this correction did not result in simple equality of educational opportunity.
From birth, society seems to project gender identities that greatly determine a child’s future life. Those projections have changed somewhat in the recent past: women are increasingly being urged towards higher education and high-power jobs as scholarships and equal opportunity employers abound while the famous “boys-will-be-boys” rhetoric provides excuses for underperformance.
It seems that many well-educated women don’t see the value in a long-term commitment to a comparatively underperforming husband. Many women increasingly stay single and raise their children alone. In an article titled The New Math of the Single Mother, one mother stated, “I can take care of myself. I can take care of myself and the kid. I just can’t take care of myself, the kid and him (the child’s father).”
Going it alone may seem like a fine alternative until we see the results of this decision on society and in the lives of these “modern families”. Today about 6 percent of two parent households find themselves in poverty, while approximately 30 percent of single mother households are impoverished. Beyond just poverty, multiple studies have shown that the educational prospects are greatly reduced for children coming from single parent households and the likelihood of juvenile delinquency and drug problems also increase.
It is time to not forget about the boys, as it would seem that a focus on elevating women has created a new imbalance. Whether male or female, we must provide not only equal opportunity but also equal expectations of excellence. The American dream of reaching for excellence regardless of gender or socioeconomic position needs to be rekindled and not only for our own betterment but for that of our community and the children who depend upon us.