You’ve heard this before, but this time there’s evidence aplenty that women are gaining ground. This trend could well be irreversible. You wouldn’t know it if you reviewed ongoing pay disparities, looked in on Congress or the State legislatures, counted heads within large companies or their corporate boards (or took note of the appalling level of physical violence directed at women by men). Still, the broader trend is indisputable. A majority of college degrees are now awarded to women who are increasingly serving as the principal breadwinners in families. Women are living alone more, marrying later, or not marrying at all, yet still becoming mothers. They are close to becoming a majority of American doctors and lawyers and are even entering combat zones in wartime. They are highly successful in creating, with other women, mutual support networks, and partially as a result of this continue to live longer than men. While the old-boys networks have not disappeared and continue to function to the disadvantage of women, overall male resistance to advances by females has diminished. More striking is the fact that, in the private and personal spheres, women continue to display the upper hand.
Here’s how it looks from the ground. Major household purchasing decisions have increasingly become the province of women. Men, especially with the passage of years, permit, even encourage their wives or girlfriends to shop for their clothes; and to select their outfits and coordinate their ensembles before heading out. Men mostly rely on women to organize their social calendars and determine which events they will attend. Every week millions of men reluctantly relinquish favorite easy chairs and give up watching some sporting event or other in order to accompany their wives or girlfriends. When dining out, women often make the menu selections and remind men (especially those dieting) what they should and shouldn’t eat. Women are usually more verbal and communicative. Just observe multiple couples out together and note how often women set the conversational agenda.
Men may talk more about politics, but more women vote and their ballot preferences are increasingly at variance from the men. Men drive; women navigate. Common wisdom has it that men resist asking for directions. Women display no such reluctance. Women generally determine vacation destinations and almost always make the majority of home decorating decisions. And when it comes to matters of sickness and health, women are far better versed in medical matters and men notably more reluctant than women to go to doctors delay until women insist that they do so. We could clinch the argument were I to assert that women largely determine the time and frequency of sexual activity. Regrettably, reliable statistics are currently unavailable on this matter.
Female assertiveness and influence in the private sphere no doubt reflect changes taking place out in the world. Together they offer strong indication that not only will women no longer remain in their “places”, but that across a broad spectrum of society they will likely be changing places with men.