I'd like to write an article (or so I thought) about a phenomenon I've observed: women grow up to think the right thing - and feminist thing - is to be able to support themselves as adults. (Which women, though? But I digress.) Men, meanwhile, or at least the male equivalents of these women, grow up thinking they'll be supporting a family.
So what happens is, women (of this group? what are its boundaries, beyond my anecdotal evidence?) do indeed find work that allows for them to pay their own bills... but no more. And with a kind of between-the-lines implicit thinking that to be self-supporting is to be able to pay one's bills in one's 20s. (Roommates, ramen, happy-hour; health insurance nice but optional.) Men, meanwhile, will at least aim for a salary that supports a spouse and a couple kids. Or they'll flounder a bit, but they won't think of settling down before at least starting on that path.
In the abstract, this would just seem to help explain salary disparities. But in practice, it explains why there are so many men and women why marry and then it turns out her career is the more dispensable. And a feminist insistence that the work a woman does is just as important will only go so far, when something comes up that requires/encourages one person to stay home/scale back, and the couple is forced to look at who can actually support the family.
That, then, has been floating around in my head for some time. But I'm reluctant to pitch this article because at this point, there's nothing there. Can I, at this juncture, prove any of this? Absolutely not. Could I interview peers and see how they were raised? Yes - the call-up-some-friends school of journalism. I'm not aware of any academic study dealing with this exact question, so I couldn't go the well-respected report-on-findings route.
Now, one might say, if I were a man, or more lean-in-ish, I'd pitch anyway and then come up with something. One might also say - and this is what Anna North has said at Salon - that enough's enough with this entire genre, which she calls "women's stories":
Let me clarify: I am not tired of stories about women’s lives, stories that tell me something real about how a particular woman thinks or works or loves. But I am tired of “women’s stories,” stories that are supposed to be about a problem that afflicts “women.”
These stories, in mainstream American media, tend to fall into certain categories. There are the ones about when women should get married. There are the ones about how women balance work and their children, told with no discussion of these women’s race or class, and with a strange disregard for the possibility that said children might also have fathers. And then there are the ones about hookup culture.And... a bunch of things.
First, I think it's relevant that, when I wrote a post about the pressure "women" (and I'll admit that I did not write with a specific class or race in mind; the response I got suggested I was highlighting a major issue for Muslim women, which I hadn't anticipated) get to marry at a specific age (although that age, I allowed, will vary by subculture): not too young, not too old, and there's this almost-nonexistent window of opportunity between the two. I was arguing against the idea that there's one age at which a woman must marry - or indeed, that a woman must marry at all. And the reaction I got included a good bit of fury at how once again, this publication was telling women when to get married. Which was, let me repeat, the exact opposite of what I was doing. I was examining the pressure on women. But it didn't matter. I'd written a piece in that genre, so it could apparently be assumed that it was a piece encouraging anxiety and telling women what to do. Readers felt as if they'd read it a million times before, so it didn't really matter that they had not. Point being, readers now see "women's stories" and have effectively read them before reading them. Which probably does support North's point.
But there's a difference between a deeply-researched feature article and a blog post, one that readers tend to miss (and have no reason to think about), but that's important for understanding what it is that one is reading (and angrily commenting on). Something whipped up in a few days or less, something that's the germ of an idea, is simply not going to have the same precision regarding which segment of society we're talking about. If you're just starting to think about something, you don't know. And there's a place for the beginning of an idea. The problem is that beginning-of-idea posts are presented as indistinguishable from result-of-months-of-research articles.
Also relevant: these different forms of writing pay differently, so to the people criticizing every last bit of published writing online for not including interviews that span the nation's geographic and socioeconomic limits, well... you see where I'm going with this. And a lot of criticisms of Journalism Today seem to miss this. It's not that journalists aren't interested in the world beyond Greenpoint or Prospect Heights. It's that getting paid $70 an article to report from Syria starts to look like not the best deal.
But for longer articles that have been researched... then indeed, it does get old, having to read about all the women, when one is clearly just reading about the author and a few of her friends, who are not representative of anything other than, at the very most, their own subculture. Once something beyond a vague hypothesis is entering into it, you do need to have parameters regarding which people whichever issue does or doesn't apply to. Meaning... that this post, which I'd begun as a tepid defense of "women's stories," ends up basically agreeing with North. She makes a good point.