As the Mancession continues the mainstream media finds new ways to avoid talking about how men have had to deal with 80% of the job losses from the current economic downturn. This article from the New York Times talks about clerical jobs lost due to technological advances. This means secretaries, “administrative assistants”, and the like so the New York Times profiled Cynthia Norton, a 52 year old woman living in Jacksonville, FL who was an an administrative assistant. While the article tries to paint a picture of (a subset of) women being hit hard by the economic downturn, the fact is for every Cynthia Norton there are four men unemployed. However, it does show us how women deal with unemployment. Here are some excepts from the article:
Ms. Norton is reluctant to believe that her three decades of experience and her typing talents, up to 120 words a minute, are now obsolete. So she looks for other explanations.
Employers, she thinks, fear she will be disloyal and jump ship for a higher-paying job as soon as one comes along.
Sometimes she blames the bad economy in Jacksonville. Sometimes she sees age discrimination. Sometimes she thinks the problem is that she has not been able to afford a haircut in a while. Or perhaps the paper her resume is printed on is not nice enough.
The problem cannot be that the occupation she has devoted her life to has been largely computerized, she says.
Notice how this woman blames anything and everything else other than herself. It must be misogyny (which is blaming men) or age discrimination (which is code for blaming men). It has to be the paper she used for her resume or her inability to “afford” a haircut. If the problem is simply paper or a haircut that get paper or get a haircut. How much is she paying for a haircut that she “can’t afford” it now? The paper a resume is printed on doesn’t matter that much anymore since resumes are sent over email now and scanned into a computer system when received on paper.
Ms. Norton has spent most of the last two years working part time at Wal-Mart as a cashier, bringing home about a third of what she had earned as an administrative assistant. Besides the hit to her pocketbook, she grew frustrated that the work has not tapped her full potential.
“A monkey could do what I do,” she says of her work as a cashier. “Actually, a monkey would get bored.”
If this job at Walmart is so terrible then why not quit? There are lots of unemployed men right now who would love to have it.
Ms. Norton says she cannot find any government programs to help her strengthen the “thin bootstraps” she intends to pull herself up by. Because of the Wal-Mart job, she has been ineligible for unemployment benefits, and she says she made too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid last year.
“If you’re not a minority, or not handicapped, or not a young parent, or not a veteran, or not in some other certain category, your hope of finding help and any hope of finding work out there is basically nil,” Ms. Norton says. “I know. I’ve looked.”
This is what men have always been dealing with. There are no government programs for men (outside of very limited categories like veterans). Welcome to the real world, Cynthia Norton.
Ms. Norton, for her part, may be reluctant to acknowledge that many of her traditional administrative assistant skills are obsolete, but she has tried to retrain — or as she puts it, adapt her existing skills — to a new career in the expanding health care industry.
Even that has proved difficult.
She attended an eight-month course last year, on a $17,000 student loan, to obtain certification as a medical assistant. She was trained to do front-office work, like billing, as well as back-office work, like giving injections and drawing blood.
The school that trained her, though, neglected to inform her that local employers require at least a year’s worth of experience — generally done through volunteering at a clinic — before hiring someone for a paid job in the field.
She says she cannot afford to spend a year volunteering, especially with her student loan coming due soon.
It wasn’t the job of this school to do research into this field for her. I doubt that volunteering at a clinic would conflict with her job at Walmart. Even if it did then she could go on unemployment and qualify for all those government programs she didn’t previously qualify for a year and then get a job.
She blames her student loan, but even that is a solvable problem. While student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, they can be deferred. Several types of deferments are available including economic hardship deferments and unemployment deferments. Norton will qualify for one of those types of deferments. All of this ignores how taking out a $17000 student loan for just an eight month course is a bad idea. (Of course, Norton should be thankful that she isn’t in as dire straits as Michelle Bisutti who ended up with a student loan bill of $555,000.)
There are people who would say that I’m just kicking a woman when she’s down by writing this post. The fact is I have been laid off and unemployed. But I also was able to get employed again without worrying about the paper my resume is printed on or about getting a haircut. It’s not the job of the government or educational institutions to wipe your ass. Again, for every Cynthia Norton there are at least four men who lost their jobs during this economic downturn. Unlike Norton, these men understand there will be no one to bail them out.