Newsweek’s April 26 cover splashed the headline “Beached White Male” across its cover and took note of the fact that men were greatly suffering from the economic depression. In the first quarter of this year almost 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, according to Labor Department statistics published in the article.
The term “mancession” has also become a part of our vocabulary when talking about the significant number of men taking hits from the recession, from job loss to salary cuts. While some may say this has also been women’s time to step into the workforce in greater numbers, it’s also important to consider what changing gender roles mean for both women and men.
Dan Mulhern, husband of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm , wrote a letter to his son in response to the Beached White Male syndrome. Mulhern raised his family while his wife’s public service career took off. He calls his role “lead parent.” “If you lead like Mom, you’ll know how to persevere. You need not fear strong women, or dismiss gentle men. And if you so choose, you’ll be a great stay-at-home or lead parent, giving and receiving incredible lessons and profound joy. Either way, it’s a great time to be a man,” Mulhern wrote.
“Lead parent” is a term that rings better in the ear. “Stay-at-home parent” doesn’t quite have the same ring. While simply re-titling a role may sound like smoke and mirrors PR move, it may hold more power than that. If we give something a new title, we also have the opportunity to redefine this role. As Mulhern says, raising a family is a gift and it teaches you many things you don’t always learn in the workforce.
In the end, it comes back to shared leadership and shared responsibility. When we get that right, equality won’t be too far out of sight.