October 20th, 2006
Kipnis' is an exceptionally sensible voice at a time when people seem to believe that any long-standing cultural norm that can't be completely overhauled in a single generation must therefore be indelibly carved on the stone tablets handed down to Charles Darwin at the foundation of the modern world. And for all her low-key Freudianism, she knows when it's time to follow the money instead of the unconscious. During all the foofaraw about the "opt-out revolution" - those young, Ivy-League women who are now abandoning the career track to be stay-home moms - haven't you been wishing someone would say exactly this: "Somehow, as highly educated as these girls are, they don't seem to have heard about the 50 percent divorce rate! Somehow, they imagine that their husbands' incomes and loyalties come with lifetime guarantees, thus no contingency plans for self-sufficiency will prove necessary ... Somewhere Betty Freidan must be cackling..."
In the first essay, "Envy" - which is not about catfights, but rather about all the things that men have and women want - Kipnis asks us to consider the slowly closing gender gap when it comes to pay equity. If you look carefully, she points out, you'll see that "women's wages are up to 80 percent of men's because male wages are down, which evens things out. It looks as though the dirty little secret of the last 30 years is that the job market played women off against men to depress pay." While the sexes rage at each other about dating ethics and dirty socks, somebody (probably that little Monopoly guy with the top hat and cigar) has been laughing all the way to the bank.