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Also, men are picking up the wearing of high heels because they’re so comfortable

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 11:39 EDT
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I was recently alerted to the fact that this is what ABC considers an edgy, "high-concept" sitcom:

Yep, two men who, facing a horrible world of anti-male oppression that prevents an ordinary guy from getting jobs that are solely reserved for women by employers who blatantly discriminate in direct violation of federal law, decide to dress up like women in order to get those cush, high-paying jobs, presumably instead of being relegated to low-paid work like child care or working as hotel maids. Which are jobs that are dominated by men, you know, because getting a job while male is so hard. Sure, these guys provoke people to wonder if they're "really" women, but that's no big deal, because hey, the only people who have better access to high-paying employment than cis-women are trans-women, amirite?

This is all irritating shit, but honestly, my first thought was, "Uh, lazy ripoff much?"

But upon reviewing the evidence, I realized that "Bosom Buddies", while still sexist and transphobic, was actually less sexist and transphobic than "Work It" appears to be. The assumption underpinning "Work It" is that men are so heavily discriminated against in the job market that they have to dress as women to get jobs. On "Bosom Buddies", the rationale was more plausible: they wanted housing in a women's hotel. Affordable women's temporary housing has a long history in NYC and apparently, these places still exist. They have a long history that has nothing to do with anti-male discrimination, but are more properly understood as a response to some of the economic and social constraints put on women, as well as the expectation that single women are in a holding pattern until someone marries them. So that's interesting.

But beside the larger point. The larger point is that there's continuous hunger for mass entertainment that is predicated on the outrageous and utterly false claim that men have to endure living in a matriarchy where the mere fact of being male means they constantly suffer from domineering women and, now, employment discrimination. "Work It" is just the most obvious example, of course, but there's also the new Tim Allen sitcom "Last Man Standing", which is about a man whose life is constrained by a cadre of oppressive female forces. You know, to follow up "Home Improvement",, which was predicated on the idea that there's intense pressures for men to give up being "manly" and that power tools were a form of resistance. And that's not even touching the long list of domineering and ever-competent wives pushing their childlike husbands around on pretty much every other sitcom on television. 

In real life, while cis-women have made great strides (and trans-women are actively fighting for equal rights), men still dominate at home and in the workplace, and any responsible social science will attest to that. Women, not men, are expected to change their names upon marriage and expected to roll back their presence at work in order to care for children. Women make only 77% of what men do, and that's after you control for work hours. (In other words, full-time female workers make 77% of what full-time male workers do, and so claims that women "choose" to work less are irrelevant.) Men who transition to women make 32% less on average than they did while still publicly identifying as men, which means that the men on "Work It" would, in real life, be rewarded for moving from publicly male to female with a paycheck that's only 2/3 of what they had before. 

It's just a stupid sitcom, blah blah, but the reality is that shows like this that present the world as if it were completely opposite of how it actually is do a great deal of damage. People do turn to fiction to ponder what real life is like, and good fiction responds by showing characters who behave like actual human beings do. Unfortunately, bad fiction can legitimately confuse people and give audiences the sense that there's "evidence" for conservative claims that women are not only not discriminated against, but that it's men who are. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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