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Of guys and girls and crises
Saturday, 27 June 2009 04:31

According to political correctness, women must be portrayed as the biggest losers of the global economic and financial crisis.  And in emerging and developing economies, women may be hit more than men.  But in developed countries, especially the United States, men may be the biggest losers from the crisis.  Indeed, in the latest edition of Foreign Policy, Reihan Salam has proclaimed "The Death of Macho"!

The crisis has hit hard the exporting tigers of East Asia, with exports of automobiles, microelectronics, clothing and footwear being particularly affected.   These export losses are having a big impact on women's labour market.  Consumer goods like shoes, clothing, toys and electronic devices are mainly produced by women -- as are export-oriented agricultural products like cut flowers, fruit and vegetables.  According to the UN, Cambodia has suffered job losses to the tune of some 60,000 in the garment sector, and garment factories are staffed 90 per cent by women.

According to the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, in poor countries women are also suffering from the crisis more than men.  Young girls are the first to be taken out of school.  Women are the first to go without a meal.  Microfinance, which many women have employed to great effect, may contract with the crisis.

Overall the situation of women in developing countries has improved greatly this past decade, but the current crisis will provide a setback, unless more efforts are made through gender-friendly development policies.

In the OECD countries, the picture is quite different.  More than 80 per cent of the job losses in the US since November have fallen on men, and the figures in Europe are very similar (the Great Recession is now a "he-cession").  By the end of 2009, the global recession may put some 28 million men out of work.  Traditional male sectors like construction and heavy manufacturing are more affected than women-dominated sectors like public sector employment, healthcare and education.  And although fiscal stimulus was supposed to emphasize infrastructure projects, much more is now going to education, healthcare, and other social services.

For some time now, there has been a progressive shift in power from men to women.  Men suffer more the effects of outsourcing, for example.  As their education performance continues to fall behind that of women, they are less well prepared for our knowledge-based economies.

And now the global financial crisis has demonstrated the moral bankruptcy of the “penis competition” of male-dominated investment banking.  More and more people realize that the aggressive, risk-seeking and destructive behavior of financial markets was an expression of the “cult of macho”.  As behavioral finance economists Brad Barber and Terrance Odean demonstrated, of all the factors that might correlate with overconfident investment in financial markets, the most obvious culprit was having a Y chromosome.

To quote Reihan Salam, "The most enduring legacy of the Great Recession will not be the death of Wall Street. It will not be the death of finance. And it will not be the death of capitalism. These ideas and institutions will live on. What will not survive is macho."

So where does this leave us?  According to Salam, men have two choices, adaptation or resistance.  She believes that a new model of manhood may be emerging, especially among some educated men living in the affluent West.  But she fears resistance, fighting the death of macho.  Men who cannot vent their anger constructively can become a source of nasty extremism.

She concludes “The axis of global conflict in this century will not be warring ideologies, or competing geopolitics, or clashing civilizations. It won’t be race or ethnicity. It will be gender. We have no precedent for a world after the death of macho. But we can expect the transition to be wrenching, uneven, and possibly very violent.

Hey guys, watch out for the pussy whippers!

References:

"The Global Economic Crisis is not Gender Blind", Carin Jamtin -- www.growthcommissionblog.org

"The Death of Macho", Reihan Salam, Foreign Policy, 22 June 2009 -- www.foreignpolicy.com


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