redefining masculinity in law firms – the ultimate test of daddyland

When I think of bastions of white-collar masculinity, I think of law firms.  Long hours, macho code, old boys clubs, even with lots of women around.  This is one reason I did not go to law school.  I would never work the necessary hours.  Ever.  I knew this even as a 22-year-old who was willing to live 24-7 in a peace project or spend late nights at planning board meetings as a reporter.  But law firm hours?  Nope.

It is here in this nuts and bolts world of billable hours that things really have to change in terms of work/family balance, redefining masculinity, etc.  So I was thrilled to get this link from a friend on Facebook.  It is an interview on Law.com with Joan Williams, who has written Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, and who I mentioned in an earlier post.  Here is my favorite bit:

What kind of pressure do men face?
In law and other professions, it’s expected that you make work the centerpiece. The presumption is that men will put work above all other demands, which means they need stay-at-home wives or women who work part-time. . . . The old-fashioned idea of being the sole support of a family is pretty daunting. The exquisite privilege of working 60-70 hours a week is not something that men treasure.

Exactly.  Conceptions of masculinity have shifted over the centuries – always with men in charge – but rarely was a man away from home this much.  No family in the fields helping farm.  No social gatherings at night.  No family dinners.

The interviewer later points out that white-collar men prove their masculinity by working long hours in the office because they can’t do the tough and gritty things blue-collar men used to (and still do).

If so, that’s pretty sad, with the computer screen, the water cooler and the office park the setting for the ultimate tests of manhood.

I’ll take the sandbox over that any day.

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