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Point and Shoot

Vivia Chen

April 19, 2011

Fotolia_21452063_XS Postscript. In light of some of the comments received on this post, I'd like to make one thing clear: In no way does this blog advocate or condone violence of any kind. This post is obviously tongue in cheek, and the analogy between wolves and white males is not meant to be taken literally.

I'm beginning to sympathize with hunters in states like Wyoming and Montana who are fed up with animal protectionists. Do packs of wolves that prey on cattle and threaten the livelihood of hardworking, God-fearing ranchers really need protection?

Okay, so I know zilch about wolves and livestock. (I'm not sure I'd know a wolf from a German Shepard if one crossed my path at the information booth in Grand Central.) But let me tell you I'm feeling protectionist fatigue just reading the title of Newsweek's latest cover story: "Beached White Males."

It must be in vogue to champion middle-class Caucasian men as endangered species. (Click here and here.) Here's what the Newsweek article says:

The same guys who once drove BMWs. . . have now been downsized to BWMs: Beached White Males.

Through the first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed . . . That’s more than 5 percent jobless—double the group’s pre-recession rate. That might not sound bad compared with the plight of younger, less-educated workers and minorities, but it’s a historic change from the last recession, when about half as many lost their oxford shirts. . . In New York City, men in the 35-to-54 kill zone have lost jobs faster than any other group, including teenage girls. . .

Oh my, teenage girls beating out middle-aged, white men. Who knew they were competing for the same jobs at American Apparel and Wendy's?

In a way, the Newsweek story is yet another take on Hanna Rosin's article ("The End of Men") in The Atlantic last year that predicted the eventual rise of women in the workforce. The Newsweek piece, though, kicks up the end-of-masculinity hysteria another notch--what it calls "the psychic toll of the Mancession." The piece cautions:

It might be tempting to snark at these former fat cats suffering lean times. But when Beached White Males suffer, so do their wives and children. Lives, marriages, and futures are at stake. Examining who these guys are, and what washed them up, is not an exercise in schadenfreude. It's a cautionary tale. To quote Arthur Miller on the most famous Beached White Male, "Attention must be paid."

Though the Newsweek piece didn't say it in so many words, it suggests that white men were being replaced by women--especially their wives--on the workfront, and that's what causing this "stain on your masculinity for becoming the bread-loser." (Hey, anyone notice that those guys are lucky to have working wives who can support them? Would it enhance their masculinity if the whole family starved?)

In any case, Newsweek must be way ahead of the curve, because last time I looked, white guys still seem in charge. That's certainly the case in the legal profession, where women and minorities didn't fare so well during the recession (see NALP report). In fact, white men rule in most professions--including journalism, I might add (though Tina Brown now heads Newsweek).

Please, can we stop putting white men in the endangered category?

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Photo: Kelpfish / Fotolia.com

Administrator's note: We reserve the right to remove offensive or objectionable content. Accordingly, we have removed some of the comments related to this post.


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Its a shame that the white male wasn't put on the endangered list BEFORE he made so many of the planet's animals and birds extinct!!

Good thing Vivia Chen is not white.

If a white person made a "joke" like this he - or she - would be out of a job.

Maybe Ms. Chen should consider this as a teachable moment about the true nature of American racism.

As the mother of two white males, I cannot believe how offensive this is. I have known many arrogant, rude, offensive, and incompetent people, women and men, who are not white; would I be justified in tarring an entire racial group with those characteristics because of a few bad apples? If not, then why is it O.K. for you to do that to white males? Your lack of empathy and inability to apply the same set of standards to similar situations makes me doubt your intelligence.

I was denied my first two jobs by recruiters that said they wouldn't hire white men regardless of my better qualifications. Your post is offensive. White guys are more predominant in the workforce because whites are still the majority of the country population and the country was built by white guys. Honestly do you think there are these kinds of ridiculous articles in China about how so many Chinese are filling the jobs available? Please get a life.

Dovid, it's not retribution. That word implies an attempt to punish or take revenge. I'm not taking any kind of action, I'm only observing.

If I wanted to be vengeful I would have sued my 2004 employer.

While this particular group of workers may have had losses surpassing any other demographic in the workplace, doesn't anyone bother to think they had those huge losses because they had the greater numbers to begin with?

Bravo, careerist! I'm sick of hearing the BMW-driving white men complaining myself. Esp. since many still act like wolves by harassing the women and minorities in the workplace who they're so threatened by.

You are using racist rhetoric to support your thesis that the white man is bad. Nice attempt at persuasion. Did you take pointers from Michael Moore? Oh wait, he probably makes more sense than you. I guess not... Keep up the fine work.

Editor's note. In light of some of the comments received on this post, I'd like to make one thing clear: In no way does this blog advocate or condone violence of any kind. This post is obviously tongue in cheek, and the analogy between wolves and white males is not meant to be taken literally.


How does misguided retribution solve, or even in a small measure, rectify what some self-proclaimed rednecks did to you in the south?

Goes back to my earlier comment; and, candidly, taking that stance, reeks of the same sentiment that a disenfranchised populous had in the early past of last century in the Rhineland.

Systemic problems are just that... systemic. To blame those who are descendant of the perpetrators of the problem's origin, or even just because they are possessed of a similar lack of melanin in their epidermis, is not only foolish... it's racist, plain and simple.

And, Vivia, you should really take that picture down... it's wildly offensive.

Maybe you have to be a woman (or non-white man?) who has had several bad experiences with white men to understand Vivia's point of view. From the ones in Kansas when I was growing up - stuck up, rude, likely to be abusive, thought it was ok to treat me and other girls like garbage - to the ones who fired me in 2004 because a creepy file clerk wouldn't leave me alone, I've seen enough that I'm not going to cry for a rich white man who loses his job. It's about time such men find out what it's like for the rest of us.
I know not all white men are like that, and I appreciate the ones who aren't! I'm sure other women do also!

I call for you to take down the graphic depicting a white man with a target on his back. Imagine the reaction if a black male -- or Asian female -- were depicted this way. We live in an age when crazy people do crazy things, and incitements like this are outrageously offensive.

Yes, losing a good job hurts for everyone, including white males, who Vivia Chen should remember, are people too. For her, this Newsweek item is just another pretext for her usual bitter, anti-white male speal. "Snarky" describes it perfectly. I hope you feel better now Vivia. Keep working out those issues.

I am a (not white) male who is graduating law school this year. Marrying a classmate (and a wonderful woman) who has found an excellent job. It's certainly great that we won't starve, but given that we have a culture that centers self-worth around work (which is a lot of why women have gravitated that way since the 60s) it is certainly not easy to process being unemployed and taken care of. Especially before we have kids. I'm not sure she's even ok with it but the economy for law is fairly lousy.

Tell me how you really feel.

The reason men have lost more jobs than women in the recession is because they are generally paid more than a woman for the same amount of work and skill level. When non-professional type businesses look at the bottomline they fire the people with the larger salaries. Law firms and medical practices are still as sexist as ever so they just fire women. After all, don't we have husbands at home that can take care of us. NOT!

Fact is that for some time now already, if a non-white woman can bring the same qualifications and professional characteristics to the table they will ALWAYS get the job over their BWM counterparts. Firms are scrambling to polish their public image, and so have a huge incentive to promote from traditionally underrepresented groups.

These days, if you don't get the promotion it's not because of your sex or skin color--unless you're another "wolf"

"along with the wolves"--really? That's a bit much, don't you think.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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