For the past 40 years Labor Day has emphasized the celebration of a crucial change in the labor force-the addition of women. The first Labor Day after 9/11, though, reminds us that one aspect of the labor force has experienced no more change than the “Glass Ceiling”. That might be called the “Glass Cellar”.
When I did the research for a book called The Myth of Male Power I discovered a Glass Cellar that holds far more men than the Glass Ceiling. The Glass Cellar consists of the hazardous jobs and the worst jobs (minimum security, low pay, bad conditions). The hazardous jobs-or Death Professions-result in 93% of the people who are killed at work being men. Of the 25 professions that the Jobs Rated Almanac rates as the worse professions, 24 have in common the fact that they constitute 85% or more males (welders, roofers, etc.).
The Glass Cellar allows us to predict that virtually 100% of the firefighters and police officers who gave their lives at the World Trade Center would be men; that 100% of the recently trapped coal miners were men; that in the Gulf War, though men outnumbered women by 9 to 1, they were killed at a ratio of 27 to 1. Virtually no large office building or bridge is built without a man dying in its construction, whether as a coal miner, lumberjack, trucker, welder, roofer, or construction worker.
To this day, the more a profession is a “Death Profession”, the more it is comprised of men. This is not because women cannot do the job. Most women can drive a cab or a truck, but few apply. Driving a cab is slightly safer for a woman than a man, but still, few apply.
If affirmative action required women to share equally in the Glass Cellars, what would the impact be? If no home could be built that did not have 50% women participating not only in its direct construction (roofers, welders), but in its indirect construction (lumberjacks, coal miners, truckers), imagine what it would cost to get 50% of the people who are building our new homes to be women. The near-impossibility would lead to a short supply of housing. The cost of housing would soar. We would have to pay these professionals at first twice, then three or four times their current pay, until we attracted 50% female lumberjacks, coal miners, etc. We could expect to pay at least twice as much for a new home.
Why are men willing to die so cheaply? The psychology that perpetuates this Glass Cellar includes calling our firefighters and police officers “heroes”. “Heroes” comes from the Greek word “serow”, from which we get our words “servant” and “slave”.
We think of a hero as someone who has power. In fact, a servant and slave possess the psychology of disposability, not the psychology of power. Many men have learned to define power as “feeling obligated to earn money that someone else spends while he dies sooner”.
Real power is best defined as “control over our own lives”.
Why do we praise men as heroes when they compete to be disposable? Virtually all societies that have survived have done so by socializing men to be disposable.
The question to probe on Labor Day is whether the incentives and laws that produce male labor are producing the men most capable of loving. Often not. To be successful in war, or as a CEO, it helps to repress feelings, not to express feelings. But to be successful in love it helps to express feelings, not repress feelings. To be successful as a dad, it helps to be with children, but the “Father’s Catch-22″has been to receive the love of his family by being away from the love of his family (whether at work or at war).
The more a man values himself the less he wants to die. To teach a man to value himself by dying– to give him promotions to risk death, to tell him he’s powerful, he’s a hero, he’s loved, he’s a “real man”– is to “bribe” a man to value himself more by valuing himself less.
It was part of our genetic heritage to socialize both sexes for disposability. Although women have complained they are not part of the glass ceiling, maybe it is because they possess a deeper wisdom– that working the 90 hours a week it takes to break through the Glass Ceiling looks too much like falling into the Glass Cellar.
Women have questioned their genetic heritage; men have not questioned theirs. The result is that women are still falling in love with a sex that is less well socialized to love. Is that good for our children’s genetic future?
Warren Farrell, Ph.D. is the author of the international bestsellers, The Myth of Male Power and Why Men Are The Way They Are, as well as Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say and Father and Child Reunion. He is the only man in the US ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. He has taught at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and currently resides in Mill Valley, CA. He can be visited virtually at http://www.warrenfarrell.com.