Yes, it’s “pursewhipped,” not horsewhipped. It’s the latest term used to describe the changing economic culture in the workplace. While at one time men were typically assumed to be the primary breadwinners, nowadays it’s often the reverse. The term is so new that when you Google “pursewhipped,” it asks, “do you mean horsewhipped?”
Why this shift in male female relationships? It’s debatable. Some put it down to the so-called “mancession,” the largely male-job loss following the last recession. Regardless, the results have given rise to terms such as these.
I’ve written before about the struggles women have with breaking the “glass ceiling” (Women and Communication: Defying Stereotypes). In that post I questioned the frequently held idea that women are less successful in the workplace due to timid or weak communication styles. I showed examples of women, in very difficult circumstances, who went well beyond the glass ceiling to rise to fame.
That blog post came out in 2011. But even back in 2010, there were signs that some of the stereotypes about men and women in the workplace were simply inaccurate. Take a look at the 2010 article in The Atlantic by Hannah Rosin, author of the recently released book, The End of Men, for example. Her opening states that, at the time of writing, women had become the majority in the workforce, for the first time in U.S. history. More women were managers. And for every two men getting a college degree, three women were doing the same.
“For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality,” she said. “But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”
Language changes for a reason- usually to reflect a cultural shift, as the above quote indicates. That’s why new language, that tries to describe the sexes in terms of a changing economic landscape, is now emerging. Terms like “pursewhipped” or “the richer sex” might be seen as faintly amusing or disturbing, depending on your perspective. But from a business communications perspective, it’s important to realize that culture helps shape language, and language reflects reality. So pay attention. Here’s a little guide to help you with that effort.
The Language Lab decoder for current phrases about economy and gender:
Pursewhipped: When women have more earning power than their male colleagues or partners, and men feel insecure about it.
The Richer Sex: Ditto.
Him-indoors: When men are “stay-at-home-Dads” or simply “stay at home-men,” due to lack of income generating work. Many men are proud to be at home. Others, you guessed it, “feel insecure about it.”
Alpha Women: She “has it all,” including economic power. Sometimes this makes men feel, yes, insecure.
Reversal of Power: When women have more money in a corporate or personal situation, leading to greater authority, causing men to feel “insecure.”
Rewiring of Society: Ditto
Of course you could read the above descriptions as being mean-spirited towards men. And I certainly don’t intend that. After all, as they say, “men hold up half of the sky.”
The real point here is not about who feels more or less secure about the income they do or do not generate. The point is that gender and economics in the workplace are beginning to change, and emerging language simply points the way to that change. We’ll leave it to authors like Liza Mundy, whose recent book, The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love and Family, to tell us exactly what that change is.