The male characters on these shows are not just employed (and attractive to women), but most of them are wildly successful. Ted, on How I Met Your Mother, is the youngest architect to ever build a New York skyscraper, Barney is a powerful executive, and Marshall is a corporate lawyer. Mitchell, on Modern Family, is a lawyer, Jay owns a construction company, and Phil is a real estate broker. Alan, on Two and a Half Men, is a chiropractor, Charlie was a jingle writer, and their newest addition, Walden, is a self-made billionaire. And all of the men on The Big Bang Theory are brilliant physicists and engineers.
The male characters on these shows are far from perfect. They have their quirks and shortcomings, just as the female characters do. And as Modern Family’s gay Mitchell and Cameron illustrate, they’re not even conventional. But it’s a given that the male characters can hold down jobs, whereas for the female characters it is a constant struggle, except for Amy, who is borderline asexual.
Not only is this portrayal of women sexist – it’s inaccurate. The US unemployment rate for women (8.3 percent) is lower than it is for men (9.3 percent). According to the Department of Labor, 59 percent of women, or 72 million women work, and women make up half of the US workforce.
And women in the labor force is hardly a recent phenomenon. Prime time sitcoms used to feature smart, sexy female characters that rocked their full time jobs. Characters like Mary Tyler Moore, Claire Huxstable, Julia Sugarbaker, and Murphy Brown. I wanted to be all of those women. So why has television moved backward?