Saturday, July 29, 2006

Does role reversal work?

Last year Julia Gillard, touted by some as a future Australian PM, urged us to consider the idea of a gender role reversal within marriage. She said of the young careerist woman of the future that,

She should be surrounded by boys who grow up to be men who feel free to make the choice to be the carer, the at-home dad, the part-time working dad, to have more options than being the breadwinner.


I've already had a shot at criticising Gillard's thoughts on the issue. I'd like, though, to briefly revisit question of whether a female provider/male child-carer model of family life can work in practice.

One source of evidence that men and women are not so easily interchangeable in their family roles is a major German study on rates of divorce in Sweden in the 1980s and 90s.

What the study found is that even in Sweden, where feminist values are most strongly entrenched, each rise in the proportion of family income earned by the wife increased the odds of divorce. As the study's authors explained:

There was a clear linear pattern in the effect of a wife's relative income: the higher the wife's share in the couple's income, the higher the divorce risk.


The risk of divorce increased until it was double the rate for marriages with a male breadwinner (see Figure 2 on p.22 of the study for a clear presentation of the study results).

A role-reversed marriage is therefore a considerably less stable option than the regular type.

However, there is even stronger evidence provided by a major Melbourne study that role reversal works poorly in practice. I'll present this evidence in my next post.

4 comments:

  1. The feminist viewpoint simply doesn’t work.
    It avoids basic male/female natures.

    How a female prefers to be treated (and consequently made feel) in a relationship, is ‘romantically’ based. Romance is a female syntax whereby she is made to feel ‘special’ by her man. The feminist argument is to make men & women ‘equal’, thereby eliminating that ‘special’ notion.

    If the female is the ‘breadwinner’ in the family, then she should be expected to pay for most things. (Including dinner or a night out). She will begin to ‘feel’ un-appreciated when her life consists of little more than ‘working’, & ‘paying’ for everything. Since a woman’s nature (in general) isn’t inclined to require sex as a reward for all her hard work (as a man might) – there is little a man can do for his wife/partner in the relationship. He is pushed to the metaphorical corner and is seen as lazy or useless, while she is frustrated by his lack of participation in the relationship. (Or rather, frustrated at the consequential dynamic the relationship has resulted in due to her insistence of it’s terms)

    What is he to do?

    Protect her and make her feel safe? Well, no – that would be patriarchal domination.
    Pay for her? No, that would imply that she wasn’t independent, and he was a chauvinist.
    (The list goes on) – Basically, anything ‘gentlemanly’ is frowned upon today because it is historically masculine. Even though these actions were for women’s benefit over man's.

    The modern woman has to be ‘free’ to create her own “independent” self, while her feminine nature yearns for a male, (or as many women opine) a “Real Man”.

    It’s a schizophrenic state of consciousness.

    It’s illogical to want two opposing dynamics to exist AT ONCE. It doesn’t work; especially when only one party (the feminist) has their finger on the ‘Jeckyl & Hyde’ switch to alternate between states. And the man is just expected (puppet-like) to switch between ‘new-age man’ (the eunuch), and ‘old-fashioned gentleman’. Conveniently, these ‘on-off’ male states (connected together) require no act on the part of the female. Conveniently, she ONLY receives.

    She has all the power/control without the responsibility (that’s when a male adopts his ‘eunuch-man’ persona), and when consequences arise, it’s time for her to become the old-victorian ‘wallflower’ (Because it’s, y’know all romantic and she’s just a girl… *bat * bat) and he sheepishly switches to ‘gentleman’.

    It’s embarrasing.

    For women, the “drama” associated with this ‘having it all’ notion – heightens the excitement in their lives. For men, who are largely logical in nature and try to ‘fix’ problems, it makes absolutely no sense at all. For men it’s, “You want to be in charge dear? Fine. Then you have the responsibility and do most of the work.” - to which women look at you as though you insulted their mother. Women don’t ‘want’ the responsibility. They just want ‘all’ the control. What comes next is off their radar; or someone else’s problem as feminists will tell you. (Namely mens)

    In terms of Julia Gillard’s comments about men and women being ‘free’ to chose their gender roles (A term feminists love using, believing that it’s a social construct and has nothing to do with whether you were born male or female); it’s all ‘nice’ theory. (Like Marxism) It works well on paper, but falls apart when you factor in ‘human nature’.

    No matter how hard you ‘market’ feminist politics – you will never get women to change their natures and suddenly decide to build freeways, buildings, become mathematicians/scientists or join the army. By the same token, I don’t think men will suddenly yearn to be ‘stay-at-home’ dads, now that feminists have put racing stripes on vacuum cleaners.

    Feminists keep pushing men & women to change their ‘built-in’ (visceral) natures. Feminist ideas have little to do with equality. They have nothing to do with a complimentary existence (in society) between the sexes.

    It is simply for political advantage.

    If feminists wish to make men & women ‘equal’ – then they need to acknowledge the consequences of pushing that notion. Men will view women more like ‘friends’ or individuals. Women will not be seen as ‘special’ enough to devote ones life or time to. “Hey, she’s just another person, like my mate Tom over there.”

    Women’s only defining attributes will be those body parts that differentiate them from men. Essentially, women are being made into that which feminism was first opposed to;

    Sex objects.


    Bobby.N

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  2. Bobby, that is a terrific comment, one of the best I have read on this issue. I appreciate you taking the trouble to spell all this out so clearly.

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  3. My pleasure.

    I've always found it strange to watch (and know) people live their lives solely in political terms, while constantly coming up against the immovable brick-wall of nature - and then not being able to see the contradiction.

    Our culture's religion seems to be 'Political Correctness' - even though the term itself is an oxymoron. Politics is not 'meant' to be the 'one' ironed out RIGHT view. It's a business of opposing view points. The 'parry-&-thrust' of one opinion over another. People tend to elevate it beyond it's importance hoping that it will cure one's subjective life. (Let the 'high-priests' of media/government tell me what my ethics are, because life is too complicated for me to think for myself).

    I tend to beleive that people seek (however subconsciously) that type of 'drama', where their life resembles a soap-opera or romance novel. The 'buzz' they get from stress and drama in some way equates to 'living-life-to-the-fullest', as I've often heard. Certainty & calmness are analagous to 'boring' - in this feminist world.

    I'll take certainty any day.

    Bobby.N

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  4. "No matter how hard you ‘market’ feminist politics – you will never get women to change their natures and suddenly decide to build freeways, buildings, become mathematicians/scientists or join the army."

    I don't quite understand this statement. I am a woman in graduate school working on my doctorate in Molecular Biology. A significant portion of the students in my department are women. We have chosen to become scientists. I also know several female engineers. How do these facts fit with your statement that women don't decide to be scientists/engineers/etc.?

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