In awesome sociology news, according to Kathleen Gerson‘s 2010 book The Unfinished Revolution, a strong majority of both women and men, 80% and 70% respectively, say they desire the ideal of an egalitarian marriage where both partners share in breadwinning, housekeeping and childcare responsibilities. This makes me really excited (and maybe even overcomes my depression from reading Arlie Hochschild’s Second Shift).
But deeper examination revealed that women and men view their fallback positions, in absence of the possibility of an egalitarian marriage, very differently. Most men would prefer to fall back on a traditional marriage structure, i.e. with the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker. However, most women say they would prefer divorce and raising children alone over resigning themselves to the position of homemaker.
Sociological Images recently posted the image below, demonstrating the disparity between women’s and men’s fallback positions.
What! Awesome! (Kind of.) While it’s still a little depressing that men view the fallback to traditional family structures as the second-best option, it is still a huge cultural shift in the past 50 years to have changed women’s notions of identity and personal success. Next thing you know, they’ll be insisting on equal pay too!
The adage that marriage means “two become one, and one becomes the husband” is no longer true. Sure ladies would like a partner, but they don’t want that to mean that they need to give up their own career and identity. As noted in the Sociological Images post on this, “in fact, despite men’s insistence on being breadwinners, women are more likely than men to say they value success in a high-paying career,” as shown in this graph from the Pew Research Center.
I am excited by all this data and discussion about what women value in the career vs. family dichotomy, and the fact that most women refuse to accept career vs. family as a dichotomous zero sum game (the women Gerson interviewed did say they’d prefer to raise kids alone than be a housewife). The optimistic part of me thinks that it’s only a matter of time before men are forced to catch up to this cultural shift if they want successful partnerships too.