A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that if a modern woman’s place is in the kitchen – it is likely one in a restaurant that she owns, while her less educated husband toils at home and plays “Mr. Mom.”
“Men now are increasingly likely to marry wives with more education and income than they have, and the reverse is true for women,” said Paul Fucito, a spokesperson for the Pew Forum. In 1970, only 4-percent of married women surpassed their husband’s salary. By 2007, the number had risen to 22-percent.
This dynamic is changing the definition of traditional marriage in a far more profound way than allowing gay couples to marry. While the religious right has been preoccupied with queers, they’ve completely missed the impact ambitious wives with careers are having on families.
The main issue is that this is creating a problem for a significant subset of men who feel like loser if a woman is the breadwinner. A New York Times story features a quote from a man who jokes that his female friend’s success will make it more difficult for her to find a husband.
“You are confident, have good credit, own your own business, travel around the world and are self-sufficient,” he tells her. “What man is going to want you?”
It seems the ego of men may be the biggest threat to traditional marriage, as the number of educated women skyrockets. If groups like Focus on the Family were serious about promoting marriage, they would help men adjust to the reality of the contemporary family.
Instead, Focus on the Family is stuck in a time warp, which is evidenced by an article on their website, “The Real Job of Moms.”
“What about a mom’s primary job?” the article asks. “It’s not cooking dinner, changing diapers or helping a preschooler glue colored macaroni on a coffee can as a Father’s Day gift. The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children.”
For fathers, the organization has an article, “Balance Work and Family,” that makes the false assumption that men are still wearing the pants.
“Don’t expect corporate America to recognize how much fathers are needed at home,” says the article. “The employee’s family life isn’t a part of the annual report, nor can it be measured on the bottom line.”
On their website, fathers are stereotyped as workaholic businessmen and women as nurturing homemakers. Focus on the Family is doing an amazing job preparing families for life in the 1950’s. They offer very little for the countless families where a wife brings home the bacon instead of cooking it.
The Southern Baptist Convention is even more backward, approving a resolution in 1998 claiming a man has authority in the household, while a wife must “submit graciously” to his leadership. This family model does not work so well when the financial purse strings, really do come in the form of a purse.
Given this antiquated view of “sex roles”, it is no surprise that marriages are more likely to fail in The Bible Belt. The five states that have the highest proportion of men married at least three times are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. The states with the lowest number of men at least thrice married are Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Perhaps, these men have to keep remarrying because women are not as gracious in their submission as they were when “Leave it to Beaver” was on the air. Time and again, the states that have the most fundamentalists are the ones where marriages are more likely to be fundamentally flawed.
It is also important to note that Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts all have significant protections for their gay and lesbian residents. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian people are treated as second-class citizens in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. Clearly, those who are socially backward on gender issues have great difficulty accepting anyone who does not fit into a narrowly defined view of sexuality and gender.
If right wing organizations were smart, they would abandon restrictive gender roles and embrace same-gender families as role models. Gay men, in particular, have had to learn to swallow their egos and accept that one partner must produce more income – unless they have identical jobs. These men learn to divide chores and support each other by building relationships based on trust and equality. (Healthy heterosexual couples, of course, also share this model.)
As well-educated, highly paid women climb the career ladder, groups that work to allegedly help families must change course or risk becoming irrelevant. Fundamentalist men who are sexually immature and emotionally insecure have a lot more to worry about than their gay neighbors next door. It’s time to start focusing on their own families or have lives without wives.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”