Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Defining Masculinity in America

The image below may have been a normal picture of how American life worked in times as recent as the 70's, but now in America, more and more women are earning as much, if not more than their male other half. Looking at the article above, it shows how some people still believe in the old fashioned views of a woman staying home to look after the house and/or children whilst the husband works to provide for the family, and it also shows how the roles have been reversed in many families across America.

In the first family mentioned in the article, the husband has returned to school to study to become a nurse anaesthetist. The first thing that struck me about his masculinity was the fact he's training to be a nurse, something which, in history and even in some cases today, is stereotypically seen as a nurturing, feminine role. Traditionally, men are doctors and women are nurses, because men were seen as more professional and businesslike, whereas women were seen as more caring and nurturing. However this is not the case anymore, as there is a large crossover between male nurses and female doctors today. He describes this role reversal within their home as "unusual, awkward, and frankly, a little embarrassing", having to ask his wife for spending money, something which seems odd given the 'husband-as-the-main-breadwinner' stereotype. From research, in the article it states that for the first time women are set to outnumber men in the workforce, and are becoming he larger if not only breadwinner in the household.

Some men claim in the article that it is not an issue, however more traditional women have slated these working girls, claiming that by "letting her husband take the caregiver role", these women are bad mothers, as opposed to female empowerment. The old fashioned idea that men should earn more than women at the same job is still evident in America today, with the article stating that in 2008, women earned 77.9% of the salary men were entitled to, which has been steadily increasing. One husband claims "We can't make babies, so what can we do?.. We make money" - which gives the very pro-masculine view that all women do is make the babies, and men go out to work and earn money.

In one household, the wife is not only the major breadwinner but does most of the housework too, a very traditional housewife's role. She explains her reluctance to give up her "household duties" which shows that some women in America are still tied to the housewife motherly role. However she does say she wants her daughter to remember her as "ambitious - and as caring". This is interesting because of the idea that women must take on male characteristics in the workplace to become successful, professional, a businesswoman, but she still wants to be a nurturing mother at home. Is it possible to be both? A researcher in the article explains the "'awkward silence,' as pride intermingles with shame. Breadwinner wives can't gloat for fear of embarrassing their husbands" but this hardly seems fair, after all if the roles were reversed this would not be the case.

Looking back at the lecture, especially the classic characteristics summarised by Robert Branton in 1976, I can't help but think that this article shows women with all of these characteristics rather than men. 
No sissy stuff! - I feel like in 1976, training to be a nurse, staying at home, washing, cleaning, cooking, and looking after children may have been seen as "sissy stuff"
Be a Big Wheel - The idea of success, power and hard work, but how is this possible when the husbands do not have a job, but the wives do?
Be a Sturdy Oak - showing no emotion, however they may be taking on a stereotypically feminine role of looking after the house and/or the children.
Give 'Em Hell - compete/take risks - one of the competitors for men would then become their wives, who may be the sole or major breadwinner in the family.

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