Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, FB Program Director & Clinical Psychologist
I wasn’t at all surprised upon reading the new study released by the Pew Research Center on the new economics of marriage, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1466/economics-marriage-rise-of-wives, declaring that women now outpace man both in income and education. For a while now, we have known that at least in practice more equalitarian gender roles have been endorsed by married couples – basically men have been pulling their own weight by doing their fare share of household chores. I wonder if this trend is at all tied to the economic and educational shift reported in the Pew Research. Other studies seem to tie gender role reversals to these factors. What I am especially curious to see is how these role reversals will impact not only our marriages but how it will define roles in future generations.
Social scientists are willing to only accept gender differences when understood as socially learned phenomena – as a learned trait. For example, men learn not to be too emotional when they are told not to cry as children and women are encouraged as children to speak freely about emotions. Following this reasoning, traditional men gender roles are perceived as logical, analytical, providers, competitive and women as nurturing, relational, multi-taskers, emotional. If these gender traits - which were needed in order to function in a society that demanded them according to gender expectation - have been passed on for generations and learned as a survival tactic, then will these familiar gender traits change for our children who are being raised in homes that are significantly different than decades ago? Will these gender traits be more fluid since the business women will now have evolved into being more analytical, logical, and competitive and stay at home dads as more nurturing?
Whatever the outcome, for now what I take away from this is that in order to avoid having World War III erupt over who’s going to the laundry in your home, gender expectations need to be openly discussed. In my own marriage which is experimenting with these role reversals, I can attest that having ongoing discussions about household responsibilities with an eye on gender expectations has been immensely helpful.
Before you begin having these dicussions, check out this entertaining and light-hearted presentation by Mark Gungor (who coincidently will be at our Chicago Theatre event in July) highlighting the differences between men and women.