Traditional male led relationships have often been limited to life away from home while women often ruled the roost and managed the home. According to some recent research, while many American couples make big decisions together, women still rule the roost, and that’s OK with men.
“Despite the fact that in our society, we have had this notion of males as heads of households, we have seen the pattern that women tend to really be the managers of the home,” says Melinda Forthofer, director of the Institute for Families in Society at the University of South Carolina. And men don’t seem to mind, she says: “When they’re not in the workplace, they’re content to follow their partner’s lead.”
Men generally do not like to ‘sweat the small stuff’. Therefore they are often happy to leave routine domestic decision-making to women and are often putting a great deal of their energy into placating the women in their lives in order to keep their world manageable.
Celia Lashlie however identifies some areas of concern in her book “He’ll be OK”:
“The principal told me again and again that when two parents come in for a chat because their boy’s in trouble, it’s the norm for the mother to do all the talking. The principal looks towards the father and it’s obvious he has something to say, an opinion to offer, but she won’t shut up long enough for him to actually say it…. I thought it might be an overly prejudiced view, so decided to investigate a little further. The opportunity to do so arose when I found myself in front of a group of fathers.
‘Listen guys, I just want to check something out with you. Apparently when you and your wife are in the principal’s office because your son’s in a spot of bother and you’ve been called to the school, you’re really quiet, you just don’t talk.’
‘No,’ came the reply from one man.
‘Because I’ll get it wrong.’
Somewhat naively, I replied, ‘No, you can’t get it wrong, he’s your boy.’
‘Oh no,’ he said, looking straight at me, a now-familiar look of resignation on his face, ‘I’ll get it wrong… and I’ll get a pull-through when I get home.’
As he said this, several heads in the room nodded, the men seeming to relish the fact that someone had identified a situation with which they were all very familiar…
After a bit more discussion on this topic with the men, I headed back to talk to their wives and partners and, as I did so, I found myself thinking that the views expressed by the men were probably a little unfair and would offend the women I was about to talk to. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘The guys have just told me that when they’re in the principal’s office with you, they don’t talk because they’ll get it wrong.’
One woman didn’t even hesitate; she looked straight at me and without the slightest hint of the embarrassment I was expecting, she said, ‘He will.’
‘And he reckons he’ll get a pull-through when he gets home?’
‘I won’t wait that long – I’ll get him in the car.’
There seemed to be universal agreement with her comments and the conversation continued with one woman saying, ‘I take him to parent-teacher evenings, but he just won’t talk.’ By this time I was thinking, Yes, and I think I’m beginning to see why, so I said, ‘Well, there’s one possible solution.’
‘You could send him by himself, then he’s going to have to talk.
At that moment the entire group of intelligent, articulate middle-class women looked as if I’d just asked them to eat a snake. (No power and control issues here, I thought to myself!)”
Lots of societies are moving away from gender-specific prejudices and stereotypes toward a greater gender equality – not just in the workplace but in the home. Compared with previous generations, in lots of societies men are expected to do more around the house and be more involved in child care, while women are expected to join workforce and take some pressure off men as breadwinners. It is important however to ensure that neither women nor men ‘lose their voices’. Both women and men should be heard with respect – in the workplace, in the home and in the wider society.