Men in traditional marriages have problems with women in the workplace

Such men are defined as those whose wives don’t work outside the home. From Jezebel:

No matter how well-meaning they are, no matter how much they love their moms, no matter how much they think they believe in gender equality, men who opt to live in antiquated gender paradigms are part of what the researchers call “a pocket of resistance to the revolution”:

We found that employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, (c) find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.

They presented male employers with identical job applicants—same experience, same qualifications, same resume—except one was named Dave and the other Diane. Then men in traditional marriages rated “Diane” significantly lower than Dave. Because, you know, vagina.

Thanks, S!

17 thoughts on “Men in traditional marriages have problems with women in the workplace

  1. I wish they gavve us more about cause and effect, though thatmight be hard. If you find yourself with newborn twins and no energy to go back to work, are you in danger of turning your husband into sexist ogre?

  2. Tricky. This (apparently) establishes correlation, but not cause and effect. And most importantly, perhaps, it also doesn’t account for generational differences: those most likely to be in a traditional marriage are also more likely to be a fair bit on the older end of the demographic. Overall, it seems to me likely that being in a traditional marriage, and having out-of-date sexist notions are probably both symptoms of the same problem(s). This is a little like going to a Conservative political convention, and reporting that those attending such events are more likely to be conservative.

    A final point, too, to amplify a little the comment made above: what of those situations in which a woman *chooses* to stay at home? In today’s urban culture, it is surely much more usual for both partners to be working. There are probably — in fact, certainly, I’d say — men today whom we would not otherwise label as “feminist” or enlightened who would rather their wives work than be stay-at-home caregivers, for financial reasons. And in such cases, arguably, the enlightened response is to support such a decision, because feminism should ultimately be about choice, no?

  3. Does every person in a traditional marriage have this flaw? Or is it just an average trend? I would be very surprised if even the most well-meaning, etc., men were to have this flaw more than their peers in non-traditional marriages (however you would find their peer). I take as a case in point my own dad who is in a traditional marriage against his will: he wanted to stay at home, but with four children, the family needed every penny, and unfortunately for him, men can more easily make money.

  4. The article is freely available online. I just skimmed it, and as far as I can tell the correlations are all pretty low (thus, the correlations may be “significant” in the statistical sense, but they are not that significant in the ordinary sense of the word).

  5. let us not call these “traditional marriages”. Let us follow the article and call them “antiquated gender paradigms”. The latter is more apt.

  6. I so love that the right-wing religious zealots in 6 & 7 have linked to this particular discussion in particular under the heading of “women against raising kids well”. uh huh. wishful thinking, much?

  7. Perhaps, it would be better not to feed them ammo. “Antiquated” is usually pejorative. I would think that the feminist position here would be that women should be supported, regardless of whether they choose careers, or to raise kids, or to alternate between these at different points in their lives. in other words, that kid-raising should be valued, and not viewed as demeaning or less worthy.

  8. kid-raising indeed should be valued, among many other things that ought to be valued and are not. There’s nothing in the article or the phrase “antiquated gender paradigm” that suggests otherwise. What’s antiquated is the notion that the responsibility for raising children brought into a heterosexual family *ought* necessarily to fall on a woman, and furthermore, that the woman in question *ought* to have primary (even nearly exclusive) responsibility for child-rearing duties, AND that her doing so, yet further, *ought* to preclude her from having–at the very same time– a meaningful, sustaining, full time career outside of childrearing. That’s the antiquated gender paradigm with which the article is concerned.
    Read the paragraph in the article that begins “Because this is how patriarchy fucks up people’s lives”.

  9. Katy, if I’m interpreting the study correctly, they were simply looking at employed married men whose wives weren’t employed. They didn’t include any normative dimensions in their selection criteria (i.e., married men whose wives weren’t employed and who thought their wives *shouldn’t* be employed).

    But there are a lot of perfectly non-objectionable reasons a couple could wind up in that situation. The wife could prefer not to work for health or disability-related reasons. The choice could be forced by financial reasons (e.g., the cost of childcare is more than the wife’s salary, or either partner’s salary) coupled with the wife’s lack of attachment to her career (for some people their job is their passion, but for some people their job is just their job). The wife could use the support of the husband’s income to pursue full-time charity work (which doesn’t count as employment, even though it takes up similar amounts of time.) And so on. Personally, I’ve known several awesome, feminist women married to awesome feminist men who gave up their jobs – for the short term or the long term – for reasons along these lines.

    I think we can’t draw conclusions about what the normative beliefs held by the people in these relationships. And I do worry that a label like “antiquated gender paradigms” suggests otherwise.

  10. Magicalersatz– I can’t get my computer to accept the link to the study, but what the *article* itself clearly has in mind aren’t just men married to women in relationships with men which women, as it happens, are not at that moment employed outside the home, but rather, relationships guided (even if ‘unconsciously’ as suggested in the quote from the Atlantic) by sexist norms about gender roles. Antiquated gender paradigms. E.g. (and going back to Anne’s original question above), ” If I became a housewife tomorrow, it’s not like my boyfriend would instantly throw his dirty socks in my face and tell me to get him a beer sandwich. The problem is that men who seek out these types of relationships do so for a reason, and that reason is a deeply internalized belief of how a woman “should” be.”
    If we’re wondering why there might be some correlation between men whose female spouses are not employed full time, and men who (in spite of avowed beliefs) evince signs of sexism with regard to female colleagues, I do think it’s implausible to suppose that there’s a causal link such that — no matter what the explanation for her doing so– if a woman is with a man, and isn’t or ceases to be employed, the guy starts acting sexist to women at work. But that’s not where the article, or the people quoted in the Atlantic take it. Their, to my mind much more plausible, explanation is that the correlation is indicative of a causal link, but it’s a causal link between men who *seek out* a romantic set-up where their wives aren’t employed full time because of a “deeply internalized belief” about how women should be.
    The phenomena the article is concerned to explain is recognizable to many of us–sometimes the attitude is condescending, yes; but sometimes it’s other things in this territory–e.g. being treated like support staff, or excluded from important decision making processes (especially informal ones where the exclusion is harder to point to & easier for others to rationalize with e.g. ‘oh, you weren’t around’ or ‘we just wanted to do this quickly’), or being expected to stay quiet rather than openly confront a problem (because the confrontation, should it happen, has to be left to ‘the big boys’), having people bristle or worse–have some gaslighting response– when one doesn’t act as these norms would dictate, or even when one so much as queries them. And the article seems to me also right about this– sexism comes in a million varieties, but there is this strand of sexism at the office that the article is trying to point to– the variety of sexism that involves the kind of norms I just mentioned– that has a distinctive, palpable, ‘stepford wife’ tone/theme.
    Last– on the phrase “traditional marriages”: that has just as much of a normative connotation as “antiquated gender paradigm” it’s just that it’s a positive, rather than a negative connotation. And as I’m sure almost everyone reading this blog knows, there never really was such a time as that the so called ‘traditional’ marriage was the most common form of familial arrangement across class, culture/sub-culture, etc. And the very fact that the phrase “traditional marriage” picks out a relationship between a man and a woman, where he is employed and she is not, strikes me as indicative of the depth of the sexist norm that is captured when one uses the phrase “antiquated gender paradigm”. If we want to pick out a particular arrangement– heterosexual couple, children, guy is employed, woman is not– perhaps we’re best just specifying the arrangement rather than using the phrase “traditional marriage” or “antiquated gender paradigm” (though, as I said, I don’t think it’s simply that arrangement, so described, that the article means to pick out with “antiquated gender paradigm”)

  11. Katy, there’s a lot packed in there, and I’m not sure I’m entirely tracking all of it, but as far as I can tell I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying.

    I thought – wrongly, maybe? – that you wanted to describe the relationships being studied as “antiquated gender paradigms”, and I thought that was unfair. (I’m also totally with you in not liking the term “traditional marriages”, btw – for exactly the reasons you describe.)

    I think you’re right that the Jezebel post is discussing antiquated gender paradigms. And I agree that antiquated gender paradigms would be a *plausible* explanation of the results of the study. But I think it’s really important, in these kind of discussions, to bear in mind what the studies are actually about and what they actually show.

    So what I object to is: (i) single-career heterosexual families in which the male is the one employed being uniformly labelled as “antiquated gender paradigms”; (ii) this study being described as a study about the effects of (sometimes implicit) antiquated gender paradigms.

    But, like I said, I agree with pretty much everything you said. I just wanted to register a worry about how we’re interpreting the study, and how we’re labelling the study’s subjects. Does that make sense?

  12. Magicalersatz– yes, absolutely makes sense. My initial post on this thread was an under-articulated reaction to the use of the phrase “traditional marriage”. I think you & are on pretty much the same page. The study tests one hypothesis about correlation between family structure and men’s attitudes towards female colleagues; the article, which I’ve been focusing on, has a more refined hypothesis about the correlation that traces the sexist attitudes not to family structure simpliciter, but to conscious and unconscious views about gender & gender roles that lead some men to seek out familial structures of the sort in question. At least one of the author’s of the study, Desai (see the quotes in the Jezebel article as well as the Atlantic piece) seems pretty clearly to think that the latter, more refined, hypothesis is in fact the best explanation for the correlations in the study. But since part of what’s at issue in the more refined hypothesis are unconscious attitudes, I can’t imagine any way to get a study that compares the attitudes of (a) men whose sexist attitudes lead them consciously and unconsciously seek certain kinds of familial structures, with the attitudes of (b) men who are in similar familial structures (married to women who are not employed) but not in a way motivated by unconscious sexist attitudes and (c) men who are in other kinds of familial structures.

  13. You can probably assume that a person who hosts a blog called “whatswrongwithequalrights” is a troll (or, at the very least, that their terrible opinions are not jokes).

  14. Jarrod and beta, without the trollish comments, readers may have trouble understanding your remarks. I am sorry for that, but when the trolls show up in packs, they are best just eliminated,

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