I love some manly traditions. Open doors for me? Yes. Sport a slightly scruffy, five o’clock shadow? Yes. Tell me to put my shovel away while you proudly muscle my car out of the snow?” Oh God yes. Tell me I need to stay at home, raise your kids, cook and clean? I’ll laugh and sadly touch your forehead, assuming you’ve been struck by a sudden, hallucinogenic fever.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to clean, will attempt to cook, but hate to shop. I’m not a total feminist. But a life with me won’t be something out of a sitcom set in the 1920’s. Men and women are equal in my world.
I had a colleague who was watching me wash my dishes in the break room once. He dropped his plates in, assuming I would do those too. I dropped mine on the draining board and shut the water off, leaving his greasy mess of plates sitting there. He looked at me with a peeved look on his face:
“You’re not going to wash my dishes? In my country, the women clean up after the men.”
“Am I right guys?” he said, turning to other guys in the break room for what he assumed would be support.
The men backed off slowly, like I was a mother bear protecting her cub (“Back away slowly guys, and don’t make eye contact. If she sees your fear she’ll tear ya a new one.”).
“Dude,” replied the muscled specimen from down the hall, shaking his head. “I ain’t touching that topic. Leave me out of this.”
“We’re not in your country,” I replied. “I’m not your mom or your wife. Wash your own damn dishes.”
FYI, this is the same guy who said that it “wasn’t normal” for a woman my age to be single (I was 26 at the time), and that in his country a “chubby” girl like me (I have curves and I’m gifted with nice endowments – I’m not chubby) was highly-sought after by men, because it meant I had money for food.
But I refuse to paint all men with the same brush. In today’s world, being cared for by a male nurse, having a male nanny (or “manny”), or being managed by a female CEO may still raise a few eyebrows, but for a lot of men, it’s part of an ever-changing world.
As part of a research project on gender roles, we asked a group of 310 traditional and contemporary men various questions related to men and women’s place in the world. (Guys can take the test here. Women can take it here). Here’s what we learned:
Job positions: Who is better suited?
When asked whether the following jobs are appropriate for both genders, the percentage of traditional vs. contemporary men who agreed is as follows:
- Nurse: 9% of traditional men vs. 81% of contemporary men said this position is appropriate for both genders
- Doctor: 28% of traditional men vs. 95% of contemporary men
- Financial Planner: 18% of traditional men vs. 90% of contemporary men
- Teacher: 36% of traditional men vs. 92% of contemporary men.
- Professor: 24% of traditional men vs. 95% of contemporary men.
- Research Scientist: 24% of traditional men vs. 94% of contemporary men.
- CEO: 11% of traditional men vs. 94% of contemporary men.
- Secretary: 5% of traditional men vs. 86% of contemporary men.
- Carpenter: 3% of traditional men vs. 64% of contemporary men.
- Stay-at-home-parent: 6% of traditional men vs. 84% of contemporary men.
- Judge: 16% of traditional men vs. 95% of contemporary men.
- Prison Guard: 4% of traditional men vs. 59% of contemporary men.
- Police Detective: 15% of traditional men vs. 91% of contemporary men.
The role of men and women in the home
- 88% of traditional men believe that husbands should be the main breadwinners, compared to 4% of contemporary men.
- 83% of traditional men feel that the man should control the finances in their family. None of the contemporary men agreed with this.
- 47% of traditional men feel that if both the wife and husband work outside the home, they should share household duties 50/50 – compared to 87% of contemporary men.
The role of men and women in relationships
- 64% of traditional men believe that the man should do most of the planning of dates, compared to 5% of contemporary men.
- 38% of traditional men feel that it’s OK for a woman to propose marriage to a man, compared to 96% of contemporary men.
- 71% of traditional men believe that a woman should have fewer sexual partners than a man. None of the contemporary men agreed with this.
- 75% of traditional men feel that a man should be chivalrous, compared to 45% of contemporary men.
- 40% of traditional men feel that women should play hard to get on the first few dates, compared to 4% of contemporary men.
The role of men and women in child-rearing
- 88% of traditional men feel that the father should be the disciplinarian vs. 1% of contemporary men.
- 78% of traditional men think less of a stay-at-home dad, compared to 4% of contemporary men.
- 80% of traditional men feel that women are naturally more nurturing than men, compared to 21% of contemporary men.
- 68% of traditional men don’t like the idea of a woman working outside the home when there are children to raise, compared to 2% of contemporary men.
The role of men and women at work
- 89% of traditional men believe that most of the important decision-makers in a company should be male, compared to 1% of contemporary men.
- If it can be avoided, 61% of traditional men said they would never work in a position where their immediate supervisor was a woman, compared to 1% of contemporary men.
Men and Masculinity
- 76% of traditional men feel that a guy should always be aware of how masculine he appears to others, compared to 11% of contemporary men.
- 90% of traditional men would feel like less of a man if they lost their job and were unable to support their family, compared to 30% of contemporary men.
- 56% of traditional men feel that a man should never back off from a dare, compared to 2% of contemporary men.
- 78% of traditional men would not want to have gay friends, compared to 3% of contemporary men.
- 59% of traditional men are uncomfortable expressing emotions, compared to 16% of contemporary men.
- 62% of traditional men would not want their son to play with toys meant for girls, compared to 2% of contemporary men.
- 56% of traditional men would teach their sons that crying and whining are unacceptable behaviors, compared to 1% of contemporary men.
To assume that the majority of contemporary men would be younger and the majority of the traditional would be older would seem logical, but to our surprise, the results showed the total opposite. I actually went back to re-check my data, because I was convinced I had labeled or calculated something wrong. But the data was clear: As age increased, views changed from traditional to modern.
I was shocked. So I went to the source, and asked my three Generation Y family members why this would be the case: My macho cousin, his sensitive brother, and my ultra-liberal, super rational brother.
Macho Muscle Man: “I was raised with traditional values,” explained 24-year-old Anthony. “For example, I was in a very sports-oriented environment. My father played soccer, so that’s the direction I was pushed into – not necessarily forced, but influenced. I will likely do the same for my sons one day because it’s what I know best, but if they don’t want to head in that direction, I will support them.”
To be honest, his first response was (in a bro Italian accent), “Me, when my kids grow up they’re gonna be playing soccer and have muscles.” I had to keep digging, and sidestep the attitude, to get to the core of why he felt this way.
For 23-year-old Dario (TOTAL sweetheart), masculinity messages came from both men and some women. “You’re taught not to show any vulnerability in the form of emotions. This would make you seem weak in the eyes of women who expect you to be strong and supportive. It’s only as you get older that you realize that men don’t have to be so tough all the time – but the messages we get are so mixed. And changing, or ‘unlearning’ these beliefs and behaviors is a difficult process.”
“Middle-aged men are at a stage in their lives where they wish they can spend more time with their kids anyway,” was Erik’s theory, my 25-year-old brother. “They’ve already done decades of nine-to-five. Plus, older people are generally smarter. Homophobia, for example, started dying down when those now forty-year-olds were younger. I don’t actually believe that women should raise children and that men shouldn’t show emotions, and I have no problem with gay guys, so it’s difficult for me to understand why some people from my generation believe that. Personally, I think emotion makes you better. Passion makes you better. Bottling it serves no purpose, other than to increase your stress level.”
My theory? Older men have seen the world change; many have firsthand experience with the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movement. I think this is why they are less inclined to conform/agree with gender stereotypes these days. And as the Generation Y’ers get older, I can see the shift to modern views happening as well.
Have a great day folks. And to all the manly and sensitive men I know, I love you just the same 🙂