“…Your grandfather returned from World War II, got a cheap mortgage courtesy of the GI bill, married his sweetheart and went to work in a factory job that paid him something like $50,000 in today’s money plus health benefits and pension. Your father started at the same factory in 1972. He was laid off in 1981, and has never had anything like as good a job ever since. He’s working now at a big-box store, making $40,000 a year, and waiting for his Medicare to kick in. Now look at you. Yes, unemployment is high right now. But if you keep pounding the pavements, you’ll eventually find a job that pays $28,000.”[i]
When one thinks of the words “feminism” and “women’s rights” many things probably come to mind. Among the many visuals and other associations that go along with the modern “women’s movement,” women in the workforce and women’s wages are sure to be at the top of the list. But, feminists and other women’s rights advocates have not always been so adamant about getting women into the workforce and dealing with issues such as “equal pay for equal work.” In fact, before the 1960s (the dawn of modern feminism), women’s organizations strongly advocated for paternalistic treatment of women, protecting mothers and wives from the necessities of wage work, exalting the irreplaceable role of at-home motherhood and advocating fiercely for protective legislation for women. This protective legislation included protecting women by instating “women’s only” hours, Mothers’ Pensions and ensuring a family wage to be paid to married men. This protective legislation was meant to give women security within the family and within the home by reinforcing the traditional view of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker. Protective legislation secured the wife’s invaluable role within her family.
Today, one reads everywhere- from school textbooks, to internet blogs, to magazines and popular articles and opinion pieces- about a woman’s “subordinate” position within the family pre-women’s liberation, how feminism has finally given women “options” and how society now finally (after centuries of “oppression”) finally recognizes the wife’s status as an “equal partner” within the marriage. Feminists celebrate that they are part of a long line women’s rights advocates and have convinced society that since the early days of the 19-century feminists they have fought for nothing more than equality with men and it has been a long struggle over the centuries but they have finally achieved what women’s rights advocates have been fighting for since the beginning. They celebrate every step of the way as another “milestone to equality.”
“The true history of the women’s movement in the United States and its attitude toward the domestic realm is strikingly at odds with- and more interesting than- this standard feminist picture… In fact, the impetus for the original involvement of women in public affairs in the United States- and the driving force behind most of their policy initiatives- was to protect women from the necessity of involvement in the labor force and to preserve the special realm of the domestic from the economic and social pressures that would interfere with the mother’s primary task of bringing up her children well.”[ii]
This convoluted re-interpretation of history as “milestones to equality” conveniently ignores what the earlier feminists were really fighting for. By putting pretty labels on the modern feminist movement such as “the women’s movement,” “women’s rights,” and “women’s liberation” they appeal to the general public as though this is what all women want and as though their movement had the best interests of all women in mind. In fact, the modern feminist movement did not give us the right to have careers, have a bank account, own property or receive an education. While there was a different set of laws applying to married women (which we have explained in other articles), the single woman has always had the opportunity to pursue the kind of life she wanted and marry whom she wanted.
“Within the memory of no one living today have the barriers of society been strung so tightly that women could not pursue careers if they chose to. From the time in middle school when I decided to become a lawyer (that was in 1941) until I left my law firm to raise a family, I encountered no barriers, but only support and encouragement. Living on the edge of poverty in the working class with my divorced mother, I could not have succeeded otherwise.
When I entered college in 1947, I knew that women were in all the professions. The doctor who performed my pre-college physical was a woman… My mother’s divorce lawyer in 1936 was a woman and a mother. And the president of the bank where I opened my first account in 1942 was a woman and a mother, Mary G. Roebling, who said American women have “almost unbelievable economic power” but “do not use the influence [it] gives them.” Women’s failure to pursue opportunities in the workplace has always been much more of a choice than feminists admit. The most significant barrier to a woman’s market success is her own unwillingness to constrict her maternal, marital, and domestic roles.”[iii]
Modern feminists believe that “equal treatment” is essential to women’s advancement in the workforce. Yet, in abolishing protective legislation that early feminists had worked so hard to enact for women, they have hurt those women wanting to be housewives and stay at home mothers. Despite feminists constantly insisting women’s rights means equal representation in higher paid jobs and equal representation in politics, a growing number of surveys over the past few years have been showing that women favor homemaking over full-time workforce participation.
It is conceivable that women are beginning to figure out that the dream of “having it all” is simply not reality. Women today are beginning to wake up and realize that feminism has sold them a pipe dream. Compared to men, women’s happiness has been constantly declining since women’s libbers took to the street campaigning for “equal rights” at the expense of women who wished to retain the benefits of protective legislation.[iv]
Beyond women’s declining happiness, society as a whole is not fairing too well either. Marriage rates are down, cohabitation, divorce and out of wedlock births have been on the rise. There is a civil war waging between the sexes and crime is on the rise (I trust I don’t need to cite statistics here on this particular issue, but they are easily available from many government entities for those who aren’t convinced).
The egalitarian era has been a catastrophe. To remedy society’s problems, women’s increasing unhappiness, our children’s emotional/behavioral problems and men’s apathy towards work and marriage, the traditional family unit must be revived. When divorce rates started climbing and married women began to enter the workforce in record numbers, men’s wages began declining to the point that it is now very difficult (although still not impossible) for a man to support his entire family on one income.[v] While theoretically the woman certainly could be the breadwinner for the family, most women would simply not be happy with such an arrangement for very long and men have generally been found to be resentful of their breadwinner wives[vi] and divorce rates are the highest where the wife makes more money than the husband.[vii] There is also a strong correlation between reversal of gender roles and bad health. Moreover, recent evidence has been shedding light that stay at home dads are simply not the best thing for children, boys in particular, who have been found to do very poorly in academics when raised by stay-at-home fathers when they are young.[viii] Add to this the fact that most violent infant deaths are caused by male caretakers while the mothers are off at work and we have a complete catastrophe. Also, reversing of gender roles is not leading to men doing more housework and becoming more involved parents. In fact, it is having precisely the opposite effect:
“…Moreover, a recent study by psychologist William T. Bailey at Eastern Illinois University indicates that fathers who take on the primary childcare role are actually less responsive to the needs of their children than those fathers who are less directly involved in caregiving. Statistics also indicate that husbands working full-time whose wives do not work spend considerably more time with their children than do husbands with working wives, presumably because the mother at home makes more demands for his time and effort with the children. The conclusion is as striking as it is disturbing: at a time when children’s well-being has been declining according to every measure, their primary caregivers- married mothers with dependent children- account for most of the influx of women into the workforce, and married fathers have not discernibly made up for the diminishing maternal care.”[ix]
Society as a whole has a major stake in ensuring that men have all the tools necessary to become the breadwinners for their families and mothers can stay home with their young children and depend upon lifetime support from their husbands. Reversing traditional gender roles has led to absolutely nothing productive and will in fact end up destroying a once civilized and prosperous society. Though many will scream sex-discrimination, it is imperative to ensure that young men in particular can excel in education and the workforce.
“…The society thus has a much larger stake in employing young men than in employing young women. The unemployed man can contribute little to the community and will often disrupt it, but the woman may even do more good without a job than with one. Her joblessness may spur new efforts to induce a man to work, supporting her own crucial role as a mother.”
The woman’s financial superiority thus leads to a society of sexually and economically predatory males. The sexual power of women, if combined with economic power, leaves many young men with no civilized way to achieve sexual identity. If they cannot be providers, they resort to the primal male assets, wielding muscle and phallus for masculine identity and attacking the fabric of society…What Mead concluded from all her other studies as well, the New Gunea experience affirms: Males always require a special arena of glorified achievement from which women are excluded. Their concern with sexual differentiation is obsessive. Men can be passive without grave psychological damage only if the women are passive also. Aggressive and competitive women, unconcerned with motherhood, produce more ruthless men- and a society so competitive that it disintegrates. Men, on the other hand, when passively preoccupied with child-rearing, become incapable of effective sexual behavior and paranoid about aggressive women. A society with a great emphasis on child-rearing will, however, be exceedingly generous and cooperative. In none of the tribes Mead studied is there the slightest evidence that roles, however created, through culture or biology, can be switched back and forth or that the aggressiveness and volatility of males can be ignore by any society”[x]
The need to ensure a proper role for males within society depends largely on the role they play within the family. The civilizing of men into appropriate roles in society largely depends upon the willingness of women to demand both commitment and support from them within the confines of marriage. Though no law or social custom can currently force a man to support a woman, they could if we wanted them to. The stability of families depends upon male breadwinners. Without a strong family unit and a man that is able to carry the load of supporting a wife and children, society will continue to face increases in the feminization of poverty. Without the income of a husband, a woman will have a very hard time giving the necessary care to her children and will more than likely depend on the taxpayers at the expense of single-earner families where the husband is the breadwinner.
There simply is no replacement for maternal care and it is doubtful that modern science will ever truly be able to match the benefits of nature in the conceivable future. Within minutes of the birth of a baby the child forms an instant bond with its mother and when the child is breastfeed, the suckling strengthens even more the mother-child bond that is so crucial for healthy development. Yet, the surge of mothers into the workforce has further eroded this bond as many women no longer breastfeed due to the demands of joining the workforce.[xi] In order to ensure healthy families and proper development of children, it is essential to strengthen marriages and the role of the husband as breadwinner.
Women are recruited and exploited in the workforce for corporate greed and for tough competition in a global economy. Yet, when women are pushed into the workforce, the family unit disintegrates, women suffer physically and mentally and the morals of a society plummet.
“In answer to the heresy of conservative individualism, we must clearly enunciate the principles of a new economy ordered toward the good of our citizens rather than toward merely abstract goods like growth, efficiency, profit, and productivity. As elements of an economy that serves the interests of real people, real families, and real communities, those concepts have value; if they simply dictate a bottom-line approach to economics that views persons as a means toward achieving some unspecified and perpetual goal of directionless economic expansion, they are worse than useless; they are positively dangerous. The economy exists for man, not man for the economy- a fundamental idea often ignored in discussions of economy which tend to revolve around the almost mystical concept of ‘growth.’”[xii]
So what is a family wage and what led to its decline? A family wage is “…an income sufficient for a man to support a wife and children at a certain minimal level of comfort…with the explicit purpose of protecting mothers from having to contribute to the family income out of economic necessity.”[xiii] Before the surge of women into the workforce and the feminist quest for equal rights the family wage “…was paid by 65 percent of all employers in the United States, and by over 80 percent of the major industrial companies.”[xiv]Despite feminists insisting that the good ol’ life of women not having to work to support the family never even existed, there has never been so many married women in the workforce as there was post WWII all the way up to today. The percentage of married women in the workforce remained at about 5% throughout U.S. history all the way up into the early 1900s, when the number of married women in the workforce started increasing gradually. The 1950s actually saw more married women in the workforce than in previous generations (though generally not out of economic necessity).[xv]
1960s feminists and beyond worked relentlessly to tear down the legal protections that early feminists had secured for women. They did not rest until they tore through, one by one, the pillars upon which the family wage rested:
“…The family wage was effectively abolished as a result of three distinct changes in policy: 1)the dismantling of legal barriers to women’s employment (protective legislation) and the phasing out of direct wage discrimination (unequal pay for equal work) against female workers in the 1940s; 2) the collapse in the late 1960s of long-standing labor union opposition to wage equality; and 3) the end of job segregation by gender as a result of an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its subsequent application by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had the effect of undercutting job discrimination by gender and striking down all state laws granting special protection for women, the very “protective legislation” that social feminists had worked so hard to enact.” [xvi]
One way or another, traditional men and women must work together to reverse the harmful policies of women’s liberation. We need families to stay together and we need male breadwinners. Traditional Women’s Rights Activists must make the case for protective legislation and the family wage.
[ii] Roberton, B.C., “Force Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 40. Spence, 2002.
[v] Roberton, B.C., “Force Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 36. Spence, 2002.
[ix] Roberton, B.C., “Force Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 15-16. Spence, 2002.
[x] Gilder, G. “Men and Marriage.” Pelican, 1993.
[xi] Roberton, B.C., “Force Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 19;28. Spence, 2002.
[xii] ibid., 176.
[xiii] ibid., 42.
[xiv] ibid., 63.
[xvi] Roberton, B.C., “Force Labor: What’s Wrong With Balancing Work and Family,” p. 105. Spence, 2002.
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