The financial value of man-care
This story from the BBC is interesting (hat tip): researchers found that men that agreed that women were inferior and should stay at home taking care of men instead of going out and doing for themselves made more money than egalitarian men. The study couldn’t have dipped into younger men for this study—they were tracking the same group of people from ages 14-22 in 1979 until now, making the target group ages 45-53. Being a sexist pig was lucrative for men, to the tune of $8500 a year more than the pro-feminist men. The researchers noted a small gain in salary for feminist women—$1500 over non-feminist women—which says to me that non-feminist women are usually working even if they think it’s wrong and bad, probably because they have to.
The theories that are promoted at the BBC sound a little hollow to me:
“It could be that more traditionally-minded men are interested in power, both in terms of access to resources – money in this case – and also in terms of a woman who is submissive.
“Another theory suggests that employers are more likely to promote men who are the sole earner in preference to those who do not – they recognise that they need more support for their families, because they are the breadwinner.”
As Marc jokingly said when I read this aloud to him, “If you give anyone an unpaid personal assistant for years on end, of course they make more.” Which is to say, one aspect that was overlooked, in this article at least, is how traditional roles for men and women equate to women being unpaid personal staffing for men. It’s a lot easier to dedicate yourself solely to work if you’re never expected to manage household responsibilities. I would point out that while $8500 a year might seem like a big raise for men merely for being sexist, it’s actually not enough to make up for the salary loss if the wife does her “duty” and quits to support her husband full-time as his housekeeper, child care, and personal assistant. But of course, for that generation, you’re far more likely to see situations where belief in the single income household doesn’t translate into reality.
But that doesn’t mean that sexist men gave up their stream of free female labor they felt entitled to! I’m working with the assumption that traditional men are more likely to be married to traditional women, or at least to exert their wishes on the household. And what that means is that, whether the wife has outside employment or not, she’s still going to do more work at home in the realm of man-care, freeing her husband to have an unencumbered professional life. The research shows that while both feminist and non-feminist men that are married don’t do housework and leave it all to their partners, feminist women do less housework. Which is to say, feminist women still do 70-80% of all housework, but since they have households with lower standards of what constitutes clean, they spend less of their time on housework.
I’m guessing you see similar dynamics when it comes to man-care. Feminist women with jobs probably spend a lot less of their time supporting their husbands’ careers than non-feminist women with jobs. They probably don’t do as much shopping for men, handling their clothes, maintaining their social contacts, or doing all those thousand little things that make it easier for a man to be a better worker that gets promotions. Having a wife to do it all for you, including emotional care without asking for much in return? That adds up.
What I think happened a lot for people of that generation, and to a degree of the subsequent ones, is that men got to have it both ways. They got to enjoy wives bringing in a second income, but they maintained that this was less than desirable, so the wives worked double time to make sure that men got all their privileges when it came to having housework, child care, and man-care done for them. And this having-it-both ways mentality shows up in the statistics, since men who went this route made more money, but mostly don’t appear to have forsaken their wives’ second income. The solutions for this conundrum aren’t going to be clear-cut. I’m guessing even feminist women do a lot of man-care work out of economic self-interest. The research shows women fear that men can’t or won’t do certain chores properly, so they pick them up. So no matter how stalwart your feminist convictions, it’s often easier just to do the man-care stuff that you think will help his career prospects and bring more money into the house.