“Traditional marriage” frequently refers to the idea that marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples, but for many social conservatives it also means that men work and women stay at home. A new study led by Sreedhari Desai, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that men who have stay-at-home wives are more likely to oppose women’s rights and have negative attitudes about working women:
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. The consistent pattern of results found across multiple studies employing multiple methods and samples demonstrates the robustness of the findings.
By insisting on staying the breadwinners for their families, men seem to also be subconsciously buying into the idea that their wives shouldn’t work. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2010 (as cited in the study), there are more than 11 million men in such arrangements, contributing to a culture opposed to women working. The study suggests that these men might be characterized as “benevolent sexists,” but clarifies they are not likely to be overtly hostile towards women.
As Jason Stanford points out at the Huffington Post, this impediment to the gender revolution has significant implications for the 2012 election, with women under 50 “fleeing Romney and supporting Obama” as the Republicans continue to wage a war on women when it comes to healthcare. More than anything, the study proves that equality under the law does not automatically translate to equity in society, such that women are still subjected to the cultural attitudes of the past. Affirmative action, equal pay, and simply allowing the voices of women to be part of conversations about their own lives are essential commitments the men who dominate positions of power must make to create a society that is truly fair to women.