Gender Roles: Elites vs. 'The Masses'

Last time, I mentioned eternal verities. Here’s another one. Pew Research is one of the most reliable of all research organizations on issues of broad public interest. It isn’t in the business of first identifying the outcome it desires and then constructing a survey or study guaranteed to produce same. The linked-to survey is a good example; its findings are worth noting.


Pew surveyed Americans on their attitudes about what they view as important for men and women to contribute to a marriage. It’s a pretty limited survey, but produced one telling bit of data – whether men or women should financially support the family. Some 71% said men, but only 32% said women should do so.


That aligns with much other social science data demonstrating a definite propensity on the part of both men and women to embrace the traditional roles of male resource provider and female caregiver to children. It strongly suggests that, even after 50 years of feminist hectoring of women to value paid work over home, children and family, the great majority of people disagree. Both men and women tend to cleave to traditional gender roles. The work of British sociologist Catherine Hakim on the preferences of the sexes backs up that conclusion with only about 20% of women prioritizing paid work. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey do too.


However, if you believe the mainstream media, listen to academics or other elites, you’d think that women everywhere are champing at the bit to be more involved in paid work. We essentially never hear the reality that, while most women are perfectly willing to contribute to their families’ income, they tend to prefer that the man take the lead in earning while they do so in childcare. Elite opinion about what women want differs from what women actually want.


Consider, for example, the risibly-named Global Gender Gap Report put out by the World Economic Forum. Here’s a pithy quotation from Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, writing in the preface to the 2018 GGGR:


The equal contribution of women and men in this process of deep economic and societal transformation is critical. More than ever, societies cannot afford to lose out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity to realize the promise of a more prosperous and humancentric future that well-governed innovation and technology can bring.


Notice that, according to Schwab, when women exercise their preference for childcare over paid work, society “lose[s] out on the skills, ideas and perspectives of half of humanity…” For him and the World Economic Forum, there’s only one legitimate way for women to spend their time, i.e., working for a living. Caring for children is time wasted, of no importance to society. The great majority of women disagree, but hey, what do they know?


Dr. Hakim noticed much the same thing when Great Britain conducted a governmental survey entitled “Listening to Women.” It found this:


The Listening to Women research program concluded that we should stop thinking of women as a homogeneous group; that women want choices in their lives; that most women have jobs rather than careers; that full-time mothers want their role as mother to be valued and respected; that most women were prepared to take any job that fitted in with their family and child care commitments; that women thought greater societal value should be attached to the role of housewife; and that women saw themselves as secondary earners, with male partners regarded as having ultimate responsibility for household income.


That’s much the same as we find in the U.S. today and that’s supported by the recent Pew findings. Amusingly, “Listening to Women” was precisely what the Labor Government didn’t do. Hakim again:


Did the New Labour Government of Tony Blair take any notice of the results of the Listening to Women research program? Of course not. The studies revealed more diversity of values and complexity of opinion than was politically useful. So the findings were used selectively to support the government’s predetermined policy positions – in particular, policies promoting paid work as women’s central life activity.


Much the same explains the across-the-board resistance to fathers’ gaining equality in family courts. That idea is perfectly in sync with the notion of gender equality, but would also tend to take fathers out of the workforce. The last thing Klaus Schwab and the WEF want is for women to enter the workforce only for men to walk away, so for elites, fathers’ rights are a dead letter.


In short, elite policy preference is for women in paid work. Period. Does that often and in many ways conflict with women’s wants and needs? It does, but elites push those policies anyway and, as icing on the cake, tell us they’re doing so on behalf of women. They’re not. They’re promoting elite values for the sake of elite interests and demand that the rest of us fall into line, irrespective of our legitimate interests.


This all means that, at least in the West, we’re at a uniquely conflicted era in human history. Elites have everywhere embraced feminist values and initiatives, including the notion that women’s highest and best endeavor is serving business interests. But We the People tend strongly to disagree. We doubt that dropping our gender roles that have evolved over countless millennia, allowed us to survive nature “red in fang and claw” and gotten us to the astonishingly safe and prosperous place in which we now find ourselves is a good plan. And so, despite the demands of elites who envision their own Brave New World somewhere down the road, we, to the extent possible, exercise our pocket veto.


It’s not the only way in which the “masses” prove ourselves smarter, more responsible and more democratic than elites, but it’s a big one. Maybe the biggest.

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