Indiana News

Study: Many Men Want To Keep Women In The Kitchen, Even If Women Are Breadwinners

UIndy sociologist studied unmarried, working-class couples who lived together


A new report co-written by a University of Indianapolis sociologist says working-class couples who buck the tradition of marriage are far more traditional in their views on gender roles and household responsibilities than might be expected.


The report written by Dr. Amanda Miller, assistant professor of sociology at UIndy, and Sharon Sassler of Cornell University shows that the conventional notion of male breadwinner and female homemaker still guides at least some behaviors.  "The male is considered to be the main breadwinner, and the female is primarily for household domestic responsibilities," said Miller, "and that held true in our study whether the men actually were earning most of the income or not."

Miller and Sassler interviewed 30 working-class cohabiting couples for their paper, "The Construction of Gender Among Working-Class Cohabiting Couples," published in the December issue of the journal Qualitative Sociology.

Miller says many of the men who were being supported by their partners generally lived under the assumption that the man is the head of the household and the woman is largely responsible for domestic work.  "Many of the woman had actually tried to challenge some of those gender roles, in particular had tried to get their boyfriends to do more work around the house, for example. But a number of the men were holding fast to those old traditions," said Miller.  "In the United States, the working-class have always had more traditional attitudes toward gender roles, both men and women. But in particular, working-class men have had more traditional attitudes toward gender roles."

Miller says the men they studied were more likely than women to lose their jobs in the latest recession.  Because of this, she says they may have tried to cling to their privileges at home as they lost ground in the workplace. The study also found that many cohabiting women view marriage as a path not to a better relationship, but to an even greater workload both in and out of the home.

But why in 2013 would we see more of the attitude that women do "women's work" around the house?  Miller says it's part of the changing nature of cohabitation.  "We're seeing a wider representation of types of people who live together before marriage. It's not just the more egalitarian liberal couples who are living together now. It's a much wider array of people doing it."



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