Father always knows best? Patriarchy in the U.S.

There was an interesting article in today’s Globe & Mail. A polling company has been polling social attitudes in Canada, the U.S. and other countries for about 20 years, trying to establish trends in social attitudes. One of the questions that they’ve been asking relates to the role of the father: “The father of the family must be the master in his own house.” In Canada, France and other countries, over the past twenty years the number of people who support that principle has steadily declined. When they first asked the question in Canada in 1982, 42% supported it, either strongly or somewhat so. In Canada today, support for that statement has dropped to around 20%.

The one exception to the general trend is the U.S. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of people who support that principle, either strongly or somewhat so, has steadily grown, until today it is about 48% of the U.S. population overall. The proportion of women supporting the statement has similarly grown in the U.S., to 43%.

For the full article, see Father knows best.

So, do people think the poll is accurate? Does such a large and growing propotion of Americans support a patriarchial family view? If so, why is the U.S. out of step with other Western liberal democracies?

IMO, the US is out of step with other Western nations in a number of ways.

Re the question, maybe agreement with that statement is increasing in the US due to an increase in the percentage who are fundamentalist? Are the fundies on the increase? Hum, maybe I should move to Canada…

Ahhh, let me count the ways…Where shall we start, circumcision perhaps?

So, American culture is having one of its periodic mood swings, this time to the more conservative side, and these researchers are surprised? They seem to expect “social values” to be graven in stone, not flexible. Of course their statistics show that Americans have grown more conservative in the last 4 years. Didn’t we just have an election where we booted out the bleeding heart liberals and ushered in the “What’s good for business is good for America” team, even though it was hardly a landslide.

So, these guys must not be paying real close attention, in spite of being totally obsessed with American culture, which is what their article sounds like.

Come back in 8 years, 12 tops, and watch the needle swing back the other way.

In today’s America, “his own house” is all too often not where the mother and children live.:wink:

**Duck Duck Goose **"So, American culture is having one of its periodic mood swings, this time to the more conservative side, and these researchers are surprised?..

DDG Why so defensive here? Who knows whether this survey was conducted in a way that would pass muster with professional pollsters. But, assuming that it’s a solid survey, this is a telling trend, and not something to be dismissed.

"They seem to expect “social values” to be graven in stone, not flexible.

On the contrary, they recognize fully that “social values” are flexible. What they are suggesting is that, insofar as social values are in fact flexible, Canada and France are becoming progressively more equalitarian in their attitudes towards men and women, while the U.S. is becoming progressively less so.

“Of course their statistics show that Americans have grown more conservative in the last 4 years. Didn’t we just have an election where we booted out the bleeding heart liberals and ushered in the “What’s good for business is good for America” team, even though it was hardly a landslide.”

Indeed, it was not only not a landslide, but the Democrats in fact won the popular vote. When you then factor in Nader voters and non-voters the election becomes a less obvious predictor of where people stand. It’s also the case that ideas about sexual equality don’t necessarily correspond to other political positions. I know lots of pro-business Republicans who consider themselves feminists; and libertarians often claim to advocate sexual equality. I’d say what the survey seems to document is a much deeper kind of conservatism than even a pro-business attitude suggests.
I find this interesting and, admittedly, depressing.

“So, these guys must not be paying real close attention, in spite of being totally obsessed with American culture, which is what their article sounds like.”

Again, you sound awfully defensive here. Why shouldn’t Canadians be concerned with American culture? The article begins with a discussion of how American culture is increasingly dominating the globe. Please bear in mind: I’m often very critical of the simplistic way that American culture is sometimes denigrated outside of the US (an experience I learned from living in the UK for a few years). But I see no reason to cast aspersions on other countries for paying attention to the culture of a country that likes to think of itself and, by many standards, is the most powerful nation on the earth. Particuarly for Canadians who share a huge border and common language with us.

"Come back in 8 years, 12 tops, and watch the needle swing back the other way.

From where I stand that’s an awfully long time to wait before the US begins to become more progressive in its attitudes towards sexual inequality. “Master of the house.” To my ears that barbaric! Yuck. This is not good news, for men or for women.

Again, what I find strange about your post is what seems to be your need to defend the US’s reacationariness (to the extent that the survey documents it). Unless you are yourself a reactionary (and I’ve never sensed that you were), why defend or dismiss the trend? why criticize those who have noticed it as obsessive? You seem to be blaming the messenger.

First, it’s hard to verify the accuracy of the polls unless you’ve got access to their methodology (size of sample, how it was ‘graded’, how they worded the questions and how said questions translated, etc. etc.). So I can’t really comment on whether this patriarchal mindset is actually increasing in the US or not (my personal experience is ‘no’ but that’s hardly a scientific study!).

Second, you’ve got to look at who put the poll together. It sounds like this guy has an active interest in Canadian culture–which is good–but it would be illuminating to see how or if that influenced his data at all. It’d be more credible to me if a non-interested second party replicated these results.

Anyway, just reminding you to read with caution!

Certainly, this is an important question, as the author of the column acknowledges. However, the two polling firms in question, Environics (in English Canada) and CROP (in Quebec) are both highly respected polling firms that have been around for quite some time, and are commonly used by media and political parties to do polls. I don’t know anything about polling methodology generally, but I would say they are reputable firms.

They do mention that there data for France and other European countries came from a French polling company:

Welcome to the world of CanStudies! We always obsess about you guys!

For context, I should mention that this article was one in a series that the G&M put out for the week of July 1, each dealing with a different theme about Canada: history, present situation, future, etc. No self-respecting editor would put out a series like that without at least one article talking about the elephant that lives in our basement :smiley:

No, I wasn’t “blaming the messenger”. I was “questioning the importance of the messenger’s message”. So some Canadian researchers come panting and huffing to tell me that American attitudes have become a teensy bit more conservative? Well, gee, thanks guys, but, um, I already had the 2000 presidential election to tell me that. Thanks anyway.

(Okay, now the quibble about election statistics. Sure, the liberals may have won it on numbers, but I’m saying that in America there was a shift was away from the Clinton era of liberalism, that was reflected in the election. No, it wasn’t a landslide election, but it was significant that the Gore campaign, who might reasonably have been viewed as Clinton’s successor, “more of the same”, didn’t get a landslide, either. See what I’m saying? Americans were already shifting towards the more conservative by November 2000. If the American voters were still as liberal as they had been, they would have much more definitely put Gore into office, numbers-wise. “Yes! He’s the Man! We want him!” But they didn’t.)

Statistically speaking, a shift of a few percentage points doesn’t constitute a “telling trend”–except when you’re running for public office and are totally focussed on public opinion polls. :wink:

And I predict it will swing back the other way in 8 to 12 years. That’s what “public opinion” does, it shifts back and forth. I suppose somebody will come panting and huffing in the year 2015 to tell us that American attitudes have become a teensy bit more liberal. And we will all act very surprised, and it will be the conservatives’ turn to do some hand-wringing, “oh, no, what’s happened to our Traditional American Family Values!” :eek:

And far from being defensive ( :confused: not sure how you read that into it? ) I find it amusing that Canadian researchers have nothing better to do than to go around measuring American attitudes to things. I’m not aware of any American researchers who are currently measuring Canadian attitudes to things. We don’t care. Why should they? They’re the ones who sound defensive. “Canadians do SO have a viable culture of their own!”

Mandelstam, I’m trying to tell you that this one survey does not represent what’s really going on at the grass-roots level in the United States. We are not, by and large, as a culture, going back to the Bad Old Days of the Eisenhower Era and “keep them in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.” No way. Never happen.

The phrase “master of the house” means hardly anything here in the Heartland, Canadian surveys notwithstanding. Every year I know more and more women who are ruling the roost, raising kids, working full-time, sometimes making more money than the “master of the house”. Every year I know more and more women who are getting up on their hind legs and telling the “Master of the House” just where he can go with his drinkin’ up the paycheck every week, blue collar, white collar, it doesn’t matter, it’s “shape up or ship out”. And every year I know more and more women, at the grass-roots hometown level, who are electing to have, and raise, kids all by themselves, with no “Master of the house” in their lives at all. There’s no way any of these women, whether “significantly othered” or not, are gonna go back to “we let the Man of the House make those big important decisions.”

It’s changed. Permanently. We can never go back.

DDG, To begin with, I suspect that you and I are similar in terms of our social goals. So I think what we’ve stumbled across here is a difference in perspective; but not an underlying political clash.

“I was “questioning the importance of the messenger’s message”. So some Canadian researchers come panting and huffing to tell me that American attitudes have become a teensy bit more conservative?”

It’s this kind of exaggerated rhetoric that made me think you were defensive in the first place. “Panting and huffing” to tell you something? To be fair, the article was addressed to Canadians and it hardly suggested that you or any other American ought to pick up sticks on the spot. “A teensy bit more conservative?” What I recall was a dramatic contrast between Canadian and French gains and American losses. I simply can’t write that off as “teensy.” I may wish it were “teensy,” but I don’t see it that way.

" Well, gee, thanks guys, but, um, I already had the 2000 presidential election to tell me that. Thanks anyway.
(Okay, now the quibble about election statistics. Sure, the liberals may have won it on numbers, but I’m saying
that in America there was a shift was away from the Clinton era of liberalism, that was reflected in the election.
No, it wasn’t a landslide election, but it was significant that the Gore campaign, who might reasonably have
been viewed as Clinton’s successor, “more of the same”, didn’t get a landslide, either. See what I’m saying?"

Yeah, I do but I see what the Candian survey documents, and what the election indicates as potentially different. Bush ran on a “compassionate conservative” platform with his multicultural convention, and his waffling on abortion, the environment, etc. In other words, he did everything he could to mute his cultural conservatism, and emphasized his economic conservatism. At the same time, Gore’s lackluster support had a lot to do with Gore’s personality and with backlash from Clinton’s Monica problems. So I did not see the election as a clear mandate for cultural conservatism. That said, I don’t disagree with your main point: a more “liberal” electorate would have chosen Gore over Bush regardless of all of this. (BTW: I never think of Clinton or Gore as liberals; I think of them as center Democrats. Paul Wellstone is my idea of a liberal.)

“And I predict it will swing back the other way in 8 to 12 years/”

You may well be right, but a lot of things can happen in that time. Consider how precarious a woman’s ability to get a safe and legal abortion has already become. Just as the Bush tax cuts will plague Americans for years after some possible swing to the left, so further tampering with abortion provision could be very hard to reverse, regardless of changing opinions.

*"I find it amusing that Canadian researchers have nothing better to do than to go around measuring American attitudes to things. *

Well clearly they’re interested in seeing where Canada stands in relation to other parts of the world. This is a reasonable attitude for social researchers: if Candians are become more equalitarian on sexual difference, how are other parts of the world faring?

“I’m not aware of any American researchers who are currently measuring Canadian attitudes to things. We don’t care. Why should they?”

First, I suspect that American researchers do take an interest in Canada for all sorts of things: again, a comparative approach. Second, maybe you don’t care, but others might. I pay attention to Canadian elections (and to Mexican) b/c these are our nearest neighbors, our trading partners, etc. Third, it’s unreasonable for you not to recognize that other nations, especially Canada, pay more attention to the US then the US is likely to pay to them. The US has more military and economic power than any other country on the earth. US policies have far-reaching and real repercussions for other nations. Culturally, other nations increasingly consume US media (e.g., “Baywatch,” the most watched television show on the planet) more than their own media. That gives them a strong motive for taking an interest in US cultural trends, don’t you think? Fourth, I think it’s terribly insular to be interested only in one’s own country; I wouldn’t congratulate any nation, least of all the US, for limiting cultural awareness to its own frontiers.

*“Mandelstam, I’m trying to tell you that this one survey does not represent what’s really going on at the
grass-roots level in the United States. We are not, by and large, as a culture, going back to the Bad Old Days
of the Eisenhower Era and “keep them in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.” No way. Never happen.” *

Well, actually, now you’re saying something quite different. Before you were saying that you already knew what the Candian survey was telling you. Now you’re arguing that the survey is misleading. Okay, I’m listening…

*"The phrase “master of the house” means hardly anything here in the Heartland, Canadian surveys notwithstanding. Every year I know more and more women who are ruling the roost, raising kids, working full-time, sometimes making more money than the “master of the house”. Every year I know more and more women who are getting up on their hind legs and telling the “Master of the House” just where he can go with his drinkin’ up the paycheck every week, blue collar, white collar, it doesn’t matter, it’s “shape up or ship out”. And every year I know more and more women, at the grass-roots hometown level, who are electing to have, and
raise, kids all by themselves, with no “Master of the house” in their lives at all. There’s no way any of these
women, whether “significantly othered” or not, are gonna go back to “we let the Man of the House make those big important decisions.” *

Well, it’s good to know you feel that way. As I said, we’re undoubtedly on the same side. But don’t you think it’s a shame that some American women feel they must pay lipservice to the “Master of the House” rhetoric, even while in real-life they run the house, raise the kids, bring home the paycheck etc.? Or that some American men would feel emasculated if they didn’t hold on to that myth? Wouldn’t you be pleased if the American numbers had looked more like the Canadian numbers?

“It’s changed. Permanently. We can never go back.”

On abortion, I think we could. That is, I think we could easily get to the point where poorer women are forced to go to illegal providers or to give birth to children against their will. I also think women’s economic success could easily suffer if such attitudes continue to gain ground. That doesn’t mean I throw up my hands in despair. It only means that when I read about a trend of this kind, if it seems to have been done by professional researchers, I take it for what it is.

I don’t know quotes yet…


don’t you think it’s a shame that some American women feel they must pay lipservice to the “Master of the House” rhetoric, even while in real-life they run the house, raise the kids, bring home the paycheck etc.?


I’m still trying to figure out what the hell you meant by this. The people who agreed with the “Master of the house” statements didn’t do so because The Patriachy was holding a gun to their heads, they agreed with it because they believed in the statement. How is that “lipservice?”
I don’t understand how you can read so much into a simple number, without even knowing the questions asked.

On an aside, I would say that yes, the husband should be the master of the house. And, I’ll be damned, the wife should be the master of the house as well. Both should be in control and informed of household affairs, so I would have answered “yes” to the hypothetical survey question. Questions can be interepereted in more than one way, but maybe I’m just a grammatical anomaly.

askol

Generally I view polls as either puffery for the newshounds or serious analyses. Watching a .03% shift in the polls for Candidate A after a speech is just silly. Looking at actual attitudes among people over time seems useful.

For once, however, I have really got to question the accuracy and legitimacy of a long-term poll. Does it bother me to see some sort of upswing in “conservative family values”? Not really. However, they are claiming that nearly one in two of all adults in the U.S. has this attitude. Even granting that I do not live in the Bible Belt or some other place where very strong conservative values are held tightly, it is difficult for me to believe that anywhere near half the people believe in absolute paternal authority when I do not know one single person who believes it.

The most arch-reactionary troglodyte in my acquaintance, who brags about his right-wing views, picked up my habit, when I was working with him, of referring to calls home as “checking in with the boss.” He stomps around and makes a lot of good growling noises, but I know darned well that he does not make unilateral decisions for the family.

In order for the 48% number to be real, it would almost seem as though every person whom I did not know in this country believed in it.

Perhaps it is true (and I am certainly sure that there are some people who subscribe to the concept of “The Father Rules”), but I would genuinely like to know what questions were used for cross-checking the responses.

Mrs Mundi & I were watching TV a few weeks ago, and a segment came on about some woman who had written abook/started a movement/hired a good PR man – something like that. Anyway, the title/slogan/catch line was “Surrender, wife”. It took about 1.5 seconds before we were both teary-eyed with laughter. It has become a common phrase around the Mundi household since then, but it never seems to have the exact effect the lady on TV was talking about. :smiley:

tom: “Even granting that I do not live in the Bible Belt or some other place where very strong conservative values are held tightly, it is difficult for me to believe that anywhere near half the people believe in
absolute paternal authority when I do not know one single person who believes it.”

That was my first reaction too. It would be good to know the demographics: including age, level of education, geographic locale, etc. OTOH, the number of people who support choice on abortion has dropped substantially over the years. Of course, I’m not suggesting that there’s definite overlap between an anti-abortion stance and belief in male mastery. Northern Piper, How about writing to the Globe and Mail and asking for some cites? :wink:

Spiritus, I heard about the “Surrender” book too. As often happens with these things, the book originally had a far less controversial title (if an equally dubious premise) and the publishers insisted on the reactionary title b/c they knew they’d get more publicity.

It’s The Surrendered Wife http://www.surrenderedwife.com/ and it’s the most revolting thing to hit the bestseller lists since Marabel Morgan’s The Total Woman way back in the Glorious Seventies (am I the only one who remembers that?)

Excerpt from an excerpt.

Am I the only one who reads this and feels an irresistible bubble of hysterical laughter rising up in her chest? “I think I’ll take the kids and go hang out in Tibet for a while…” “Whatever you think.”

“There’s this guy who says he’s Jesus, I wanna give him all our life savings and go live in his commune.” “Whatever you think.”

See, I’d be proving to him that I trusted his judgement, and who knows, it might be good for me to go outside my comfort zone. Hey, honey, what’s the Jesus guy’s name? Jim Jones? Oh, he’s a Reverend, well, that’s good. What? Oh, we need to swing by the grocery store on the way to the airport and pick up some Kool-Aid? Whatever you think.

Somehow I think that that is a joke.:slight_smile: It reads like a somethingawful website.

Doesen’t that say that they are thoroughly disreputable?

the “surrendered wife” woman is planning to bring out a book called the “surrendered single”, telling all us gals how to marry the man of our dreams.

i swear to g-d it’s worse than the shagging “rules”.

Rule 1
i’m supposed to downplay my achievements so as not to bruise his poor widdle ego.

“you never passed a single exam in your life? how splendid. me? oh i’m just a medical student,i got into college by a fluke, now, tell me all about YOUR achievements in the field of unemployment.”

Rule 2
I’m not supposed to ask any questions, i’m supposed to let him open up in his own time.

“so you’ve been married 7 times before, how thrilling, and your ex-wives ALL have custody of the kids because of your history of spousal abuse, how jolly. and you tell me this on our HONEYMOON, how spendid”

Rule 3
oh yes, and i’m not suppsed to question his judgement. ever.

"you’d like me to have sex with all your friends so that you can sell the videos? sure honey, whatever you think "

“you’d like me to get pregnant and give up work, even though i’ve only known you for 6 weeks? sure honey, whatever you think.”
so that’s me on the road to a happy and fulfilling marriage, and not the manipulative, passive-aggressive relationships i COULD of been having.

I find the OP’s comment that the U.S. is “out of step” with the rest of world quite amusing. Yes, indeed, the U.S. is out of step with the rest of the world on many issues, and always has been – starting with the notion that “all men are created equal,” and the separation of church and state, and including the great technological advances of the early 20th Century that were “out of step” with traditional modes of transportation, communication, illumination, etc. And including issues such as gun control, medical care, and free speech.

There are many sociological studies that rank national cultures on a scale from “individualistic” to “collectivistic.” The U.S. always comes out the most individualistic of all countries – not a surprise, since the U.S. is largely made up of immigrants who left their family, group, people to start a new life as individuals.

Part of that individualistic culture is the sanctity of the home. I don’t have the context of the particular question on father as master of the house. Was the same question asked about mother? Was the question interpreted to mean, “How I run my household is MY business, not the business of the government”? That is, was the opposition father vs mother, or was the opposition parent/self vs government/group?

Interpretation of survey results is a slippery business, and one must wonder exactly what the context was for that question and that response.

And, by the way, every nation is “out of step” with the rest of the world in some way. Japan ranks as the most materialistic (success-driven) country in most sociological studies; Greece as the country with the least tolerance of ambiguity; etc. The UK certainly has attitudes that are out of step with the rest of the EU (forget the rest of the world), and France, well, France is France. What a dull world it would be if everyone were in step with everyone else – I guess that would be the ideal world to the Communist Chinese.

CK Pardon me, but why is it that some people (you being the proximate example, I fear) cannot read anything that is even remotely critical of some aspect of the United States without getting all hot under the collar and jumping on to a patriotic soapbox? The article was to do with the results of a survey; its observations regarding those results were extremely measured. Nowhere did the writer claim that the US was a primitive cave-dwelling society populated by sexist Neanderthals. Nowhere did the article allege that the US was the only country to differ statistically from any other country in any fashion.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of the survey and, as I’ve said, I found its results surprising. However I did not find it that surprising b/c as Duck Duck Goose pointed out in the first place, the US’s growing conservatism (including cultural conservatism) is not in question.

Aside: your attempt to credit the US with the notion that all men are created equal is not only misplaced it’s also incorrect. All of the countries involved–not only the US, but also Canada and France–have democratic institutions predicated on the fundamental political equality of all citizens. As I’ve often had occasion to observe on this board (!!!) democracy and political equality were not US inventions. Rather, these ideas developed over time, originally in Greece, later in England, Italy and France, and they were picked up the eighteenth-century framers of the US constitution. It is fair to say that the “fathers” of our country were excellent appropriaters of this Western legacy, and that they added to it substantively. Beyond that you’re out on a limb.

And anyway, what’s it got to do with the OP? Now if you’d been writing to make some observation about the fact that our country was based on the idea that all men are created equal, I’d understand why you’d chosen to reply to a debate about patriarchy ;).

I am not surprised that nearly half of Americans think that fathers should be “masters” of their houses. We’ve had Sheherezade Ali telling African American women this for over a decade. The Promisekeepers continue to grow at a phenomenal rate. The Baptists are reminding women to “be submissive to your husbands.” Phyllis Schlafly has been urging a return to submission for decades, and “post-feminists” are rejecting much that our foremothers fought for so that the boys will like them. As irishgirl pointed out, there are popular books selling like hotcakes urging women to be less so they can catch a man.

I don’t think it’s increasing conservatism that’s causing all of it–I think it’s nostalgia for an ideal that never existed and consumerism that is driving this current wave. It’s about selling books, getting members, and getting paid for preaching (or honoraria for lecturing). For the audiences, it’s a promise of easy security. If everyone knows their role and stays in it there will be no more conflict.

I would expect a drive for security to happen in conjunction with economic insecurity. That’s the reason I think the driving force is nostalgia–the rise in popularity of patriarchal ideals is occurring in a time of widespread prosperity.

Or, maybe I just don’t get it at all.