Esquire Magazine has released a new survey of American men born in 1960 and 1990. The survey compares attitudes on everything from politics to which decade produced the best music to what feature is most attractive in a woman. The results suggest the sexism portrayed in the popular show Mad Men may be more rampant amongst millenials than those born the year AMC’s fictional ad execs began their 5th Avenue reign.
According to the survey released Thursday, more 20 year-old men — about 20% as compared to 14% of their older counterparts — would rather their wives stay at home and take care of the children than maintain a separate career outside of the home. Almost as striking is the assertion that only about 47% of the younger men, as compared to 55% of 50 year-olds, believe their female partner “should do whatever she wants” in making the choice to work or stay at home. And despite efforts of the women’s movement to degender caretaking roles, only 1% of 20-year-old men and 3% of older respondents would choose to stay at home while their wife brings in the primary income.
What’s behind the younger generation’s reversion to traditional gender roles? Perhaps watching their mothers struggle with the unreasonable demand of maintaining the role of full-time caretaker and full-time employee makes them less willing to impose such stress on their partner. Or perhaps it’s a result of naïveté. Young men who have yet to enter the workforce and start families are less wise to the reality that this lifestyle often requires two incomes to sustain. More worrying, these attitudes could suggest kids born in the 1990′s have fallen prey to increasingly conservative portrayals of women in the media, missing shows such as Maude and Murphy Brown in favor of Desperate Housewives and a never-ending diet of reality shows that hype the worst of gender roles for men and women.
Also worrying is the younger survey respondents’ opinions on a woman’s right to legal abortion — more 20 year-olds self-identified as “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” Only 19% consider themselves “prochoice, without qualification” while 38% consider themselves against the right to legal abortion, but with exceptions for rape and incest. Their father’s generation is more likely on all counts to support a woman’s right to abortion, an indication the backslide in political reproductive rights on the state and national level during the past two decades has seeped into the minds of the younger cohort.
This same generation, which has lived much of their conscious lives under the Bush administration, are also primary victims of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that touted misinformation about abortion, as well as hormonal contraception and condoms. These programs also promoted traditional views of marriage and of men and women within it, suggesting their influence may also be at work in the disturbing statistics surrounding their opinions on women’s place in the home. These young men also came of age at the dawn of crisis pregnancy centers, religious establishments that pose as fake clinics near college campuses and real women’s health centers for the sole purpose of spewing lies like ‘abortion causes breast cancer.’
No matter the root causes of these disturbing findings — your opinions in the comments are more than welcome! — it’s clear young women, who make up about 56% of college students and are increasingly matching their male counterparts salaries upon entering the workforce (though still falling behind later), have much the same fight on their hands as women’s movement activists in the 1960′s to get their brothers feet off their necks. Far more important than establishing who gets the title of coolest man in America — both generations agreed it’s Clint Eastwood — is making sure the next time Essence does this survey, questions about a woman’s place and her right to bodily autonomy seem so outdated as to only belong in a retro television show.
photo credit: thanks to kevindooley via flickr
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