Education, Training and Professional Experience
Paul was the kind of man Tom Wolfe would call a “master of the universe.” He had a high-powered job in finance and worked long hours, sometimes seven days a week. He identified strongly with his role as provider, so although his wife, Ellen, had a low-paying job, he took care of most of their bills. While he made lots of money by most people’s standards, he spent it lavishly, and he had dreams of living in real luxury, with a sprawling estate, lots of household help, and plenty of leisure time to enjoy it all. Then he lost his job.
That was two years ago, and Paul and Ellen have used up what little savings they had. Now they’re trying to survive on Ellen’s meager income. Paul’s early attempts to find another job failed, and he has slipped into a depressive funk. He sleeps most of the day, and when he’s not sleeping, he’s often in a rage, his explosive anger the only thing that makes him feel powerful in what he sees as a hopeless, emasculating situation.
Then there’s Steve. After scaling the corporate mountain for a number of years, he, too, had a high-powered finance job in his native Australia. Shortly after he married Kimberly, an American who also had a well-established career, they moved to the United States, and Steve left his hard-earned professional status behind. He started over in the States, though, and had begun building a thriving business in banking when Kimberly became pregnant. “We knew we didn’t want our kids raised by nannies,” Steve says now, several years later. They looked impartially at both their careers and agreed that hers probably had more upside potential. “Okay, I’ll stay home,” he said. “Kimberly didn’t really want to give up her career,” he recalls, “because it was really taking off, and I was willing to do it. I really love children, and although I felt a little anxious about leaving my job, this just seemed to make the most sense.”
Why is one man incapacitated by the loss of a job and another, equally successful, man able to give it up willingly? Where does this male provider mentality come from, anyway? And how can twenty-first- century men who buy into the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” image ever reconcile themselves to playing a secondary role in the family financial hierarchy?
THE EVOLUTION OF MEN
Despite the fact that much of recorded history is an archive of men’s thoughts and deeds (and far more of the latter), until recently not much attention was paid to masculinity itself, to how men define themselves as male or to what differentiates men from women. There are the shallow stereotypes -- men are macho and aggressive, they don’t like to ask for directions -- but beyond the baritone voice, burly biceps, and five o’clock shadow, we know very little about who they are as a gender.
That seems to be changing. Thanks in part to the women’s movement, which prompted deep and widespread analyses of the female condition, more experts of every stripe, from anthropologists to sociologists, are starting to look at the experience of being male, from prehistoric times to the present. With books as diverse as David Buss’s The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, Michael Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History, and Susan Faludi’s Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, a portrait of men has begun to emerge that’s far more complex and challenging than the stereotypes suggest.
During this tricky transition in modern marriages, when men are increasingly being unseated from their financial thrones, it’s essential for women to try to understand who men are as human beings and why they react to things the way they do. Only with this understanding will it be possible for contemporary women to sustain a relationship with their male partners. With that in mind, we’ve taken a survey of the available literature to provide some partial glimpses into the male psyche -- glimpses that can offer helpful insights to couples who are floundering in the swiftly moving cultural current of a gender-role shift.
Evolutionary psychologists, who study the prehistoric underpinnings of human behavior and emotions, believe that the most basic clues about what it means to be male lie in our evolutionary history. Men took on the role of provider for survival reasons. Those who were good hunters -- who were muscular, strong, quick, and aggressive, who were good shots with a spear, and/or who had personal power within their social group and therefore were able to command a greater share of the communal food -- were more likely to find mates. As a result, they also were more likely to pass along their genes than their less powerful, less dominant brethren, thereby begetting a whole new generation of virile offspring.
Generation after generation of natural selection eventually bred men who were not only physically larger and stronger than women but who were also eager to go on risky hunting expeditions, slay buffalo, and even compete against other men for limited resources (including women). Although humans are infinitely adaptable and able to change their lifestyle to adjust to their environment -- scientists say we have our uniquely malleable and creative brains to thank for that -- it seems to researchers more and more likely that the desire to support and protect a family is encoded in men’s DNA. In the most primal sense, men may be programmed for hunting, or the modern version: providing financially.
As modern technology allows scientists to peer into humans’ brains with greater accuracy, the results confirm what women (especially those women who have raised little boys and little girls) have suspected for a long time: that men and women are indeed wired differently. Like it or not, it’s essential that women understand these differences and accept them ...
Bringing Home the Bacon
Making Marriage Work When She Makes More Money. Copyright © by Harriet Pappenheim. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. move on to their struggles over the division of housework, parenting roles, sex and intimacy, and financial decisions. Finally, they discuss how these marriages—particularly those with stay-at-home or very involved fathers—can positively influence a child’s development. Though aimed at a female readership, the book offers relationship-building advice that can be applied to all partnerships, regardless of economic circumstances. Recommended for public and academic libraries.—Marianne Le, Everett Community Coll. Lib., WA