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From Hegemonic to Responsive Masculinity: the Transformative Power of the Provider Role

Since the ‘60s the male provider role has been under assault. Associated with the strongly bi-furcated gendered division of labor which has come to prevail in the West, it is blamed for hegemonic masculinity—a term used to describe the problems that have followed from that. However, what I want to suggest here is that we should not hurry to label the provider role as a problem. As I argue in my chapter recently published in The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health, male provisioning is actually closely associated with and an expression of responsive masculinity, that aspect of the male psyche that responds to the needs of partner and offspring. Not only is male providing an expression of male nurturing behavior, the providing actually generates the nurturing. The bad publicity has been undeserved.

In 1981 Jessie Bernard wrote an influential paper on the provider role which set the terms of the debate. She explained that the provider role “delineated relationships within a marriage and family in a way that added to the legal, religious, and other advantages men had over women.” She explained how it was psychologically crippling for women:

The wife of a more successful provider became for all intents and purposes a parasite, with little to do except indulge or pamper herself. The psychology of such dependence could become all but crippling.”1

Others took up the baton. An influential report in the U.K. attributed both marital breakdown and fathers abandoning their children to male support for the family.2 A United Nations report suggested that it encouraged domestic violence.3

The belief that male support for the family is essentially harmful has helped to propel forward many of our policies here in the U.K. This belief underpins the urgency of the equality agenda and the importance attached to ensuring that women have equal representation in the workplace and equal earnings while surprisingly little attention is given to the financial rewards of men’s work. It has also underpinned a huge swathe of welfare benefits created to ensure that females do not need to depend on direct male support.

The Mystery of Male Altruism

There is little evidence to justify why the provider role has been held in such low regard. The more unpleasant, dangerous and demanding the job, the more likely it is to be done by a man. And while men earn more than women there have traditionally been strong, legally enforced obligations on men throughout the ages to support and provide for women with the result that women spend most of the money earned by men.4 If we look at the creation and movement of resources from men to women, the provider role looks like an altruistic mechanism and it is this possibility I would like to explore.

For men, earning money appears to be strongly linked to reproduction. A number of studies show that men who have partners are more likely to be employed than men who don’t have partners,5 married men earn more than men who are cohabiting and men who are married and living with their own children have the biggest wage premiums of all. The same studies provide evidence to suggest that this is not simply a case of selection bias. Relationship opportunities promote productivity and increased productivity promotes relationships.

The relationships of men who earn decent wages are more likely to transition to marriage: once married, those relationships appear more stable. There is also some evidence to suggest that men with traditional gender role attitudes i.e. those who anticipate providing are more likely to be involved in childcare as well.

As mentioned, this male support for the family appears to be an altruistic activity as most of male earnings are spent on the family and often controlled by mothers6—although this may have been more the case in our recent past when women were more dependent on men.

In order to understand the mystery of male altruism I turn in my chapter to studies of evolution. This is because evolutionary psychology and anthropology have devoted a great deal of attention to the parallel question of paternal investment, that is why human males almost alone of all the primate species stay around to care for their children.

Paternal investment coincided with enormous increases in brain size which began to exceed the capacity limits of the birth canal. This in turn was related to the bipedalism which made the birth canal narrower. Human physiology accommodated this problem by timing childbirth earlier in our development. According to Finkel and Eastwick, compared to other primates humans are born 12 months premature.7 This means that human infants are completely dependent on an adult carer for a much longer period of time than other primates and during this time the caregiver’s capacity to seek resources is significantly compromised. These large brains also require copious amounts of fat which human mothers need to provide through their milk which adds to the burden of care.8 Human mothers required significant levels of support to be able to feed both their offspring and themselves and are particularly dependent on help from those around them. Anthropologists have coined the term “alloparent” for those who help provide this care.9 While there has been extensive discussion about who these alloparents are, and it is accepted that other women and children play a significant role, various lines of analysis have converged on the view that paternal investment was crucial to infant survival. Paternal investment was secured through pair bonding and various suggestions have been put forward about how this pair bonding occurred.10

Male Responsiveness as a Precursor to Paternal Investment

Viewed in this light one can see that the evolutionary pressure was for men to be particularly responsive to the needs and demands of women. It was responsive masculinity which facilitated paternal investment and which in the long run helped their infants (and their genes) to survive.

Psychological clues in support of this hypothesis suggest that I am not far off the mark. Firstly, it emerges that although men and women appear to experience emotions similarly there are gender differences in how emotions are expressed. Women are more emotionally expressive with the presence of familiar others acting as an eliciting stimulus.11 What these emotions appear to be doing is enabling the rapid translation of cognitive information into a form of behavior which will spur others (often men) into action. Often these actions are altruistic in that they do not appear to have any immediate benefit for the actor but will facilitate the perpetuation of his or her genes

This may be encouraged by the higher levels of empathic responsiveness which men have towards women than they do towards other men. In fact, just as male empathic responsiveness towards females is increasing, their empathy for other males goes down. This fits in evolutionary predictions. The process begins in puberty when one can see how an increasing responsiveness to females is likely to further a male’s reproductive fitness as he will be motivated to meet female needs. At the same time a decreasing empathy for other males facilitates their ability to compete with other men for these females.12

One of the clearest products of male responsiveness is provisioning behavior. Ultimately this has been encouraged by females: males are responding to female demand. Evidence from some of the most extensive social and psychological surveys suggest that women attach much more importance to their mate’s capacity to earn than men do.13 And when men are good financial prospects these relationships are more likely to transition to marriage and these marriages to last.14

The Provider Role as the Cornerstone on Which Paternal Involvement Is Built

However, the capacity to provide material goods is not the central and most important aspect of fatherhood. Rather I argue that this capacity to provide secures men a place within the family which then creates the opportunity for further paternal behaviors.

These are helped along because men appear to be primed to have a nurturing response to their infants. For example, men listening to cries from their own infants experienced increased activation in several brain areas including the hypothalamus which has an important role in the release of hormones and therefore will have indirect impacts on behavior. Fathers’ brains also responded differently to images of their own babies compared to unrelated babies showing that babies are a salient stimulus for men.15 Perhaps most importantly research from North America finds that fathers have lower levels of testosterone.16 Other research establishes that committed fatherhood actually causes men’s testosterone levels to drop. Lower levels of testosterone result in increased paternal response in men.

What we can see, therefore, is the biological mechanism underlying the observable change in behavior. The very act of providing for mate and offspring may be the mechanism by which dominant, mate-seeking masculinity becomes responsive and nurturing. Following from this we can see that male providing, far from being a dominance behavior as assumed by Bernard and others, emerges from the male nurturing repertoire.

Barry and Owens explain in their chapter in the same volume that while men are in the stage of mate seeking, i.e. before they have settled into a long-term committed relationship, they have higher levels of testosterone which facilitate dominance striving behaviors. These dominance striving behaviors can take on a very wide variety of forms depending on cultural context. For example, they may involve costly signaling, creative outputs or pro-social behaviors depending on what is valued in the society in which they are produced.

Striving for dominance does not typically involve aggressive behaviors unless other channels for dominance display are unavailable, status has been severely threatened or hierarchies have broken down. However, once men are in a committed relationship, and even more so when they are in a committed relationship in which they have fathered children, their levels of testosterone go down thereby priming them for fatherhood. This shadows the relationship mentioned earlier between male family commitment and male productive activity.

Observable changes in behavior are often associated with biochemical markers. In the particular situation that we are considering, the transition from mate-seeking to mate-supporting behavior, we should not be surprised that this is associated with reduced testosterone levels.

It would be interesting to find out whether the male productive activity following from committed family relationships is also accompanied by the lower levels of testosterone which often accompany fatherhood and facilitate paternal responsiveness. If male productive activity in this context is accompanied by lower levels of testosterone it could be seen as signaling a different “order” of behavior; the male nurturing as hypothesized here, rather than the dominance striving response.

Whether it did so would be influenced by the cultural context in which it occurred. For, as Gray and Anderson explain, fatherhood is not always associated with lower levels of testosterone.17 The association is more likely to occur in monogamous settings and where men are expected to be to some degree involved in the care of their children. It could be socially useful to find out the constellation of circumstances in which male provisioning is accompanied by a decline in testosterone and therefore could signal a form of nurturing behavior. A possible hypothesis following from this could be that where men perceive that their productive behavior has a key role in provisioning the family it could be accompanied by a decline in testosterone. Where men see their productive activity as subsidiary and non-essential the testosterone decline may be moderated.

Conclusion

This discussion is based on my chapter of the same title in The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health where it is discussed in more depth. As we can see, a serious analysis of hegemonic and responsive masculinity makes us unable to ignore the strong link between these two aspects of male behavior. That link, and the biochemical changes associated with these behaviors are, as discussed, worth further investigation.

But, if the ideas outlined here are even partially verified they have implications for the impact of current social changes on men. For example, will men who are unable to engage in any form of provisioning activity be equally good at other forms of nurturing? Where channels for constructive forms of dominance striving have been removed how will this impact on men? What impact will being removed from a nurturing, committed relationship have on men’s motivation to provide?

The most important point to take away from this is that the male provider role is not something which we can simply label hegemonic and therefore seek to dispense with. Rather it is a counterpart of responsive masculinity and therefore a deeply rooted and invaluable part of human male behavior. Attempts to ignore male providing, or destroy it without fully understanding it, will, I suspect, incur a terrible human cost.


Belinda is author of The Private Revolution and co-author with Geoff Dench of Valuing Informal Care. Her writing is available here. You can follow her on Twitter @bbhippopotamus

References

1 Bernard, J., 1981. The rise and fall of the good provider-role. American Psychologist36(1), pp.1-12.
2 Coote, A., Harman, H. and Hewitt, P., 1990. The Family Way: A new approach to policy-making. Institute for public policy research.
3 Report of the Expert Group Meeting on Violence in the Family with Special Emphasis on its Effects on Wome. Vienna, 8-12 December 1986.
4 Van Creveld, M., 2013. The privileged sex. DLVC Enterprises.
5 Dench, G., 2017. What Women Want: Evidence from British Social Attitudes. Routledge.
6 Pahl, J., 1995. His money, her money: Recent research on financial organisation in marriage. Journal of economic psychology16(3), pp.361-376. See page 364
7 Finkel, E. J., & Eastwick, P. W. (2015). Attachment and pairbonding. Current opinion in behavioral sciences3, 7-11.
8 Lieberman, D., 2014. The story of the human body: evolution, health, and disease. Vintage.
9 Hrdy, S.B., 1999. Mother nature: A history of mothers, infants, and natural selection. New York, p.315.
10 Geary, D. C. (2000). Evolution and proximate expression of human paternal investment. Psychological bulletin126(1), 55.
11 Lennon, R. and Eisenberg, N., 1987. Gender and age differences in empathy and sympathy. Empathy and its development, pp.195-217.
12 Endresen, I.M. and Olweus, D., 2001. Self-reported empathy in Norwegian adolescents: Sex differences, age trends, and relationship to bullying.
13 Buss, D.M., 1989. Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and brain sciences12(1), pp.1-14.
14 Xie, Y., Raymo, J.M., Goyette, K. and Thornton, A., 2003. Economic potential and entry into marriage and cohabitation. Demography40(2), pp.351-367.
15 Swain, J.E., Lorberbaum, J.P., Kose, S. and Strathearn, L., 2007. Brain basis of early parent–infant interactions: psychology, physiology, and in vivo functional neuroimaging studies. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry48(3‐4), pp.262-287.
16 Storey, A.E., Walsh, C.J., Quinton, R.L. and Wynne-Edwards, K.E., 2000. Hormonal correlates of paternal responsiveness in new and expectant fathers. Evolution and Human Behavior21(2), pp.79-95.
17 Gray, P.B. and Anderson, K.G., 2010. Fatherhood: Evolution and human paternal behavior. Harvard University Press.

81 Comments

  1. £120 for an ebook!? I’ll wait for the movie…
    But seriously, thanks for this intriguing article.

  2. somewoman says

    For the most part, this article attacks a straw man. The male provider role isn’t really under attack, despite what the quote in this article suggests. In the 80s and 90s, feminists were quite active in movements against deadbeat dads and for child support. That too involves a male provider role. Even within marriage, most people expect a father to work and provide for the family unless his wife and he want him to be a stay at home dad.

    I’ve never gotten the impression from feminists that they want men to cease providing for their children. Feminists in the 50s through 80s were more interested in attacking the traditionally female role of homemaking rather than the male provider role. But even that has waned considerably since the 90s. Now it seems they don’t want anyone to have to work. Basic income for all.

    • @somewoman

      How are deadbeat dad laws pro male provider role? It’s a system that fully divorces the support from the source.

      The state collects money from the father (if not he goes to jail) and cuts a check to the mother while often restricting access to the children. Yes the men are “providing” support, but with none of the familial bonding or experiences that make the role fulfilling.

      • Jim says

        Hear! Hear! The entire system is set up to use the father’s resources – by force if necessary – while diminishing his paternal rights. A divorced friend observed that there’s a reason it’s called “snatch.”

    • See my comment below. They don’t want men to cease providing but male income has seriously declined at the lower income quartiles relative to women’s income, boys are falling behind in education and I know that in academia there are men who feel and probably are discriminated against on account of their gender. They want men to go on providing, but they don’t want them to have the tools to do it or the recognition for it. Men’s invisible role.

  3. Renate Meijer says

    I find it striking how many women think they can tell men how to be men. Men have the right to be men on their own terms, without women prescribing their roles, boundaries and ideals, mostly to suit their own agendas.

    • I am afraid we have been doing it since the beginning of time. That is why feminism got it so wrong but gained such traction.

      • SomeoneSomewhere says

        Well, not anymore. Men are starting to go their own way now.

  4. Jean Levant says

    I presume it’s a serious rebuttal for rad fems, Belinda. But I’m not so sure that “providing” males are in great peril, except, for sure, in the tiny world of rad fems.

    • E. Olson says

      The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and radical feminists are about the squeakiest wheel around, which family law reflects. For example, welfare systems typically show preference to single moms versus intact families, divorce law routinely favors women’s parental rights over male parental rights, child support laws are often totally divorced from visitation rights and even paternity (see link), no-fault divorce and equal splitting of assets great favor women who file 70% of divorces which often entitles wives to substantial portion of the wealth that was usually generated exclusively by the efforts and talents of the husband (see Jeff Bezos, Paul McCartney, Mel Gibson, Johnny Carson, etc.), and he said vs she said cases of sexual assault, rape, and child abuse almost always favor the rights and privacy of the female accuser.

      https://5newsonline.com/2017/01/12/oklahoma-man-ordered-to-pay-child-support-despite-not-being-father/

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/05/5-expensive-divorce-settlements-history/

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        Forcing a guy to support a child that is not his is truly disgusting. It’s the sort of thing that makes me so angry that I’d throw in my lot with whatever ‘alt-right’ group might dedicate themselves to overturning it. Buy whatever means necessary.

    • Actually here in the UK there has been a very serious decline in male wages for men in the lower income quartile. The upshot of this is that among the less well off marriage doesn’t happen because women want to marry men who can provide. And I see from what Tucker Carlson said earlier in the year that the same very serious problem exists in the states. The decline in the male wage underpins the collapse in marriage. The provider role is still very strong among the elites (who tend to be the ones to advocate feminist policies) but it is the absence of the male ability to provide which causes the poor to be poor.

      • E. Olson says

        bbhippopotamus – good point, as there is no real public policy concern about lower wage males. Obama reconfigured his 2009 stimulus to give most of the money towards to the public sector with lots of female workers, because of feminist concerns that infrastructure spending would employ too many men. Open border proponents in Europe and the US also hurt the working man, because 90% of the illegals are men who will lower wages to take jobs from low income citizens. And of course Title IX has also meant that universities devote far more resources to recruiting female athletes and setting up female only scholarships, which is also more widely seen in employment, as no employer by choice or mandate sets up quotas and set-asides for male workers (unless they are victim minority members), but such things as common for females. Thus many lower class women will much prefer the certainty of a government welfare check to the poor wage prospects of marrying a working class man, if they aren’t attractive enough to marry up.

        • Daz says

          E.O

          Good grief!

          Do you ever re-read what your posts. Your opinions on women, immigrants and ‘poor people’ are comedy gold. You are a caricature dear sir.
          Please keep it up, it’s entertaining.

      • Lert345 says

        bbhippopotamus

        There was a study done recently following men employed in the fracking industry who saw their salaries rise to high levels. Births increased, but not marriage. It appears that cultural forces related to out-of-wedlock childbearing are stronger than the economic status of men.

        https://www.nber.org/papers/w23408
        Quote: ” analysis reveals that in response to local-area fracking production, both marital and non-marital births increase and there is no evidence of an increase in marriage rates.

        • Saw file says

          @Lert345
          You are making a pertinent point, but it isn’t singular to “fracking”.
          Many of us who choose careers in such ‘always away’ industry’s understand that our families neef stable lives, and so we choose to travel around from job to job. It’s a huge sacrifice that is compensated with high hourly/day salaries.
          How much $ is extended time away from your life worth, related to Life value?
          How many women have the fortitude to live ‘alone’ and stay in that type of relationship? Many can, but most don’t choose to.
          Younger men learn from the old bulls.
          That’s the primary cause of the situation you describe.
          Too many of such men get ‘suckered’ into crap situations.
          If you want to present the ” cultural ” argument, then you’d have to define that further…

  5. Angela says

    @somewoman

    Ms Brown is talking about academic debates. Of course the real world is often quite divorced from those debates.

    • Unfortunately that isn’t true. Academic debates have influenced the real world and are partially responsible for the decline in male wages, male education and the decline in rates of marriage which leads to the increasing inequality which we see in the West.

  6. Ben Sukromny says

    Would be interesting to see if testosterone replacement therapy, which seems to be growing in popularity, reduces paternal investment.

  7. Jean Levant says

    I love all this psychology stuff, whether evolutionary or not. Man spirit is a no-brainer, folks. That’s all about testosterone level and perpetuating his selfish genes, you see (by courtesy of Richard Dawkins).

    • Jolly swagman says

      There is no group more selfish than today’s ruling class elite/progressive class. Yet, look around the world and you will see that (thank god) the anointed ones barely reproduce. What’s your no-brainer explanation for this? Curious to know.

  8. Simon says

    Can we say that the great divide between conservatives and progressives is that of a prudential, reformist, realistic, evidence-based social engineering facing a foolhardy, revolutionary, constructivist, ideology-based one ?

    One argues that anthropological schemes are delicate equilibria to manipulate cautiously while the other deems it as free plan to be deconstructed or experimented on.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Simon

      Yes, that is the fundamental difference. It is unfortunate that the emotional loading of the word ‘progressive’ automatically implies something good, so Progressives are, by default, thought of as the good guys. Who, after all, is opposed to progress? Alas much of what they want to do is rampant folly.

      • Simon says

        @Ray Andrews:

        This is why, in order to discharge the intrinstic, positive undertone of the word “progressivism”, I have got this little joke of mine, saying that the opposite of “conservatism” is not so much “progressivism” than “expirativism”.

  9. Joana George says

    I fail to see any arguments in favor of “the transformative power of the provider role”. There are plenty of arguments of the “transformative power” of fatherhood and committed relationships, but that’s not the same thing. The only link I can find in the article between the two is the following paragraph:

    “However, the capacity to provide material goods is not the central and most important aspect of fatherhood. Rather I argue that this capacity to provide secures men a place within the family which then creates the opportunity for further paternal behaviors”

    Providing material goods does not secure men a role within the family (not anymore). Also, the only attack on the provider role was towards the implied existence of housewives. It was always about men being the sole providers. Not once have I heard anyone or read anywhere that men shouldn’t provide for their children (outside of the context of abortion). This article makes no distinction between being the sole provider or a co-provider.

    I guess I’m a bit disappointed because I do think the traditional provider role (sole provider) is unfairly criticized and hugely unappreciated. I was hoping for more after reading the title.

    • Just Me says

      Joana George-

      This ignores the enthusiastic support of feminists for the reversal of traditional roles, i.e. the encouragement of the “stay-at-home dad”.

      • Jolly swagman says

        When feminists argue that women should subsidise men to play stay at home dad I’ll believe they enthusiastically support the reversal of traditional roles. But it won’t happen because for feminists, as with all ‘progressives’, the base psychological motivation is resentment.
        The more interesting question is what drives the resentment of the ‘progressive’ (I suspect the answer lies is in the biblical story of Cain and Able) and what are the evolutionary purposes and implications of this resentment?

  10. House of Shards says

    What I take away from this — and have already realized about men, through my own experience — is that it is practically vital for men to provide in some way. The instinct for women is to nurture, and without nurturing in some form, women feel without purpose (generally); while for men, without providing they feel without purpose. In other words, feminism has exerted a toll on what gives men’s lives meaning, thus pushing for their ultimate disposability. The very phrase “you don’t need a man” says all anyone needs to know about the pernicious toxin that is feminism and its willful misunderstanding of men’s needs.

    In my own experience — albeit anecdotal — clearly the men thrived on providing. It’s what kept them going.

    When I think of the joy my grandfather — who grew up poor, his father having abandoned his large family (indeed, not ALL men…) displayed when bestowing on us huge presents on holidays (it was he who brought each one up from the basement and handed them to us), or taking us all out to dinner (I would observe the pride in his face, laying down the cash for all these people to eat); my own father slogging off to work after chemo, and my partner, who, alone when I met him, broke and depressed, who’s emerged into an extremely hardworking provider who exudes pride in supporting us and our cats (yes, feminism got me, but at least I got a brood of cats in the end) it just seems obvious that letting men be who they are, and trusting them to be who they are, and leaving them to do what they would naturally do, rather than twisting it into something malicious, is the ancient wisdom these recent ideologies seek to destroy.

    The question is: why? What is it in women, I’ve been wondering, that is driving them to be so willfully ignorant and destructive?

    This brings to mind an episode from my childhood, when my father took me to visit his close friend in the mental hospital. He’d had a nervous breakdown after his wife, for whom he could never provide enough, maxed out all of their credit cards. I saw a man rocking back and forth, repeating the mantra: It’s never enough. It’s never enough. She’ll never be happy. It’s never enough.

  11. Anne says

    It’s interesting to read what is essentially a conservative argument against toxic masculinity. But the ‘bad reputation of the male breadwinner model is not just an ideological but also a practical economic problem. I come from a country that until well into the 90s practiced the traditional model of male (sole) breadwinner and female homemaker. Men of my father’s generation took great pride in their wives not ‘having to’ work, and saw any deviance from this model (even through illness/accident/death of the male provider) as essentially shameful. At the same time, most of these men made adequate wages to cover the family’s current expenses, but not enough to save substantial amounts for the future. The result of this is that now that many of these men are retired or deceased, their wives have no pension entitlement or savings of their own, and without government subsidy would fall into destitution. So, at the end of the day, the pride my father’s generation of men could take in their ability to provide was bought at the expense of their children, whose taxes now fund their mother’s retirement. Frankly, I’d rather they’d all been a little more pragmatic…

    • Lucifer, A. M. says

      That happened because large numbers of women entered the workforce, ignorantly willing to work for low wages particularly in service providing sectors, teaching, nursing, and somewhat still continue to do so today. This then, caused an overall drop and stagnation of wages.

      The detrimental outcome of wage stagnation combined with increasing living cost and welfare support, including the development of toxic consumerism culture with materialist attitude, caused severe socio-economic implications.
      This economical outcome virtually compelled dual income in families a necessity rather than ensuring women’s salary as a “supplementary” for the household.
      Consequently, family stability, especially children’s welfare and emotional development continue to be affected which results host of other societal problem.
      Thus this is the current predicament of most modern and affluent western societies, perhaps a predicament from attempting to be “too pragmatic”.

        • The article seemed to be saying that when there are more women in the workforce wages go up because women are likely to be more educated than men. But that isn’t a great way to organise society if there are many women who would prefer to spend more time with their children and families (as there are in the UK – and I didn’t say not work – I said spend more time with their children and families). It suggests an economy which will become increasingly dependent on women while it is men who feel good when they work a lot and women feel good when they can spend more time with their kids. She also seems to have removed from her calculations (controlled for) damage done to male industry because we no longer regard those industries as important – perhaps partly because we don’t regard the male wage as important. I am not great at stats but this article confirms my worst fears of society increasingly dependent on female labour force participation which will result in the complete erosion of the private realm of home and family. A society hollowed out at its heart.

      • Anne says

        No, that’s not how this works. I can’t post a link, but google “When More Women Join the Workforce, Wages Rise — Including for Men” and read the research-based article from Harvard Business Review that comes up.

        • I did read it. This is where she explains why wages might rise: “Women may increase the competitiveness of labor markets, giving firms the option to choose from a bigger, more qualified pool of applicants”….it is insane that women are more qualified than men when women want their husbands to earn more than them, they want to spend more time with their families and men want to provide. I am also not convinced the article disproves the remark which it was a response to…

    • Just Me says

      Until relatively recently, In all societies, the main criterion for choosing a husband was that he be a good provider. Society encouraged men to meet their obligations of support to their families by shaming them if they did not. Those that did were proud of doing so.

      And that was pragmatic.

      It is only recently that women in some societies have had the option to get good jobs themselves, but still many would prefer not to have to, and to be able to rely on a good provider.

      Those parents who insisted their daughters get a practical education “just in case” she needed it were often ignored, just as are those who tried to prevent their daughters from running off with some young man they thought would not be a good prospect in terms of supporting a family…

  12. Sean Leith says

    Male provider role exists in all societies of difference race, region, culture, and time. Same thing happens universal in animals of almost all types, kinds and time. They all happen naturally. There’s must be a reason, for God’s sake!

    Feminists say we are equal. Yes, we are given equal opportunities to do anything. No, we are not equal, unless someone find me a female Einstein, and a female Tyson. Male are physically and intelligently stronger, not by a little.

    • Why does equal always have to be the same? I just don’t get that. There are all kinds of people I am different from and even people I might not be as bright as or as strong as but I am totally and utterly their equal. Including the people I most admire.

      • Jolly swagman says

        Yes, because your concept of equality (which I share) is the legacy of eons of thought, reason, religion (some, anyway), and philosophy. From Talmudic scholars and Greek philosophers and enlightenment thinkers, down through the weeks of ages, through fits and starts, mankind has developed a civilising scholarship and morality which is our legacy. But it is this very heritage that progressives resent and seek to destroy with their endless absurdities, such as laws to eliminate discrimination by the imposition of discrimination and the promulgation of manifest falsehoods as unquestionable fact.

        • Yes we are made to believe if someone has a better job than us or more money than us we are not equal to them. It also implies that people who are disabled or poorer or less clever are not equal to us. The whole equality agenda appears to be a horrible ideology designed to fester discontent and deny the true value and worth of those around us.

    • Just Me says

      Males are physically stronger in almost all cases, yes, but in the case of intelligence, it is not all or most men being more intelligent, it is just that the tail end of the distribution is longer at both ends, so there is a small number of men in the genius range, but also a small number in the very low intelligence range.

      The overwhelming majority of men and women have similar levels of intelligence.

      However, they do have dissimilar interests, so sort themselves out into different occupations.

  13. Lightning Rose says

    Y’know, you “intellectuals” sure use a lot of opaque jargon and word-spinning to state what every working person could tell you: The arrangements and roles we assume in life are directly required and rewarded by economic necessity. As in “Thank you, Captain Obvious!”

    I’ll not pedantically recite all the changes to work and family life since 1800, but a brief historical overview will immediately make it apparent that the nature of work, ownership, migration, food sourcing, industrialization, and mate-bonding and how and what a culture values are all matters informed primarily by economic considerations. The “lifestyle” has to work. If it doesn’t, it gets thrown overboard.

    Since the 1960’s, the biggest disruption was caused by the Pill and other contraceptives, which freed women to compete in the paid-work market on the same basis as men, at least in those jobs not dependent on physical strength. This disrupted the “man as money provider, woman as child raiser” pattern of the nuclear family that preceded that time, as women could suddenly provide for their own financial needs without placing themselves necessarily in positions of lifetime dependence. Inflation, particularly of housing, made women’s economic contribution to the family unit a necessity to maintain a middle-class standard of living by the 1980s.

    This has had both positive and negative effects; on women, men, and especially children. But what gets lost in the conversation too often is that these are not mere “choices” most people have the privilege of selecting from an infinite palette; they are thrust upon them by economic reality.

    We also tend to see the past through the misty aesthetic of Impressionist thought–imaginary pastoral harmony with Nature, and leisurely agronomy. Go read the journals of people who lived by subsistence farming in the Little Ice Age, their children dying like flies from diptheria and cholera, and wipe those rosy impressions right out of your head. Same goes for the early 20th century–my grandfather told me exactly how “good” those “old days” of the Depression and WWII really were, and believe me they sucked! People barely got by and lived in fear.

    One of the Noble Truths of Buddhism states that people create all their own mental misery by constantly comparing “what is” to “what they’d prefer it to be.” That’s like a tiger trap with spikes at the bottom of the pit, because life will NEVER be perfect, we don’t live in a utopia and never will, and to be forever dissatisfied while living better than kings did in centuries past is really kind of bloody-minded, don’t you think?

    • E. Olson says

      As usual you raise some very good points LR. I would like to connect a couple of points in your comment that I’m not sure you thought about. Your grandfather’s description of the “good old days” is very accurate, and if you look at the size of the homes people lived in with 2 parents, and 3+ kids and perhaps even a grandparent you cannot really say that housing is unaffordable today and requires a 2nd income. The new homes in the big Levittown post-WWII housing development averaged something like 1,000 square feet, with 1 bathroom, no garage or central air-conditioning, and would be called below poverty level housing today. One income can buy such a house today in most parts of the country, but most people want 2 or 3 times that space, 3 car garages, climate control, wireless Internet, fireplaces, 3+ bathrooms, etc. that add greatly to the cost of housing. Add in the higher bids that 2 income families can make for houses in good neighborhoods, and that explains most of the “higher cost” of housing versus your grandparents day.

      • Somewoman says

        Housing prices are cheap in most of the us but they aren’t in areas where the good jobs are becoming more and more concentrated. In nyc and surrounding suburbs, it takes six figure incomes to buy exactly the same small post ww2 homes that were affordable on one income 60 years ago if those homes are in a good school district. Here if you want a one hour commute to your job and a good school district, a 1500 square foot house is often around 700k. These houses may have a detached one car garage but some don’t even have that. They are the same old houses that have been there for 100 years so they don’t all have central ac etc.

        And it’s not just housing. Since people live longer and we don’t have pensions for the most part, we have to save and invest ourselves to have money for the last 20 years of our lives. One income of average social security payments is rather little for a couple. Outside of the us, in most developed countries housing prices are higher as are gas and food costs.

        In nyc, it’s not just expectations. Everything really is more expensive than it used to be. I was born here and my father was the sole earner making maybe 35k a year adjusted for inflation. Today the same house in queens I was born in costs 1.2 million dollars.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        ” One income can buy such a house today in most parts of the country”

        I don’t know if ‘most parts’ is very useful. Where the jobs are, it’s not quite so easy. Granted things here in Vancouver are extreme, but just as an example my sister recently bought what is barely more than a mobile, about 1000 ft^2, for a cool half a million. She is not considered to be below poverty level.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            Ok, but that does not imply that half the population of Vancouver can move to Manitoba and still find work. Let’s face it, the economy is now urban for the huge majority of us. The hinterland economies tend to be … not sure how to say this … ‘real’ — they grow food or drill for oil and the number of people employed is limited. Our Saskatchewan is your Nebraska — not very big and never will be.

          • Avid Reader says

            @ EO

            you make some good points and many people can make good incomes in remote areas. But there is a downside. You also have goods that are much more expensive than in cities because of freight costs. And the lack of services that city dwellers take for granted can be difficult for some. I have worked in mining towns some 1000km inland here in Australia and it took 6 weeks to get to see an orthopedic surgeon; a wait of 5 days to see a doctor for a routine blood test. The Vet would not visit, so a trip of 6 hours return. if your child was severely autisitc, or had other physical/intellectual disabilities there were no specialist support services. No kidney dialysis. I could go on.

            To tell someone who has a family member with special medical or educational needs to just “go where the work is” is simplistic and cruel. Not that I am accusing you of saying that.

  14. Princess Underlove says

    Overall a highly deceptive and manipulative article that just recites MRA conspiracy theories and knocks down strawmen.

    Men’s rights activists have the idea that there is a powerful cabal of feminists (an analogue of ‘the Patriarchy’ in feminism, with the crucial difference that it does not have any basis in reality) out to oppress men and take away their beer and their couches. On this understanding, any claim by feminists that women are disadvantaged in society is treated with outright dismissal coupled with a cry of persecution. This article is an example of such a cry, with the distinction that the author is very careful to avoid mentioning the dreaded word “feminism” in order to better manipulate the reader.

    Men’s roles are not under attack, the patriarchy is. Men have always held positions of power historically, therefore men are not oppressed; the reason why they perform the more dangerous and unpleasant tasks is because the patriarchy sees women as weak and incompetent, thus unable to perform those tasks properly.

    Nobody is preventing men from fulfilling provider roles if they so wish with the consent of their partner, feminism is only seeking to dismantle the patriarchal systems of oppression that impose those roles on all men and women regardless of their wishes.

    • Simon says

      This is not exactly what the article theorizes.

      The main hypothesis is : “It would be interesting to find out whether the male productive activity following from committed family relationships is also accompanied by the lower levels of testosterone which often accompany fatherhood and facilitate paternal responsiveness. If male productive activity in this context is accompanied by lower levels of testosterone it could be seen as signaling a different “order” of behavior; the male nurturing as hypothesized here, rather than the dominance striving response”

      The author says that the male’s providing role lowers his testosterone level and his overall agressiveness. What is regarded as a patriarchal behavior by leftists is in fact, on an ethological and biological level, a mechanism to limit masculine agonistic behaviors. By contrast, when human males are deprived of their providing roles, their general quarrelsomeness and unaccountability tend to increase. There is some kind of a biological trick : by acting in a manly way (providing), males tend to soften their behavior (nurturing).

      I reckon it requires a converted perspective but at least, it is way more falsifiable and measurable than, for instance, “phallogocentrism”, “gender roles” or all the third wave feminism’s conceptual artillery. Furthermore, contrary to leftist social engineers, in no way the author asks for the political interpolation of his ethological observations by recommending, let’s say, inequal wages or a housewife policy, in order to help men fulfill their biological determins. And I do not think there is a contradiction between socially valuing male responsiveness in collective representations and enforcing gender equality in the workforce or under the law.

      • Lightning Rose says

        Part of the problem with “testosterone” (and estrogen!) levels today is that in a divorce culture, one is never really “off” the sexual market. At any time any man or woman can be “cut loose” from their formerly stable relationship and have to start from scratch–hence the obsession with appearance, fitness, plastic surgery, etc. among 30 and 40-somethings today.

        It used to be when a woman got married, the sexy dresses were put away, the waistline thickened after a couple of children and a lot of heavy lifting, and “matronly” and respectable rather than vampish was the rule. Ditto the guys–“Dad bod” is a cliche for a reason. But nowadays one is expected to maintain the illusion of youth and sexual desirability and interest right up to the age of 75 in affluent circles–which is just ridiculous.

        The problem is that “settling down” can no longer be assumed to be permanent.

        • Simon says

          @Lightning Rose :

          Yes, the situation moderate conservatives are imbedded in is very tricky because of the counter-intuitive, objective alliance between radical, queer anthropology and capitalist, methodological individualism.

          There’s this joke I like to make from times to times : the rational economic agent of advanced capitalism is the deleuzian schizo, the inconsequential nomad cutting across a smooth field, the unascribable transformist.

          The libidinal economy free markets call for is no longer reaganian theo-conservatism or thatcherian national-liberalism but a free and savage anthropological disruption of family structures, civil societies, nations and cultural areas.

          Conservatives are forced to resolve this aporia : in order to save common decency, you have to curb the unrestricted, disintegrating force of capitalism, in order to counter the putative and fallacious anthropological progress advocated by liberals, conservatives have to put the class struggle forward.

          The only way to get rid of progressives is to step over the racial, sexual, cultural boundaries they exacerbate, by advancing some kind of a common sense and, excuse my French, inclusive solidarism.

          This means conservatives must ground their reflexion, partly on the disciplines postmodern leftism invented in the 60s, partly on the “ethics of care” paradigm, partly on serious statistical and sociometric studies.

          For instance, what you wrote about the matronly/vampish dichotomy can easily be dealth within the liberal “body-confidence” framework.

          What you wrote about the correlation between the sexual competition and the competition to access the labour market can be dealth within the concept of “libidinal economy” brought by J.-F. Lyotard. By exploring the isomorphisms between the structures of affects and that of a given economy through econometric studies, you can easily show that stable family structures ensure high levels of prosperity and economic hazards control.

          Against affirmative action programs, conservatives must use the tools of structural anthropology to advance the idea that culturally coherent societies have a stronger propensity for solidarity. Thus, that exacerbating the racial divide will lead to costlier results than interracial cooperation strategies.

        • Just Me says

          Lightning Rose-

          That depended on social class.

          The lower class woman had a short life as a sexual, desirable young woman before settling into a life of drudgery.

          The aristocrat continued seeing herself as a desirable woman with a romantic life outside her marriage, even if she didn’t actually have affairs. Because she had servants and the money and leisure to keep up her appearance.

          Men of all classes never seem to have decided they were too old and settled down to be sexually attractive and active outside their marriage.

          Personally I enjoy still feeling attractive in my later years and am not about to throw in the towel.

    • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow says

      Yes, and when dismantling “the patriarchy” calls for hiring less qualified or capable persons, i.e. replacing men with “women and people of color” it stands to reason that men will be edged out of the workplace and, subsequently, their role as providers.

      Somehow I doubt you spend much time considering the other side.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Princess Underlove: I don’t feel oppressed by a Patriarchy, because I don’t see evidence of one. The most oppressive forces in my life have come from women telling me how I am supposed to behave.

    • Just Me says

      ” the reason why they perform the more dangerous and unpleasant tasks is because the patriarchy sees women as weak and incompetent, thus unable to perform those tasks properly.”

      Nonsense. Women have no desire to do those dangerous and unpleasant tasks, and why should they? They are dangerous and unpleasant.

      Many men get satisfaction from being able to do them, and that is a good thing for society.

      Each gender gets satisfaction from different kinds of work.

      Women historically had their hands full doing the unpleasant and tiring female tasks of caring for children, sick and elderly family members and running a household under extremely harsh conditions, and when necessary contributing to the household by helping their husbands or getting some of the limited outside work available to them.

      When social conditions changed and they got a chance to become economically independent through interesting and enjoyable work, many took it, but others even today are not so keen and would prefer to be well provided for and free to spend their time caring for their home and children.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Princess Underlove

      “the reason why they perform the more dangerous and unpleasant tasks is because the patriarchy sees women as weak and incompetent, thus unable to perform those tasks properly”

      That is priceless. It’s not because women are affirmatively hired in easy jobs. Women would love to collect garbage and work in the sewers and keep the lines humming, but The Patriarchy won’t let them. Yet, when those very few women who do apply to be, say, a fire-person can’t pass the requirements, what happens? Easy: the standards are lowered.

    • Nigel says

      “Men have always held positions of power historically therefore men cannot be oppressed “ what utter rubbish so all men are kings ? Are CEO’s ? Millions more men have been tortured and executed throughout the ages than women . In the UK the flogging of women was made illegal in 1820 it did not become illegal to flogg men until 1967 . I don’t believe that any woman was hung drawn and quartered either . Checkout the suffragettes role in the white feather movement and bare in mind that the suffragettes only campaigned for women to have vote at a time when half male population did not have the vote either .

  15. dirk says

    Somewhere in Southern France, around 1200, in a new style of Knight Romances, the role of women was completely redesigned, men no longer hitting their wives and telling them what to do and how to behave (as was the rule in earlier tales) but doing whatever their wives or loves asked of them, how irrational or mad it might seem. Men were so crazy about women, to drink even the water with what they had washed themselves, and thought it was like honey. I think, this attitude and change in man-woman relation has stood the centuries, and is still in full swing, dominating the scene uptil now, and after. Especially in the US (but also in Europe, but more in the northern nations now than in the more southern ones)

  16. Jean Levant says

    Dirk, it seems you’re Frencher than me (if I dare say).

    • dirk says

      I now see there is also right now an essay on Jordan P. and the new chivalry on Quillette. This chivalry is related with, but certainly much different from that chivalry as explained by me here above, the chivalry of Chretien de Troyes in his Arthur tales. There it is not compassion with the weak and the patients that need help, but subservant behaviour, adoration of healthy and proud Women and Princesses, a subdued attitude thus, the one we still adhere to in the 21st centrury, I think, and fear so.

  17. V 2.0 says

    The problem with the male provider is that I, as a woman, would have to be provided for. This is ok most of the time if it’s what you’re really into. However, when my husband got sick and was unable to work it was a very good thing that I had a great job and was able to provide him with cancer meds and we didn’t end up dipping into our nest egg, or living in poverty, as often used to happen in the ‘good old days’

    • On the other hand there is the well evidenced Elizabeth Warren position that when both partners in a couple are in long term full time work when a crisis happens there is no give in the system because they are already so financially invested in a two income system – i.e. mortgage etc…so after a crisis there is no where to go and bankruptcy is more likely to happen. Of course women have always worked and always picked up the slack but usually they are more dependent on the man than the other way around.

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  19. R Henry says

    Bottom line: Feminism wrecks whatever it touches…like Progressivism in general.

  20. Saw file says

    @Quillette

    More essays /articles about China (PRC aka: CCP) plz.
    TY, in advance.

  21. Lucifer, A. M. says

    Brilliant work! For once it’s refreshing to read an accurate, evidence based authentic, logical discussions about the sexes and their opposing yet complementary relationship. A well written article in which, many vital points about sexual reproduction are clearly presented and emphasised properly.

    It gives a true and objective overview of male sexual behaviour, motives, desires, including the intrinsic sex differences driving somewhat divergent traits between both the sexes.

    End of the day, for optimal and effective parenting, there can be only one primary care giver parent, typically the female (mother) and one primary provider (income earner) parent, usually the male (father) determined strongly by intrinsic sex differences, and fundamentally caused by opposing reproduction cost & capacity between the sexes.

    Therefore, any senseless attempts to abolish gender differences, roles or functions in a society like what’s been often perpetuated by “Radical Feminist” movement in the last few decades, will only cause severe socio-economic implications, and social instability on the long run, rest assured it will affect both men and women.

    Consequently, this will eventually help establish an autocratic based socialist government that will soon introduce unscientific & anti reason social policies which will not respect nor preserve people’s liberal values.
    Therefore, these moves will not cause ‘social progress instead it will mark the start of ‘social regression’ done by deceptive “social engineering” methods, and become a reality if crucial social issues are not addressed soon.

    Thank you for sharing this greatly enlightening and truthful article.

    • Softclocks says

      Yes! Finally we will banish the women back to the kitchen, where they truly belong!

      Do people not realize that men are physically stronger??

  22. Pierre Pendre says

    I have been a “provider” for a number of women since the 60s. I’ve always paid the mortgage and the bills regardless of whether they’ve been earning salaries of their own. I can recall only one instance in which a female partner paid for dinner although there was another when one offered to go halves. It seems to have been a highly selective revolution.

      • Lert345 says

        Dirk
        I took him to mean a wife and daughters when he said “number of women” in regards to bills and mortgages

        • dirk says

          O.K., that would change the scene, more bourgeois, more comprehensible!

  23. Joatmon says

    I wrote a detailed thoughtful analysis about males with caring, sharing and compassionate natures being husband’s but who were thrown on the trash heap when a higher wage wife ( who got the job through her husband’s efforts) ”discovered” ‘she did not need a man’s except to pay child support….

    I deleated it and will just say : MGTOW works excellently fir me, I go outdoors on backpacking trips and canoe trips monthly and have a racecar… I spend my money my way and my wallet is full, not empty like when I followed the myth of a ‘ male provider’

    • SomeoneSomewhere says

      Been MGTOW for years man… date occasional. Open to meeting a good woman but they’re so rare these days.

  24. bill53 says

    Great article. I am still unsure as to why women purposefully downgrade their importance as mothers. I also understand that men have to treat women who stay at home as a worthwhile career. That is why I am in favour of SSI credit for women who stay home to care for their children at least until the child is five years old. Call it earned income credit if you prefer. You could eliminate hiring strangers for child care.

    • Jen says

      I don’t want children. It’s really quite simple: I am an individual person, not a figurehead for my gender. If I don’t want children, no amount of boosting men’s earnings is going to change that. In fact, when I was last single and dating, so averse was I to having children, that I deliberately avoided men who tried to signal their provider status as high earners. No thanks, I’d rather be poor with self-determination.

  25. dirk says

    I know why Bill. It’s not actually that paid work or career they are after, but the esteem and independence of that work. Lamentably, that esteem has been laid out and proclaimed by patriarchal men, but that’s something they don’t seem to see, or want to see. So, the unpaid motherhood and housewifery (full time management and ecology small scale) goes mainly unnoticed, unesteemed, and of course, unquantified, without a certain figure in the GDP world. That is, in the real and manly world where figures and economics rule, not in that of the women glossies and Oprah Winfrey shows of course, but that’s another matter altogether of course.

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