Home >> Why Do Men Value Different Traits in Wives and Daughters?
Abstract: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man, a new online survey of 818 men commissioned by the Shriver Report, reveals a fascinating contradiction in male preferences and attitudes towards women. They want submissive wives but rather dominant daughters. Men’s top three qualities for wives are:
At the same time, he had high expectations of my mother as a homemaker, and saw no contradiction in discouraging her from going back to finish an arts degree. When she took an Assertive Training course in the 70s (as many newly “liberated” housewives did), he had little tolerance for her speaking her mind – many ugly arguments ensued. (To be fair, she was really a pill during that phase. She took to swearing, calling us little shits and refusing to do the grocery shopping.) Back to the survey. It included men aged 18-65+, and I wondered how these attitudes might vary by age. After all, the 65 year-old father likely has a daughter around 40 – her choices have already been made. Whereas the 18 year-old is thinking in strictly hypothetical terms. I wander into the weeds a bit to analyze the data for our HUS target market of men aged 18-34. Yikes. The young exhibit even more traditional attitudes than the rest of the population! I wish I could break the 18-34 group down even further – it’s a period of enormous change and development for men. In any case:
Key Differences Among 18-34’s1. They value intelligence more highly overall, but have a larger gap than older men between wives and daughters. 2. They value independence slightly less, but have a smaller gap. 3. They value principled character less, especially in wives. 4. They prioritize good looks more in wives, with much lower expectations for daughters. I found additional curious highlights by age:
Male Attitudes About Changing Gender RolesThe survey delved into many areas of concern to men. When asked if it’s harder to be a man today than it was a generation ago, nearly half of men agree: Interestingly, among men 18-34, under a third say it’s harder. Those men who find it harder attribute the struggle to emerging female roles:
“When asked to describe in their own words why it is harder to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s, men are most likely to say this is due to women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equality. These men also cite negative assumptions about men*, a more competitive job market, greater household responsibilities for men, and greater expectations for men in society today.”*“Many men are seen as wimps, weak, lazy, assumptions we are privileged/stereotypes.” But the men who find it easier to be a man today cite the same reasons:
“Those who say that it is easier to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s cite the same causes: the changing role of women, with women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equality.”Whether men feel these changes are good or bad, they agree that the changes are dramatic:
“So, regardless of their conclusions, men say that women and their changing role in society is the greatest difference between their and the prior generation.”I’ve long suspected that boys losing ground to girls, as evidenced in lagging academic achievement and decreasing college matriculation rates, reflects confusion among boys and men about their role in society. Today women don’t need providers and the need for traditionally male labor has shrunk dramatically in the U.S. economy. But that’s not what the survey showed. In fact, men are very clear on what’s expected of them. From the report:
1. Fully 85% of men say they have a clear sense of the expectations for men and the role that they play in American society today. This belief is shared across generations and all demographic groups. 2. Sixty-seven percent (67%) report that they have a strong male role model that they identify with and look up to. Among those that have a role model, the old adage “father knows best” certainly is true—67% say that their father is their role model. Another 15% mention a different male relative, while just 3% mention an elected official, and 2% offer a celebrity, including athletes. 3. 68% say that having strong personal character and sense of integrity is one of the most important ways to be a strong man in today’s world. This tops the list, with the ability to be a strong provider financially (44%), being confident enough to follow your own path (40%), and having emotional strength to deal with stressful situations (37%) sharing second-tier status. Just 11% of men cite being physically strong as one of the most important ways to show strength as a man in today’s world.Note: Men ages 65 and older focus more on physical strength and less on emotional strength than younger men. Men today are exploring and redefining the meaning of masculinity, moving away from notions of physical strength. I’m encouraged by how strongly men define The American Dream in terms of family success:
“When asked to rank four definitions of the American Dream—personal success, financial success, professional success, or leaving a legacy and making a difference—three in five (60%) American men say that personal family success and being present to be a good son, husband, father, and/or friend is most important. None of the other three items comes close, with the second-most important item (financial success) being selected by just 24% as most important to them.”And men feel quite confident about achieving their dreams. Back to the schizo findings re daughters and wives. Jeff Horwitt, who conducted the research, writes at the WSJ that men are in a state of flux:
“While the old mold in male-female relationships has been broken, it’s clear that the new shape has yet to set…These blurred lines and conflicted feelings about relationships with women are present in [the way they view wives and daughters]. Reading the survey as a whole, the qualities that men want most in a daughter–intelligent, independent, strong, and principled–are the qualities that help women thrive in the workplace. But this, in turn, is what men say has made it harder to be a man today.”Do these findings surprise you? How do they affect the dating and relationships market? If men are between a rock and a hard place, where does that leave women? How can the strong and independent daughters become wives if those qualities are not prized? Or do men describe one kind of woman but wind up with another? Can a wife who is “sweet and attractive” but not strong or independent raise a daughter who is? Let’s discuss!
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