Hello members of Think Atheist.  I don't remember this topic being brought up before so here it is.

The reason I am asking this is because on the Ok Cupid dating website, after browsing quite a  number of female profiles - they were able to answer a question and the question is as follows: 

"Do you think the man should be the head of the household?"

Well, to my surprise, I have seen quite a few females answer 'Yes' to the question and haven't yet seen a female answer 'No'. 

In my opinion, I think it makes no sense to call a man the head of the household and that it is also sexist. 

But apparently the females who answered the question wish it were true. 

1.)  Why do you think this is so?  Because females have this innate desire to be submissive?  Or is it because females want to hold onto the traditional so called 'values' associated with marriage?  Does this somehow go along the lines of the females wanting what they call an 'alpha male'?  Or something else entirely? 

2.)  If you feel you want to answer the question as a 'Yes', then why?  If you say 'No' , then why? 

3.)  What is your definition of 'head of the household'?  Does this mean all decisions are made by the male?  Does this imply the party who is working full time and earning the money get's to make the decisions? 

I look forward to reading the replies! 

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Hi. This is surprisingly common. Many women want to have a less responsible role in a relationship and feel 'looked after' which is fine providing they find a man who wants the same thing. I used to identify as feminist because I think equal rights are important. I stopped identifying this way because feminist groups seldom concern themselves with men's rights as part of this and men have at least a many disadvantages legally and socially as women do and this is one of them.

The single attitude which holds back women now is those women who claim that being a submissive partner and/or a stay at home mother is not just what they want but how women should be. This defines those of us, including me, who value careers and want a man who is equally involved with children and domestic things, as unfeminine, unnatural and bad mothers. It is also very unfair on men. With women now graduating from college in larger numbers and earning 8% more than men before they have children or live with a partner, the whole ideal of the man earning more and being defined by his success is unworkable and puts huge pressure on men. A recent study showed that 50% of men would enjoy being a stay at home parent whilst only 10% of women would want a stay at home partner. This leads to women who want this being seen as having a right to it and men as having no right to it at all and being a failure if it works out that way.

So anyway:

1) Yes many women like the idea of being submissive and having no career pressure and being looked after financially - more women want this than men want a woman like this. Many men would also enjoy the option of having no financial responsibility and looking after children full time but they rarely get this option.

2) I would say no. I now have more qualifications than my husband and love my work whilst my husband has no qualifications and his work is something he does to live. Our plan is for me to get established in a career and for him to be able to stop work. He would then train to do something he loved whilst I support us. We make decisions together and our income is shared. We each tend to take responsibility for different types of decisions. We do not have a head of household.

3) Yes, a head of household is the supreme authority. There should be no supreme authority in a house with two adults.

Something that stuck out to me like a sore thumb... you seem to be linking submissive with being a stay at home mom. There isn't necessarily a link between the two.

Did not mean to - that was why I said and/or. I was a stay at home mum because my husband earnt more at the time. I am not submissive! I am talking mainly about a type of woman who buys into the whole traditional role thing where the man as 'head' is both dominant and sole breadwinner. I think this is often what is meant when someone says they see the man as the head of the household over here in the UK anyway. Agree that many women are submissive by nature but work and many stay at home mums are not remotely submissive.

1) May be due to the sample pool being small or favouring a certain group rather than the whole.
2) No. I don't think there is any reason why the a male's opinion should be more valuable than a female's on the sole basis of gender.
3) My idea of the 'head of the household' is someone whom opinion and advice on issues is valued more than anyone else's for whatever reason. In a relationship like a family it's my opinion that both parties be doing a similar amount of work where that's working full/part-time, housework, childrearing, education, etc unless there is a reason why this would be impractical, such as disabilities. Any income from both parties can be considered pooled and any large purchases should be discussed. This way no party is considered above to the other and both parties are treated like human beings with feelings and needs.

Although some people do slip into traditional gender roles.

Nothing wrong with it if they both agree to it. I don't think its sexist its just traditional and that's what women are used to but I feel like we are in an era where things are changing and woman are starting to blend roles, if you want to call them that. But on the other hand just like other animals the males are expected to provide for the family, you know by hunting for food and protecting the pack.

Maybe we should also ask for a few goats or a cow from our wives' fathers? It is traditional after all.

I know my pack would like to tear into some goats. Aroooooo!!!

1. I don't think it's so much an innate desire as a trained one. For several thousands of years we have created our societies based on rather strict gender roles*. There has been very little give in those roles, with rare exceptions I'm sure, and only in the last two hundred years (at most) has Western society really questioned those roles. I think we subconsciously absorb those "men do this" and "women do this" ideas and incorporate them into our own decisions and behaviors without questioning their logic or validity. To a lot of women this is probably how they've seen it done, and they've been trained to into feeling comfortable when a man takes the lead. I can't say that there is nothing biological going on because I haven't studied it enough. 

2. I had a similar discussion once with a guy who thought that men should be the head of the household. His belief came from his upbringing. His father had left is his family, and his mom ended up marrying another good-for-nothing who only took responsibility when it came to discipline. In his mind it is a man's job to protect the family. I can't argue that a man should protect his family. However I take issue with the idea that he should be considered the most - or only one - capable of doing so solely because he is a man.

I told him it wouldn't be considered sexist to have a man be considered the head of the household based on his decision making skills and if it was agreed upon between spouses. It is sexist to assume, again, that a man is the head based solely on him being a man. In my family one might consider my mother the head of the household because she appears to handle all of the big decisions. In reality though any truly successful marriage** is never going to have it so cut-and-dry. My mom never makes a big decision without talking to my dad. She may be the one to act on a decision, but it is rarely ever her putting her foot down and telling my dad how it's going to be. In fact I think I've only see her do it once or twice, and only with very good reasons. 

3. Personally I have no attraction to the term, as I find it very old-fashioned and restrictive, so I'm having  trouble coming up with a good definition that I would use. Actually I think Eoganacht's definition is one I could accept. 

* Gender roles almost needs its own discussion page. Based on the experience in my life I find that while there are physiological and anatomical differences between men and women the line that defines what a man is and what a woman is should not be a straight cut, but rather one at an angle to account for the wide amount of variation. I think people tend to be more comfortable seeing things in black and white than in shades of gray. There are reasons gender roles became what they did based on these differences, but I feel they should be looked at more as a social construct than a biological one.

** This of course depends on how one defines a successful marriage. In my definition a successful marriage is one in which there is give-and-take, good communication, and shared responsibility. Obviously there are going to be exceptions.

1. I think many women are raised to believe that they are inferior and should be submissive to a man.  Others are raised to understand that they are equal and would find the idea of having your gonads on the outside as the determiner of your status to be absurd.

2. There are some relationships in which one would rather defer responsibility for making decisions to the other.  I don't think gender makes any difference in making decisions that affect a family.  Again, if you were raised to believe yourself superior to half the population, you will act accordingly.  Personally, I know women who run their households just as responsibly and efficiently as any guy.  

3. Head of the household would imply to me that the person will make any decisions that affect the family.  It does not necessarily imply who makes the most money, it implies who carries the responsibility.  Ideally, it is a responsibility that should be shared by the couple.  Because many are raised to believe that men fulfill certain gender roles and women the other, that is seldom the case. 

It's the 'should' with which I disagree.  What I find objectionable is the idea that the man being the head of the household is somehow proper or expected. 

I don't personally like the idea of living in a household that has a head -- I prefer something cooperative --, but I do know people who say they take comfort in having prescribed, static roles. If a household is going to have a head, I don't think that their gender is important; what is important is the people involved in that relationship feel comfortable with the arrangement.

1) Like many things, I'd wager reasons vary.  Some are raised to believe this is the proper way of doing things.  Some may have been raised to believe that an assertive woman is less eligible for marriage.  Some may genuinely like the idea of a man who is a dominant protectorate and provider.  Some may genuinely like tradition.  Some may have self-esteem issues or may have been bullied into a more submissive role in life and don't really see a way out of it.

2) My answer is 'no' both as a matter of personal preference, and for the reason stated at the top of this reply.  I'd like to see partners in a relationship do what makes sense of them and not fuss so much over 'should' or 'shouldn't'.

3) I don't have a solid definition, but generally I'd say it comes down to who controls the finances (probably the primary breadwinner, though not necessarily), who decides the rules of the house, who makes the major childrearing decisions if relevant and also who disciplines the children. Ultimately, it is the person who holds both the lion's share of authority and responsibility in the household.

1. I'm not sure why this happens, honestly... Probably just because "that's the way it's always been" for a lot of people and they feel no need to change it? I remember hearing my father saying things about how women shouldn't be preachers or politicians or heads of anything. It pissed me off even when I was a little kid! I always said, "No, women can do anything they want, just like men."

2. I personally don't think anyone, male or female, should be the "head of the household." It's not a dictatorship. When two people marry or at least choose to spend their lives together, it's not an agreement of, "Okay, now you obey my every word and I'll run everything." I'm engaged and I'm marrying my fiance because we want to go through life together, sharing experiences and ups and downs and making decisions. Key word is "together."

I really hate the phrase "Behind every great man is a great woman." No way in hell I'm standing behind anyone. We stand side by side or we don't stand together at all.

3. My definition would be pretty much everything you wrote: provider, maker of decisions, etc. Marriage is a unit of two people and things like providing for the family and decision-making should reflect that. I have no problem with one person working while the other takes care of the family; whatever makes people happy. It's the idea that it should be that way that frustrates me, even more so when it's the woman who's supposed to stay home.

I personally prefer that the man and woman share responsibility, but Humans and Chimpanzees evolved from a shared ancestor scientists call "Proconsul" (we have no idea what his friends called him) millions of years ago, and Jane Goodall established that within the chimp culture, the male is always dominant. The misogyny we see today in so many cultures may well be a holdover from those earlier times.

As for the women saying they preferred a male-dominated household, I can't comment on what might have been on their minds, but sometimes it's nice to let someone take the responsibility (and the blame) for making decisions. I'm personally reminded of the age-old philosophical argument: "If a man walks into the woods and speaks, and there's no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?"

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