One of the cleavages in American society has just gotten biggerthats according to Andrew Hacker, professor of political science at Queens College. At the annual Sackler Lecture hosted by the Sociology Department on Oct. 4,
Hacker talked about the growing gulf between men and women.
An expert in the dividing lines of America, he has published works on racial and class distinctions. Hacker now seeks to shatter the myth that men and women are balancing partners.
He argues that men have almost always been the takers, women the givers. In the past when we assumed that women and men were complimentary, she was, if not subordinate, supplementary. When he came home with a long face, she would ask, What happened today, dear? She would be supportive, listen [and] ask questions, said Hacker.
But the situation is different today. After combing various national surveys, Hacker concluded that women are less willing to subsume themselves, let alone truncate their lives, to make it congenial for men.
As proof, he points to divorce statistics, which reveal that the majority of separations today are initiated by women. In addition, single mothers, or what Hacker calls solo mothers, are no longer a rarity. Whether intentionally or not, these solo mothers in turn serve as role models for their daughters. According to Hacker, this phenomenon suggests that either a male presence isnt necessary or highlights the shortage of reliable fathers.
Hacker said these trends can in part be explained by the educational trajectories which women pursue today.
Unlike in the past, women complete their college education and enter marriage as more mature adults. Think about your grandparents who stayed together even though it was doldrums. In outlook and character we are not the same married people as our grandparents, said Hacker. Women are now fully formed when they are married, bringing opinions and expectations they are not inclined to rein in.
Another explanation deals with mens unawareness of the problem. What is marriage for most men? It is a nest, and the nest is a very congenial place. If one day he washes the dishes, he wants the Congressional Medal of Honor and so on. So he is surprised when he discovers that she is unhappy.
Even in sports and level of education, the gap continues to widen as women move ahead. As Hacker described it, this is a sexual competition where more men are losing.
Originally published on October 25, 2001