Traditional male roles have gone through a dramatic transformation over the past few decades. Ask a Baby Boomer to tell you how it was way back when. They will reminisce about coming of age in a world where men ruled the home and women kept it clean. If you don’t have ready access to an older man, take a look at Adam, the dominant male prototype from the book of Genesis in the Bible.
Adam was the protector and the leader. His mate, Eve, was the helper. She stayed at home and bore children while her husband brought home the Garden of Eden version of the bacon. Take that model, put it in the suburbs and you have the Boomer Male, growing up in a household where following the Adam standard meant male and female roles were cast in stone.
Men changed because women changed
The dominant male role came with lots of perks: an 8 hour workday, no cooking, no cleaning, limited child care. It took many factors to engineer a shift away from that tradition. Two world wars took men out of their breadwinner slots and replaced them with women. Men got their jobs back after the wars, but the crack in the employment door was opened a bit further with the advent of efficient birth control.
No fault divorce created more female-headed, single parent families. Women needed the money and aimed for jobs with more income and benefits than traditional female jobs. Discrimination laws aided the transition. The bottom line is that many of the changes in traditional male roles came as a result of changes in traditional female roles.
Men aren’t always the boss
A few decades ago you rarely saw woman supervising men. Female bosses are common these days, although the glass ceiling still exists. According to recent census data, men still outrank women in salaries earned; but young college educated women are helping to close the money gap. Men didn’t give up the higher paying jobs voluntarily. Women fought for every gain. Men had to concede eventually.
Men do housework
In the sixties and early seventies men were still issuing orders to their wives: “I want my dinner on the table when I get home” and “Bring me a beer.” Even if housewives didn’t like the idea of taking orders from husbands, they did it anyway. After all, “obey” was still a part of many marriage vows. Women cooked and cleaned. They raised the children. They even stayed “barefoot and pregnant” if that’s what their man wanted. It was their duty.
Employment laws helped women work their way into formerly all male jobs. As women got better jobs, they expected men to do their part on the home front. It took a decade or so for reality to start catching up with expectations; but these days men “know” how to push a vacuum, separate the laundry so white shirts don’t turn pink, and start the coffee in the morning. It’s a big change.
Men take care of the kids
In the sixties and the seventies, men didn’t change diapers or rise for the 3:00 feeding, but they do now. Changing diapers is another task men eventually learned when wives started working as many hours as husbands did.
Even thirty years ago, no one would have imagined a complete role reversal, the woman working and the man caring for the home and children. That happens too. Some stay at home dads now see it as a practical alternative when the wife earns substantially more. Being a stay at home dad beats paying thousands of dollars in day care and work related expenses.
Men live openly gay lifestyles
If you grew up as a Boomer, you may remember men who didn’t fit the traditional macho stereotype, but in ways you couldn’t quite identify. You didn’t use the word “gay,” though; even homosexual men didn’t. Gay men often remained “in the closet” for fear of hate crimes or being labeled mentally ill. Some married women, started families and tried to fit society’s definition of “normal” because it was the traditional thing to do.
The closeted gay man tradition has changed significantly. Gay partners form committed relationships. They set up households and run businesses together. In states where it’s legal, gay couples marry and adopt children. Gay men live openly proud lifestyles instead of hiding who they are. That’s a significant shift away from traditional male roles.