True, men are in teaching jobs. Men have equal partnerships in marriage. Men stay home to raise children. Yet, Americans still hold onto ideals -- both subconscious and conscious -- that men must still be the protector, the provider, and the family leader (Brescoll & Uhlmann, 2005). Even though most people found it socially acceptable when asked directly, Brescoll and Uhlmann (2005) found that both women and men had lower opinions of mothers who worked full time and men who were full time fathers. Additionally, it is still socially unacceptable for men to show affection and to step back while their wife or another woman takes the lead (Watts & Borders, 2005).
Macionis explains that the protection theme for men also applies to their abilities to their expected abilities of bravery and self-sacrifice: "It is the same double standard... that moves women and children out of harm's way and expects men to 'go down with the ship' or die defending their country on the battlefield" (p. 241). Men are still considered less emotional than women, with many adolescent boys admitting that they have never seen their father cry or show emotions beyond anger (Watts & Borders, 2005). Beyond this, men and boys are also under extreme scrutiny if they ever find themselves in a position where it looks as if they have taken advantage of what is still considered to be privileged status: that of simply being a man (Macionis, 2000). For example, men (white men in particular) who have become managers, CEOs or other leaders are often accused of reaching these positions only because they are men. Such accusations are common whether or not they are true (Macionis, 2000).
Critics of this viewpoint may suggest that it is wishful thinking (on the part of men in general) to say that men are still expected to take on these traditional roles. One might imagine that many men wish to regain the glory days of being in charge, calling all of the shots, and taking care of his family's affairs on his own. However, the evidence could not be more to the contrary. Today's men are doing everything they can to avoid responsibility and to keep themselves as malleable as possible. Lindsay (2005) cites the trend of many men marrying later. Additionally, more than 40% of young men moving back in with their parents following college. Men are also having children much later, often waiting until their mid-to-late thirties to start a family (Lindsay, 2005). This is far removed from their parents' generation, who often got married and had children young, even if it did often end in divorce (Macionis, 2000). It is also nothing like their grandparents' generation -- the traditional generation -- where people married early and stayed married (Lindsay, 2005).
What is the role of today's American man? His role is to be cautious and to adapt. He can no longer assume authority and must assess for himself whether he and his family are comfortable with the roles they eke out as father, husband, and man. He may take on a traditional job, but he must be ready to defend his position and income as something that he did not choose solely because of his sex. Alternately, he can take a nontraditional job or be a stay at home father. In this role his male peers, and even female peers, are more likely to consider him less "manly" and strong. This very difficult line to walk is likely the reason that more men in today's America are cautious. In contrast to men twenty years ago, today's men must know both the traditional and the equality-driven expectations that exist for them. Men today are taking their time to discover for themselves how best to bridge the gap between these expectations and current social acceptance.
Brescoll, V., & Uhlmann, E. (2005). Attitudes toward traditional and nontraditional parents. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(4), 436-445. Retrieved Monday, December 11, 2006 from the Academic Search Premier database.
Lindsay, G. (2005, June). Man vs. man: Did marketing kill the great american alpha male? Advertising Age, 76, p.1.
Macionis, J.J. (2000). Society: The basics. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Soroka, M.P., & Bryjak, G.J. (1995). Social problems: A world at risk. Boston: Allyn…