Gender roles are in flux and have been for the past 50 years. With basic housework being less intense, contraception available, and lucrative work that required no upper body strength being more available, it was inevitable to see many women enter the workforce. A woman with 8 children, who cooks on a range and washes by hand would not seek to work as a maid unless she is hungry. It would mean that jobs required for basic hygiene and comfort would be left undone. A woman who had been married for 10 years, with 3 children in school, a modern stove, fridge and washing machine and sees an opening for a part-time cashier at the local grocer could be more tempted.
Let’s say her husband had a factory job that provided for the needs, but few frills and future plans. He does not like his boring job, but he feels doing it is the sacrifice he must make as a man. The wife is not too crazy about housework, but takes pride in her spotless kitchen though she feels a bit bored. Her extra income would help with saving for the children’s education and for the odd outing. Additionally, she could buy a new dress if her husband would not give it, and she could go see her friend late at night and take a taxi home. Her husband could pick up a takeaway and enjoy a night with his friends.
Fast forward to her daughter who has a professional job and can get meet her physical needs easily without a male provider. She does not have the urgency to get married out of need or fear. She probably does want to get married out of love, to the right guy. The roles between her and her husband are not much different, except during the few years that her child is small. Her husband earns a bit more because he was more aggressive in seeking a promotion, and she does a bit more of the cooking and childcare. They have a modern apartment that is easy to clean and hire help once a week. Cooking is easy with pre-cut meats and veggies.
Their gender roles are a less pronounced reflection of those of her parents. Her husband can provide adequately and she could choose to stay home, which does give him a feeling of masculine accomplishment. While her husband may not be king of the castle at home in the way his grandfather was, he can feel masculine because he has a high status compared to other men and she can share in this status and get her status needs met. His masculinity is mainly tied to his work, but in a different way than it is for his father in law. She can feel feminine in her role as a mother, during sex or when performing beauty rituals, but her femininity is not tied so much to her daily work, nor to daily interactions with her husband. Her work is enjoyable, but for other reasons. She also does not feel housework is particularly feminine or think her help is more feminine in her jeans than she is in her pencil skirt and tailored jacket. Her marriage may not have much polarity or passion, but she and her husband share a good life. They do a bit better together though each does well on his or her own.
Not so for her brother, who is often made redundant from his factory jobs. High status is something he lacks at home as well as in the world at large. As hard as he works, he cannot reach a higher status because he simply lacks the brain to do the kind of work his brother-in-law does. Because he expects his role as a worker and provider to give him a sense of masculinity, he does not feel very masculine His wife works full-time as a cashier and feels too worried and tired to really feel feminine. She might wish to be taken care of financially and work less, but her husband can’t find a job that is sufficient for two. They love each other, but the shifting roles and general financial insecurity puts a strain on their marriage. As the years pass, the routine, boring jobs need less and less doing. Few women will require a provider to meet physical needs and very few men have the capacity to be the provider that meets a woman’s status needs. If masculinity remains tied to the role of provider, a lot of men will no longer feel masculine or be seen as masculine by their wifes.