The End of the Gender Revolution

According to new study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly among young Americans support for men’s patriarchal role within the family is increasing. In fact, since the nineties more and more 12th grade students are endorsing the view that it is the man’s role in the family to be the decision maker and breadwinner while it is better for a women to tend to the household.

The study used data from the “Monitoring the Future” survey which has continuously asked senior high school students question about various topics since 1976 [1]. Some of the question are on matters of gender roles where student are asked to rate their agreement with statements such as “The husband should make all the important decisions in the family,” and “A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.” The authors report that although since the 1970s students have been increasingly endorsing the view that single-motherhood does not harm children there nonetheless seems to be somewhat of a backlash against feminism’s message of shared household responsibilities and decision-making.

While 27% agreed in 1995-96 that it is best for the man to work and the woman to take care of the family, 32% agreed in 2010-13. The percentage agreeing that the husband should make the important decisions also increased, from 14% in 1995-96 to 17% in 2010-13.


First two items are reverse coded so that higher values mean more egalitarian responses

There are many possible reasons why Millennial are starting to turn away from feminism and move to more patriarchal ideas about the role of a husband. The study looked exclusively at data from black and white students so America’s changing demographics are an unlikely possibility. But the background context of feminism since the 1970s should not be overlooked. As I have previously discussed, feminism – the ideology that champions the rights and well-being of women – has clearly failed to improve the overall well-being of women in America [2]. In fact, women’s satisfaction with life has been declining since the beginning of “second-wave” feminism in the 70s both relative to men’s and absolutely to the point where women no longer report higher levels of happiness than men and are now actually less happy. The precise cause of this decline is not clear, but it is certain that current Millennials are not betraying any past achievements made by feminism for the simple fact that do not seem to have been any achievements in the first place.

As it stands feminism seems to be a bit of a dirty word in America. A 2013 YouGov poll found while the vast majority of Americans believe that both sexes should be equals, it seems the brand of equality that feminism adopts is somewhat off-putting for most [3]. Twenty percent of Americans answered that they would consider themselves a feminist while 8% said that they would consider themselves anti-feminists. And when asked whether the term feminism was a positive or negative term more American considered it negative (37%) versus positive (26%).

So as it stands the future of feminism among the America public seems to be somewhat uncertain. Although it may seem at times that American media and academic are continuing their march to the left on issues of gender and feminism, at least for now, the public doesn’t seem to be following.


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