'Useless man' a female myth

 
But research to be published this week reveals that men are being unfairly accused and working women are advancing the myth of the “useless man” so they can feel more feminine. “Working women who provide the majority of the household’s income to the family continue to articulate themselves as the ones who ‘see’ household messes and needs as a way to retain claims to an element of a traditional feminine identity,” said Rebecca Meisenbach.

But Meisenbach said the trend of the female high achiever and the male slacker is a tall story that women tell each other to compensate for the fact that most career-orientated women feel an “overwhelming sense of guilt” over their role and less of a mother and a wife. Meisenbach questioned 15,000 female breadwinners on how they felt about their positions in the private domestic sphere and the work sphere.

Maria Shriver,  wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, has launched one of the few research papers into the issue. Last year she was in charge of the release of A Woman’s Nation, which she described as the first national project to “paint the portrait of the modern American woman” since her uncle, John F Kennedy, gave the former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt the same task in the 1960s.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, women now represent half of all workers and are becoming the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before,” Shriver said, calling it a “seismic shift” in the economic and cultural landscape of America. Despite the anxiety that female breadwinners described, Meisenbach also found that most actively relished the control and power that their position gave them at home.

“I didn’t find female breadwinners deferred their power to their husbands at all,” she said. “Over 60% said they enjoyed the control they experienced, explicitly noting how they were happily different from the ‘1950s housewife’ or even from female friends within the traditional gender norms.

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