I have a theory, and one that explains why our country is so polarized: the Left and the Right are talking past each other on the issue of the breakdown of traditional gender roles.
The Left tends to ignore the collateral damage of increased women's rights, or to downplay them as well worth the cost. The Left doesn't like to notice that there has been a huge increase in divorce in the past thirty years with well-documented damaging effects on children. When The Left does notice, it tends to seek governmental relief in some form (e.g. subsidized day care).
"Oppression" can imply intentional cruelty. "Patriarchy" sounds some secret club that all men willfully and furtively belong to:
Joe: Welcome to the 4,234,735th meeting of The Patriarchy. First on the agenda we have the oppressor's reports. Who's got something to report?
Fred: Today I gave a job to a man who was far less qualified than a woman candidate. (Applause.)
Bob: Yesterday I brutally raped a college student. Not only did I give her the clap, but I bet I got her pregnant, too! (Wild cheers.)
With such a mental image, I can easily imagine The Right tuning out. That image probably doesn't correspond to the world they know. Many of the people on The Right have mothers and daughters that they adore. Many have wives they love deeply and profoundly. Some are wives who love deeply and profoundly.
Furthermore, "traditional gender roles" does not have to mean "subordinate wives". I've known several couples where the division of labor fell along traditional gender lines but where the women very clearly were in charge.
The Left can argue that increased women's rights are not a threat to The Right because couples on The Right can always choose to follow to traditional gender roles.
It's not that simple, however. For example, the proliferation of two-income couples means inflationary pressures on consumer goods, particularly housing. (If all dual-income couples were suddenly single-income couples, I guarantee that housing prices would suddenly drop.) Single-income couples are at a significant financial disadvantage relative to dual-income couples.
What I would love to see is for The Right and The Left to
- acknowledge that they have many shared goals and values: they both want
- men to be happy and successful
- women to be happy and successful
- children to be happy and successful
- acknowledge that they have different value priorities; that if unable to make everybody happy,
- The Left values equal rights for women above intact families
- The Right will sacrifice equal rights for women in order to have more intact families
- recognize explicitly
- what they are really arguing about
- that they other side has valid concerns
I don't know if a more direct dialog would actually depolarize our country, but it's my blog and I can dream here if I want to.