PODCAST: Are American millennials becoming more resistant to women’s equality?

Despite being a century into the women’s movement, it can, at times, feel as though progress has stalled. Indeed, old stereotypes about the roles men and women play in the home persist, and some recent reports show that a significant number of American millennials still believe that a male breadwinner and a woman who “takes care of the home and family” is the ideal family model. A 2015 poll commissioned by MTV found that 27 percent of males aged 14 to 24 felt women’s gains had come at the expense of men.

But why? The economic realities of American families and the American working class, including issues like a lack of paid parental leave, affordable daycare, benefits, and job security all factor in to the choices people make at home and at work. We are also facing a backlash against women’s rights, fueled in part by the Trump presidency and the far right.

In order to get a fuller picture, I spoke with Stephanie Coontz, whose article, Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives?appeared in the New York Times last month. Stephanie teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, is the director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families, and is the author of several books, including, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Dr.Z

    I need to dig up these studies and chew on the stats a bit. It will be interesting to see if the gains in income/ male opinions over time will differ by race.

    So interesting, looking up Stephanie Coontz books now.

  • Tired feminist

    If I hear one more person asking “what about the kids” on the issue of taking up the husbands’ last name, I’m going to scream.

    In most of Latin America, children are given two surnames. One from the father, one from the mother. It’s that simple. I don’t know why people in the first world find the idea of two surnames so inconceivable.

    Of course the “main” name is usually the father’s because Latin American societies are also patriarchal. But this is no excuse to take up anyone’s name. You keep your names and give one of them to your kids, while your husband does the same. Period. And even if your kids don’t carry any of your names, you are not your kids. You’re a different person. Is that really so hard to understand?

    If women still want to take their husband’s name no matter what, it’s their life, but let’s stop blaming kids for patriarchy.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I know. It’s ridiculous. I know so many women who, similarly, defended giving their kids the man’s name “so they wouldn’t get confused.” Like, what?? The kids are not going to know who their parents are or that they’re related because they have their mother’s name?? Or two different names?? Ridiculous. Just admit that your husbands are macho, controlling patriarchs (but they’re so NICE how could they be!??!) or that you have traditional values.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I have my dad’s last name too, though my mother didn’t change her name… At the time, I think all kids automatically were given their father’s name?

    • Kendall Turtle

      That isn’t the case now, he and I both didn’t think about it and fell back on, well, what we were taught. I told him it’s a big deal to me now that we change her last name to have mine too and will probably do so this year 🙂

  • Meghan Murphy

    Nice.

  • Tired feminist

    Yeah indeed, that’s a very good idea!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Well yeah… I imagine they are concerned about going to far with that form of ’emasculation.’ They are probably worried that giving the kids their names will push their husbands over the edge.

    • Tired feminist

      I met only ONE married couple whose kids had only the mother’s name. But the kids were adopted.

      I remember Glosswitch once saying that the primordial anxiety of patriarchy is “who’s the daddy?” and I find it quite telling that the kids of this particular couple were not their real kids anyway…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh my god, it is not ‘arbitrary’!!!

  • Tired feminist

    “Arbitrary”

    LMAO

  • Kymani Fabrice Arceneaux

    Why is it important that women take their husbands last name? Do you you even know where the idea comes from?

  • Edgar

    Just listened to this podcast and thought it was great.

    I did think the survey question in the article is a bit loaded. It assumes achievement exists only outside of the home (i.e., making money). The fact that parenting and homemaking has no economic value (i.e. treated as an externality) is a sad reflection on the priorities of society.

    I would love nothing more than to quit my job and be a full-time parent of our daughter (and I like my job). Now wouldn’t that be good for society? To have children grow up with their parents as their primary influence. What’s stopping me? Well… bills have to be paid. My wife hated her job/career and chose to be a full-time parent and it is quite upsetting when people have this disappointed–and at times even disgusted–face when they learn she doesn’t ‘work’. When people ask me what I do I say I’m a ‘working dad’ to see if they realize how silly our language has become.

    I favour the idea of a guaranteed basic income. It puts value in parenting, hopefully inciting more men to participate full time. It also creates more musicians, artists, philosophers, historians – education we generally avoid because it doesn’t pay much. All of these things are good for society. But that’s just my twopence.

    I also liked the comment below by FierceMild about picking out a new family name for both partners and their children. What a need idea!

  • Anne

    My surname is my Father’s surname, if I changed it to my Mothers Surname before she was married, that’s her Father’s surname. So what about my Grandmothers Maiden Name? Yep, her Father’s surname.
    Women don’t have their own surnames lineage due to Patriarchy, you could go back thousands of years and it would STILL come from a male. So why NOT change your surname to your husbands? If you don’t you’ve just got another Dudes surname anyway! Lol.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, we have to start somewhere, don’t we? Throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “What can ya do!?” isn’t exactly an effective position to take in the face of oppressive practices.

    • Wombat

      My name is the one I was born with. I got teased about it a bit as a kid, I fantasized about changing it as a teenager. Normal stuff. I gradually grew into it. It’s MY name. Part of my identity. Throw it away in adulthood? Are you kidding?