Saturday, November 9, 2013
MATRIARCHAL UNDERGROUND: FATHER DIDN’T KNOW BEST! PART 2
Kaitlin continues to do interviews with women and couples, and her research shows that women of past generations – the 50s, 60s, and 70s in particular – had a lot more authority within their households than we might expect. And they used it to get a substantial amount of control of most if not all aspects of married life. Apparently women-in-charge isn't a recent phenomenon. Recently she interviewed twelve women, including four couples, and what follows is a synopsis of what came out of her interviews. Kaitlin wants to interview a broader cross-section of women and couples and hopes to conduct at least 150 interviews.
It should be noted that Kaitlin is now doing what might be referred to as qualitative research. That involves asking broad, open-ended questions, looking for common themes and behaviors. Once she gets these, she intends to put together a quantitative survey—probably online—to see how much her qualitative themes can be generalized across a broad population.
Housework: Her twelve women reported that their men did housework and had a routine of it to tend to when they came home, although some did less than others. Housework for hubby was a constant, everyday routine; he had something to do, and that something took two-three hours a night on weekdays and could be twice that on days he was off work. Never mind that she didn't have a job outside the home; he did housework and he did it because she insisted he do it; and he did how she wanted it done. Husbands were shown what to do, and if things weren't done right, they would be done over and over again, if need be, until he got it right. All twelve women did do the majority of cooking, although the men cleaned up the kitchen. The women Kaitlin surveyed remarked that men were terrible cooks and not worth training.
Controlling the money: By controlling the money, Women were able to establish and maintain control of their relationship. Checks came home in that era and were handed over to wives who took care of the banking, bills and expenses. Hubby may have been involved in financial decisions initially, but women gradually took total control of the finances, partly because he didn't care for the tedium, but mostly because women wanted it that way. Women were responsible for controlling the finances but also made sure they benefited from their monetary stewardship. Women put aside money for clothes, nights out, shoes, vacations, and frequent visits to the beauty salon. Many of them also channeled money into personal bank accounts that they'd set up for themselves. Men on the other hand were given an allowance and required to stay within a budget. A man could ask for more but he'd seldom get it; her “No!” didn't require justification. While all women surveyed sought to control the money and have free access to it, some women had to seize control of the finances while others—about half—had it given to them by husbands who just didn't want to be bothered with the details of handling the money. In effect, these men handed their wives the keys to the kingdom!
The majority of women interviewed by Kaitlin so far have not worked outside the home. Men worked at full time, professional jobs and were good earners. Neither they nor their husbands felt that this required wives to do more of the housework. To the contrary, the men interviewed wanted to please their wives and if turning over their paycheck and doing housework kept the peace, then they were happy. Men really dreaded tension in the home and would do anything to avoid it; women were adept at creating tension to get their way. They worked to instill this attitude and reinforce it with praise from themselves and from other women. One man admitted that he loved getting praise from his mother-in-law; it made him “work even harder,” he remarked. It's interesting that women praising or thanking men to solidify control is the opposite of what my wife, Nancy, advocates today. The difference may be that Nancy's admonition concerns men constantly improving their domestic skills as opposed to simply doing what they are told.
All the women interviewed controlled their husband's social life. If he wanted to go to a game, for example, he had to ask permission, which was usually given, but always with limitations—on how much money he could spend and when he had to be home. This was a practical concern. “The more he spent, the less for me,” one woman commented, adding, “and I wasn't going to have that!” Controls on his social life also were aimed at keeping him away from “bad influences” that might make him hard to control. when their men returned home, the wives expected to be told what went on.
Kaitlin's work shows that women derived their authority from having control of the family's money even though the majority of them had no earnings of their own. When they did have money of their own, it seemed to have influenced their behaviors. Of the twelve women interviewed, the four who had their own incomes also had affairs with other men. And these women were very good at keeping their affairs secret.
As far as reinforcing their authority and keeping their men in line, what we used to refer to as “nagging” or “bitching,” but what Kaitlin refers to as “motivational speaking,” was quite common and quite effective. One woman noted that she could be a “real bitch” when she didn't get her way; and her hubby agreed and confirmed that her “motivational speaking” kept him in line. Men's favorable comments about “bitching” stem from them appreciating women telling them exactly what they wanted.
And, yes, there was physical punishment administered by all the ladies surveyed, usually in combination with “motivational speaking,” often with a slap or two and a few kicks thrown in for good measure. What prompted such a physical reprisal? Usually insubordination of some sort or complaining on the part of a man. “Bitching was allowed, complaining wasn't,” one woman explained to Kaitlin. And the men's view of physical punishment? They felt it was deserved and said that it was usually given in moderation, but they were terrified that it would somehow “get out” that they were being punished by their wives. There was a tremendous need to maintain an in-charge image on the part of men, otherwise their position on the job and in society could be compromised. The women told Kaitlin that they realized this and held out disclosure as a real threat to keep their men in line.