Last week I got the chance to participate in a focus group. For those of you who have never participated in one before, it’s where a company invites regular folk to an office building to answer questions about the company’s product. It’s nice work if you can get it… I was paid $150 bucks and was only there on hour!
I’m not writing this post just to tell you about what it is like to participate in a focus group though. I’m more interested in relating the eye-opening conversation my group had. My group was made up of young dads (ages 20-40), and it quickly became very clear that they were very angry with women… especially their wives.
We were never told what company or product the focus group was for, but the questions were based around who does the cooking and food shopping in our homes. The group was made up of men from all ethnicities – white, black, Latino, Asian – and at first everyone was pretty quiet. That started to change when the moderator asked questions about what it felt like to be a man/husband/father in today’s society. When the discussion touched on the pressures and expectations men are put under, the group members really opened up. Before long I was shocked by how loud, passionate, and clearly angry the other men were.
Now before I get into this I should point out that the conversation was between a group of men with no women around, so they felt comfortable saying the kind of things they wouldn’t dare say with women present. As you will see, they presented a very male-centric, often sexist perspective.
The main quibble – one agreed upon by men from all ethnicities in the group – is that men/fathers/dads are are still expected to be play the traditional role of a man in the home (bread winning, fixing things around the house, protecting the family), while also stepping up in the roles traditionally filled by women (cooking, cleaning, child rearing). Having to play both roles, the men said, is incredibly hard and taxing.
Women, according to these guys, do less than ever before. They expect their husbands to “be a man” and continue to play the traditional male roles of bread winner/protector/etc., but are offended when their husbands expect them to fulfill the traditionally female roles of cooking/cleaning/etc. because it is sexist to expect women to still do them.
“Cook your own damn meal,” one angry group member quoted his wife as saying as she lounged on the couch. “I ain’t your maid.”
Personally, I wasn’t able to add much to the conversation because I don’t share the same feelings as the other men. A big reason for this is because my situation with Heather is very different from theirs. Neither Heather nor I play a very defined traditional gender role in our home. We have both been the bread winner working out of the house while the other stayed at home with the girls. We share the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. And when we need to fix something around the house? We both stare into the tool box, equally confused.
But… I was the exception, not the rule. The majority of the other men were clearly very distressed about the shifting gender roles in their home.
What do you think? Have you seen these kind of tensions in society?