Finances and Gender
Blog Author: Eric Vargas, University Assistant and Counseling Education Graduate Student at Central Connecticut State University
Neal Gabler makes a great point in his article The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans that to admit to financial insecurity or financial impotence is a form of social suicide. He claims that financial impotence “may be more embarrassing than sexual impotence.” No man in his right mind would admit to this shame and failure.
The social pressure for men to “man-up” and “keep it together,” has lingered on past all of the social movements of the 19th and 20th centuries up through today. These sayings can refer to a man’s emotions, relationships, friendships, yet within economically tough times they reflect more on how men relate to their personal finances. One’s financial situation is usually associated with income and wealth, but for the average American man financial status means much more than a paycheck.
Manhood is not strictly defined, yet it can be agreed that American society still defines a man’s role as “protector and provider.” The role of protector can be seen in action movies and within America’s own male-only selective service. The popular American phrase “Freedom is not free,” signifies that there are sacrifices to be made for the greater good. American men have long fought for the nation’s individual rights and freedoms. However, the system is still very much gender bias in that if the draft needed to be reinstated, men would be charged with the responsibility. It would be just if both men and women shared the equal burden of protecting the American way of life. Men are as much precious beings as women are. So why should they be considered disposable? We must all put in our fair share.
The role of provider is heavily emphasized within family norms and throughout the childcare system. If a man does not work or cannot afford to support his family, he is looked at as being “lazy.” If a man cannot afford to make the court-appointed child support payments, he is defined as a “dead beat dad,” and may lose child visitation rights. With over 4 times as many child custody hearings being awarded to women over men, the message is resoundingly clear. Men have no rights to fatherhood for it has become a court appointed privilege that one must pay for.
When the standard duties of manhood, “to protect and provide,” cannot be reached financially, it can lead to suicide or transform into “power and control” to compensate for what cannot be achieved. “Power and Control” leads to violence, which is a sign of the insecurity that already existed. This leads me to believe that it is time to produce research on the perceptions and interpretations of manhood through the male lens to recapture, empower, and define our own selves. No longer can men taken on the burden of supporting a family alone. We must learn to share the wealth across gender, social classes, race, etc. for we, as Americans, are all in this together. May moral prosperity triumph over any discord on economic philosophy.