Assess the View That Equality Is a Central Characteristic of Marriage Today

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The common perception of marriage is that it was originally weighted heavily in favour of the male member of the couple, and that this has shifted slowly to a more even-handed arrangement in recent years. This essay will examine the question of how accurate this belief really is. Historically, marriage was highly unequal. While the husband took the role of breadwinner and went out to earn the necessary money to support the family, his wife was expected to stay at home and look after the more mundane tasks that make up the day-to-day running of a household. As the former role was commonly seen as more valuable than the latter, this often meant that the husband held most of the power, such as deciding where they would live, how resources were distributed, etc. In theory, the distribution of power in the relationship has shifted due to both the integration of women into the workforce and the emergence of the “new man” who does a fair share of domestic labour. However, this is not necessarily borne out by the evidence. Dryden (1999) studied 17 married couples and found that women still do the vast majority of housework. This could almost be dismissed as a hangover from traditional values or the result of still-prominent stay-at-home mothers, except that it remains true when both members are working full-time, and even in some cases where only the woman is in employment. One explanation given for the unwillingness of men to take part is that the male gender role has not been challenged as strongly as its female counterpart, so many men feel threatened on a primal level by the prospect of child-rearing and domestic labour. This is backed up by the fact that it is even more pronounced when the man is unemployed, suggesting he has a greater reason to feel insecure in his masculinity. Whatever the cause, all signs point to women suffering a dual-burden; having to hold
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