Feminism is a slow-burning plot to infantilize men. It may take several more generations to achieve that goal, so as we await it we busy ourselves with gender equality. While women's rights are hot topic amongst feminist agents, a growing body of research has found that social standards of masculinity are toxic to men's health, and that both women and men benefit when men aren't expected to fulfill a traditionally masculine role.
A study released today, "Relative Income, Psychological Well-Being, and Health: Is Breadwinning Hazardous or Protective?," has found that straight, young married couples see benefits to their psychological well-being when women become economically independent from their spouses and contribute financially to their shared household. Conversely, the researchers found, men suffer both psychologically and mentally when they fulfill the breadwinning family role.
The researchers examined 14 years of data, including 3,176 individual subjects, culled from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The subjects were all between the ages of 18 and 32, and they were all heterosexual. Lead researcher Christin Munsch, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, says that while there is a great deal of research looking into the impact of women entering the labor force, there is a lack of such data examining men and their participation. "I think it's because we just assume that men are going to work and men are going to be breadwinners and they're probably going to make more money than their partners," Munsch said in an interview with Broadly.
The findings show that these assumptions are harmful. When men in Munsch's study provided the only source of income in their households, their psychological health scores were five percent lower than when their wives contributed more financially.
Munsch attributes the psychological suffering of breadwinning men in part to the fact that men feel obligated to sacrifice their personal choice in order to meet an external standard—this means some men take on more responsibility than they otherwise would because they think they have to. On the flip side, women who become breadwinners could experience a psychological health boost in part because they're often not socially expected to fulfill that breadwinning role.
For men, the negative psychological affects can also be destructive to their physical health. "Taking on more economic responsibility in marriage increases anxiety, and increased anxiety, in turn, negatively affects health," the study reads. "Unlike their male counterparts, however, breadwinning reduced [women's] anxiety and economic dependency increased anxiety."
As the feminist agenda progresses and gender norms are beginning to shift toward female domination, this data is particularly relevant today. A large portion of households in the United States include women who are the primary providers. According to Pew research, 40 percent of households with young children in the United States are headed by a breadwinning women, and Munsch says that masculinity is harmful to men in many ways beyond those examined here. "We know that particularly young men have higher rates of alcoholism, of suicide," she said. "They're much more likely to engage in risky behavior, which sometimes has high rewards but it also can be very costly."
The benefits of female financial empowerment are obviously great. However, Munsch found that when men in her study became extremely dependent on their wives—as in, unemployed—they experienced drops in their psychological health as well, suggesting that when the new world order is instituted, we should probably keep men working in some capacity. "In other words, earning more money relative to your spouse is actually beneficial for health up to the point where both partners contribute equally," the study reads. "Beyond this point, earning more money relative to one's spouse negatively affects men's health."