The Family Strikes Back

Men for Tomorrow Working paper 10/14
ISBN 10: 0 9523529 8 2
ISBN 13: 978-0-9523529-8-3

Belinda Brown & Geoff Dench write:

“This present volume continues the argument of a previous Hera report, ‘What Women Want’ by incorporating further data for 2012. The earlier report, published initially in 2010 (followed by a US edition in 2011i), explored British Social Attitudes data since the early nineteen eighties and found a growing gap between what advocates of an expanded female workforce were suggesting and the values of most women on the ground. Whereas in the early nineteen-nineties there had been a wide shift among women to more work-centred values, in the years since then there appeared to have been some movement back by ordinary women to more traditional positions. It concluded that the perspectives of work oriented, elite women, whose views were noted eagerly by policymakers, and those of the rest of British women, were diverging fast; but that a Conservative government might soon address this.

This did not happen.

The new volume finds even stronger signs of a return of attitudes among British women towards work and family life; hence the fighting title! These signs are three-fold; and will not be so easy to ignore. Firstly, with the new 2012 BSA data, there are now longer series of data pointing in the direction of return to tradition. Secondly, some new variables introduced in 2012 fill some gaps in our picture of what is going on – especially in relation to the (surprisingly secure) position of men in families. Thirdly, in 2012 there were many variables – new as well as established – where the most work-centred/libertarian responses did not come from the youngest women – as had been the case up to then – but from babyboomers aged forty to fifty-nine. Many younger women now hold views closer to their grandmothers than their mothers. So it is no longer possible just to assume that as older people die off, traditional values will die with them. They may do. But equally these may be on their way back – hence again the bullish title. A mistake made in 2010 was to think that just pointing out what most women wanted would somehow automatically lead to changes in social policy. This time the evidence is more compelling, but we do recognise that a lot of work may be needed to secure any shift in state policy. There are indeed now groups ready to take on that work; to name but two, Mothers at Home Matter and Conservative Woman are already having quite an impact on ideas about how British women want to organise their lives. More generally, the rise of UKIP may mean that the Conservative Party becomes more willing to listen to what until relatively recently were its core supporters. But we are not going to repeat the mistake of assuming that anyone is actually going to do anything as a result of this report.

MFT-WORKING-PAPER--SCREENSHOT

Some factors may be favourable to this; others probably are not. Until recently, there was a dilemma relating to publication of this new data. On one hand, it seemed essential to get our 2012 BSA data out quickly into the public realm where it could have due influence on opinion and policy; but on the other, this needed to involve a reasonable level of discussion of parallel evidence too. In the event, we have decided on a two-stage publication strategy which resolves the dilemma. In order to get the data out very quickly, we are producing some tables based on BSA 2012 very soon as a working paper and first edition. This, then, in due course, can be worked it up into a full report containing detailed discussion of relevant materials – as a second edition.”

Belinda Brown and Geoff Dench

Copenhagen 2014


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Men for Tomorrow Working paper 10/14
ISBN 10: 0 9523529 8 2
ISBN 13: 978-0-9523529-8-3

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