Men want their daughters to be independent and strong

But their wives? Not so much, finds the new 'Shriver Report Snapshot'.

But their wives? Not so much, finds the new 'Shriver Report Snapshot'. Photo: Stocksy, posed by model

Recent research shows that men want their daughters to be independent and strong. Their wives? Not so much.

According to 'The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man', the number one attribute men want in both their wives and daughters is intelligence. Seventy-two per cent of the 818 men polled valued intelligence in wives and 81 per cent valued it in their daughters.

But after intelligence, men's desired attributes for wives and what they wish for their daughters diverge so radically that you might be forgiven for thinking that men would prefer that gender equality skipped a generation.

For example, the survey found that two-thirds of men want their daughters to be independent and half of them want their girls to be strong. But only a minority of men wanted their wives to be independent (34 per cent) or strong (28 per cent).


What, then, do men want from wives? Hotness is important. Attractiveness was the second most valued attribute for wives (45 per cent) after intelligence. Younger men were even more likely to value attractiveness than other attributes (except intelligence), with fifty per cent of 18 to 49-year-olds desiring it in their partner.

By contrast, only 11 per cent of men said it was important for their daughters to be attractive. And only 19 per cent of men wanted their daughters to be sweet, as opposed to 34 per cent of them wishing for sweetness in their wives.

Before we console ourselves that things will be better for our daughters, there's a catch. As is so often the case with gender equality, daughters only have their fathers' blessing to be independent if they don't take things too far.

Only three per cent of respondents thought it would be desirable for their daughter to be the breadwinner. Daughters, it seems, are allowed to be independent so long as they also remain financially dependent.

Men didn't want their wives to be breadwinners either. Only four per cent of men wanted their wife to be the breadwinner and fewer than one quarter of men said they would be happy being a stay-at-home-father.

Paradoxically, half of the respondents claimed they would feel comfortable being out-earned by their partner or reporting to a female boss. But unfortunately it would be optimistic to chalk this up as good news.

Further analysis of the research reveals that an alarming number of men consider women in the workforce — particularly those who out-earn and out-rank them — to be a direct assault on their masculinity, identity and wellbeing.

Forty-four per cent of men said that it is harder to be a man today than it was for their father. And guess who many of them blamed for this difficulty? You guessed it! Women in the workplace.

Fully 30 per cent of men agree that women taking on greater responsibility outside the home has had a negative effect on men's confidence.

One respondent, who no doubt was looking wistfully at a rearview of the 1950s, said: "In my dad's day, women stayed home and the men worked. Now, both men and women work in the same area as men do, so it's hard for us to be men."

And another: "If you stand up as a man, it is taken as putting females down. No more 'Man of the House.'"

Not only do many men not want women to hold positions of authority in the workplace, they don't value the women who currently do.

"More than half of American men admitted that in general, their gender is more concerned with making a good impression and earning the respect of men than the respect of women," write the report authors.

One of the themes of the Shriver Report Snapshot is that a significant number of 21st century men can only feel secure and valuable when they are more dominant than the women in their lives.

Daughters are allowed to be strong and independent because they're not regarded as competition or a threat to their father's power. As for wives and female colleagues, well, their job is to stand back, look pretty, act sweet, and make the blokes feel better about themselves.

If the Shriver Report is an accurate reflection of male identity in the 21st century, then there's no doubt that men are in crisis. But this has nothing to do with women succeeding at work or refusing to be subservient at home.

The crisis rather is that men are clinging to outdated models of masculinity, where they can only be a man if they are 'the man'.

On this basis, equality will always be a zero-sum game where women's gains are men's losses. This view is as limited as it is hopeless.

The solution doesn't lie in rolling back what gains towards equality that women have made. Rather, men need to re-think their definition of masculinity so that their identity and self-worth does not depend on their relative superiority to women.

Kasey Edwards is a writer and best-selling author.