Views toward women are back in the news. Pew continues to document major changes in family life with their recent groundbreaking study of "Breadwinner Moms." About 40 percent of households with children include a breadwinner mom -- either a single mom who runs the household or a married mom out-earning her husband.
Some of this demographic shift comes from changes in women's education and professional attainment. But some also comes from changes in the family unit itself, where more women are having children outside of marriage.
This would be enough for social commentators to kick around. But this study, along with Senate hearings about sexual abuse in the military, and the usual daffy gaffes have spurned a new round of impolitic remarks by leaders on the right, including a governor, a senator, a hedge fund billionaire, and of course, bloggers and talking heads. Fox News anchor (and working mom) Megyn Kelly went viral when she challenged her on-air colleagues' boorish comments.
These outdated attitudes don't reflect the new reality. Pew notes about two-thirds (65 percent) of moms of children under six work outside the home. Gallup routinely shows a majority of women would prefer to work outside the home rather than stay at home to raise children, "if they were free to do either." Yet Pew shows a slim majority (51 percent) feel children are "better off" with a mom at home full-time, and about a third (34 percent) say children are "just as well off."
However it is men who are largely driving this result. By two to one, men say children are better off with a mom at home (57 percent better off, 29 percent just as well off). The margin among women is in single digits (45 percent better off, 38 percent just as well off).
So it's not just Republican leaders who have more traditional views toward gender equality -- it may be men as a whole. As families and the workforce change, many men's views are not changing in kind.
Which means women should try to show men the role work plays in their own lives. Perhaps instead of lamenting the struggle of work-life balance, working moms should try a new tack: describing the rewarding challenge it is to both work and parent. While also, of course, demonstrating how flexible work policies and gender equality legislation would help women and their families enormously.
But it's still up to men to start listening: whether it's to their wives, daughters, or constituents. Or else start looking over their shoulders for the breadwinner mom poised to replace them.