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What Married Women Want (Not This One)

On November 14, 2006

Brad Wilcox is at it again. Chrisitanity Today interviewed him regarding his new sociological study, "What's Love Got to Do with It? Equality, Equity, Commitment, and Women's Marital Quality." First as Megan O'Rourke points out in her article on Salon "this study is based on surveys done between 1992 and 1994." Of course he found that women who stay in "traditional" roles were happier, and that even egalitarian women were happier when their husbands brought home at 66% of the income. I do agree that women want emotional engagement from their husbands--of course we want them to want to be a part of our lives and interested in who we are and what we do. But I do not agree with it doesn't matter how much housework he does as he is emotionally engaged. For me and a lot of my female friends these are two sides of the same coin. If he is emotionally engaged and paying attention to us, then he won't mind helping when we ask, or even help without being asked.

Here is a gem of a statement regarding the egalitarian "sub-sample" he studied:

I reran all of my analyses with a sub-sample of women who had more egalitarian attitudes. Even for these women, they're more likely to be happy when their husbands earn the lion's share of income, when they share religious attendance with their husbands, when they share a strong, normative commitment to marriage with their husbands, and when they don't work outside the home.

I think his sub-sample is very limited. Also according to him:

"But this study certainly does suggest that when it comes to different emphases in the family, the complementarian side seems to be, shall we say, more in touch with how the average American married couple experiences family life."

My secular friends would roll over laughing at this. They all have egalitarian marriages or relationships, and look at the complementarian marriage as ancient and out of touch with today's world.

It wouldn't be so bad if he stuck with the complementarian group, but he doesn't. He insists on taking his beliefs and trying to apply them across the board. As one of my favorite quotes says, "If you torture data sufficiently, it will say anything." I think this applies to this study. I think his egalitarian and "American married couple" is a very limited, tightly controlled group used to back up his pet theories. Which is unfortunate because it makes me doubt if the other part of his study is skewed as well. I'm hoping that the part about couples who attend church regularly not divorcing as much as the general population (as opposed to Christians who attend church nominally) is true. But I can only hope because of the rest of the article.

I wonder if Christianity Today will allow the other side of this story to be told?

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