In her book, ‘The Way We Never Were’, Stephanie Coontz blasted the stereotype about the American families. She painted a different picture of the changing structure in American families by shattering the existing myth. She examined the two centuries of American family life and banished the misconception about the past, which has influenced the present scenario in American families.
American families have been male-dominated for centuries. Men were considered as the breadwinners, while the role of the women were limited to home. The old age ideology of Patriarchy always guided the lives of the Americans. There was a conception that only Men have the ability to handle the pressure and giving a clear direction to the family. Women were always made to stay at home and manage the family and the children.
Problems in American families in the new era have been blamed on the active participation of women in changing the family structure. Some believe that families are in ‘crisis’ as women work outside home at the cost of their families and children, thus putting the relationship and marriage in jeopardy. It was said that domestic violence was very low in the past due to the traditional values maintained by the family members. The rise in the teenage pregnancy and abortion rate has been attributed to the gender equality and role reversal in the families.
To counter the belief that families in the past were more self-reliant, Coontz concluded, "Americans have been dependent on collective institutions beyond the family, including government, from the very beginning".
The belief and the conception, which people have in their mind for a long time, are not true. Coontz took the initiative of portraying the real picture with a comparison between the past and present. It is a false assumption that only men can manage the families very well. Neither the past nor the present examples can guide the lives of the people. It is necessary to shed the mindset of ‘traditional values’ with keeping in view the broader perspective of the future.
This book blasted the existing myth of the past with the analysis from "a man's home was his castle" to "traditional families never asked for a handout". For the people who believe that male-dominated families in the past had better administration, this book is an eye-opener. Drug abuse, domestic violence and teenage pregnancy were more rampant in the past than they are today. Due to the discrimination and gender inequality, marriages lasted a shorter time than they do now.
A society cannot progress without the participation of women. It is not that women demand equality because they need it. The fact is that they fairly deserve it. Men and women have to work hand-in-hand to uphold the family values. It is important for the economic and social growth of a family. The families, which break the traditional rules and encourage sharing the family responsibilities between men and women, have been more successful than others. Single household families always have gone through some sort of economic problems. But with the participation of women in the work place, the financial problem has been sorted out to a great extent.
Coontz, Stephanie.1992. The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. Basic Books.