MEN have long enjoyed proclaiming that they wear the pants in the house and that they have the final word at home. To "wear the pants" means to be the person in the relationship who is in control and makes decisions for the couple. Men will often buoy up that position with the statement, "wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands" (Eph 5:22).
But what happens now that many Jamaican women are becoming the breadwinners of their households? And according to a report by the International Labor Organization, Jamaica has the highest proportion of female managers in the world, with women accounting for 59.3 per cent of all managers. And with the larger purse often comes greater perceived authority. If the woman is the breadwinner, does she have more control and decision-making power then? Is the "submission" concept becoming less valid under the present reality?
Women are also equipping themselves at a faster rate than men for management roles and responsibility, through their higher education. And according to the Global Gender Gap Index, Jamaica, with a population of 2.7 million, ranks second on the index (Barbados being first) — some 40 per cent of Jamaican women go into tertiary education institutions. This is 2.29 times the number of men who attend universities and colleges. Does that fact now impact who makes the decisions for the family? Does it mean that women are more empowered to have the final word for the direction of their family? How will men handle this new era of highly educated and empowered spouses?
The social shift has caused stress in some marriages, as husbands and common-law partners try to navigate being the men to can-do women. One young lady said she sought to comfort and assure her partner that nothing had changed between them, despite her now being the breadwinner in their home. She was grateful for his earlier efforts when he was the main provider for them, and she was now honoured to be able to do more for them both. He had become depressed because he was now reliant on her to keep the family afloat. It was very difficult for him to deal with that.
Some men are struggling to adjust to the shifted situation — when he has to ask her for money for the bills it messes with his ego. Since she is now more equipped and better able to handle their investments, he's tussling with that.
However, maturity gives a proper perspective on the issue. Mature couples will realise that, as is said, "teamwork makes the dream work". A win for either spouse is a win for both. Her promotion is his increase, and her degree is his advancement. The accomplishment of either party serves to elevate both people in the relationship and the entire family. Better earning and higher education should not affect the dynamic of an existing relationship. And the question of who "wears the pants" must be relegated to discussions on fashion or religious choice only. But as for relationship/marital bliss, it is mutual support that matters — both can wear the pants.
From a Christian standpoint also, the 'virtuous woman', the standard-bearer for Christian wives, is an overachiever, and this does not affect her relationship. Her husband is pictured in scripture as being very secure and therefore praises her for her success. The context of "submission" for wives is qualified as an act of esteem and honour. Yet, there is a scriptural directive for mutual submission (Eph 5:21) which precedes the directive of "wives, submit". So if a woman is more equipped to make the decisions in her relationship regarding matters of finance, wonderful, she "wears the pants" in that regard. If she is an educator, fully versed in matters of academia, then she wears the pants there too. Tag-teaming will ultimately win the fight for the success of the whole family.
Rev Christopher Brodber is a counsellor and minister of religion. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on FB – Christopher.brodber; Twitter – @Chrisbrodber or IG – christopherbrodber.