An Abstract of Bernard's the Good-Provider Role: It's Rise and Fall of the Good Provider Essay

An Abstract of Bernard’s The Good-Provider Role: It’s Rise and Fall 2010 Khedra E. Fields-Barclay SCOI 316: Marriage & Family 2/1/2010 An Abstract of Bernard’s The Good-Provider Role: Its Rise and Fall Jessie Bernard’s, The Good-Provider Role: Its Rise and Fall, surprisingly begins with a reference to Psalm 23 and then pivots into the Israelites journey from Egypt to Canaan, thus depicting God as the original good provider. Subsequently the role of the second “great provider” was fulfilled by the mother, who according to Bernard was the known “gather, planter, and general factotum” (Bernard 1981:43).

As depicted by the following chart, it is overwhelmingly evident that the woman’s role as the “good provider” superseded that of her counterpart. Although these figures are rather impressive, Bernard will eventually explore the concept that when trading was on the rise, the female contribution, in that sense, was on the decline (to be discussed later). Bernard’s reference of the virtuous women (Proverbs 31) was her next area of exploration, consequently referring to her as a “productive conglomerate” (Bernard 1981:44). We learn that her responsibilities included, but were not limited to: * The sale of her handmade items to local merchants Overseer of household * Monitored the realestate market. With that said, the idea of a “Substance Economy” comes into play, depicting husbands and wives as co-entrepreneurs. That said, it is later noted that the term provider surfaced in 1532, however, it had not yet become gender biased. According to Bernard, Webster’s Dictionary defines the good provider as “one who provides, especially, colloq, one who provides food, clothing, etc for his family; as he is a good or an adequate provider” (Bernard 1981:44). Therefore the wife was considered as the counterpart of the good provider.

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She owned property in addition to accumulating earnings. However, they were not her own. He owned his wife’s and children’s services, and had the sole right to collect wages for their work outside the home. He owned his wife’s personal property outright, and had the right to manage and control all of his wife’s real property during marriage, which included the right to use or lease property, and to keep any rents and profits from it (Babcock, Freedman, Norton, & Ross 1975:561). Bernard’s journey into the role of the woman during the colonial period looks at the woman in a different light.

Surprisingly, as early as the 18th century, we begin to see the rise of the business/professional woman. She held positions such as: * Managing Inns & Taverns * Supervised Stores & Shops * Worked in careers such as Publishing, Journalism, &Medicine * Worked alongside men in the field. A pivotal turning point for the role of the good provider was the industrial revolution. It is at this point that the term provider became male sexed. This was the case respectively from the 1830’s to the 1970’s. (Yet in 1980, another shift occurs as the census rules that no longer may the Head of Household be assumed to be male).

The ramification for having the term good provider be male sexed proved to be egregious psychologically and sociologically speaking. Because of this, women were in a more susceptible position. Furthermore, according to Bernard, “By discouraging labor force participation, it deprived many women, especially affluent ones, of opportunities to achieve strength and competence” (Bernard 1981:45). The term good provider not only moved into a territory of being gender biased, but now determined the association of gender with worksite. Generally speaking, men at this point were working outside the home, thus reducing family interaction time.

Male labor and female labor was beginning to become clearly defined both in the workforce and in the home as males had their separate work space and females theirs. With husbands working now outside the home, more of a strain was put emotionally between them and their wife. At this point, an emotional connection was not of significance as long as by society terms they proved to be a good provider. Even with the lack of having an emotional connection with his family, he was still considered to be a family man. It was up to the family to understand that his role of good provider trumped everything else.

In the general conception of the role, a man’s chief responsibility is his job, so that by definition any family behaviors must be subordinate to it in terms of significance and [the job] has priority in the event of a clash (Scanzoni 1975:38). Although there were certain costs with being the good provider, there were rewards as well. It defined and shaped his masculinity, thus giving him status and rank within the community. According to Bernard, the good provider “had to achieve, to win, to succeed, to dominate” (Bernard 1981:48).

They were being judged according to their accomplishments and to their level of ability to provide for them (their family). These men were over reformers who later became known as “workaholics or work intoxicated men” (Bernard 1981: 52). This alone had serious psychological implications. By depending so heavily on his breadwinning role to validate his sense of himself as a man, instead of also letting his roles as husband, father, and citizen of the community count as validating sources, the American male treads on psychically dangerous ground.

It’s always been dangerous to put all of one’s eggs into one basket (Bernard 1981:48). Although from time to time women were still entering into the workforce, it was diminishing to a man as being head of household and the good provider. Therefore, it was generally kept as a secret. Not all men welcomed the role as being the good provider. That said, their resentment was often at the expense of the family, thus bringing us to Bernard’s account of “Role Rejectors. It is at this point she categorizes them as being tramps, bums, and hoboes. Role Rejector Term| Definition| Tramp| “…he gave up and dropped out of the role entirely.

He preferred not to work, but he would do small chores or other small scale work for a handout if he had to. He was not above begging the housewife for a meal…”(Demos 1974:438)| Hobo| “…migratory worker who spent several months harvesting wheat and other large crops and the rest of the year in cities…”(Bernard 1981:51)| Bum| “When the tramp became wholly demoralized, a chronic alcoholic, almost unreachable…” (Bernard 1981:51)| Although these “role rejectors” were essentially abandoning their loved ones, the family was not left without, as in many instances the community took over his role.

World War II had a significant effect on the labor work force and its correlation with the male generally being labeled as the good provider. This is because women began to enter the workforce yet again, thus leading to studies/surveys pertaining to the overall satisfaction of men (and women) in regards to their respective family roles. ***(1976 figures based upon an average)*** As women continued to enter into the workforce their expectations changed. Men were expected to engage in a more “emotional investment”.

According to Bernard, the feelings of resentment often exuded by men could be solved simply with appreciation. He’s feeling a deepening sense of bitterness and frustration about his wife and family. He doesn’t feel appreciated. It angers him the way they seems to take the things his earnings purchase for granted. They’ve come to expect it as their due…(Goldberg 1976:124). As stated earlier, the 1980 census shattered the theory of males being the head of household. This is because families were beginning to realize that a single family income simply was not enough.

As a result, the number of housewives was clearly on the decline. Bernard then reminds us that although the women’s return into the workforce was revolutionary, their expectations to maintain the home did not diminish. According to Bernard, “To a great many of men such chores are demasculinizing” (Bernard 1981:58). However, as later denoted by Bernard, men are more than capable of completing traditionally gender biased chores, but because of the environment, in which the chore is to be completed, will view such a task as daunting, simply because of the location, the home.

The rise and fall of the role of the good provider concludes with though propounding questions. Bernard makes one consider what overall effect the demise of the good provider role had over marriage, family, and the workforce as a whole, especially in regards to the sociological ramifications of gender identity in comparison with gender biases. Bibliography Bernard, Jessie 1981. “The Good-Provider Role: It’s Rise and Fall. ” The American Psychological Association vol 36: 43-60.


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