Motherhood makes a bigger political difference than fatherhood, but provider anxiety should not be dismissed
Steven Greene, the North Carolina State professor whose research on how parenthood changes politics I blogged about yesterday, writes in to note that the liberalizing effect on mothers is much stronger than the conservative impact on fathers.
That is women with children are often more liberal, but dads are, more often than not, no different than men without children. When we do see these conservative differences for dads, we hypothesize that the Republican rhetoric has largely been effective, e.g., men want to keep the government out of their way in providing for their family. For example, men actually start working more when they have kids thus lower taxes means more take-home pay to provide for the family rather than appreciating the government services that benefit children/families.
The fact that a majority of dads do not change their political allegiance after parenthood suggests that the press release from N.C. State pushed by EurekAlert slightly misrepresented Greene’s conclusions. However, Larry Letich, a psychotherapist in Bethesda, Md., offers a thoughtful response explaining why the minority might become more conservative that feels intuitively on-the-mark to me.
To begin with, social science research going back about 15 years, but which is most likely still true, shows that when most couples have their first child, the wife (now a new mother) becomes strongly identified with her role as caregiver while the husband and new father becomes more identified with his role as provider, often working longer hours and devoting himself more diligently to his career. (This usually results in tension within the couple, but that’s a whole different topic.)
Since most American men work in business, becoming more invested in being a provider may mean identifying more with the attitudes of one’s employer. Men may take on the attitude that “everyone must pull their weight; the boss deserves the money he gets; anybody can succeed and if you don’t, it’s your own fault.” Being a renegade, even secretly, is not a good way to get the bosses in your company to like you and consider you promotable.
What’s more, American liberalism has been totally fixated for at least 30 years on what you called “nanny-statism” (the providing of more and better social services to people) and not on any meaningful kind of critique of the bosses who run America. There really isn’t much in the liberal message or the liberal legislative agenda that speaks directly to the problems of men who are trying to be good fathers and providers. A politician who could figure out a way to address the stress of the average middle-class American male in a meaningful way — protecting their jobs or their incomes when practically any kind of work can be shipped overseas to enrich the ultra-wealthy, for example — that politician would start seeing more support from middle-class men. He or she’d have a hard row to hoe, though, since any powerful person who questioned the “You-can-be-a-millionaire-if-you-want-to-be-so-stop-complaining” attitude that has ruled America since 1981 would be attacked a million times a day by the right wing noise machine, now made noisier and even nastier by all the twittering idiots they’ve empowered to do their dirty work.
Speaking purely personally, the first paragraph of Letich’s e-mail resonates very strongly with my own experience (from the father side of the equation, not the mother’s).
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Go Big or Drive Home — Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Md. The only thing bigger than Bengies’ prolific history (57 years and going) is its main attraction — boasting the biggest theater screen in the U.S. at 6,240 square feet. That’s 52’ x 120’ of pure anamorphic presentation. Complementing its time capsule of a snack bar (unchanged since ’56), previews old and new occupy the venue’s old-timey intermissions between features.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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