The gulf between what men want in their wives — and in their daughters

When asked what qualities they want in in a wife, American heterosexual men said they value “attractive” and “sweet” women, a national survey recently found. Only 34 percent, however, said they wanted a romantic partner who is “independent.”

But the story changes when respondents considered the qualities they want to see in their daughters. Beauty and a pleasant disposition, for example, mattered much less than strength and intelligence.

The results, gleaned from a survey of 881 men across the country earlier this month, show “an eye-opening disparity between the qualities contemporary men feel are paramount in a wife and/or partner and what they value for their daughters when they grow up,” said “The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man,” which was published Friday.

In the last few decades, there have been dramatic changes in the role of women in society, and many men are still adjusting. Four in nine men said it’s harder to be a man today than it was for his father. The most common reason, according to the survey, was “greater gender equity,” or women attaining a stronger position in the workplace.

That trend started before anyone’s underage offspring were conceived. In the 1970s, about 40 percent of U.S. women worked. Today, about 60 percent are cashing paychecks.

Today’s young women are starting careers better educated than their male counterparts. They’re also making more money relative to male peers than their mothers and grandmothers did — an effect of steadily rising earnings of women and falling wages of men.

Maria Shriver, founder of A Woman’s Nation, which commissioned this first-time survey, was quick to note men don’t have to stagnate for women to thrive. “No gender succeeds at the expense of others,” she said in a statement. “We believe in a gender-respectful society and that requires the engagement, education and empowerment of all individuals.”

The report highlights, though, that some men feel threatened by their wives or partners working more. Thirty percent of respondents said women taking on greater responsibility outside the household has a “negative effect” on their confidence. Two-thirds, however, reported being comfortable with having a partner who works. Half are comfortable being out-earned by their mate or reporting to a female boss.

Mixed feelings aside, raising a daughter can sway a man’s view on gender and political issues that specifically affect women.

Last year, Harvard researchers found judges who’ve fathered girls may be more sympathetic to gender issues. A Yale economist in 2006 found having daughters makes legislators more likely to be more supportive of reproductive rights. British researchers in 2009 saw parents of daughters were more likely to support policies that address gender equity.

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