Why? One reason is that, in its fight with modernity, conservative Protestantism has invested the roles of husband and father with unusual moral and religious importance: Men are supposed to model for their children the love of God, for their wives, the love of Jesus Christ. Men who recognize a critical "masculine" role in family life are probably freer to enter into stereotypically "feminine" realms, such as emotionally expressive family life. If you want to turn men into good family men, you have to tell them that men matter to women and children.
As Arlie Hochschild pointed out in "The Second Shift": "When couples struggle, it is seldom over who does what. Far more often, it is over the giving and receiving of gratitude." The struggle for marriage in the contemporary context is the struggle to cultivate gratitude between men and women.
Wilcox's data suggest the black church may have a unique role to play in creating and transmitting a marriage culture to the next generation, and that part of this task is sustaining an image of manliness that supports rather than undercuts women's desires and children's needs.
"There is no marriage movement yet," Eleanor Holmes Norton said, speaking of the black church. "But we've got to make a movement.... Somebody has to speak up for marriage. ... We must do it in the name of the black family, but we must do it, first and foremost, for our own children." For all our children.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.